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Western Digital Green HDD, How To Stop Them Dying On You

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This is an unusual post for this site, but I feel it is very important for as many Linux users too see as possible, to try and save them from HDD replacements and data loss.

I have recently discovered (a bit too late) that Western Digital Green hard drives have a serious issue when used in Linux as a main drive or as a NAS drive. The problem can also occur in certain situations in Windows too. The problem is due to a feature called IntelliPark. Which parks the heads on the drive after 8secs of drive inactivity.

Many Linux installations write to the file system a few times a minute in the background (eg. writing logs). As a result, there may be 100 or more load cycles per hour, and the load cycle rating may be exceeded in less than a year. This problem also makes the drives very unresponsive and makes your system feel slow as the heads need to be unparked when you try and load something.

My friend has killed two 1TB Green drives on his XBMC media box in four years. The 500GB drive in my partners machine is in deep trouble as the load_cycle count is at 1991353 after a power_on_hours of 29549hrs. Compare that to my WD Black 1TB which has a load_cycle count of 721 after 13579hrs.

Now Western Digital's specsheet says that the drives are good for 300,000 Load/unload cycles, so this is a pretty big deal.

How to check/evaluate your WD Green Drive.

If you have a Western Digital Green drive, please check your SMART information before it’s too late. To do this you will need to install the package called smartmontools :

sudo pacman -S smartmontools (Arch / Manjaro)

sudo apt-get install smartmontools (Ubuntu / Mint)

Now check like this changing sda to whatever your Green drive is. (Use lsblk in terminal or gparted or i-nex or something to work out which drive it is.):

sudo smartctl -A /dev/sda | grep "^193"

193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 253 253
000 Old_age Always - 1991353

If the Load cycle count exceeds a few thousand, you’re affected by the idle3 timer problem.

Here is how the output should look when this isn’t a problem:

sudo smartctl -A /dev/sdb | grep "^193"

193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 200 200
000 Old_age Always - 721

This is how we solve the problem.

Ok so you have the problem and want to fix it. Western digital have made a DOS utility to fix it if you ask them for it. Or can find it. Its called wdidle3.exe

But we arn’t going to use that. Instead we are going to use a Linux unofficial alternative called idle3-tools. It is already packaged in most distributions like Manjaro/Ubuntu/Mint/Fedora so no need to compile it. but here is the source:

Install idle3-tools with whatever package manager you use. Or like this in the terminal:

sudo pacman -S idle3-tools (Arch / Manjaro)

sudo apt-get install idle3-tools (Ubuntu / Mint)

Now check what your drives timer is currently set as. (Replace sda if needed with your own drive.):

sudo idle3ctl -g /dev/sda

It will likely say it’s set to 80 [8sec]

Now really we want to just disable the timer altogether like it is on a black drive, and just let our systems power management handle the drive. If you want to just increase the time, then goto and read the instructions.

To disable the timer (Replace sda if needed with your own drive):

sudo idle3ctl -d /dev/sda

Next step is to shutdown and power off your computer. Rebooting isn’t enough! You need to power off, so the drive will turn on with the new settings.

Now check again:

sudo idle3ctl -g /dev/sda

and it should say disabled.

Optional step.

Remove idle3-tools and smartmontools with your package manager or in a terminal:

sudo pacman -R idle3-tools smartmontools (Arch / Manjaro)

sudo apt-get purge idle3-tools smartmontools (Ubuntu / Mint)

That’s it! All done. You can now enjoy the reliability and speed from the WD Green drive that you expected to have when you bought it.

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Znurre 13 Jan, 2015
Thanks a lot for this tip, my WD Green (roughly 1.5 years old) has a value of 97896, compared to 708 for my WD VelociRaptor (5 years old).
Liam Dawe 13 Jan, 2015
If it even helps one person save money on dying hardware, I will accept lots of helpful articles like this.

Nice work Skully.
etam 13 Jan, 2015

Thanks for great article. Very helpful.

But I have Hitachi hard drive and "sudo smartctl -A /dev/sda | grep ^193" displays:

193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0012 044 044 000 Old_age Always - 566253

Am I in danger?
VelhoP 13 Jan, 2015
Hum! i got Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 088 088 000 Old_age Always - 129500
But its on a Seagate! T.T
fabertawe 13 Jan, 2015
Great article, happy to see more like this. I have two WD 1TB Blacks in a RAID1 array and it's good to learn something new! Load_Cycle_Count is 1860 for both btw (couple of years usage).
neffo 13 Jan, 2015
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   001   001   000    Old_age   Always       -       787498

Ryuzaki 13 Jan, 2015
Thanks a lot, I was not aware that this sleep after 8 seconds was a problem.

The link to the manjaro wiki is wrong

It is also explained in the Arch wiki
tuubi 13 Jan, 2015
This does not seem to affect only "green" WD drives. I have a 2.5" WD Scorpio Black (WD2500BEKT), and it had the idle3 timer set to 8 secs as well. But then again, it is a "notebook hard drive". Currently serving as a backup drive in our Linux gaming / entertainment box though, so disabled the timer in the black as well as in the green it's sitting next to.
dubigrasu 13 Jan, 2015
Thank you for making me aware of this. I have a Blue WD (default timer disabled) but is something good to know.
Kwarf 13 Jan, 2015
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   001   001   000    Old_age   Always       -       885657
New highscore! Also:
5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   138   138   140    Pre-fail  Always   FAILING_NOW 491
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