Entries Tagged as 'Disk Drives'

Disk Drive Temperature / Airflow

I upgraded both of my workstations (one Windows one Linux) to have a mirror pair as the secondary drive…  which added a third drive to each of the cases (the cases are setup so that you can have five 3.5″ internal drives and four 5.25″ external units)… the 400GB SATA-2 drive in the Windows machine keep producing SMART warnings that it was getting close to the recommended maximum temperature, and I decided it likely had to do with the fact that the power management of the motherboard slowed down the main case fan which reduced the airflow.

The case actually had two cutouts for fans in front of the disk drive array, so I wired up a couple fans for each one off a single power connector, put the fans in and now the drives are running cooler (the 3TB SATA-3 drives in the mirror in the Windows machine are much newer drives and run much cooler).

Keep in mind, that the cooler your drives run, the longer they’ll probably last and the fewer problems you’re going to have — plus when you run drives close to their maximum recommended temperature you’re going to see thermal re-calibrations which are going to make your computer look like it’s hanging or at least stuttering.

While I don’t think you should get crazy with fans, you should insure that any location in the case that has a heat producing component should have airflow — and many fans come with speed adjustments so you can run them at their lowest setting and provide enough airflow while minimizing the fan noise (which can be deafening if you have lots of fans).

One last thing — make sure when you buy fans you buy good quality ball-bearing fans — if you don’t, you’re just wasting money and asking for a fan failure (plus way too much noise).

Originally posted 2013-07-10 08:00:16.

Vantec Quality

Before I left San Francisco I purchased six Vantec cases.

Two 5.25″ external USB2.0 cases for Blu-Ray ROM devices; and four 2.5″ external USB2.0 cases to put 500GB hard drives in.

I already had the Blu-Ray ROM drives and set out to put those in the cases right when I got them home from Central Computer, but I quickly found out that neither of the cases had the holes tapped for the bolts that held the case closed (and interesting enough, Vantec doesn’t shipped the cases closed up like most vendors).

It was a nightmare trying to deal with Vantec; they sent me two sets of bolts — they just never really could grasp the fact that the cases weren’t tapped — the screws were probably the right ones.  And even worse I’d already exchanged them once (and the second two cases also weren’t tapped).

Anyway, I gave up on trying to get satisfaction and just used some nylon fasteners that I had that seemed to do the job reasonably well — but of course the large white nylon fasteners sticking out the back of a black case was far from attractive.

The 2.5″ cases I packed away and didn’t need those (I actually had some SATA/USB2.0 cases that I was using at that point — but wasn’t willing to pay the ridiculous price to get more of those).

Last week, though, I ordered a couple 500GB Seagate drives on sale.  They arrived yesterday and I went to put them in the cases… The first package had the screw packet and worked great.  The second package didn’t have any screws and had a defect on the finish on the enclosure.  The third and fourth packages had no screws either.  So out of four drives only one had screws — and the screws are a small metric thread (and fairly long with a small diameter head) that I have nothing like.

I contacted Vantec; already knowing what they’d say… so once I dig up my receipt and send it to them I’m sure the fun will start again; the good news is I know that these cases are tapped (since I have two screws I tested all the cases).

It seems to me that Vantec has some rather severe quality issues; and simple things like insuring screws in the package that fit would be resolved by closing the case before packing and shipping it… obviously they want to save a nickle or so — and cost their customers hundreds of dollars in wasted time.

So I’ll not be purchasing any products from Vantec mail order for sure; and if I want to chance it, I’ll open up and inspect the item BEFORE leaving the store.

Originally posted 2010-01-30 01:00:58.

Defragmenting

There are many people out there that say that *nix and Mac file systems don’t fragment — only Windows does.

They’re dead wrong.

[I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again]

All three file systems (and in Windows we’re talking about NTFS, not FAT) derive from the same basic file system organization, and all three have pretty much the same characteristics (there are differences, but those really have nothing to do with the likelihood of fragmentation).

Fragmentation is just a by-product of the way a file system works.  The file system must make decisions about how to lay files down on the disk, and since it doesn’t have a crystal ball it cannot see the future.  Thus is a file is pinned between two other files and it must grow, the file would either need to be moved (creating an empty spot of a maximum size) or extended in another area (thus being fragmented).

There are various schemes for handling file allocations, but most of them rely on an application that is creating the file giving the operating system (and thus file system) sufficient information on the files maximum size and hints as to whether it is temporary, may grow, etc.

Given that file systems will fragment, the need for defragmentation is real.  Windows recognizes this (mainly because Windows used to use a FAT file system where fragmentation caused severe performance issues).

If you have a *nix or Mac based system, I’m sure you can locate a reasonably good defragmenter (not every one is in denial about the need for periodically defragmenting the system).  If you have  Windows based system you already have a reasonably good defragmenter that came with the systems (a “lite” version of Executive Systems Diskeeper, which now just goes by the name of Diskeeper Corporation).  You can, of course, purchase a number of commercial products, like the full blown Diskeeper, O&O Defrag (my personal favorite), or download a host of free or inexpensive products.

