Notes About Laptop Drive Noise and Performance

After experimenting with three 500GB 7200RPM laptop drives for the ThinkPad T400, I’ve finally settled on one.  For now…

The StinkPad had a perfectly good 320GB 7200RPM Hitachi drive installed, but it was rapidly filling up with virtual machines.  Time for a 500GB drive.  Simple clone job using Acronis: Cloning Hard Drives With Acronis

I specifically wanted an old-style 512-bytes per sector drive to avoid possible problems with Advanced Format drives.  That didn’t actually go that well: Windows Update Broken After Cloning Hard drive, but back to the story…

Drive number 1: Western Digital WD5000BEKT.  Performance seemed excellent but it made a maddening intermittent noise: Strange Laptop Drive Noise: “Whoosh”

Drive number 2: Hitachi 0S02858.  This had been shipping as a 7K500 drive with 512-byte sectors.  Mine had the 0S02858 model number on the box but it contained a 7K750 Advanced Format drive (see “Windows Update Broken…” above).  Hitachi support says that 0S02858 model number is only guaranteed to be a 500GB 7200RPM drive, but could be either “7K” model, or even some other drive.

I got past the AF issues, but performance didn’t seem as snappy as the WD drive.  Purely subjective observation.

Drive number 3: I found a good deal on a SAMSUNG Spinpoint MP4 HM500JJ.  $50 at NewEgg.  That’s a 512-byte per sector drive.  I was hoping for better performance.  No joy there.  Subjective performance was the same as the Hitachi.  In addition, the Samsung introduced a very noticeable vibration in the StinkPad palmrest.  Some folks, with some laptops, might not find it objecionable.  I’m waaaay to picky for my own good.

As of now, I’m back to the Hitachi drive.  Its vibration level is almost imperceptible.  Performance is OK.  Advanced Format issues are solved.  And it runs a little cooler than the Samsung.

Below are the HD Tune reports for all three.

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Windows Update Broken After Cloning Hard drive

You just migrated your system to a new hard drive by cloning or restoring a backup.  Things seem to be working, but Windows Update fails.  The error popup says that the service isn’t running but task manager says that it is.  You’ve just been bitten by the new Advanced Format (4k-byte sector) hard drives.

I recently upgraded my ThinkPad T400 (Windows 7 Pro 64) from a 320GB 7200RPM drive to a 500GB 7200RPM drive.  It was a simple process using Acronis: Cloning Hard Drives With Acronis.  I specifically shopped for an older style drive that used 512-byte sectors.

The industry is rapidly going to “Advanced Format” drives that have 4k-type sectors: Advanced Format (wikipedia).  The AF drives can cause problems with performance if their partitions aren’t correctly aligned, especially when running Windows XP.  Unfortunately, the on-line drive documentation I consulted when selecting a drive was incorrect, and I ended up with an AF drive.  I’m running W7 – which supposedly supports AF drives.  It wasn’t that simple…

First, a note about how I ended up with an AF drive.  I was aware of possible issues with 4k-byte sectors, so I specifically looked for a non-AF drive.  My first choice was a Western Digital WD5000BEKT from Amazon.  It worked OK, but was too noisy: Strange Laptop Drive Noise: “Whoosh” Next choice was a Hitachi 0S02858.  All the comments on Amazon indicate that it’s a 7K500-500 drive with 512-byte sectors.  The one I received was actually a 7K750-500 Advanced Format drive.  So was its replacement.  A Hitachi tech told me that the 0S02858 part number indicated a 7K500 drive, and that I should have Amazon replace it.  He later said that Hitachi might ship either model under that part number.  Grrrr!

Back to the Windows Update problem.  Windows 7 is supposed to understand AF drives, and correctly aligns partitions.  Sort of.  Without the updates in a hotfix (or SP1 ??) , Windows can’t detect the drive’s physical sector size, and Update (and some other features) fail.  I was already running SP1, so it should have been OK.  Microsoft explanation and hotfix link: An update that improves the compatibility of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Advanced Format Disks is available  On my ThinkPad T400, the hotfix just errored out with no additional information.

