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Looking to use 2.5" SATA drives with SAS hardware RAID controller but problems with firmware power saving

Posted on 2008-06-18
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2008-08-15
We have an IBM X3550 server in a RAID 0+1 setup utilizing the built in SAS controller and 4 Western Digital 2.5" 320GB SATA hard drives.  The hard drives are: WD3200BEVT  WD SCORPIO 2.5 320GB SATA 5400 8MB 12MS HARD DRIVE

We intermittently have one or 2 of the hard drives be determined by the RAID controller to be bad and are put off line with an error light associated with the drive.  

Restarting the server solves the problem and checking the disk reported to be bad by the controller results in no errors found (the drives are just fine).

I am not in any pickle since this is not a production machine - I am just trying to work out a way to cheaply increase storage space on a small 2U server with only four 2.5" bays.  (high capacity SAS drives are excellent but cost considerably more).

My best guess on the problem is that these new "GREEN" notebook drives, not intended for server use, power themselves down if not accessed for a while and that the RAID controller may become impatient if one of the drives does not answer right away if a request is given to it.  Another problem could be that, like with most desktop drives, the hard drive firmware takes longer recovering bad sectors in "idle time" than RAID edition drives and the RAID controller times out.

In any case - it would be great for me to have notebook SATA hard drives in a hardware RAID enviornment where power saving (in the hard drive firmware) can be disabled or just come without any of those "green" features that can potentially messup a hardware RAID.

are there any high capacity SATA notebook drives that do not have power down (spin-down) feature?
are there any utilities that can be used to disable firmware features in SATA notebook hard drives?
is there a particular firmware revision (like an older revision) that can be used to disable power saving in firmware?

Anyone ever use a similar setup as I noted above and be successful?

BTW - I am already aware of power saving features in motherboard BIOS of desktop computers and in Windows XP & Vista - this question relates directly to the firmware of the hard drive and operability in a server RAID enviornment and are OS independent.

Much thanks all.
Question by:DaveKorn
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Expert Comment

ID: 21955634
I would download the WD utuilties from their site, and see if you can disable some of the power saving features.

You may need to test on a simple SATA machine ( not RAID ).

I hope this helps !

Author Comment

ID: 22103977
Hi Rindi -

This looks like a question that does not have a nice answer for it. I had found on the WD website support references related to other 3.5" desktop class drives where there are "features" which allow the drives to run a routine maintance and correct/move data on bad/unstable disk areas for good longevity s.m.a.r.t. features. This feature is presumed to be what times out many hardware RAID conrollers. This feature cannot be disabled in the drives firmware.
here is a snip from the western digital knowledge base:
What is the difference between Desktop edition and RAID (Enterprise) edition hard drives?   Answer   Western Digital manufactures desktop edition hard drives and RAID Edition hard drives. Each type of hard drive is designed to work specifically in either a desktop computer environment or on RAID controller.

If you install and use a desktop edition hard drive connected to a RAID controller, the drive may not work correctly unless jointly qualified by an enterprise OEM. This is caused by the normal error recovery procedure that a desktop edition hard drive uses.

When an error is found on a desktop edition hard drive, the drive will enter into a deep recovery cycle to attempt to repair the error, recover the data from the problematic area, and then reallocate a dedicated area to replace the problematic area. This process can take up to 2 minutes depending on the severity of the issue. Most RAID controllers allow a very short amount of time for a hard drive to recover from an error. If a hard drive takes too long to complete this process, the drive will be dropped from the RAID array. Most RAID controllers allow from 7 to 15 seconds for error recovery before dropping a hard drive from an array. Western Digital does not recommend installing desktop edition hard drives in an enterprise environment (on a RAID controller).

Western Digital RAID edition hard drives have a feature called TLER (Time Limited Error Recovery) which stops the hard drive from entering into a deep recovery cycle. The hard drive will only spend 7 seconds to attempt to recover. This means that the hard drive will not be dropped from a RAID array.

If you install a RAID edition hard drive in a desktop computer, the computer system may report more errors than a normal desktop hard drive (due to the TLER feature). Western Digital does not recommend installing RAID edition hard drives into a desktop computer environment.

Western Digital RAID Edition Hard Drives

Western Digital Desktop Edition Hard Drives
 If the notebook drives are similar to the desktop drives in flexability of the firmware then the anwser will just be a big Nope - buy drives designed to be in a hardware RAID and things will be good. So - that is what I will do.  
Thanks for all your help geniouses, wizards and all!

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