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Hacking WD Greens (and Reds) with WDIDLE3.exe

cyberjock

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Joined
Mar 25, 2012
Messages
19,526
*NOTE*: Some of this info applies to WD Reds. So if you have WD Reds you may want to read this and see if this applies to you.

*Update 12/26/2014*: It has been confirmed that some WD Blues and WD Blacks that are 2.5" drives have an 8 second delay to park and WDIDLE3.exe *does* allow users to edit the setting.

In 2009 Western Digital introduced their "Green" drives. These are 5405RPM drives. If you check out their documentation it says they have a "rotation speed between 5400 and 7200RPM". If you read between the lines it does NOT mean these drive have 2+ speeds(despite how many people swear up and down they have different speeds). They have one speed, and it is in fact between 5400 and 7200RPM, 5405RPM to be exact. (Haha to all you nay-sayers in the WD Red vs Green thread that think i'm smoking something because of the advertising games companies do play). Then, in 2012 WD introduced the "Red" series of drives. These were supposed to be specifically designed for NAS functions(although how much and to what extent is a very protracted discussion). In short, you can buy the marketing propaganda, or you choose not to. It's like religion. Either you believe or you don't. And quite frankly, there's very little to "believe" with regards to hard drives. The companies are not forthcoming with data that will ever allow you to make a truly informed decision. So a lot of it is your personal preference and what you can find via Google.

Normal hard drive behavior is to park the heads when the disk is powered off or the disk will be spun down for power saving. The head parks on what is called the landing zone(LS for short). This location is the innermost track on the drive(the last track). Normally a head will park there only on certain conditions:
1. The disk is coming up to full speed
2. The disk is about to spin down(such as a loss of power or is going to sleep)
3. The disk detects a speed error (imagine if you were to stick your finger in there and stop the platter from spinning).
4. Some drives will let you run a program that can send a command to the drive to force a head park.

Normally, a functioning hard drive's head does not touch the platters at all. It floats on a cushion of air generated from the rapidly spinning media and allows the head to float at about 3nm from the platter. When a disk is spun down this cushion of air does not exist, so the head is placed in a location that will not potentially damage the data. The necessary tolerances if blown up to the macroscopic world would be like flying a commercial airplane 5 inches off the ground and staying within 1mm at all times. Pretty amazing that drives are able to perform reliably under such conditions for months or years, huh? Anyway, because the head rides on this cushion of air, it increases drag on the platters. This means that the motor will have to spend more energy to keep the platters moving at the same speed. This increases the power needed as well as increases heat produced. The below picture is a hard drive with its head parked.
Data Recovery Petaluma Rohnerty Park_business_slide_full.jpeg

With the introduction of the WD Green drives they added a feature called "Intellipark" and "Intellipower". Intellipower lowered the power usage by increasing the disk's cache size, a reduced spindle speed, and other firmware changes to provide power savings while minimizing the performance losses from said changes. What's funny is that 10 years ago hard drives used to be 5400RPM. RPMs have slowly increased in hard drives for decades to increase throughput and decrease latency. You used to pay more for higher RPM. But now the average consumer is so stupid the hard drive manufacturers will sell you a drive at a slower speed, and then call it a feature! And you know what's even more amazing than that! Most people will buy it because of that "new" feature! (And I laugh some more at the nay-sayers that think that these companies are completely honest) Anyway, Intellipark is a different beast and is the topic of the remainder of this article.

Intellipark is a feature of the WD Green drives that will park the heads on a special landing zone that is not on the platters at all. See the below picture. The orange thing where the heads are is its "landing zone". WD took the standard parking feature that has existed for decades and added this plastic landing zone that is not on the platters. The feature was designed to be more aggressive with parking the heads in the name of saving power. This is a good idea, and a bad idea. I'll explain this in a bit. For now, check out these cool pictures...



Hard-drive-main-components.jpg
StorageReview-Seagate-Savvio-10K6-Heads.jpg

intellipark7.png
Check out the orange plastic pieces. This landing zone was (keyword "was".. I'll get back to this later) unique to WD Greens and a few other drives that are Green drives with a different name.


WD Green drives have cool stuff on the box that says things like:

-Cool & quiet computing.
-eco-conscious
-power saving
-great for desktop or workstation use*
*Desktop drives are not recommended for use in RAID environments, please consider using WD Red hard drives for home and small office 1-5 bay NAS systems and WD Enterprise hard drives for rackmount and >5 bay NAS systems.

Well, crap. This forum is all about servers. That asterisk really screws us over, doesn't it?

