Using Advanced Format Hard Drives With Windows Home Server

by Alex Kuretz on December 22, 2010 · 109 comments

in Guides

The following is a guest article written by forum member “TechVet” aka James. Thanks to James for sharing his experience with the Windows Home Server Community.

This past weekend I got my new HP X510 up and running with Western Digital Caviar Green EARS drives and I wanted to document some key learnings I took away from the process.  Before I get too far along, it is probably a good idea to take a moment to talk about hard drives and to point out that these days hard drives seem to come with a mix of attributes, two of which are very pertinent to Windows Home Server v1.

The first attribute concerns power consumption.  Hard drives consume power and lately drive manufacturers have produced lines of ‘regular power’ drives and ‘low power (aka ‘Green’)’ drives. The green drives offer real advantages in terms of power savings and cooler operating temperatures, both things that WHS users tend to appreciate since our servers are often running 24/7.  However, all of these ‘green’ features aren’t necessarily ideal for running in a server environment (see Step 1 below for an example.)

The other attribute that seems to be becoming more of an issue is whether or not the drive is an Advanced Format drive.  Traditionally hard drives have come with a data sector size of 512 bytes, but in their quest to increase the storage capacity of drives, manufacturers have started moving to a much more efficient 4 Kbytes sector size.  This isn’t much of a problem aside from the fact that older operating systems don’t handle 4K sectors drives very well.  Actually, they have no problems reading the data, but they don’t always write it to the drive in the efficient manner that 4K drives depend on.  The problem is rooted in the way an older OS formats the drive and begins laying down data.   It appears that the older OSs format and start writing the data at a one sector offset of the ideal setting for the 4K drives.  Once the drive is initialized, all of the data ends up being one sector off of the ideal setting.  Reports indicate that without intervention, 4K sector drives formatted with an older OS will often slow down in terms of access times and there have been reports that data tends to get corrupted as a result.  This entire discussion would be academic if it weren’t for the fact that WHS v1 is based on Server 2003, which as hard luck would have it is one of the older OSs that don’t play well with 4K sector drives.  This is going to become a huge factor moving forward because 4K Advanced Format drives are proliferating as manufacturers move production over to these more efficient units.  I even read some commentary that in the near future all hard drives will be of the advanced format variety.  For the time being it is a challenge determining whether or not a particular drive is of the advanced format variety.  So until WHS v2 (which fully supports 4K drives) comes out, the WHS v1 users will have to study their future hard drive candidates very carefully.

Editors Note: Microsoft has a KB Article recommending against using Advanced Format Drives with Windows Home Server, however as the author demonstrates, with the proper setup many people have had success using them.

Enough preamble, on to my project.  The process went smoothly, albeit with some trial and error.  Here is the step by step process I took putting in a 1TB EARS System Drive, and two 2TB EARS Pool Drives.

1)      The first step is to deactivate the IntelliPark Feature on the WD Drives.  This is one of those ‘green’ features that don’t necessarily play well in the server environment. It looks like ALL of Western Digital’s Green Drives now ship with this feature enabled and by default have the timer set to a ridiculously short 8 seconds.  What this means is that after 8 seconds of drive inactivity, the heads unload and park.  The rationale for this is to gain aerodynamic efficiency inside the drive that results in what I presume to be a minuscule power savings. The heads come out of park position as soon as drive activity is called for.  The parking/unparking is also referred to as loading/unloading and a full ‘cycle’ occurs each time the process happens. These cycles are counted on a LCC counter in the drive firmware.  Hard drives come out of the factory with a ‘rating’ for LCCs and the WD drives are rated for 300,000 cycles.  If the cycles accrue above this range, then in theory the chances of drive failure begin to creep up.  In addition the drive manufacturer may reject a warranty claim for drives with excessive LCCs.  The problem is that if you have disk activity say every 15-60 seconds (or less frequently) the heads go through a Load/Unload cycle, increasing the Load Cycle Count each time they do.  If cumulatively the heads go through 5-10 LCCs per day then it is no big deal because the count increases slowly.  But if the heads cycle 4-5 times or more per hour, then the equation changes rapidly.  There are reports of WD Green Drives in a WHS box that have seen the LCC number shoot up to 100,000 plus in 3-4 months! It seems that system drives typically have enough constant activity that they rarely seem to park, even at the default setting of 8 seconds.  On the other hand, pool drives have much less activity so they tend to park the heads quite a bit, especially with the 8 second setting.