The key to defragmenting your system is knowing when you should invest the time (and wear on your disks).  The most accurate answer would be when system fragmentation reaches a point where it adversely effects performance.  That seems a little vague, but most of the defragmentation tools actually will do an analysis and advise you if they should be run.  Some of them have active defragmentation (but like the file system, they don’t have a crystal ball, and will often cost performance, not enhance it — so I would just say no to active defragmentation).

A good rule of thumb is that right after you install you system, or any time you install major updates or service packs you should defragment your system.  It’s a good idea to clean off temporary files (like your browser cache, etc) before you defragment.  And you might even want to clean off old restore points (if you have them enabled).

There’s certainly no reason to defragment your system daily or weekly; but an occasional night of running your defragmenter of choice will likely decrease boot time and increase overall system performance.

One other little tid-bit — remove your paging file before defragmenting; then after you’re finished, create a new paging file of a fixed size (ie set the minimum and maximum to the same thing).  That way you have a nicely defragmented paging file that will not cause fragmentation or fragment itself (leading to better system performance).  Of course, if your system has enough memory to run without a paging file, you don’t need one at all.

Originally posted 2010-02-21 01:00:20.

Disk Drill – Beta

Generally I don’t like to write reviews of software that hasn’t been released yet; and certainly in this case I’ll do another review of the product once it has been release — particularly since there is no pricing information available.

There are a number of utilities similar to cleverfiles Disk Drill available on Windows, many are free of charge, but I wasn’t able to find any free utilities for file recovery on the OS-X (there are a few more that are available for purchase; and this is the first of these types of tools I’ve looked at).

I guess I’m a power user, and I like to know a little more about what’s going on, and have more control over what’s installed on my machine, and what it’s allowed to do… from my perspective Disk Drill is just a little too “black box”.

While I don’t think it should necessarily require that everyone understand what it is going to do or install, it seems like it shouldn’t be such a task to figure it out.

Also, while most users will probably like that it just “works” (and it does) I didn’t care for the fact that it had no ability for me to actually have control over the recovery.

I will say that the developers haven’t rushed this product out and there has been a number of betas — though they haven’t don’t a good job about marking the images with a version (just a date on the download panel).

Finally, when I first looked at the product a couple months ago the web site was in horrible shape — the grammar was abysmal, and the clarity of the writing made me extremely leery of the “professional-ness” of the company; that has improved a great deal.

The bottom line, without a release product and a price-point all I can tell you is, I don’t know.

I’m hopeful that the product will be available at a reasonable price; and that the commitment the developers have shown in the quality of the Beta will not end once a release has been made.

Disk Drill on cleverfiles.com

Originally posted 2011-02-20 02:00:32.

Upgrading Drive Firmware

First, if you’re not having problems with your drive (unless it’s brand new, has no data on it, and you don’t have an issue returning it to the place of purchase or manufacturer) DO NOT DO IT.

Second, make sure you give yourself plenty of time, don’t try and do it quickly, or in between other commitments.  Do it when it’s quiet.  Make sure you have a UPS on your computer and that the weather is clear (so that there’s no likelihood of power outages).

Third, run the drive diagnostics from the manufacturer first.  If the drive shows it’s having problems — return it to the manufacturer for replacement (most manufacturers will do advance replacement at no charge with a credit card; that gives you a drive to migrate your data onto, and a shipping container to return the failing drive in).

Fourth, many manufacturers support upgrading firmware directly from Windows (a few from other operating systems).  I high recommend you choose the bootable CD approach — that way there’s no question whether or not you have something installed on your computer that might interfere.  And if you’re using SATA I recommend you set your computer to SATA IDE/Legacy mode to insure that the upgrade (and diagnostics) don’t have any issues with your SATA controller (IDE/Legacy as opposed to SATA/Native, SATA/RAID, SATA/AHCI — different BIOS manufacturers will call it by a different term, but it’s the lowest setting for the controller, likely it’s what the default was).

Fifth, make sure you obtain the firmware update only from the manufacturer’s web site; and make sure that it is for your drive; and that it’s recommended as a general installation or specifically addresses an issue you’re having.

Sixth, make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s procedure for updating firmware.

Seventh, power off your drive before you attempt to use it after updating the firmware.  Most drives will not use the newer firmware until they are power-cycled; some drives just flat out won’t work until they’ve been “hard reset”.

Hopefully all goes well, but many drives become a brick if your firmware upgrade fails; a few can revert to the previous firmware and keep on running.  If you have problems, contact the manufacturer, most drives under warranty can be replaced — but data recovery is not included.

NOTE:

Upgrading drive firmware may also change the first several sectors of the drive; I highly recommend that you backup the drive before upgrading the firmware.

Originally posted 2010-02-09 01:00:56.