Well, yes and no. This is why this topic exists. WD Green drives will automatically park themselves after being idle for 8 seconds(the default). So if you do a disk read or write followed by at least 8 seconds of inactivity the heads will park. On the next read or write the head will unpark to perform the task. Next time the drive is idle for 8 seconds it will park again. So you can see that if you had a disk read or write every 10 seconds it could park and unpark itself frequently. To make problems even worse, that landing zone is only rated for 250,000 to 350,000cycles or so(depends on model and year of manufacture). Some people have recorded well over 800,000 cycles in less than a year! Normally for a desktop you'll do a lot of reading for a short period of time, followed by significant idle time. So getting to a large number of cycles for a desktop is quite difficult. But, on a server things are a bit different. If you start streaming a movie ZFS will read-ahead on the movie. It will probably be more than 8 seconds between reads. This means that the whole time you are watching a movie the drive will be parking and unparking itself. Some people have recorded more than 250k cycles in less than a year. Western Digital knows about all of this stuff, and there are stories of WD denying warranties on drives with excessive cycles because it's an indicator that you used the drive outside its "designed" criteria. Because of this claim they do not have to honor the warranty. Good luck trying to fight them on it too.

So how do we deal with this problem? Easy. There is a tool that changes the setting bytes on the drive to a value of your choosing. Enter WDIDLE3.exe.

WDIDLE3(called WDIDLE for the remainder of this post) is a DOS program you run to change your drive settings. You hook up your WD Green drives(and only your Green drives) to your computer, change your controller to IDE mode(not always necessary) and bootup from a DOS boot disk. Then you run the WDIDLE3 tool and change the setting to anything you want up to 300 seconds or disable it completely. Alternatively you can use the UBCD(Universal Boot CD) to change the setting without having to make a DOS boot disk. Here's a video of someone doing the change. Total time to run the tool minus potentially hooking your drives up to a different computer.. less than 1 minute. For the record, I chose to set my disks to 300 seconds instead of disabled. I figure I would like the heads to park if I'm really not using the drive, but I don't want it to be too aggressive with parking the heads. Even if I had the drive do a read every 301 seconds nonstop it would take a year to rack up 104k cycles. Now it's not that likely that I'll get a read every 301st second for a solid year, so I'll definitely not hit any numbers where I'll be concerned. As you will see from my data below my 3.5 year old drive has just 4k cycles on it.

I'm running 24 WD Green drives in my server and I've had an amazing experience with them. Despite the fact that they aren't "designed" for server use, I set the drives to 300 seconds and have had only marginal increases in landing zone parks since then. I figure if i can minimize wear and tear with my head spinning on the media then great! I consider 300 seconds to be the best tradeoff to minimize wear alone. The power savings(even if small) are just an added bonus.

So cyberjock, how do I figure all this stuff out? Well, here's how.
First, you go to the CLI of FreeNAS and do a smartctl of your drive. Here's a smartctl of my drive...

Code:
[root@freenas] ~# smartctl -a -q noserial /dev/da1
smartctl 6.2 2013-07-26 r3841 [FreeBSD 9.2-RELEASE amd64] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-13, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:    Western Digital Caviar Green (AF)
Device Model:    WDC WD20EARS-00S8B1
Firmware Version: 80.00A80
User Capacity:    2,000,398,934,016 bytes [2.00 TB]
Sector Size:      512 bytes logical/physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:  ATA8-ACS (minor revision not indicated)
SATA Version is:  SATA 2.6, 3.0 Gb/s
Local Time is:    Mon Feb  3 18:44:04 2014 CST
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x85) Offline data collection activity
                                        was aborted by an interrupting command from host.
                                        Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status:      (  0) The previous self-test routine completed
                                        without error or no self-test has ever
                                        been run.
Total time to complete Offline
data collection:                (42360) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities:                    (0x7b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
                                        Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
                                        Suspend Offline collection upon new
                                        command.
                                        Offline surface scan supported.
                                        Self-test supported.
                                        Conveyance Self-test supported.
                                        Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
                                        power-saving mode.
                                        Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01) Error logging supported.
                                        General Purpose Logging supported.
Short self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (  2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:        ( 482) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (  5) minutes.
SCT capabilities:              (0x3031) SCT Status supported.
                                        SCT Feature Control supported.
                                        SCT Data Table supported.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG    VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate    0x002f  200  200  051    Pre-fail  Always      -      0
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0027  165  145  021    Pre-fail  Always      -      8725
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032  099  099  000    Old_age  Always      -      1044
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct  0x0033  200  200  140    Pre-fail  Always      -      0
  7 Seek_Error_Rate        0x002e  200  200  000    Old_age  Always      -      0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032  058  058  000    Old_age  Always      -      30745
10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0032  100  100  000    Old_age  Always      -      0
11 Calibration_Retry_Count 0x0032  100  100  000    Old_age  Always      -      0
12 Power_Cycle_Count      0x0032  100  100  000    Old_age  Always      -      500
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032  200  200  000    Old_age  Always      -      432
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032  199  199  000    Old_age  Always      -      4101
194 Temperature_Celsius    0x0022  127  102  000    Old_age  Always      -      25
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032  200  200  000    Old_age  Always      -      0
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0032  200  200  000    Old_age  Always      -      0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable  0x0030  200  200  000    Old_age  Offline      -      0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x0032  200  200  000    Old_age  Always      -      0
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate  0x0008  200  200  000    Old_age  Offline      -      0