Fortunately WD makes a utility called wdidle3.exe that lets you change the setting of the IntelliPark timer.  The only problem is that you have to run it off a cleanly booted machine using DOS.  Most of us have long ago given up DOS for Windows and I’d bet that many current Windows users have never even seen a DOS based computer running.  Finding a way to boot a modern PC off of DOS is a challenge, but fortunately some kind folks have burned a DOS boot image containing the wdidle3 program to a CD iso file.  It can be downloaded here.  I think the origins of this project come from the TiVo community who have similar issues with WD Green Drives in their DVRs.  Note that the version of wdidle3 on this image is probably v1.03, while the one in the link above from the WD site is v1.05.  I’m not sure the version matters as v1.03 worked fine for me.  Also, WD has not updated their site to reflect that the program works with most of their green drives including the EARS.

The process I followed involved downloading the iso file, burning to a CD, then booting up the machine with nothing but the WD Green drive attached to the SATA controller.  Do not boot up with any other drive attached.  Once the DOS command prompt was up, I ran the wdidle3 program and quickly changed the timer value.  The wdidle3.exe program is simple and only has a few command line options.  Running ‘wdidle3’ alone will give you the current drive ID and timer settings (usually the default value of 8 seconds) as will ‘wdidle3 /R’.  Running ‘wdidle3 /D’ is supposed to disable the timer, but in reality resets it to the maximum timeout of about 62 minutes.  With that setting, even pool drives have enough activity to avoid parking the heads, the net result being that the LCC numbers stay much more manageable.  I found it best to attach the drive, turn on/boot the PC, make the changes, then shut down the PC between drive swaps.  The entire process for all three drives took me less than 5 minutes.  I’m sorry, but since the wdidle3 program is DOS based I don’t have any screenshots to offer.

2)      The next step is to insert an EARS drive in drive bay 1 (system drive slot) and do a factory reset procedure.  This will partition and format the drive, then will install the WHS operating system.  Note that factory resets can be fickle so follow the instructions and do a search of the forums if you are having trouble.  Remember to connect the restoring PC directly to the server and deactivate ALL wireless adapters on the PC as well as the antivirus programs.  Both will interfere with the PC being able to communicate with your server for the restore process.

It is probably appropriate to make a quick note here on the topic of drive size for the system drive.  There are some that would argue that a system drive does not need to be too large.  Most of the time WHS will keep minimal amounts of data on a system drive as long as there are other places in the pool to put it.  Data storage on the system drive will probably occur in a two disk system with duplication enabled, so I wouldn’t get carried away with too small of a system drive unless you have at least two or more large pool drives in the mix.  I used a 1TB EARS drive as a system drive and it seems to work just fine, but I also have two 2TB drives in the pool.

Another topic of interest might be the speed of the drive.  Many arguments have been made for having a faster drive (7200 rpm or SSD) as a system drive – after all HP ships their WHS servers with Seagate 7200 rpm drives. While I’m sure the extra speed would not go to waste, I have run the slower Green drives as a system drive in my EX495 for the past year and honestly can’t detect any appreciable speed difference.   In other words, using a slower (5400 rpm) green drive as a system drive seems to have few drawbacks – at least in my book.

3)      Next comes the most important step of all.  Remember WHS v1 is an older OS and by default does not play well with advanced format drives.  During the factory reset procedure, WHS will have formatted this advanced format EARS drive out of sync, so we need to take some steps to get the drive’s sector alignment in shape for optimum performance.  Be aware that each drive manufacturer has some sort of procedure for aligning their drives for use with an older OS and the methods between manufacturers are NOT the same.  WD has done a great job of documenting their procedure, which is one of the reasons I opted for using WD drives.  To get started you’ll need to download the alignment utility off the WD website.  It turns out that there are actually two programs out there, but the most current one is produced by Acronis.  There are actually a couple of options after installation.  You can run the program or you have the option of creating a clean bootable CD with the program.  I don’t know if there is a preference or recommendation for one or the other, but I opted for just running the program.

Either procedure is to remove the system drive and attach it to a non-WHS machine.  I used one of my Win7 PCs, attached the drive to a USB to SATA adapter and started the program.  By default, both alignment tools will run in Windows 7, but reportedly not on WHS.  There is a hacked version of the older alignment utility that will install on WHS and folks report it works well.  However, in this case you are realigning the system drive while it is in use and I see all kinds of room for disaster if you are trying to align a drive that is running the active OS.

The wizard-driven process of realignment is simple and on a clean system drive with the installed OS only, the process took less than 10 minutes.  Just remember that non-WD Advance Format Drives will be indicated as such in the wizard, so you can’t inadvertently harm them.  Look at the bottom of the screen for a key as to what is what.  It is pretty self-explanatory once you have an advanced format drive connected.  Under the hood, all this program is doing is shifting the drive contents over to the correct sector offset.  Once complete, exit out of the align program, disconnect the drive and reinsert it in the server’s system drive slot and presto, you have a new low power, advanced format drive ideally configured as your system drive.

