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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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Kallestofeles 13 Jan, 2015
Very helpful and good article. Kudos!
gojul 13 Jan, 2015
Thanks for the tip. You can avoid shutdown / reboot by suspend/resume the PC, this also works.
megamanx1978 13 Jan, 2015
THANK YOU VERY MUCH! You may have just saved my harddrive. My WD harddrive is about 3 years old and had a load value of 1394478. I am sure my Linux PC will be faster too.
EKRboi 13 Jan, 2015
Have 2 WD green drives. Luckily I've not had problems, but the fix is applied now! THANKS SKULLY!

WDC WD20EARS-00S8B1 2TB caviar green (2-3-ish years old) - 193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 149 149 000 Old_age Always - 155898

WDC WD10EADS-00L5B1 1TB caviar green (who knows) - 193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 198 198 000 Old_age Always - 7939

So does this only affect newer drives? Was surprised to see the oldest drive to have such a low count. It is where I stick games when I'm done playing them and want them off of my SSD and don't want to just uninstall them. My other drives are Seagate drives and they all seem to be "normal".
minj 13 Jan, 2015
My WD Blue has 2k cycles after 50 days of uptime for a secondary drive.

Btw I had also fiddled with the APM level (hdparm -B) because the constant clicking sound was driving me nuts:
AC power: 254
Battery: 128
tuubi 13 Jan, 2015
Quoting: PublicNuisanceAnyone using these as a main drive are doing it wrong anyway. They are meant as storage drives not as program or OS drives.

I guess no one told Dell. My wife uses a Dell business laptop that came with the WD Black I mentioned in my earlier comment. Idle3 timer set at 8 seconds and a version of Ubuntu preinstalled. So there's bound to be plenty of people and businesses using WD's various "energy efficient" disks as main drives. But I guess WD is happy as long as the hardware outlasts it's warranty...
Maquis196 13 Jan, 2015
I unfortunately have the green drives in my FreeBSD server (what FreeBSD on a Linux site? get him!), so yeah, time to see if I can fix these bad boys.

So getting the WD reds next time...
stevemcsteve 13 Jan, 2015
This is one of the reasons I love this website, I consider myself fairly tech savvy, but I am extremely lazy - ive replaced 4 2/3TB drives out of my NAS over the last 5 years, never had issues with WD before this.

I knew that green drives had an issue with spin down etc but decided I could ignore it. Eventually replaced them with red's. Very good to know the reason why now.
uytko 14 Jan, 2015
Seems quite late for me (1653954 hum). I'll apply the fix anyway. Thank you.
Xpander 14 Jan, 2015
seems late for me also just lost all my youtube content..
i actually had the head parking minimized before but it died still without hitting 300k parking cycles
it was at around 250k and 2.5 years of life.

ordered a new 2TB seagate already.. seagate has never let me down in the past history.
with a record seagate beeing over 7 years powered on state :)

i usualy replace HDDs within 3-4 years anway so they have to last at least that long.
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