SMART Error Log Version: 1
No Errors Logged

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
# 1  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30707        -
# 2  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30635        -
# 3  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30587        -
# 4  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30539        -
# 5  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30491        -
# 6  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30449        -
# 7  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30401        -
# 8  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30353        -
# 9  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30305        -
#10  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30258        -
#11  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30210        -
#12  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30162        -
#13  Extended offline    Completed without error      00%    30124        -
#14  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30114        -
#15  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30066        -
#16  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    30018        -
#17  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    29971        -
#18  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    29899        -
#19  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    29851        -
#20  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    29803        -
#21  Short offline      Completed without error      00%    29755        -

SMART Selective self-test log data structure revision number 1
SPAN  MIN_LBA  MAX_LBA  CURRENT_TEST_STATUS
    1        0        0  Not_testing
    2        0        0  Not_testing
    3        0        0  Not_testing
    4        0        0  Not_testing
    5        0        0  Not_testing
Selective self-test flags (0x0):
  After scanning selected spans, do NOT read-scan remainder of disk.
If Selective self-test is pending on power-up, resume after 0 minute delay.


In particular, you want to look at a few parameters in particular...

Code:
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032  099  099  000    Old_age  Always      -      1044
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032  058  058  000    Old_age  Always      -      30745
12 Power_Cycle_Count      0x0032  100  100  000    Old_age  Always      -      500
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032  199  199  000    Old_age  Always      -      4101


Every time your hard drive turns on the Power_Cycle_Count will increment. This hard drive has been powered on and off 500 times. Every time the hard drive spins up and down that increments Start_Stop_Count. The disparity between Power_Cycle_Count and Start_Stop_Count is 544. This number is probably the number of times the hard drive has gone to "sleep". That is, the power management settings I had set had the hard drive spin down due to inactivity. Power_On_Hours tells us how many hours the drive has been on. Load_Cycle_Count is the big one though(often abbreviated LCC). That tells us how many times the hard drive has had its head "parked". In my case, this drive has been on for 30745 hours(3.5 years) and has parked its heads just 4101 times. Can you tell that I've used the WDIDLE3 tool? Let's see some numbers on a drive that hasn't had WDIDLE3 run on the drive but was used in a server...
Code:
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032  099  099  000    Old_age  Always      -      503
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032  058  058  000    Old_age  Always      -      6004
12 Power_Cycle_Count      0x0032  100  100  000    Old_age  Always      -      45
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032  199  199  000    Old_age  Always      -      125320


Check out the LCC on that drive? It's racked up 125k cycles in just 1/2 a year. Obviously that's not a good place to be! You should definitely look at using the WDIDLE3 tool on your drive.

Now, the WDIDLE3 tool isn't necessarily for everyone. You have 3 choices:
1. You can completely ignore all this info and hope for the best.
2. You can choose to not use the tool, but then you'll want to monitor the drives manually forever. I hate this idea and I think you are crazy if you consider it. I don't like babysitting my servers forever.
3. Just change the darn settings and never look back. This is what I recommend!

So, above I mentioned that other manufacturers are using this intellipark technology. In fact, one of the pictures I showed you above is a Seagate Savvio. It has the same head parking technology that WD has. Seagate still reports the LCC count, but they don't seem to be aggressive with parking in the name of power savings. If they did make a change to the firmware that made this aggressive you'll be at the whim of Seagate to provide a tool(or for someone to find a way to hack the drive to change it).

If you've been an avid reader of the forums it appears that WD has potentially dropped the ball on WD Reds recently. A few users have reported that their WD Reds have an aggressive head parking setting and it was corrected by using the WDIDLE3 tool. Of course, WD doesn't seem to be acknowledging or denying anything(no surprises there!) but it is cause for concern. This tends to lend credence to the idea that some people have(I'm one of them) that the main difference between WD Greens and WD Reds is nothing more than some firmware changes, a different colored sticker, an additional year of warranty, and a higher price tag. WD does appear to have fixed the problem recently and they no longer park "as aggressively" as the WD Greens do. So if you have WD Red drives you may want to check your LCC and see if you were hit by the small window of drives that have an inappropriate firmware setting.