4)      Now we come to the pool drives.  In my case I used two of the 2 TB version of the EARS drive.  Pool drives differ from system drives in that they have a single partition that is formatted, then migrated into the Drive Extender (DE).  This allows multiple single partition drives (along with the second partition of the system drive) to be seen as a single data drive.  It is clearly one of the more popular features of WHS v1.  The process of drive extender is very complicated under the hood, but a key feature is that each pool drive has to be identified by the DE system and has to retain that identity forever in order to continue being a part of the pool.  If the identity is lost or changed in the slightest way, then the data on the drive is also lost to the pool.  Mind you the data is still present and recoverable, but you just can’t use DE to get to it.

So you install a drive, add it to the pool and WHS formats it, labels it then adds it to the DE pool.  You would think the alignment process would be the same as with the system drive, right??  Well I think I can safely say it is not.  It has been documented in other places that for some unknown reason the alignment tool may behave differently with drives that have one partition as opposed to drives that have two or more.  In the case of multi-partition drives, the tool simply shifts everything over.  However, in single partition drives the tool does that but also appears to make some subtle changes the ever critical drive ID information – at least it did in my case.  The result is that when you reinsert the drive, DE fails to recognized the drive and it will be listed as missing or not added.  Re-adding it reformats the drive the WHS standard, erases all your alignment work and we go back to an improperly aligned drive.  You can chase your tail for hours here and get nowhere.

Now counter to my experience, some users have apparently not had this problem and their realignment of pool drives has reportedly gone off without a hitch.   I’m not sure what makes or breaks this process, but at this point I really can’t recommend the alignment tool for pool drives.  The possibility of data loss looms large, so use it at your own risk, provided you are confident everything is backed up elsewhere.  There is also a published set of registry hacks found here (post #6)  that allows you to tell DE what the new drive IDs are, but on closer examination there is the very real possibility that you could cripple your server (requiring a factory reset) if things don’t go exactly right.  On the other hand, if you are comfortable editing registry settings then you are free to have a go.

Fortunately, there is a simple work around to this alignment conundrum, which seems unique to WD drives.  You can install a jumper on pins 7 and 8 on the back of the drive and the problem is fixed so that drive stays happy with the older OS.  The drive’s performance jumpered as opposed to unjumpered and aligned is EXACTLY the same.  In addition the data can be read/written across any OS once the drive is properly configured one way or another.  This begs the question, ‘if such an easy fix is available, why not use it for all the drives?”  Well the fix only works for drives with a single partition.  This makes it an excellent choice for pool drives, but takes it out of consideration for system drives.  Now the next challenge will be to find a jumper, since the drives ship without one.  The purpose of the jumper is to set a hard coded +1 sector offset (especially for the critical format process), which keeps the data optimally aligned for the drive.  As such, you need to install the jumper before adding the drive to the pool.

If by chance you have an unjumpered WD advanced format drive already installed in your WHS server with data on it, don’t panic.  You definitely need to correct the alignment to prevent problems down the road, but it is easy provided you do it right.  The correct procedure is to remove any data from the drive, remove the drive from the pool, then jumper it and add it back to the pool.  At that point it is safe to resume use.

Now, heed these warnings:  A) Once jumpered, you can NEVER REMOVE the jumper without loosing data (of course if the data is removed before the jumper is removed then you are okay); B) You can NEVER RUN the alignment tool on a jumpered drive and; C) Make sure you remove the jumper if you intend to reuse (format) the drive in a Vista, Win7, or Server 2008 machine.

As you may have guessed, in my case I first tried the alignment tool method and had problems. So in the end decided it was easier to just add the jumpers, insert the drives and add them to the pool.  Within 3-4 minutes I had a touch under 4 TB added to my storage pool.

As with any attempt to document something as complex as this, I should offer the disclaimer that I am not an expert in these areas and welcome any legitimate corrections.  With that in mind I also need to thank the tireless souls who went before me and learned from the school of hard knocks.  What I have written is nothing new, rather a culmination of hours of on-line reading and the solutions I am offering seem to be the best based on that information.  I decided it might be valuable to have the info in one place as opposed to having to search for it.  Furthermore, this info is unique to Western Digital Caviar Green Advanced Format drives.  If you are using a Western Digital drive please take the time to determine what attributes you drive possesses before you start the process.  If you are using a non-Western Digital drive, please consult with the drive manufacturer for recommendations.

Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


Techvet December 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for posting Alex!

A quick authors note… In the third paragraph I speak of the sector sizes. It should be noted that I had a couple of typos in the descriptions. The traditional hard drive sector size is 512 bytes (no K) and the sector size for the new advanced format drives is 4K bytes.

I also found this nice summary article on the WD AF drives here:

Alex Kuretz December 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Updated the article to fix those, thanks!

