Western Digital Green Power: Why No One Else Uses “Idle 3”

Some of you may think I don’t have anything to blog about. Not so, quite the opposite. I have so much that I would like to blog about that I can’t decide what to write about. Where to start? Global Warming? Netbooks? Gaming? Portable Apps? Books? The list just doesn’t seem to shrink. So instead of all that great controversial stuff that you’re probably all waiting for, here’s a tech article about a problem with a device that I’ve had for months now and have only been able to fix. All because some shmuck at Western Digital decided that “Green Power” was an effing sweet slogan.

The year was 2008 (AKA Year Awesome compared to 2009 AKA Year Epic Fail) and it was February, and WD had made their RE2-GP drives. I decided to pick up a 1TB edition of the line. Because that was their newest 1TB drive, and who doesn’t just love being able to say they can store a Terabyte of data. Even though it’s not really a Terabyte because  hard drive makers sing themselves to sleep at night by singing 1 kb = 1000 bytes in stark contrast to the reality that 1kb = 1024 bytes, SI be damned. Anyway to top this off the GP in RE2-GP stands for “Green Power” which was WD’s way of saying the drives turn themselves off. A lot. They like to call this state “idle 3”. And that’s not such a bad idea. That means less wear on the drive, and all the bench marks said things worked well and it got good reviews.

Problem is it seems those benchmarks were treating this thing like any other drive that doesn’t go into idle3 if it’s left alone over 30 seconds. Once the drive starts up, the drive works great. But when the drive is in idle 3 it takes it a second for it to wake up. How long you ask? Long enough for Windows to decide your new drive has a bad block, that’s how long. Forums and product review pages alike were littered with people RMAing these drives because of bad blocks, meanwhile those people were being shouted down by others who didn’t have any problems. The difference between these groups was just how the drive was used. Those with problems were using the drives in a way that the drive would go into idle 3 mode and then give them the errors when they tried to access them.

So when WD finally released a firmware update that keeps their drive from going into idle 3 mode every two seconds do they make an announcement? No, they quietly release an update, bury it on their site, and then include a readme which says things like the following

Some utilities, OS’s, and applications, such as some implementations of Linux, for example, are not optimized for low power storage devices and can cause our drives to wake up at a higher rate than normal.

The number of systems using such applications and utilities is limited and customers can resolve this symptom by optimizing their systems to not wake up the drives unnecessarily every 10-30 seconds or so, thereby gaining substantial power savings and eliminating superfluous activity.

Yeah I guess if you consider the Event Viewer a limited use application then sure, I suppose the issue did affect limited users, as everyone else was too dumb to realize those program errors they were getting were caused by Windows saying “@#$% it” every time it had to wait for the drive to come out of idle 3 and just spat out an error instead of waiting. Needless to say once I installed this firmware all of those bad block errors that occurred only when the drive first attempted to perform a task after being idle, like say when booting up, all magically went away after installing this firmware.  So much for “Green Power”, huh? Guess next time WD wants to unveil some new drive technology they should make sure it works with any operating system on the planet before trying to sell it.

Also, because of this I had to dredge out one of my floppy disks and make a boot disk just to upgrade this firmware. That just annoys me. Those floppy disks are for super-secret emergencies, darnit!

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2 thoughts on “Western Digital Green Power: Why No One Else Uses “Idle 3”

  1. Pingback: Western Digital Green Power: Why No One Else Uses "Idle 3" | The world is filled with Mad Blogz

  2. Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m definitely enjoying your blog
    and look forward to new posts.

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