It should be noted that TLER is not related to intellipark at all. TLER is Time Limited Error Recovery. TLER prevents a disk that has a read or write error from going into a deep error recovery mode to attempt to read/write to a sector it couldn't previously read/write. When a drive goes into a deep error recovery mode it may lock up the NAS temporarily, cause the pool to perform very very poorly, or for hardware RAIDs cause the drive to be dropped from the array. TLER was created solely to prevent a single read or write error from causing a drive to be removed from a hardware RAID. TLER has nothing to do with power savings and nothing to do with parking heads. TLER has existed for years and years, far longer than this "green" initiative that has taken hard drives to a new place.

It should also be noted that Green drives, while being lower power than other drives, aren't exactly "green". You can replace an incandescent with a CFL and have 10x more power savings. So don't be fooled with the "green" mantra.

Other useful tips for buying hard drives:

-Look at RPMs. Drives that spin at 7200RPM will usually be faster than 5400RPM drives, but they will generate MUCH more heat, will use MUCH more power, and will usually provide no benefit for many users. Unless you are doing heavy random disk I/O all of the time, 5400RPM drives are probably okay.
-Keep your drives cool. 40C should be the maximum you let hard drives get to if drive lifespan matters. Read the Google white paper on hard drives if you want to know more.
-Don't spin down your drives and don't shutdown your server. Based on the masses it's fairly well known that hard drive last longer if you leave them on and leave them spinning 24x7, even if they aren't going to be doing anything. Stopping and starting of hard drives seems to wear them out faster. I leave mine on 24x7 and I've had above average lifespans on all of my disks. I don't even shut my server down when I leave for a weekend vacation.
-WD Greens can perform very well in a server providing you use the WDIDLE tool. WD Reds may be better in a NAS, but one thing you will definitely get for the slightly higher pricetag is the extra year of waranty.
-Remember that hard drive speeds don't matter too much when your bottle neck is going to be your Gigabit LAN. Even saturating Gb you are only going to get about 125MB/sec. So don't look to hard at throughput of your hard drives unless you plan to do 10Gb+.

This thread is to discuss this particular aspect of WD Greens/Reds. I will not allow this to turn into a fight between different models, brands, etc as many other hard drive threads turn into. I will aggressively delete posts that get out of line. If you have useful information to provide, feel free to provide it. Feel free to ask questions. But if you're going to try to jump in here and start discussing different brands and claim they are "better" for whatever reason I'll delete your post without warning. Also, if you are going to ask if some specific brand or model has a particular feature set, this is NOT the thread for you. This is for WD Greens and Reds(and others only if applicable to the discussion).

WD Greens: You'll need the wdidle3.exe tool(DOS only). You can find it around if you search for it, or you can download it from here. I scanned it for viruses, but as always virus scan it for yourself.

WD Reds: You can choose to download the WD Red tool(seems like it might be nothing more than a relabeled WDIDLE3.exe that works in Windows and Linux since wdidle3.exe works anyway) but you can get it from WD or from here. I've included the Windows and Linux versions(both 32 and 64bit). Do what you will with them... Edit: We have confirmation from one user that they had WD Reds and had to use wdidle3 because the wd5471 didn't work for them. So keep in mind that you may have to use wdidle3 even on Reds. Thanks jyavenard for the info!
 

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Yatti420

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I noticed you didn't mention the new tool for Red drives only.. I would use this (wd5741 - Windows/Linux compatibility) instead of WDIDLE3 tool from now on for the WD Reds..MarknSF - Credit
 

cyberjock

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lol.. they've relabeled the wdidle tool for reds huh? that's hilarious ****.. I love how companies continually put a different label on the same ****. I'll add it to my guide in a few mins. Thanks.
 

cyberjock

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Messages
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@Starpulkka

I've included the video link. If you watch that video the user boots up to DOS and uses the tool. If you don't want to read the stuff provided, that's your choice. But that is your choice.

@ fracai

I don't believe is providing links to tools that are as low of a level as what wdidle tool does if they aren't official. At the lowest levels it has access to potential values that could brick your hard drive. For that reason, I'll take the conservative approach. ;)
 

fracai

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Meh, anecdotally, it worked for me.
 