Lee December 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I’ve been using 2 x 2.0 GB WD EARS drive on my EX-495 for over a year and have had no problems. The first time I did it, I had 1 drive as the OS and ran alignment after OS install. Then just used the jumper on the 2nd drive that was used in the pool. Then I moved the OEM 1.0 TB drive to the pool. I did this to future-proof the expansion to maximize the total GB in the machine.

Well, later I screwed up the OS from tinkering so I just put it back with the 1.0 TB as the OS drive and used the 2 drives in the pool.

Either scenario works well. All instructions were clear on the WD web site and in the drive boxes. Not sure why there was so much negative hype on using these drives in WHS. If you followed WD’s instructions, you had no problems.

Dave December 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Great article James, thanks! I’ll be using these instructions to fix the Intellipark problem when I receive the EARS drive I just ordered. Just one correction, in step 1 4th sentence the sentence should read “…after 8 seconds of drive inactivity” not activity. Thaks for taking the time to put this together.


LoneWolf December 23, 2010 at 7:11 am

Hi Alex,

I’m just curious –I know you have used some of the new Samsung SpinPoint F4 2TB drives. I’m replacing some of my earlier 1.5TB drives with these, and I’m wondering if they 1) need to have any power management features disabled, and b) if they need to have Samsung’s realignment tool used with them. I’ve gotten conflicting answers, so I hope to benefit from your experiences.

Thanks for your help, and thanks James for a great article!

Alex Kuretz December 23, 2010 at 8:28 am

I’ve actually got the F3 drive, not the F4, though my next purchase will likely be an F4 for testing and more experience with the Advanced Format drives.

Techvet December 23, 2010 at 7:47 am

I have NOT personally used the Samsung drives; however, from what I’ve read on their site, it doesn’t read as though they use any head parking technology, so you should be good to go. The Samsung site listing all of the internal HDDs can be found here:

The answer to all HDD questions will ultimately lie with the model nomenclature and this site seems to list all of the features for each drive, provided you drill down to each drive. Samsung DOES have a drive alignment utility for their advanced format drives and it can be found here: . It seems to be well documented, but I don’t know how well this works with WHS – ie. does it make changes to the drive ID like the WD utility does. And, I don’t know if their AF drives have the jumper solution like the WD drives do. When it comes to large capacity drives, they list a 2TB F3 (HD203WI) and a 2TB F4 (HD204UI). The F4 is advanced format, whereas the F3 is not. Since we don’t know much about their alignment process, the F3 might be the safer choice for WHS.

LoneWolf December 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

It turns out that Samsung’s alignment tool does not recognize the F4 as an advanced-format drive, so it apparently does not need the alignment tool.

Just an FYI.

Techvet December 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Wow! What model is the drive? They have five F4 models on their website and it looks like the two largest ones (the 320 GB and the 2 TB) show in their respective spec sheets as Advanced Format. Maybe they have some that aren’t listed.

LoneWolf December 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm

It’s a Spinpoint F4 HD204UI, the new 3-platter drive. Just picked them up from the `Egg.

I had heard some other people say that their models weren’t Advanced Format either, but I wasn’t sure, and Samsung’s specs didn’t seem very clear.

I pulled all three of my Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB drives (two of the three started to fail this week) and put these in this evening; I’m currently doing a full restore from my external Hitachi 2TB. Via eSATA, it’s going pretty fast considering I have about 810GB to restore. It will be very nice to have my MSS back online.

LoneWolf December 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm

One other note: I’ve heard rumors about some of them being advanced format but with some form of emulation to older format when advanced format is not supported. I have no comfirmation regarding that, though.

Techvet December 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Now that would be cool if the drive would automatically emulate the older format without doing anything! I think Damian had major issues with his Spinpoint F4, so it will be intersting to see how yours work out.

LoneWolf December 24, 2010 at 8:30 am

I took a screenshot that I can post in the forums of the alignment tool. It actually says that the Spinpoint F4 drives are not advanced format drives.

At this point, my data is restored, and my clients are starting to back up again. It does appear that this is causing a bit slowdown with access, as streaming video over wireless-N is hitching up. Of course, it could be balancing the disks at the same time as backup occurs, and since my backup database was corrupted, the backups are full backups right now, so a lot more disk access. I think this will calm down in a day or two. Everything else seems normal.

