The Heat Problem

When I first ripped the hard drive out of its enclosure I realized that there’s very little in the GoFlex design that promotes airflow over the drive. In fact, there only appear to be three places for air to get into/out of the enclosure: a small opening at the top, the two separations that run down the case and the openings at the bottom. The bottom is mostly covered however by the dock.

The poorly cooled enclosure becomes a real problem when you stick a high density, 5 platter, 3.5” 7200RPM hard drive in it. I measured the surface temperature of the drive out of the chassis, under moderate load over SATA (sequential writes) at 96F. With the drive in the enclosure, the plastic never got more than warm - 85F. Taking the drive off the dock and pointing an IR thermometer at the SATA connectors I measured 126F.

After 2 hours of copying over USB 2.0 I hit 63C on the Seagate GoFlex Desk

The drive’s internal temperatures were far worse. After 3 hours of copying files to the drive over USB 2.0 (a real world scenario since some users may want to move their data over right away) its internal temperature reached 65C, that’s 149F. The maximum internal drive temperature I recorded was 69C or 156.2F.

Hard drives aren’t fond of very high temperatures, it tends to reduce their lifespan. But in this case, the temperatures got high enough that performance went down as well. Over a USB 3.0 connection you can get > 130MB/s write speed to the drive in the 3TB GoFlex Desk. Once the drive temperature hit the mid-60s, sequential write speed dropped to ~50MB/s. The drop in write speed has to do with the increased number of errors while operating at high temperatures. I turned the drive off, let it cool and turned it back on, which restored drive write speeds to 130MB/s. Keep writing to the drive long enough in this reduced performance state and you’ll eventually see errors. I ran a sequential read/write test over night (HDTach, full test) and by the morning the drive was responding at less than 1MB/s.

Quick copies, occasional use and even live backup of small files worked fine. I never saw the internal drive temperature go above 50C in those cases. It’s the long use sequential reads/writes that really seem to wreak havok on the 3TB GoFlex Desk.

And unfortunately for Seagate, there’s no solution. You can put a cooler drive in the enclosure but then you lose the capacity sell. Alternatively Seagate could redesign the enclosure, which admittedly looks good but is poorly done from a thermal standpoint.

I asked Seagate about all of this and their response was that the temperatures seemed high and they were expecting numbers in the 60s or below but anything below 70C is fine. Seagate did concede that at higher temperatures HDD reliability is impacted but the company didn’t share any specifics beyond that.

The GoFlex Desk comes with a 2 year warranty from Seagate. Given that Seagate said the temperatures were acceptable, I’m guessing you’ll have no problems during that 2 year period. Afterwards however, I’d be very curious to see how long this thing will last at those temperatures.

Performance vs. Capacity Final Words
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  • zdzichu - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    In first performance table you switched results for SATA and USB3.0 of 3TB drive.
  • oc3an - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    The maximum integer which can be represented with 32 bits is 4294967295 i.e. 2^32 - 1 which allows for 4294967296 values. The article is worded incorrectly.
  • mino - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    " the largest partition you can have in a MBR partitioned drive is 4294967296 * 512-bytes or 2,199,023,255,552 bytes..."

    Are you sure that is an incorrect wording?
  • mino - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    BIOS does support booting from GPT.
    It is the Windows boot loader that cannot boot from GPT on BIOS systems.

    As a matter of fact I am writing this from Gigabyte 780G board running Ubuntu 10.04 on top of GPT(on top of LVM on top of MD on top of GPT).
  • yuhong - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    To be more precise, all that BIOS does is read the first sector of the drive, check for the signature at the end, and if it matches, then it jumps to the real mode x86 code at the beginning. It is actually partition scheme agnostic. Now some BIOSes are not quite partition scheme agnostic and will rely on the contents of the first sector being in the MBR format, luckily GPT support a protective MBR.
  • baker269 - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    I would love to see what the Ethernet speeds are like. Not that great I would guess since it's not a true NAS, but still would be nice.
  • mindless1 - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    ?? It doesn't have an ethernet interface does it? Speeds would be similar enough to any current-gen 7200 RPM drive already in a system on your LAN.
  • baker269 - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    From the forth paragraph of the article.

    "The drives themselves are standard 3.5” hard drives in a plastic enclosure designed to mate with GoFlex Desk adapters that add USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire 800 or Ethernet connectivity to the drive."

    It"s not as easy as just plugging in a hard drive with a RJ45 to a router, there needs to be some kind of CPU in between the two. NAS performance through Ethernet varies greatly.
  • derkurt - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Is it such a big deal that Windows doesn't boot from GPT drives if the BIOS is not EFI-capable? Whoever spends 400+ USD on a drive probably just needs lots of storage space for plain data. It's unlikely that there is no fast boot drive present in any system this drive is plugged into. Actually, since the first expansive 3 TB drives are bought by enthusiasts, chances are that the customers are already using an SSD as a boot drive.

    That said, in a realistic setting for a performance workstation with Windows 7 x64 installed on a 80+ GB SSD, there won't be a problem. You can connect the drive to the internal SATA connector, partition it with GPT and start using it, while your BIOS doesn't need to know anything about EFI or GPT. The heat issues might also look better when using the drive internally.

    I don't understand why Seagate is holding back with selling the internal model. An estimated 95% of users will never even try to boot from it, and for the rest (who do want to boot from it but don't know about the 2+ TB issues), there could be a red warning note inside the box explaining the juicy details. After all, those who spend such an amount of money on a hard drive are not exactly the kind of people who have no clue about hard drives at all.
  • dryloch - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    One of Seagates biggest advantages has been that their external hard drives come with a 5 year warranty. Why would they go to a two year warranty on the most expensive drive they sell? If anything they should have at least gone with three years. If they don't even trust this drive then I sure won't. I'll be waiting for Western Digital to have their drive out.

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