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All new hard drives will be "4k advanced format"

All new hard drives will be "4k advanced format"

Western Digital's Advanced Format drives are currently limited to its large Green Series 'EARS' products

Starting in Q1 this year, all new hard drive models will contain the "big sector" footprint that Western Digital launched late last year with its "4k advanced format" 'EARS' drives.

After dropping Seagate a line to ask whether they were planning models on the new format to challenge WD, we were informed that the whole industry is behind the transition that is taking place right now. Good to know!

To quote Seagate PR directly: "International Disk Drive Materials and Equipment Association (IDEMA) have agreed that beginning January 1, 2011 all new product releases with SATA interfaces will support Advanced Formatted media."

The 4KB sector size is an advancement from the 512Byte sector size that all hard drives (as in, mechanical media) have adhered to for the longest time. The larger sector bring efficiency advantages because as the total size of drives increase, less sectors have to be used, and less ECC data overall has to be written, physical saving space. The downside is that there are issues of compatibility with older operating systems, however the drives will contain a "512B emulation mode" (at a performance loss) for the foreseeable future.

We're currently waiting on a new 'EARS' drive from Western Digital to arrive so we can test the differences.

Have you bought a 4k advanced format drive yet? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

35 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
kenco_uk 2nd February 2010, 14:21 Quote
I wonder if it'll affect speed or capacity?
devdevil85 2nd February 2010, 14:32 Quote
A step in the right direction it seems... I'm with kenco: will speed or capacity be affected?
mi1ez 2nd February 2010, 14:59 Quote
First time I've even heard about this! Very rare I let something like this slip...
[USRF]Obiwan 2nd February 2010, 15:08 Quote
what is 4k over 2TB drives these days. Its like one human hair on a basketball court!
Da_Rude_Baboon 2nd February 2010, 15:29 Quote
I read this article, looked at the WD 1TB drive i just purchased and it turns out its one of these new fangled advanced format drives. Will i see any noticeable difference?
mclean007 2nd February 2010, 15:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF
Obiwan]what is 4k over 2TB drives these days. Its like one human hair on a basketball court!
I think you've misunderstood. 4k is the new sector size. Instead of having a sector lead-in and a 40 or 80 byte error correction block every 512 bytes, you have a larger data block with a lead-in and a 100 byte error correction block only every 4096 bytes, significantly reducing overhead. Usable disk space (i.e. the space used for data after deducting overheads for sector lead-in and ECC) increases from approximately 87% (81% with 80 byte ECC) to 96%. How this translates - for a given size of platter, you get up to 20% capacity gain. Your 2TB disk becomes 2.4TB. That surely is worth caring about!

See the piece at AnandTech for the techie detail - http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3691&cp=4
paisa666 2nd February 2010, 15:55 Quote
Quote:
The larger sector bring efficiency advantages because as the total size of drives increase, less sectors have to be used, and less ECC data overall has to be written, physical saving space.

@kenco... maybe you missed that little paragraph in the article :)

Yes it affects speed.. in a good way. With bigger sectors means that for the same file or data you need to write less sectors :) while space will be used more efficiently (less sectors = less fragmented data).
paisa666 2nd February 2010, 16:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF
Obiwan]what is 4k over 2TB drives these days. Its like one human hair on a basketball court!

I think you misunderstood the article, for the example you say it wouldbe 2 TB divided into sectors of 4 Kb, where the data will be stored.
Tsung 2nd February 2010, 16:03 Quote
Im confused, your article starts "Starting in Q1 this year, all new hard drive models will contain the "big sector", yet the segate PR quote states "beginning January 1, 2011 all new product releases with SATA interfaces will support Advanced Formatted media"

So which is it? 2010? or 2011? or is the segate PR quote refering to something else?
kenco_uk 2nd February 2010, 16:45 Quote
Quote:
The larger sector bring efficiency advantages because as the total size of drives increase, less sectors have to be used, and less ECC data overall has to be written, physical saving space.
Quote:
Originally Posted by paisa666
@kenco... maybe you missed that little paragraph in the article :)

Yes it affects speed.. in a good way. With bigger sectors means that for the same file or data you need to write less sectors :) while space will be used more efficiently (less sectors = less fragmented data).