Wified December 24, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I am rebuilding my EX-470 after my system drive died. I bought two 2TB WD EARS drives to back up all of my data from the pool drives. Since my 470 won’t start up, I’ve put these two EARS drives into a Sans Digital 4-bay eSATA enclosure, and this enclosure is connected to my Windows 7 computer. I jumpered the two EARS drives before formatting them on my Windows 7 machine, because when I put the data back onto the 470, I will have to plug the Sans Digital eSATA enclosure into the 470. Did I do the right thing jumpering them? I will only be reading from the EARS drives to restore the data onto the 470, but I am copying all of the data from the drives that were in the 470 (about 3TB) onto the two EARS drives while connected to my Windows 7 machine. After I replace the system drive and connect the pool drives, I’ll connect the Sans Digital to the 470 and copy the data over to the pool. Bottom line question – in this situation should the EARS be jumpered or not? Thanks!

Techvet December 25, 2010 at 7:35 am

Based on what you have said you want to do, I would NOT have jumpered the drives prior to placing them in the eSATA enclosure. Jumpering a drive in only required if you FORMAT the drive with WHS. Drives formatted with Win7 are okay and can be read and written to by WHS. The problem occurs if WHS is allowed to format the drive, which by default it will do at a one sector offset. Juumpering a drive, then formatting with Win7 will probably make the drive run slower.

So my recommendation is the remove the jumpers, reformat the EARS in the enclosure using Win7, then copy your data over to the EARS drives. Confirm you data resides on the EARS drives! Once you are comfortable that it is, do a factory reset your server and re-add any pool drives to the server. Once you server is rebuilt and you have things set up, then and only then should you attached the eSATA enclosure with the EARS drives. DO NOT add those drives to the pool, just keep them as back-up drives. Now copy the data over.

Or… if you want the ultimate in safety, leave the eSATA enclosure attached to your Win7 machine and once the server is rebuilt copy the data back across the network. This method will be slower, but you will remove any chances of making a mental mistake and accidentally erasing your data. This is what I have done in the past.

Wified December 25, 2010 at 7:56 am

Thanks so much for the advice. Merry Christmas!

Wified December 30, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Regarding a safe way to copy the data over, this is what I did, to avoid the WHS Console altogether, and to avoid any chance of reformatting the drives. Remote Desktop into the server. Install RichCopy ( Mount the shares, permanently, with a batch file that runs every time you reboot your WHS ( Connect the drives by eSATA, or USB (but will be slower). Use RichCopy to copy over the data.

The advantage here is that the data will copy over much more quickly than over the network.

Eeyan December 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Personally I’d rather the manufacturers spent the development funds on SSD or something to replace HDD’s. HDD’s IMO are a real bottleneck. Having said that, even so, it is good that bigger better drives are around esp. since DE is in for the chop.

LoneWolf January 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

SSDs, however, are of questionable use in a Massive Storage configuration like Windows Home Server. They might make a good boot drive perhaps, but the cost-per-GB of storage, combined with the largest ones being 512GB-1TB (and at that point, costing thousands of dollars), just doesn’t make sense here.

BMan December 28, 2010 at 5:53 am

Thanks for this article. When I set up my WHS I was unaware of the AF issue, but I think I dodged the bullet by accident. I had an 2T EARS and a 2T EADS drive that I was putting into an ASUS TS-mini. I chose the EARS drive for the OS, since it had a larger cache. Mistake, right? But I had an Acronis cloning CD that came with an ssd I was installing in another system, and I used that to clone the 500 MB OEM drive that came with the ASUS onto the 2T WD EARS drive. I think that the Acronis program recognized the AF drive and aligned the WHS boot partition correctly. Anyway, the system seems to be running well.

Techvet December 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm


You may be right because the cloning of a drive is one of the special cases requiring alignment. However, I’ll still pull the drive and double check to make sure everything is aligned. You won’t hurt the drive or the data on it. Make sure and post the results back here because whatever you learn will help the community!

Alex December 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Getting the following error message on a new 2TB WD EARS drive. Brand new drive, “sealed”, FULL FACTORY reset from HP EX490 system disk and then mounted to Windows 7 64bit via USB->SATA dock.

Acronis recognizes the drive and states that it is not optimially resized and proceeded with the Alignment tool. Accepted the standard warning message and then hit the proceed button.

Within two seconds I get the following error message:
“Operation has completed iwth errors, please see the details below. – Alignment of partition (harddisk 2, number 1) – failed.)

“Quit” is the only option available.

1. I’ve tried this on two different windows 7 (64bit) systems
2. I have not configured the HP MEDIA SYS drive yet- in other words I did not run/install the Client software, nor did I provide a name to the server nor did I setup a password. This is a FACTORY “image”
3. I’ll try to dig up an older XP laptop to see if this makes a difference… :(

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated…. Thanks in advance!


Alex December 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm

PS…. Yes, I tried both versions of the software as well:

Acronis & Paragon…

Alex December 28, 2010 at 7:41 pm


I needed to “configure” the system first… I needed to name the server, setup the password and not leave it in it’s “VIRGIN” state… Thanks!
I hope this will be helpful/benificial for anyone else with WD EARS drives…

Good luck!

