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Is external hard drive spin down truly a power saving only feature?

Posted on 2011-02-19
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Can't find the Hard drive zone anymore, has it been removed?  

HI All,

Awhile back we were trying to identify the cause of several event 51 and event 11 paging errors (in Windows XP and Windows 7 respectively) in Windows that we noticed are caused by virtually all Seagate external drives.  After speaking to Seagate support, we concluded they are caused by the hard drive sleep feature that puts the drive to "sleep" after so many minutes of inactivity.  Seagate support suggested we set the drives to never sleep. Sure enough, this got rid of 95% of the errors.  

However, we have now noticed it occurs on virtually all Seagate and a lot of Western Digital drives (and WD support also documents the sleep featuer causes it but it cant be disabled on all their drives).

The question is, it the sleep feature strictly only for power saving?  If so, we don't mind the extra power to keep a clean event log (it makes it easier to monitor also).  However, we don't want to decrease any life on the drive by not using the "power savings" feature.  Seagate support said it should not really decrease the life of the drive.  It may just go back to the age old debate of is it better to leave them spinning or spin them down versus the number of start ups.  Most clients uses them for backups so we want to get some EE member opinions of we should follow the Seagate support advice.  Thanks!  
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Question by:Jsmply
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 250 total points
ID: 34935267
The sleep feature is a power saving feature.

Whether it is being used to prolong the life of the external hard drive, I don't know, I would have thought, there would be more strain on the electronics, in the starting-up and power-down, than continuous usage.

Maybe a question to put to Seagate/WD.

Maybe in everyone's quest to save the planet, and electricity, and CO2 emissions, this is Seagate/WD, Green bit!
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by:Jsmply
ID: 34935666
Thanks, we asked Seagate when their support guys said to set the sleep time to never in the Seagate software and like we said, they didn't think it would effect the life of the drive.  Just interested in EE's opinion.  

Also, does anyone know off hand if Windows  7 will power down external drives on it's own when inactive as it does it's internal drive?  Seems like the kind of thing probably better controlled by the OS.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 250 total points
ID: 34936111
the powerOn/Off cycle certainly heats up, and let the device cool down - but if it does affect the life cycle  ?
in my opinion, not really -  it was certainly so in the '90's, but manufacturers have a much better control over the heat production of the parts (there is also much less of it), the dissipation of the heat, how to arrange the parts on the print, and how thick the layers are.
Personally, i power my PC's off at least 2x per day from 2000 (and even before) - and did not notice problems.
As you noticed - electronics and PC's are much less serviced nowadays than in those days; i know, because i was a tech then. (and mostly for power problems).

So -  i would follow seagate's advice - and set them to never.
i would even - if it is practical for you - power down the pc's completely everyday...
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 34939093
Thanks nobus.  The thing is, back when we first noticed we apparently were one of the first ones to bring it to Seagate's attention on Windows 7.  Their support guys tried a few things and then said to go ahead and disable sleep on the drives (and when we asked, they said it wouldn't impact the life of the drive).  Now fast forward to the present, there are more people (via Google searches and via Seagate) that have reported the issue and it seems to be the same as the event id 51 in Windows XP, happens on all Seagates and seems to be harmless (other than a messy event log).

That being so, is it a good idea to set it back to default power/sleep settings?  As for heat/temperature, we monitored the same types of seagate portable drives with and withotu the sleep setting set to "never' and they both seemed to idle at the same temps (33C-36C depending on room temp and when in heavy read/write they would see about 40C) so it doesn't seem like it's getting "hotter' as a result.  Question is, what is better for the reliability of the drive the constant start/stops in sleep mode or the fact it spins all the time (and stays at idle temp).
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by:nobus
ID: 34940875
i don't think there is much of an impact, except that bearings will wear when turning
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 34940901
Thanks.  With fluid bearings, is that even a concern?  Seagate has a KB article that seems to state it can spin without wear and tear effects.  http://seagate.custkb.com/seagate/crm/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=178911&NewLang=en&Hilite=should+i+leave+on  
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by:nobus
ID: 34942152
then you're good  - but i did not see anything about fluid bearings
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 34957800
Thanks.  Can't find much else useful.  I was just leaving it open for a few days hoping to get anymore info.  Probably should have posted this in the hard drive section but I swear I couldn't find the zone at the time.  
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by:nobus
ID: 34958667
no problem..
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 34974831
Thanks.  The new Seagate drives (GoFlex) don't appear to be effected by this problem so we don't need to worry about it and decided to go with those.  However, the answers were helpful and education so thank you.  Will distribute points.  
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Author Closing Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 34974838
Thx
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by:nobus
ID: 34977542
you're welcome
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Author Comment

by:Jsmply
ID: 34977596
Just an FYI to anyone who finds it in a search, the original issue we called Seagate for is not completely resolved in the new drives aftetall but seems to be less frequent. Noticed the same thing on modern western digital drives.
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by:nobus
ID: 34978700
tx for sharing this
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