Sunday, May 31st 2020

Western Digital Sued Over Undocumented SMR on Certain WD Red HDDs

Western Digital has been hit by a class-action lawsuit over alleged false advertising over some of its WD Red hard drives featuring undocumented DM-SMR (drive-managed shingled magnetic recording), a physical layer data writing technique that maximizes capacity at heavy costs of random write performance, that effectively render the drives unfit for RAID applications that are common with NAS setups. Trouble brewed for Western Digital in April, as a Blocks & Files report exposed presence of SMR on certain popular WD Red drives as an explanation as to why the drives couldn't be added to RAID volumes.

Western Digital initially tried to defend its position by explaining what DM-SMR is, that the standard WD Red has been tested on most SOHO NAS devices, that they're not meant for serious (> 8-drive) NAS setups; and pointing people to their pricier WD Red Pro, or enterprise-segment Ultrastar HDDs, leading to more community backlash. Days later, Western Digital finally came out with a list of its HDDs that use SMR. Bellevue Washington-based Hattis & Lukacs, class-action specialists, are leading the charge against Western Digital, and are inviting aggrieved U.S. residents to join the class.
Source: Arstechnica
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28 Comments on Western Digital Sued Over Undocumented SMR on Certain WD Red HDDs

#1
gt362gamer
Question, do you think Seagate may deal in the future with a similar lawsuit? Recently I discovered that the HDD I bought in 2018, the Seagate ST4000DM004 (2017 model), has 99,99...% chances of being SMR, as random write performance is way worse compared to the 2016 Seagate 2TB and 3TB models according to the benchmarks I've seen (if it doesn't have SMR, then it has to have something new, as this difference is not small). I even made a reddit post about this, if you want to take a look:
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#2
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
gt362gamer
Question, do you think Seagate may deal in the future with a similar lawsuit? Recently I discovered that the HDD I bought in 2018, the Seagate ST4000DM004 (2017 model), has 99,99...% chances of being SMR, as random write performance is way worse compared to the 2016 Seagate 2TB and 3TB models according to the benchmarks I've seen (if it doesn't have SMR, then it has to have something new, as this difference is not small). I even made a reddit post about this, if you want to take a look:
I think the reason Seagate and Toshiba quickly followed WDC in disclosing lists of their products that use SMR is exactly because they expect to be sued, and don't want every Seagate/Toshiba HDD user joining class actions just because their HDDs are too slow for 2020.
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#3
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
I quickly snatched up some CMR’s last week to replace (and upgrade to larger) my 2 8-year old CMR Reds in my server (oldest ones in the system). Did not want to end up with SMR’s in their place.

I discovered what they were doing through user reviews. Many people don’t like user reviews, but they have their place, like this situation.
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#4
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
gt362gamer
Question, do you think Seagate may deal in the future with a similar lawsuit? Recently I discovered that the HDD I bought in 2018, the Seagate ST4000DM004 (2017 model), has 99,99...% chances of being SMR, as random write performance is way worse compared to the 2016 Seagate 2TB and 3TB models according to the benchmarks I've seen (if it doesn't have SMR, then it has to have something new, as this difference is not small). I even made a reddit post about this, if you want to take a look:

I doubt Seagate/HGST are likely to face a lawsuit like WD is. We've known SMR has been in use for years now and I'd bet most people that have SMR drives don't even really know it. The difference with WD is they put SMR in products marketed to be used in RAID where SMR makes the drives not suited to be used in RAID.

The thing is SMR doesn't make random writes that much worse in real world use for a normal user. I have an SMR Seagate drive, and if I didn't tell you it was SMR, you'd probably never know. Benchmarks can reveal it, but even then some don't really. For a standard single drive in a system, the CMR cache built into the drive is enough to absorb any writes to the drive without much slowdown, so the user never notices. However, the problem comes when you put a SMR drive in RAID, and a rebuild or OCE/ORLM causes huge amounts of data to be written to the drive, and the CMR cache gets full. Then write performance just drops off a cliff.
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#5
timta2
gt362gamer
Question, do you think Seagate may deal in the future with a similar lawsuit? Recently I discovered that the HDD I bought in 2018, the Seagate ST4000DM004 (2017 model), has 99,99...% chances of being SMR, as random write performance is way worse compared to the 2016 Seagate 2TB and 3TB models according to the benchmarks I've seen (if it doesn't have SMR, then it has to have something new, as this difference is not small). I even made a reddit post about this, if you want to take a look:

