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


View All Comments

  • Pastuch - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    I am very confused on why the 3tb drives were not released as OEM. People looking for this kind of space are not looking to put the OS on that drive.

    Why not release the 3tb drives now, let us create GPT partitions in Windows and use the storage space. I need 12 terabytes ASAP! I would rather 4 drives instead of 6. Hopefully WD catches up soon.
  • Bytales - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - link

    I didn't knew long heat means performance degradation in such a way that it reaches the jaw-dropping 1mb/s.
    In these cases, flash ssd seem to have the advantage. However, we still have to wait until ssd become more capacitous than hdd, to the point that creating a hdd is no longer worth it.
  • loekf - Sunday, August 29, 2010 - link

    Get a Western Digital MyBook 3.0, they only come in 1 TB and 2 TB flavours, but these keep itself cool. After copying 700 GB of data, temperate was steady at 43 celsius. Reply
  • mewgirl - Monday, January 31, 2011 - link

    Except, don't, because they require a separate plug, are absolutely humangous (literally, about 3" in DEPTH!), and will last about 2 weeks. Reply
  • dragunover - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    Seagate is terrible. In my own experience, it's been the only hard-drive out of many to fail. By far, I've had at least 4 Hitachi, 4 WD's, and a Samsung and none of them have failed. Then again, there's also the user-reported failure rates which report Seagate among the top...
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    Hey Anand,

    you're doing a really great job on SSDs, but heres one paragraph I really disagree with:

    "... and sequential performance is actually down from the 2TB drive due in part to the fact that we've got a smaller cache and generally less performance optimized drive with this external 3TB unit compared to the 2TB internal drive. Over USB 3.0 we actually get much better sequential performance apparently due to some additional buffering done by the USB 3 controller."

    You're running into some bottleneck here using the internal SATA for the 3 TB drive. Was it in IDE mode? Or maybe just SATA1? If you take a look at the performance over capacity using this SATA port I bet you'll see a straight line at ~120 MB/s until about 1.5 TB and then a drop similar to what you're showing on the page "Performance vs. Capacity".

    The reason is simple: on that page you're showing the drive hitting performance >120 MB/s over the entire first 1.5 TB using the USB 3 connection. This test is a sequential test over the entire drive, so ne pauses in between. Were this speed due to a buffer it had to be at least 1.5 TB big. Otherwise what you're seeing here is the real sequential performance of the drive.

    And HDD caches influence real world benchmarks, but do not influence such sequential tests (think of it: even 64 MB are filled in just 0.5 s for such a drive, afterwards it's just plain "write them as fast as you can").

    Best regards,
  • Rloew - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    With some minor modifications to the MBR and FIlesystem code, the bare Hard Drive can be booted from without EFI and used in DOS and Windows 98SE. The USB 2.0 Interface can be used in Windows 98SE with a couple of Patches. Reply
  • Agent24 - Monday, October 18, 2010 - link

    It makes no sense, unless they just didn't think to test what might happen to the drive temperature when stuck inside that little box and made to write data (who does that?)

    If it was cost, then that's stupid.

    I expect these are quite expensive already, being new and 3TB. What's an extra $50 or whatever to get a decent case with some proper cooling vents or even a fan?

    I definitely wouldn't buy one of these, not until they made a better case, and even then, I want to see the reliability of the drive itself.
  • The Sorcerer - Saturday, December 25, 2010 - link

    On the 2 paragraph, 4th page you said:
    "While you can plug a SATA power cable directly into the drive, the enclosure prevents you from sticking a SATA data cable in there - not without trimming away part of the plastic surrounding the cable’s SATA connector at least."

    You don't need to trim it. The SATA cable from the Asus boards are slightly thinner connectors. You should be able to do it. I've done it on the Seagate GoFlex 500GB PRO review:

    Infact, when you run Crystal DIsk Information even when the drive is connected via USB mode, it detects the model but it will show that its scaled down to SATA 150 (I got a USB 2.0 as a sample).

    Just my 2 cents :).
  • infoage2000 - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    I have (or had) this 3 TB drive, and three months later it has died. The error; drive needs formatting. So in hopes it was the enclosure I bought a USB to SATA tester and have confirmed it is the drive. I knew better not to stray from the 1 and 1.5 TB drives which have always been reliable. The one lousy time I don't have backups for two directories I copied over....shaking my head in disgust. Reply

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