Techvet December 28, 2010 at 7:48 pm


This is good news for you and beneficial to the community at large. I would not have thought the setup status would have figured in, but each day is another lesson learned.

I think you’ll be pleased with the EARS performance. I’m in my second week and my server is running like clockwork. Cheers!

Alex December 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Can you say NIGHT and DAY?!?!?! My original WD 2TB unit was running as a SYSTEM drive with jumpers 7/8 connected. I was foolishly thinking that by simply running with pins 7/8 jumpered would save me from having to go through WDIdle3 and WD Alignment!

Well for about three weeks I was logging my HD performance and it was averaging about 25Mbps and MAX out at 32Mbps… Now with WDIdle3 and WD Alignment, I’m averaging about 75Mbps and MAX out a whopping 92Mbps on my 1GB network… :)

Thanks so much for your tutorial, it’s really REALLY been extremely helpful!!!

Happy New Year!!!

Haje Korth December 29, 2010 at 6:59 am

thanks for the great summary for using these drives. I recently ordered two of EARS drives and was amazed how many articles and hype I had to sift through to settle with the jumper method for use as pool drives. The system has been working nicely this way for a month now. (Keeping fingers crossed.)

I did not, however, use WD idle. I was confused at the time about the model numbers this software applies to. If I go to the link you cite, the EARS drives are not listed there. If I understand correctly though the WDIdle software works for the WD 2TB EARS (WD20EARS) drives. Did I get this right?

Techvet December 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm


Yes, the WDIDLE3 program works on the EARS drives. As I noted in the article, the WD documentation is incomplete and only references a few of the Green Drives. Users on other forums have confirmed that during phone conversations and e-mail exchanges WD tech support stated that the program works with pretty much all the Caviar Green Drives. I have a EACS and a EADS drive and both of those have IntelliPark. The WDIDLE3 program worked with them as well as my EARS drives.

The version of the WDIDLE3 program does not seem to matter. The iso disk has version 1.03, but the most current download off the WD site is version 1.05. I used version 1.03 and it worked fine for all of my drives.

Haje Korth December 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Thanks for the response, Techvet. Then I have the $64k follow-up question: Is it safe to apply wdidle changes retroactively, i.e., after loading the disks with data, or would I have to remove the drives from the pool prior to using wdidle?

Techvet December 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm


WDIDLE can be run retroactively without fear of data loss or changes. You do not need to remove them from the pool – simply shut down the server, extract the EARS drive(s), the follow step one in the guide and reinsert in the server.

I used this same procedure on my EACS and EADS drives and there was no impact on the data.

Haje Korth December 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Thanks, this is good information.

Brandon January 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Actually, the WDIDLE3 v1.05 seems the one to use if you want to *completely* disable the Idle3 timer.

You can see my results from disabling (/D) and the report back from v1.00, v1.03 and v1.05 of the WDIDLE3 util in this thread over the TiVo Community forum (Series3 units go into infinite boot loop when Idle3 is enabled)

Patrick December 29, 2010 at 9:19 am


your advise about serching for blinking health light, has cost me a day now, but made me so much wiser. luckely i have a week of now, so i have time to read. the article above is for me the hammer on the nail(??)
i have an EARS disk, no jumper no aligment etc etc. and my complaints just look to coming from this disk. i got my x510 running now again, red health light, but i know that because the EARS disk is out. cannot remove it in the menu, because my x510 will get stuck. i can read the data from the EARS, and tomorrow i will insert it in my desktop, make a backup, and just start from scratch with the server. i will disable the timer on the EARS, insert the jumper and do a full reset on the server. after that i will insert the EARS, together with another one, so the duplication will be on the 2 disks.

again thanks for the advise, and i hope to have it up and running tomorrow again


Timothy Daleo December 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Good article. I had no idea the drives would accumulate such high numbers so quickly. Just the math alone shows it could be as high as 10,800 times per day. Wow.

Diehard and I converted the Hex codes to decimal and saw the real numbers for my LCC on the two 2TB drive I have in my EX485. I will have some screenshots and more data soon.

Tom Torrance January 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I used a jumpered WD20EARS drive in my EX470 (8 drives – total data = 8TB+) for several months with absolutely NO problems. When Microsoft advised that they should not be used with WHS v1 and that NTFS was not totally compatible with them, I decided to remove and replace with a Seagate green drive.
Half way through the removal process the system suddenly reported that the drive had disappeared (could no longer be detected). It wasn’t there after a reboot either.
Good luck to those using EARS drives on WHS v1. I sincerely hope that you stay happy!