Seagate has been pretty clear about what drives use SMR and haven't been trying to hide it.
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#7
onggie
So what is everyone suggesting now as the gold standard of NAS drives?
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#8
BSim500
newtekie1
The thing is SMR doesn't make random writes that much worse in real world use for a normal user. I have an SMR Seagate drive, and if I didn't tell you it was SMR, you'd probably never know. Benchmarks can reveal it, but even then some don't really.
On a clean drive it may not be noticed but over time as it gets fragmented it can get massively bogged down having to rewrite the surround tracks of every file fragment. Personally I think people are looking at it the wrong way. "SMR isn't suited for NAS" is more like "SMR is suitable purely for extremely light usage 2.5" 4-5TB portable archive drives". Everything else they are very much inferior. The effect may be hidden at first on empty drives but as they fill up and become fragmented, "I never notice it" can easily turn into "why did I buy this junk?"
onggie
So what is everyone suggesting now as the gold standard of NAS drives?
Seagate Ironwolf, Ironwolf Pro and WD Red Pro appear to not use SMR. Most of the regular WD Red's do though.
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#9
holyprof
I was planning to buy two 4TB HDDs or two 1TB SATA SSDs for a small home NAS (still haven't decided if i'd go with a mini-PC or a dedicated Synology NAS device).

Thank you WD and Seagate for your help with my decision - no way i'm giving money to scumbags that sell expensive "RED" or "Ironwolf" drives with same tech as the cheap consumer HDDs. Samsung, Adata, Sandisk or Kingston will get my hard earned money instead.