But I'm a grammer nazi and there's a grammatical error in the sentence quoted, so unfortunately I didn't understand it :p

That's my excuse and I'mma stick to it.
Evildead666 2nd February 2010, 16:57 Quote
Will we get bigger than 2TB drives ?
With MBR limited to 2TB I was wondering what was going to happen on that front.....
Omnituens 2nd February 2010, 16:59 Quote
define "older" OS's - we talking pre-NT?
Da_Rude_Baboon 2nd February 2010, 17:03 Quote
It means XP. The drive i have has special instructions for making it work in XP, all newer OS is will just work.
whiskers 2nd February 2010, 17:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
How this translates - for a given size of platter, you get up to 20% capacity gain. Your 2TB disk becomes 2.4TB. That surely is worth caring about!

See the piece at AnandTech for the techie detail - http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3691&cp=4


Uhh, no. Your 2Tb disk will NOT become a 2.4Tb disk. Rather, if you have a 2Tb disk (let's forget for a second that manufacturers talk about disk space in power of 10, while the actual space is in powers of 2, which means an advertised 2Tb will show up in your OS as 1.86Tb), with the old format you'd be able to use only 2*0.87 = 1.75Tb due to cluster overhead. The new format lets you utilize 2*0.96 = 1.92Tb.
No way to make that hard drive you bought have more sectors.
Farfalho 2nd February 2010, 18:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
I think you've misunderstood. 4k is the new sector size. Instead of having a sector lead-in and a 40 or 80 byte error correction block every 512 bytes, you have a larger data block with a lead-in and a 100 byte error correction block only every 4096 bytes, significantly reducing overhead. Usable disk space (i.e. the space used for data after deducting overheads for sector lead-in and ECC) increases from approximately 87% (81% with 80 byte ECC) to 96%. How this translates - for a given size of platter, you get up to 20% capacity gain. Your 2TB disk becomes 2.4TB. That surely is worth caring about!

See the piece at AnandTech for the techie detail - http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3691&cp=4

Thanks to your explanation I understood the matter a bit better. It seems advantageous, why not?! btw, how much a new hard drive with that EARS thingy?
Bindibadgi 2nd February 2010, 18:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farfalho
Thanks to your explanation I understood the matter a bit better. It seems advantageous, why not?! btw, how much a new hard drive with that EARS thingy?

About £10-15 more, but that's also because the Green drives also have a cache upgrade from 32-64MB too.

I'll let you know the performance difference in a few weeks - we've got a 1TB drive from WD on the way to compare it to the older EADS 1TB. :)
azrael- 2nd February 2010, 20:56 Quote
Doesn't NTFS default to an allocation unit size of 4KB since at least Windows 2000?
ryall 2nd February 2010, 22:37 Quote
Oh wow, my new WD Green has it too. They've kept pretty quiet about this haven't they? You'd expect a bit of fanfare and *NEW FEATURE* hype
Tulatin 2nd February 2010, 23:00 Quote
The downside to this is that when you get bad sectors, the damage could be worse...
talladega 2nd February 2010, 23:19 Quote
I have a 1TB drive and I formatted it so the sectors are 64KB. Terrible for an OS as it has a ton of small files, but for media storage its great.
Bindibadgi 2nd February 2010, 23:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by talladega
I have a 1TB drive and I formatted it so the sectors are 64KB. Terrible for an OS as it has a ton of small files, but for media storage its great.

No, the physical sector sizes are always 512Byte, but the virtual ones are 64KB. The drive does the calculation of virtual to physical data when it deals with OS requests. It's the same if NTFS is 4KB and the drive is 512Byte, like it has been for years. Technically 4KB drive and 4KB disk = performance advantage due to less calculation time.
dark_avenger 2nd February 2010, 23:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evildead666
Will we get bigger than 2TB drives ?
With MBR limited to 2TB I was wondering what was going to happen on that front.....

