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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  • Quilty997 - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    I notice some posters have commented on using RAID 5 with very large disc sizes

    If you do the math using the drive specs and published bit error rates you will find that a RAID 5 array using 1Tb+ discs very soon has a probability not possibility of having a disc error when rebuilding the array.

    For this reason I went to RAID6. (using a dedicated controller to handle the parity calculations).

    Please remember that RAID arrays are not a backup device.
  • Michael REMY - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    i can't image the day, even not for my ennemy, where it comes a 3TD hard drive will fail...
    What a lost it will be !
  • mindless1 - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Why would you store valuable data on any one drive alone? Backups, backups backups.
  • JonnyDough - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Until Seagate fixes their longevity issues and can offer a five year warranty that has a better failure rate I'll be sticking with other companies like Western Digital and Hitachi. I used to love Seagate. :(
  • loekf - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Anand, did you actually review the power management features of this drive ? I had the 2 TB model.

    I noticed the same temperature issues and slowless at high temperatures. In my case I got 65 celsius as well.

    Bigger issue I found the power management features, or better said lack of or poor implementation of them. This drive is supposed to be left attached to your PC. There's no on/off switch. So it will power-on and off depending on whether you switch your PC on and whether you access the drive.

    Funny thing it will completely behaves by itself, it has its own will.

    It willl automatically power on again after you SHUTDOWN your computer and you leave it plugged into the mains.

    If you enable sleep mode, it will disable itself when it is not accessed for the specified period. But... it won't go into a sleep mode (= shutting down the drive), no it will unplug in Windows, and after a short period automatically re-insert itself. This means you will see popups or hear beeps indicating that device manager is triggered.

    This is just plain stupid and indicating it's a bad product......
  • mewgirl - Monday, January 31, 2011 - link

    I've never seen a drive that has an on/off switch! Except for the kind that you have to plug in separately, and that kinds of ruins the point of an "external drive" in the first place. Some public places don't even have accessible plugs, they literally put a lock on them. In other words no one would ever buy one unless they just don't know drives sometimes have separate plugs and therefore don't exhaustively evaluate the packing to ensure that the one they are getting doesn't.
  • Aikouka - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Anand, I was curious if you were going to talk about the current USB 3.0 implementation and I was quite glad to see that you did make a note of it! :) But I'm curious... do you know of any motherboard manufacturers that have a better USB 3.0 implementation on the P55 chipset? I know the P55 is literally the red-headed stepchild in regard to its PCI-E bus compared to the X58 (uses PCI-E 1.1 compared to actual 2.0 lanes, has far fewer, etc), but as an example, my ASUS P7P55D-E motherboard uses that "combiner thingy-ma-bob" to combine the PCI-E lanes for SATA 6Gbs functionality. Do any boards do that for USB 3.0?
  • loekf - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Not sure what you mean here. I know for a fact that AMD boards with ATI chipsets use a real PCIe 2.0 x1 lane to the NEC USB 3.0 host controller.

    There is no chipset yet with native USB 3.0 support. All motherboards maker use the same NEC USB 3.0 controller. Though, it seems there are controllers from VIA around, but I didn't see them yet.
  • GeorgeH - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    They're talking about P55 and LGA-1156. AMD hasn't made an Intel-compatible chipset in a very long time, and even if they had a P55 compatible license and the desire to make one, LGA-1156's PCIe controller isn't on the chipset.

    As a side note, that's also why LGA-1336 is going to be dead soon after LGA-1155 replaces LGA-1156; the Sandy Bridge derived Nehalem/Westmere replacement is going to have the PCIe controller on die.
  • snakeInTheGrass - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    I understand saying that Seagate hasn't released this as a stand-alone drive because the PC hardware just isn't ready yet, but I was hoping they'd try it out on a Mac as well since it sounds like it should just work. It's a shame they won't sell it stand-alone and just label it 'For Intel Mac with EFI' (or hell, just sell it online with a note "For EFI machines only" label for PC users that do have working EFI or an extra internal disk) for the time being because I really don't want to buy another external case.

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