Techvet January 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Wow! I am at a loss to explain something like that. The other day, I added another EARS drive to the pool, then removed it and that procedure went off without a hitch – granted, there was no data on it, but I saw no signs worthy of worry.

So far so good with my X510/EARS drives. I see zero incompatibility and my system is running like a champ. In fact I could argue that it is the best running of any of my three MSS units. The console comes up wicked fast, my Davis weather station is hooked up to it and updating every 5 minutes to WeatherBug, I stream, I store, I back-up, it is running my Squeezebox Server, SageTV for WHS, and parts of my home automation system. All three EARS drives are healthy and their LCC numbers are all less than 20 after nearly 3 weeks of use.

Nevertheless, as a part of my back-up strategy I bought a 2 drive eSata dock the other day and have a full server back-up, including backups, sitting on a disk drive that now resides in my fireproof gun safe. I figure I’ll refresh the back-ups every 2-4 weeks. At the moment, life is very good!

Drcorso January 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

I have been using wd20ears drives in my pool connected via an eSata enclosure for a few months now with jumpered drives. They seem slow on writes but reads are good enough to watch a bluray from iso in 2 different rooms which is what I care about the most. Anyway I will be running the wdidle3 program on these drives soon now.

I did run into another issue I think is related to these drives. I am running a HP ex470 with the latest whs software from HP, memory upgrade to 2GB and CPU upgrade AMD LE-1660. I had an issue with the server shutting down at midnight every night and it turned out it was right when chkdsk runs on the drives. I found this hotfix from msft, installed it and and it solved my problems shutting down at midnight.
“Error message when you run the Chkdsk.exe utility to fix a corrupted volume on a Windows Server 2003-based computer: “Stop 0×00000024″”

C. Johansson January 6, 2011 at 8:05 am


Tried WDIDLE3/D on a new 2TB WD20EARS, worked fine setting it to max timelimit.
But when I apply same command on a 1TB WD10EADS, the response is the same as just WDIDLE: “Idle3 Timer is enabled and set to 8.000 seconds”.
Any thoughts or ideas?

C. Johansson January 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Hmm…I tried WDIDLE3/S[30], and the response is:
“Idle3 Timer is disabled”.

Strange. The /S parameter just seems to turn it off.
WDIDLE3/D enables it back to 8.00 seconds.

Techvet January 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Humm. What version of WDIDLE are you using? I used version 1.03 it on my three WD20EARS drives, my WD10EARS, WD15EADS drive, my WD10EADS drive and my WD10EACS drive and it worked fine on all. On the EARS drives it sets the timer to the max of 62 minutes, which might as well be disabled. I guess the firmware version could make a difference, but my EARS drives have manufacturing dates of Sep/Oct of this year.

Make sure you type WDIDLE3 /D. Note the space between the command and the option.

C. Johansson January 7, 2011 at 1:54 am

Thanks for the reply.
I used 1.03, downloading from the links here.
I did not use space between command options. But the EARS-drives accepted it, and not the single EADS one.
Now they’re back in the case and the WHS is up and running again.
I’ll check in the firmware next time I’ll open it up.
The WD10EADS is the oldest of the three in purchase dates, may it has a non-compatible firmware or such.

C. Johansson January 7, 2011 at 2:03 am

Oh, didn’t mention all WD drives. It’s one WD10EADS, one WD15EARS and one WD20EARS.

Brandon January 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Try v1.05 of WDIDLE3, using that version /D disabled (and all different versions confirmed disabled) the Idle3 timer entirely.
I got it from here:

Cubanblood January 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

Ok i just looked at the LCC number on my drives. The first ones i added (EADS) are over 600,000 and the EARS that i added in July are at 250,000. How real is this problem? I dont think at this point changing the timer will do anything. On all my drives WD has a max, or whatever they call it, of 300,000. The way i see it this drives have a 3 year warranty, so if they do fail before that WD “should” take them back.

Techvet January 12, 2011 at 9:33 am


Those LCC numbers are about what the ones were on my EADS and EACS drives. Your question about the significance of this issue is good and I honestly don’t know the answer. From what I can tell, most of the commentary on LCC is often theoretical. The drive’s LCC rating may or may not factor into the failure rate, but seeing a rating of 300,000 and having a drive with twice that count can be disconcerting to some users.

Changing the timer WILL make a difference in that the count will accrue more slowly. However, with counts as high as yours one could argued, ‘why bother?’ If the drives are working well, then you may have nothing to worry about. FWIW, I changed the timer on my EARS drives when I put them into service and their LCC counts are in the 20s or less after a month of use.