Using GPT (Vista, Windows 7) you can create partitions bigger than 2TB but on Vista you can't boot from GPT. Not sure if this is fixed on Windows 7 or not.
Saivert 3rd February 2010, 01:01 Quote
Actually GPT has been supported in Vista since SP1, but since motherboards still use the ancient BIOS technology you can't boot from pure GPT drives anyways. You can however use GPT with a MBR sector just for the booting. There are articles about this on the internet.

This is again up to the firmware. BIOS vs UEFI. When will they upgrade to UEFI? Wasn't MSI all up to that a while back? then they went silent about it.
HourBeforeDawn 3rd February 2010, 01:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF
Obiwan]what is 4k over 2TB drives these days. Its like one human hair on a basketball court!
I think you've misunderstood. 4k is the new sector size. Instead of having a sector lead-in and a 40 or 80 byte error correction block every 512 bytes, you have a larger data block with a lead-in and a 100 byte error correction block only every 4096 bytes, significantly reducing overhead. Usable disk space (i.e. the space used for data after deducting overheads for sector lead-in and ECC) increases from approximately 87% (81% with 80 byte ECC) to 96%. How this translates - for a given size of platter, you get up to 20% capacity gain. Your 2TB disk becomes 2.4TB. That surely is worth caring about!

See the piece at AnandTech for the techie detail - http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3691&cp=4

you mean a 2tb disc will be closer to actually being 2tb, since the marketing label versus actualy bytes is different number system. So it would be closer to the marketing label which will be nice. Be interesting to see the benches on these. :)
eek 3rd February 2010, 11:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenco_uk
Quote:
The larger sector bring efficiency advantages because as the total size of drives increase, less sectors have to be used, and less ECC data overall has to be written, physical saving space.
Quote:
Originally Posted by paisa666
@kenco... maybe you missed that little paragraph in the article :)

Yes it affects speed.. in a good way. With bigger sectors means that for the same file or data you need to write less sectors :) while space will be used more efficiently (less sectors = less fragmented data).

But I'm a grammer nazi and there's a grammatical error in the sentence quoted, so unfortunately I didn't understand it :p

That's my excuse and I'mma stick to it.
Not a spelling nazi though I take it... ;) :p
azrael- 3rd February 2010, 12:29 Quote
Kelsey Grammer is a nazi?
mclean007 3rd February 2010, 13:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by HourBeforeDawn
you mean a 2tb disc will be closer to actually being 2tb, since the marketing label versus actualy bytes is different number system. So it would be closer to the marketing label which will be nice. Be interesting to see the benches on these. :)
Hmm, I don't know how they will market drives using 4k format. The usual beef with marketed drive sizes is that 1TiB (2^40 bytes) is not the same as 1TB (10^12 bytes). The former is 1,099,511,627,776, the latter 1,000,000,000,000. HDD manufacturers typically describe an HDD as a 1TB drive if it has 10^12 raw (unformatted) storage bytes. This is in fact approx 0.91 TiB, so you're "losing" 9% drive space to the marketing blurb. That's before formatting eats another chunk of space in format overheads, reducing your actual usable space a bit further.

Now, HDD platters are the sizes they are so that drive manufacturers can hit specific marketing targets - a drive with 3 x 333GB platters allows them to describe a drive as 1TB, which is much nicer sounding than 960GB using 3 x 320GB platters or 1.05TB using 3 x 350GB platters. With 4k formatting, the *same* physical platter provides more data storage because the drive's internal overheads for sector lead-in and ECC are reduced. The space efficiency is derived at controller level, and a platter that would give 333GB in a 512 byte sector drive might provide (say) 400GB in a 4k sector drive. However, at least in the short term, there's no way the manufacturers are going to re-tool to adjust to the requisite platters for nice round number drive sizes using 4k format. This means they'll be churning out 3 x (say) 400GB drives. Whether this will be marketed as 1TB (with couple of hundred extra GBs as a bonus) or a 1.2TB drive remains to be seen, but I expect the latter. So for a couple of generations we might get 1.2TB, 1.8TB and 2.4TB 4k sector drives where previously there were 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB 512 byte sector drives, but after that I expect they'll have readjusted for new platter sizes and we'll be back to nice round numbers for the 3TB, 4TB and 5TB drives we can look forward to.

