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Hard Drive Transfer Rate with HDTune

Posted on 2016-10-18
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2016-10-27
I'm used to testing hard drive transfer rate with HDTune.  Generally, a good drive will start somewhere around 100MB/s and decay downward during the test to perhaps 50-60 MB/s indicated - with a somewhat "noisy" plot of measurements.

Bad hard drives will show periods of time where the transfer rate drops to very low numbers, i.e. 1-2MB/s and will stay there for 10% or more of the time.  

I'm working on one right now that was staying low for fairly long periods of time during the test and replaced the hard drive and SATA cable and the SATA port on the Mobo.  I have never experienced this in such a repair evolution.
Yet, it appears that the variation to very low numbers persists at least somewhat.  So, I'm wondering:

What if these efforts didnt' fix the root cause of the problem?  
I'm running a CHKDSK right now but rather doubt that could affect HDTune.
What if the problem remains?  Where would you be looking to fix it?
Question by:Fred Marshall
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Expert Comment

ID: 41849393
I'd run the manufacturer's diagnostic rather than HDTune in such a situation.  For Seagate it is SeaTools http://www.seagate.com/support/downloads/item/seatools-win-master/ and for WD it is the Data Lifeguard Diagnostic http://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx?lang=en

That'll give you a much clear picture of the state of the drive's health.
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Author Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 41849460
I suppose it's possible but this is a new hard drive as I'd mentioned.....  I'm looking for other causes.
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Assisted Solution

jmcg earned 668 total points
ID: 41849470
The change in rate between the start of the disk to the end  of the disk is largely caused by zone differences. Outer tracks have more sectors, so you get more sectors per rotation, hence higher transfer rates.

Bad sectors on the disk, as the disk deteriorates, are replaced (silently) by the disk's firmware, usually with spares on the same track. This can reduce throughput on a track with bad sectors, but usually not by much more than a factor of two for the extra rotational latency. If the sector replacement has to go to a different track, though, you end up with a seek plus settling time, so throughput can drop enormously for such a track. With luck, no data is lost, but performance has clearly gone out the window once a drive has developed so many bad sectors. If you catch a drive in this state, you want to move expeditiously to replace it (and RMA it, if it's covered) before anything worse happens.

HDTune is a good tool because it, like the operating system, makes pretty generic assumptions about the drive and measures at least one aspect of its performance in a fairly natural way.

Using the corresponding vendor diagnostic tools on the drive will certainly give you more detailed information. I personally have never had any luck in getting them to "repair" a drive that had seriously deteriorated.

In the scenario you describe, it seems like you may have replaced a failing drive with another failing drive. If I had spares, I would look to find a drive that behaved like a "good" drive, perhaps on a different system. Only if the known good drive exhibited problems in the destination system, would I start looking hard at SATA cables or mobo ports.
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dbrunton earned 668 total points
ID: 41849478
>>  Using the corresponding vendor diagnostic tools on the drive will certainly give you more detailed information. I personally have never had any luck in getting them to "repair" a drive that had seriously deteriorated.

If this is a new drive then the vendor tools will give a code for a warranty claim if a fault is found.  Very useful.

I've had WD drives repaired using the vendor tool.  Made a couple of Caviar drives useful again.
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Assisted Solution

by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 664 total points
ID: 41849498
I had one machine that the drive was not connected properly in the BIOS.  The original cause was a bad drive but it persisted with the next drive until I changed it in the BIOS.
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Expert Comment

ID: 41849513
maybe both drives came from the same batch?
try another brand to be sure
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Expert Comment

ID: 41849883
Is the new drive fresh, without any data on it? What BIOS setting are you using (IDE, AHCI)?

If the data on the new disk is a copy of the data on the old disk, it could be that the test is reading directories and files as one of the tests. If there are many very small files, the performance of the disk is lowered drastically, while large files usually pose no problem.

AHCI should also give you better performance than IDE mode.
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Expert Comment

by:Gerald Connolly
ID: 41849896
So you were running CHKDSK and HDTUNE at the same time?

if so, of course they would interfere with each other!
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Author Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 41850815
dbrunton: I have run the WD tests (the old drive installed on another computer)  and they show "OK".

Gerald Connolly: No.  I agree.

Dave Baldwin: "not connected properly in the BIOS" .... how?

All:  Just to avoid the confusion I must have caused.  The problem is with an old drive and it was replaced with a shiny new drive clone.  Seagate to Western Digital.  The new drive showed fairly large transfer rate dropouts as well.  

The system was "stuck" on Windows cumulative update.  i.e. it had failed a number of times.
Once this was done, all is OK.  Well after also running sfc and DISM.
Also, the old drive tests fine with HDTune when installed in another computer.

This is the first time I've seen data rates drop when the HD was OK!!  Noisy numbers but no big dropouts in the rate.
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 41850870
The drive I was having trouble with had a hardware problem that restricted it to the slowest level of IDE connection.  When I put a new drive in the machine, the BIOS was still set for that same connection level.  When I changed it to the highest level, the drive ran normally.  HDtune helped me figure that one out too.
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Accepted Solution

Fred Marshall earned 0 total points
ID: 41855498
This is the first time I've seen HDTune test data rates drop when the HD was OK!!  

Up to now, I'd seen noisy numbers but no big dropouts in the rate resulting from a "good drive" test.
Or, if there were big dropouts in the rate, it surely indicated a failing hard drive.

This occurrence of big dropouts in the HDTune test transfer rates from an apparently good drive is new.

So, it's something to be aware of.

The conclusion is that HDTune test data rate dropouts may not indicate a bad hard drive!
One recommendation coming out of this might be to check the state of Windows Updates.  
Running the repair procedure Windows 7, 8, and 10: Fix Windows Update by Deleting Its Cache Manually at http://www.howtogeek.com/247380/how-to-fix-windows-update-when-it-gets-stuck/ seemed to be part of the solution for a variety of reasons that made sense but I'll not elaborate....
Another recommendation would be to run:
sfc /scannow
DISM/Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image  /RestoreHealth

Beyond that, I'm not sure what to suggest but it may beat replacing a hard drive that hasn't actually failed.
If this is really attached to the Update issue then it may be a transient phenomenon that will go away over time.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 41861864
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