To cut to the chase, SP1 and the hotfix weren’t correctly updating the storage driver, so it couldn’t report sector size to Windows.  The clue here was that fsutil (see that Microsoft link, above) was reporting “bytes per physical sector” as “<Not Supported>”.

My fix was to manually install the latest Intel driver: Intel® Rapid Storage Technology  (link may be stale – see update below) That installs a lot more than necessary – AFAICS – but was an easy fix.  fsutil now reports the 4096-byte sector size, and Windows Update works.  I’ve also heard that installing the AHCI driver from the Lenovo driver matrix for one of the Huron River ThinkPads (T420/T520/X220/etc) would also do the job w/a smaller install (and less Intel crapware) but I have not tested that.   After updating the storage driver the hotfix happily announced that it (the hotfix) was already installed.

Update 2012.12.12 The Intel driver download is a moving target.  Try this search link if the one above doesn’t work:

Update 2011.10.04 Have a look at the readme that comes with the Intel driver.  There are some command line options that allow installing the driver only without all the other unnecessary stuff.

Update 2012.10.15 That Intel link target keeps changing.  Try going to and searching on “rapid storage technology”.  Pick the latest result that matches your operating system.  Then download the iata_enu.exe and readme files.

Update 2015.03.28 For some Lenovo machines ThinkVantage System Update may install an old or buggy Intel Matrix Storage Manager that can cause the same problem.  Some discussion here:   ThinkVantage System Update 5.05 causes Windows 7 Windows Update to fail and inhibits IE downloads

For XP users, the story is more painful.  Here are a couple of links to drive manufacturer’s tools – that should help:

Western Digital documentation and tools: Advanced Format Software

Hitachi whitepaper:  Advanced Format Drives   Hitachi Alignment tool:  Hitachi Align tool

Those alignment tools are the private-labeled Acronis alignment tool.

Sorry about the long post.  Hope it helps someone.

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Thunderbird 5: Slow (and incompatible with ESET)

I recently upgraded to Thunderbird 5.  First impressions: pretty, and pretty slow. Lots of lag when deleting email made for a real pain when removing the 100 or spams and viruses that show up in my inbox every day.  There’s a fix.  It also doesn’t play nice with ESET security.  No fix available.

The lag when deleting each bogus email in the inbox was intolerable.  It’s likely the delay wasn’t so much in the deletion, but in displaying the next email in the list.  Like the FireFox font issues, this also relates to hardware acceleration.

Per this thread Why is Thunderbird 5.0 so SLOW? CAUSED by direct2d toggling gfx.direct2d.disabled and layers.acceleration.disabled to true (Go into Tools → Options → Advanced → General and click Config Editor)  speeds things up.  It did for me.

More troublesome was finding out that ESET is not compatible with Thunderbird 5 – or 4.  I’ve tried ESET a couple of times, but always gone back to Avast + Sphinx because ESET seems to make the S3 sleep issues worse on my desktop.  I decided to give it another try and went through the thrash of uninstalling the other stuff, fixing up my POP3 and SMTP settings, and installing ESET.  None of the ESET features showed up in T-bird.

ESET has said on various security forums that ESET 5 (the next version) will support T-bird 5.  Of course, by then we will be at T-bird 6.  Or 7.  Or 8.  Thunderbird 5Is ESET Smart Security compatible with Thunderbird?

I’ve decided to continue with the ESET experiment, so for now I’ve reverted Thunderbird to 3.1.11.

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Cloning Hard Drives With Acronis

I previously wrote about using Acronis True Image Home or Lenovo Rescue & Recovery to back up a hard drive – and using that backup to migrate to another drive.  I’ve since used the clone tool in TIH 2011 to directly clone a laptop drive.

Those backup and/or clone notes are here: Acronis Backup vs. Lenovo Rescue & Recovery.  Of course, the authoritative writeup is over here: Hard Drive Clonewars – Klonkrieg der Festplatten

This post just adds a few notes to my previous post.  This effort came up when I had to quickly replace the new drive mentioned in “Acronis Backup…“.  The new Western Digital drive worked well, but made a maddening noise:  Strange Laptop Drive Noise: “Whoosh”  It was quickly replaced with a Hitachi 7k750-500 500G 7200RPM drive.