As ever, apologies for the rambling nature of this post...
azrael- 3rd February 2010, 13:56 Quote
You can rest assured that any increase in space due to the new 4K format will not be seen by the user. Either they'll make smaller platters or the extra storage space will be set aside for defect management.
Bob1234 3rd February 2010, 14:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Quote:
Originally Posted by talladega
I have a 1TB drive and I formatted it so the sectors are 64KB. Terrible for an OS as it has a ton of small files, but for media storage its great.

No, the physical sector sizes are always 512Byte, but the virtual ones are 64KB. The drive does the calculation of virtual to physical data when it deals with OS requests. It's the same if NTFS is 4KB and the drive is 512Byte, like it has been for years. Technically 4KB drive and 4KB disk = performance advantage due to less calculation time.

The problem here is the incorrect use of words.

512 bytes is the physical disk sector size.
64KB is the CLUSTER size of the filesystem.

Clusters are blocks of sectors used to store files or file fragments.
paisa666 3rd February 2010, 15:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulatin
The downside to this is that when you get bad sectors, the damage could be worse...

^True.. tho I gotta say I have never had problems regarding bad sectors :\ or any hard drive issue at all.
Bindibadgi 3rd February 2010, 15:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by paisa666
^True.. tho I gotta say I have never had problems regarding bad sectors :\ or any hard drive issue at all.

Lucky, lucky person!

Tbh, if you get bad sectors the whole drive is going to have an RMA eventually tbh.
HourBeforeDawn 3rd February 2010, 19:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
Hmm, I don't know how they will market drives using 4k format. The usual beef with marketed drive sizes is that 1TiB (2^40 bytes) is not the same as 1TB (10^12 bytes). The former is 1,099,511,627,776, the latter 1,000,000,000,000. HDD manufacturers typically describe an HDD as a 1TB drive if it has 10^12 raw (unformatted) storage bytes. This is in fact approx 0.91 TiB, so you're "losing" 9% drive space to the marketing blurb. That's before formatting eats another chunk of space in format overheads, reducing your actual usable space a bit further.

Now, HDD platters are the sizes they are so that drive manufacturers can hit specific marketing targets - a drive with 3 x 333GB platters allows them to describe a drive as 1TB, which is much nicer sounding than 960GB using 3 x 320GB platters or 1.05TB using 3 x 350GB platters. With 4k formatting, the *same* physical platter provides more data storage because the drive's internal overheads for sector lead-in and ECC are reduced. The space efficiency is derived at controller level, and a platter that would give 333GB in a 512 byte sector drive might provide (say) 400GB in a 4k sector drive. However, at least in the short term, there's no way the manufacturers are going to re-tool to adjust to the requisite platters for nice round number drive sizes using 4k format. This means they'll be churning out 3 x (say) 400GB drives. Whether this will be marketed as 1TB (with couple of hundred extra GBs as a bonus) or a 1.2TB drive remains to be seen, but I expect the latter. So for a couple of generations we might get 1.2TB, 1.8TB and 2.4TB 4k sector drives where previously there were 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB 512 byte sector drives, but after that I expect they'll have readjusted for new platter sizes and we'll be back to nice round numbers for the 3TB, 4TB and 5TB drives we can look forward to.

As ever, apologies for the rambling nature of this post...

true, either way this will be great, cant wait to see how it all plays out.
livesabitch 4th February 2010, 03:02 Quote
very interesting article this one, might have to wait and see what the performance is on these new drives before seeing about buying one!
adjonison 16th February 2010, 00:25 Quote
does any one know if a simple fix to install xp on one of these drives would be to use a newer linux live cd to pre partition the hard drive before installing windows
jazzzyj 2nd May 2010, 17:50 Quote
Just bringing this one up again... as I am in the market for a new drive.
Has Samsung said they are going to be doing this?
Or are they already and not told anyone?
-J
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