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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  • mxnerd - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    10 years ago Seagate is all about quality. Not any more. Every retail drives ( more than 5) I bought from Seagate in the past five years gone bad before the 5-year warranty.

    The problem with Seagate drives? They are too hot.

    WD only gives you 3-year warranty for their drives, but I'm buying them exclusively now.
    Reply
  • mewgirl - Monday, January 31, 2011 - link

    WHY WOULD ANYONE WHO AS ANY BRAND KNOWLEDGE EVER BUY A WD EXTERNAL DRIVE??!? Reply
  • Sottilde - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Hard to believe the engineers could be thick enough to put a mesh grille on the side for looks only, without providing any actual ventilation. A major oversight IMO, especially if you tend to pound on your hardware. Reply
  • Indigo64 - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    I realize this site and its standing on the web, but Google's test results show that hard drive temp isn't a factor for failure rates - at least not in the same manner in which people get all uptight about it.

    I have a laptop at home where the hard drive runs constantly around 50*C and it hasn't ever failed on me. I have a desktop system that has drives that run below 40*C and it's gone through three already.

    "One of our key findings has been the lack of a consistent
    pattern of higher failure rates for higher temperature
    drives or for those drives at higher utilization levels.
    Such correlations have been repeatedly highlighted
    by previous studies, but we are unable to confirm them
    by observing our population. Although our data do not
    allow us to conclude that there is no such correlation,
    it provides strong evidence to suggest that other effects
    may be more prominent in affecting disk drive reliability
    in the context of a professionally managed data center
    deployment."

    Interpret how you will, but if Seagate says this drive is fine without any active cooling, then why do people need to ding the drive for this "oversight"? It's all perceived performance stats in the PC realm - if it's hot, cool it down. If it's cool, don't bother it.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    I don't have it in front of me, but IIRC the temperature range of that Google study was something like 10-50C, and they found that the sweet spot was 30-40C. 60C+ (as in this Seagate drive) isn't a "perceived" problem, it's a measurable one; re-read the paragraph where Anand found transfer rates dropping by 60%+ as the drive went into that range. Reply
  • wiak - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    ooh the irony ;) Reply
  • conwayboys - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    Never ceases to amaze me why computer and drive manufacturers do not design cases with natural convection, struck me the other day at work when the IT boffins had a major crash due to a faulty fan in the server room. WTF there were three of them standing around designing a new air conditioning system for the server room. I got the step ladder and removed 4 panels from the false ceiling to allow the heat to escape into the roofspace, instant temperature drop, so why cant we employ the same thinking to computer cases and drive cases vent the top and the bottom ensuring hot air rising will pull cold air in from the bottom, obviously spillage issues with moisture getting in the vents, so the vents can be on the sides near the top with the fins slanted downwards still allowing hot air to escape. Reply
  • compuser2010 - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    32-bit Windows 7 also supports GPT. However, only for *data* disks/arrays; even if the capacity is less than 2 TB. Formatting using GPT can be done in "Computer Management."

    2 TB may seem like a huge amount of memory to some. But it is an increasingly paltry amount of memory for those who edit video (especially uncompressed) and who work with Blu-ray Discs (copying a disc to another disc, copying discs to a computer, authoring discs, leaving those disc projects on the computer for a while, etc.).
    Reply
  • Randomblame - Monday, August 23, 2010 - link

    oh wait that was ram... still. I could use 3tb right now but 5 platters - that's too many. I'll be waiting. My current setup is 3 500gb seagate baracuda 7200.12s in raid 0 backed up by a 2tb cuda. That way I've got only 3 platters spinning for low noise, reliability, and high data density. Though this thing uses 600gb platters which is nice I think I'll wait a bit maybe we'll get some higher data density per platter while we're waiting for microsoft and motherboard vendors to get this 2tb cap fixed. Reply
  • futbol4me - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    anyone know? i have an external 2.5" drive hanging off my apple extreme router that spins 24/7 but was wondering if newer external drives have some power savings features. Reply

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