Update 2011.08.04:  Yike.  That 7k750 drive is an Advance Format unit with 4k-byte sectors.  Big fun: Windows Update Broken After Cloning Hard drive

This time I used the clone tool in Acronis True Image Home 2011 to clone the drive directly, rather than going through a backup and restore process.  It was very straight-forward, and apart from a couple of wrinkles, automatic.  First,  when cloning (using any tool) the target drive must be installed in the ThinkPad, or the operation is likely to fail.  This seems to be a quirk of ThinkPads, and requires removing the drive from the laptop and putting it in some kind of external SATA-to-USB adapter, and putting the new drive in the laptop before cloning.  Before removing the original drive from the laptop, I’d suggest running a drive cleanup, and possibly capturing the volume ID.  More on that below.

Once the drives were in the appropriate configuration (old one in an external enclosure, new one in the laptop) I booted Acronis TIH from my “swiss army” flash drive.  The CD version works too, but I prefer the convenience and speed of a flash drive.  Some notes about bootable flash over here:  Bootable USB Flash Drive Tools and hopefully a more detailed writeup later.

Selected the “Tools” menu, and “Clone”.  Since I wasn’t changing drive configuration, it pretty much went automatically from there.  Both drives were 500G, with about 160G of actual data.  The full operation took just under 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Not bad.  Shut down, rebooted on the new drive, and Bob’s your uncle.

Now, about that volume ID.  Some of my software is tied to the volume ID of the drive on which it is installed.  The TIH clone tool makes no provision (that I could find) for preserving the ID during a clone operation, so the new drive ends up with a different ID.  Most software doesn’t care, but mine does.  It’s fairly easy to relicense, but easier yet to clone the ID.  This can be done manually by capturing the ID before removing the old drive.  Use the “vol” command in a command prompt window.  After the new drive is up and running, the volumeid command can be used to restore the ID on the clone.  Volumeid is available here: VolumeID v2.0

The only other detail I had to deal with was getting Rescue & Recovery to boot instead of Windows when the “Think” button is pressed.  The bootloader must need to know the location of the bootable R&R image on the drive.  After cloning, that location has changed and the “Think” button just gets you to “windows failed to load” or something.  It’s easy enough to fix.  Just reinstall R&R – or easier yet, just fix it by launching the original installer and selecting “repair”.  On my machine, it’s located here: C:SWTOOLSReadyAppsrndtvtrnr.exe.

For the edification of all, here are the HDTune results for the WD and Hitachi drives:

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Strange Laptop Drive Noise: “Whoosh”

I recently upgraded the 320G 7200RPM drive in my ThinkPad T400 to a 500G 7200RPM drive.  The new drive works, but intermittently makes a really annoying “whoosh, whoosh…” noise.

I had a perfectly fine Hitachi 320G drive in the StinkPad, but it was rapidly filling up with virtual machines.  I intended to upgrade to a 500G Hitachi, but they were out of stock at NewEgg.  I ended up ordering a Western Digital Scorpio Black WD5000BEKT from Amazon.

I cloned the old drive to the new with Acronis True Image Home 2011: Cloning Hard Drives With Acronis.  The new drive performs a little better than the old Hitachi, so that was a plus.  It runs fairly cool, and is mostly pretty quiet.  Mostly.  From time to time it starts making a “whooshing” sound that is plainly audible in a quiet room.  It isn’t quite constant, and is random enough to be very irritating.

It isn’t the normal rotational noise, or the head actuator “click”.  Both of those are present, but not particularly loud.  The “whoosh” may be associated with head actuation, or perhaps disk activity in general.  It sounds somewhat like the disk RPM rising and falling, but I don’t know if that is actually what is happening.

Apparently this has been an issue going back several years: Does your WD 320GB or 500GB hard drive make ‘swoosh’ sounds?

I contacted WD support, and they said the drive should be replaced.  Amazon replaced it promptly with another drive that did exactly the same thing.  Amazon let me return that drive and I’ve now installed the Hitachi that I wanted in the first place.  It’s a 7k750-500.  Fast, cool, and quiet.  Nice.

Update 2011.08.04:  Yike.  That 7k750 drive is an Advance Format unit with 4k-byte sectors.  Big fun: Windows Update Broken After Cloning Hard drive

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