Ramboxman

Member
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Messages
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Basically from my understanding the wd5741 changes the affected red drives to 300 seconds, similar to the idle3 tool for the greens although with the wdidle tool you can set the timer anywhere in between 8 - 300 seconds or completely disable. I used the wdidle3 tool and set mine to 300 on an affected red drive purchased last month before the new tool can out wd5741 and then tried the update with the wd5741 and the response was no update is needed. The only other difference is the wdidle3 has to be used in dos and the wd5741 is Linux and Windows based. Great information cyberjock learn something new everyday.
 

cyberjock

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Nope. I'd presume not, but since most people here are looking to save money the greens and reds are cheaper than the blues and blacks for any given size.
 

tekkitan

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Feb 27, 2014
Messages
8
Thanks for your post. I wanted to report that I just bought four brand new WD Green 2TB drives. I tried using this tool and it reports this for of my installed WD disks:

Model: WDC WD20EURX-64HYZY0
Serial: WD-WCC.................
Idle3 Timer is disabled.

Not sure if it is truly disabled or if maybe I need another version of this tool.
 

TECK

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Messages
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In Linux, you can use idle3-tools but they don't work on FreeBSD. The easiest way to disable the headparking on WD Greens is by setting each disk APM to 254, which survives a reboot. To set a relative value, use a setting between 128 and 254. Yes, wdidle3 allows you to set the parking to a precise value but is a proprietary tool and a headache to use when you deal with multiple drives. Once you change/set the APM for the first time, to properly disable the headparking you need to power down your box and start it, a reboot will not sufficce. My disks:

 

cyberjock

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Interesting tip TECK. Do you know what other things are affected with values between 128 and 254? The law of unintended side effects will reign supreme. :p
 

TECK

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Technically, setting your APM to 192 is like setting the timer to 200-300 (I believe). The settings are self explanatory in your disk ACP. I personally disable completely the parking because I want top performance for my disks. Not sure about the exact output for an intermediate APM value but is way easier/better to work with a FreeBSD built-in tool then to deal with wdidle3.
 

cyberjock

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Right, but what other things are set with an APM of less than 255? That's what I'd like to know. It would kind of suck to trade intellipark for spindown(or something else).
 

Fran Aquino

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Oct 2, 2013
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That load cycling haste is not an exclusive issue of WD Greens. Back in the day, I built my FreeNAS using Samsung SpinPoint M7 (P/No: HM641JI) and they accumulated a heck of a lot of load cycles over the first weeks. At first, what made me look into the issue was a clicking noise the drives were making every few seconds after some disk activity. After some googling I stumbled upon the load cycle issue. At the time I didn't find any tool like WDIDLE for my Samsungs, so as TECK has pointed at #13 I ended using the APM settings in FreeNAS GUI. I chose to not let the drives spindown - spinup, however. In my experience those are precise moments in which most drives fail. Let them spin and they will work forever :p*

I think this loadcyclegate is just another approach to programmed obsolescence, so prevalent in consumer goods these days. Let them fail so they will come for more.

*Edit: Have to HATE these emoticons truly bad!
 

diedrichg

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warri

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In Linux, you can use idle3-tools but they don't work on FreeBSD. The easiest way to disable the headparking on WD Greens is by setting each disk APM to 254, which survives a reboot.
Hi TECK, thanks for this tip.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work in my case. I have set the APM to 254 for a while now, but only when I upgraded my box to 9.2.1.3, I finally shut it down completely. Since then a lot of LLCs have racked up again, both on WD30EZRX's and WD20EARS's.

Here the history for one of the drives (a WD30EZRX):
Code:
Feb 21: -- reboot: upgrade to 9.2.1.1 --
Mar 03: -- set APM to 254 --
Mar 10: Load_Cycle_Count: 249313
Mar 10: -- reboot: upgrade to 9.2.1.2 --
Mar 23: Load_Cycle_Count: 269632
Apr 07: -- reboot: upgrade to 9.2.1.3 --
Apr 07: -- clean shutdown / startup --
Apr 12 (15:24:00): Load_Cycle_Count: 301161
Apr 12 (15:37:00): Load_Cycle_Count: 301177


Unfortunalety I lost the LLC for April 7th before I did the shutdown.

Seems like I have to use wdidle3 eventually.
 

joeschmuck

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May 28, 2011
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Found this on the internet, not sure of it's accuracy:
Only some models of WD drives have a direct correlation between APM and the idle timeout feature, while others (such as the WD30EZRX) don’t support APM at all but still have the idle timeout feature.
And then it goes on to saying you need to use the Idle3 utility (wdidle3).

P.S. Nice job Cyberjock on this thread. I hadn't read it before and it has some good information.
 
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