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Enterprise Hard Drives 512n, 512e or 4K sectoring

Posted on 2016-07-27
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Last Modified: 2016-07-28
What is the difference?
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Question by:LockDown32
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David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 672 total points
ID: 41732441
512n is the older format 512K sectors
512e means a 512-byte sector size is being emulated but it is a 4KB sector size but any updates will require the drive reading the entire 4K sector changing the 512bytes then writing back the entire 4K sector instead of the O/S doing it if it was using a native 4096 byte sector size.

Windows Backup before Server 2012 is limited to 512n drives and will not work with advanced format 4K sectors.
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by:LockDown32
ID: 41732943
So why all of a sudden the shift to new sector sizes. What do the new sector sizes bring to the party?
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by:andyalder
andyalder earned 664 total points
ID: 41733006
You can get more data on the disks using Advanced Format because there's only one inter-sector gap every 4K bytes rather than every 512 bytes, see figure 1 at http://www.seagate.com/gb/en/tech-insights/advanced-format-4k-sector-hard-drives-master-ti/

Downside is if you have a lot of files that are 512 bytes long they'll take up 4K each on an 4K sectored drive (they would take 4K each anyway on NTFS default allocation unit size). David already mentioned the read/modify/write downside of 512e.
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by:David
David earned 664 total points
ID: 41733020
The 4K sectored drives offer performance benefits as well, but some caveats
 - Low-end RAID controllers generally won't support 4K sectored drives
 - Not all versions of all operating systems will support 4K sectored drives
 - You can't combine 4K sectored disks with non-4K sectored disks in software or hardware RAID.

As for actually giving you an answer
 - AVOID 512e.   They do a read-modify-write when doing an I/O that isn't a whole number multiple of 4K.  This will cause significant performance issue, but can also lead to data corruption.

 - If your O/S and controllers support 4K, go down that path, because sooner or later, all disks will be 4K.

- 512n is the "safe" choice, if you don't specifically have support for 4K sectored, or are unsure take the 512n.
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