P.S. just checked my current backup drive - one year old 4 TB Barracuda drive ST4000DM005, apparently it's not SMR, but its write speed (30MB/s average writing from a SSD) is slower than my 5-year old 2TB WD Green (acheved 35-50 MB/s copying the same files connected to the same SATA port)!
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#10
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
holyprof
Thank you WD and Seagate for your help with my decision - no way i'm giving money to scumbags that sell expensive "RED" or "Ironwolf" drives with same tech as the cheap consumer HDDs. Samsung, Adata, Sandisk or Kingston will get my hard earned money instead.
To be fair, the regular WD Reds are really not expensive. Most are cheaper or nearly the same as their comparably sized consumer drives.
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#11
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
BSim500
On a clean drive it may not be noticed but over time as it gets fragmented it can get massively bogged down having to rewrite the surround tracks of every file fragment. Personally I think people are looking at it the wrong way. "SMR isn't suited for NAS" is more like "SMR is suitable purely for extremely light usage 2.5" 4-5TB portable archive drives". Everything else they are very much inferior. The effect may be hidden at first on empty drives but as they fill up and become fragmented, "I never notice it" can easily turn into "why did I buy this junk?"
Not how it works. Again, I have one and it's been in use for years. The CMR is an area on the drive that it reserves to absorb writes. Then it moves the written data to an SMR area in the background when the drive is idle. It doesn't matter how long the drive has been in use or how fragmented it is. It's the same idea behind TLC/QLC SSDs that have a SLC cache.
holyprof
Thank you WD and Seagate for your help with my decision - no way i'm giving money to scumbags that sell expensive "RED" or "Ironwolf" drives with same tech as the cheap consumer HDDs. Samsung, Adata, Sandisk or Kingston will get my hard earned money instead.
Seagate Ironwolf drives don't use SMR, and Seagate says they never will.
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#12
Tomorrow
Oh the irony. I already predicted this in April 17th in comments but notb ad adamant this was BS and was not going to happen:
notb
SMR drives have been around for few years: mostly in datacenters but also backup/external drives. How many lawsuits have you noticed?
How many times have manufactures shipped these SMR drives without disclosing that they're SMR?
People can't sue if they don't have all the facts. Now they do and they will sue. Regardless of how many naysayers like you dismiss this issue on gaming forums. Im sure there were people who defended Nvidia too when the whole 3,5GB fiasco started. Or the Apple battery nerfing on older phones. Both of which resulted in class action lawsuits.
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#13
zlobby
timta2
Seagate has been pretty clear about what drives use SMR and haven't been trying to hide it.
:roll:
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#14
remixedcat
SMR is a bad idea for use in security camera DVRs.Tons of random writes and reads happen and you need to be able to have no video glitches on those. This could be a cascading legal nitemare for those victim to crucial evidence being mangled. RED is one of those used in those. WD IMMA DISSAPOINT.
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#15
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
remixedcat
SMR is a bad idea for use in security camera DVRs.Tons of random writes and reads happen and you need to be able to have no video glitches on those. This could be a cascading legal nitemare for those victim to crucial evidence being mangled. RED is one of those used in those. WD IMMA DISSAPOINT.
If they are serious about security camera footage, shouldn’t they be using Purple? What are those using? SMR? CMR?
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#16
remixedcat
rtwjunkie
To be fair, the regular WD Reds are really not expensive. Most are cheaper or nearly the same as their comparably sized consumer drives.
Hence why they are very often placed in CCTV DVRs.
rtwjunkie
If they are serious about security camera footage, shouldn’t they be using Purple? What are those using? SMR? CMR?
MFRs of DVR unitsnot specifying it. That's the problem. Businesses often get off the shelf solutions and don't build thier own DVR units, this getting a mystery drive that now, has a high likelyhood of being SMR
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#17
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
rtwjunkie
If they are serious about security camera footage, shouldn’t they be using Purple? What are those using? SMR? CMR?
I just checked. Purple are using CMR.
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#18
remixedcat
All of them? However the DVR mfrs might get cheap
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#20
remixedcat
Good on that, however mystery meat is still a factor for prebuilt DVRs
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#21
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
remixedcat
Good on that, however mystery meat is still a factor for prebuilt DVRs
Possibly so. I'll be on the lookout for upcoming DVR reviews.
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#22
Octavean
According to the link below there is some anecdotal evidence that those requesting a WD Red CMR replacement for their SMR drive will likely get it. It makes sense too because if they can settle the issue before a ruling it works in their favor:
Although Western Digital does not, to the best of our knowledge, have an official policy regarding replacement of Red drives unknowingly purchased with SMR, several readers have shared their individual success stories of getting Western Digital's customer care department to replace such disks with non-SMR disks free of charge.

Those interested in all the details may view the full text of Hattis Law's class action lawsuit here.
arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/05/western-digital-gets-sued-for-sneaking-smr-disks-into-its-nas-channel/

Also 8TB and above WD Red drives should be CMR so as long as you buy an 8TB, 10TB, 12TB or 14TB WD Red you should be fine.
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#23
zlobby
remixedcat
SMR is a bad idea for use in security camera DVRs.Tons of random writes and reads happen and you need to be able to have no video glitches on those. This could be a cascading legal nitemare for those victim to crucial evidence being mangled. RED is one of those used in those. WD IMMA DISSAPOINT.
WD only advertise Purples for network surveilance.

IDK if Purples are SMR but I have many of them and they work just fine year after year in various harsh environments.
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#24
Octavean
remixedcat
All of them? However the DVR mfrs might get cheap
Here they address WD Red, Red Pro, Blue, Black and Purple drives 1TB (or below), 2TB to 6TB as wwell as 8TB and above. For all categories Purple drives are listed as being CMR

www.techpowerup.com/266207/western-digital-spells-out-which-specific-hdd-models-use-smr

www.techpowerup.com/266207/western-digital-spells-out-which-specific-hdd-models-use-smr#g266207-1

www.techpowerup.com/266207/western-digital-spells-out-which-specific-hdd-models-use-smr#g266207-2
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#25
RoutedScripter
Just buy the WDx0EFRX models while you still can, I still can in my country. USA is probably out of stock for some time now of these.
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