Cubanblood January 12, 2011 at 9:58 am

I just whish HDD were made like they use to. I have a 60GB which was part of a computer i build back in ’99 and right now is on my 5 years-old son computer and is going strong.
I think if a HDD last over 5 years its a good drive but they way things are looking we are going to be lucky if they las 3. I understand that companies like WD need to keep business going and if they make drives that las 5-7 years their business is on the line, but is just not right to sell drives with a 3 year warranty and no option to extend it because, and i quote, ” they (HDD) become unreliable after 36 months of continious use”.

Mark January 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm

So I have a new EX495 and it comes with the factory 1.5tb drive in there. It’s going to be used for movie storage. I have 2 brand new WD EADS drives. I figure I might as well add a third drive and fill the unit, which seems like it will be an EARS because EADS drives are more or less gone from the market.

I read the article but I’m confused: Do I need to do the full factory reset procedure for each drive? I am interested in a large pool, but I’d be willing to leave the factory drive out of the pool (perhaps creating a partition on it for “other data” that isn’t the movies).

Can I simply run the aligner and then jumper the three drives (two EADS, one EARS) and toss them in the server and say “make this one pool”?

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I find this all very confusing.

Techvet January 30, 2011 at 6:36 pm


No worries. If I understand you correctly, you want to leave the 1.5 TB system drive alone, then add two EADS drives and 1 EARS drive to the pool. Doing this will give you three 2TB units for roughly 6TB of pool space, in addition to the pool space on the second partition of the system drive.

I sense a potential bit of confusion about your understanding of the pool drives, I’ll take a minute to explain. (I apologize if this is redundant.) By default WHS gives the system drive (in the bottom most slot) two partitions: the primary for the actual OS and programs (20 GB) and the second for the storage pool (i.e. the remainder of the system drive space). You can’t do anything else with that second partition but let it be used for the pool nor can you repartition that drive to some other structure – so just let WHS do it’s thing. Bear in mind that as long as the pool drives are in place before data is placed on the server, WHS will not use the system drive pool space until all of the other pool space is full. In other words, you’ll have to fill up nearly 6TB of space before it’ll ever touch that second partition of your system drive.

Your pool will have multiple directories (including one reserved for videos), that you can park your data in. You’ll also have a directory for photos, music, users, etc. In addition you can add other directories to the root structure of the pool via the WHS console. So your actual pool content may be mostly videos, but you can carve out other space as well if you want it.

Now as for adding the drives…

1) EADS and EARS drives both have the IntelliPark function so by all means disable that for all three drives (see step 1 of the guide)

2) Your EADS drives are not advanced format drives and do NOT require jumpers. All you need to do is add those drives – no further modifications will be necessary.

3) Your one EARS drives is advanced format and in order to function correctly in the pool you MUST JUMPER it across pins 7&8 (see step 4, paragraph 4 of the guide.)

Let us know if you have further questions.

dave Mayhew February 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I have had a number of problems since adding EARS drives. THey are on a supermicro aoc-saslp-mv8 controller. It seems that this controller is timing out (or drives on the controller).They will drop and go missing from WHS. So i am trying to trouble shoot and came across this post. I figure i either have a batch of bad drives, a bad controller card or perhaps it is this head parking issue. THe ears drives are jumpered (7/8). I have had no issues other than normal drive failure witht eads drives. If i have all WD drives do i still have to boot (with the DOS disk) one at a time ? Thanks for any assitance.

Techvet February 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm


Glad you found the thread. RAID users have noted issues where the RAID controllers drop the EARS drives and yes, the culprit is reported to be the Intellipark feature. I have not read where the head parking causes problems with WHS systems, but perhaps it is a combination of the controller and the EARS drives. Nevertheless, disabling the feature reportedly solves the problem for the RAID folks, so I’d definitely give it a try. Despite having all WD drives, I’d still recommend resetting the drive timers individually. Let us know how this works for you.

dave Mayhew February 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Tried all weekend to get a bookdisk to work. THe whs is headless and also has no optical drive. It sits in a corner in the basement. So have to bring it up stairs (find monitor, keyboard mouse and attach a samsung USB dvd drive). Burn the iso for the bootdisk and it doesnt work. Tried to use a usb drive as well , to no avail. Seems like it doesnt like the disk. MB is gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H – pia . Also the machine seems to run fine upstairs sitting on my desk. As soon as i put it back downstairs and plug it in to the batter backup unit, it wont take long for the drives to go missing. Very strange.

George February 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I just bought a WD20EARS to add to my EX 485. I am really glad I found this thread because I felt like I was on a treasure hunt for a while to nail down all the variables involved in using it on WHS v1.

Since I am adding a pool drive, I simply jumpered the drive and added it to my pool. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a way to use wdidle3 since the only internal sata card I own is inside my WHS. I tried to use my laptop with a USB enclosure but wdidle3 doesn’t recognize it. Has anyone been able to use wdidle3 via USB? Could I boot my EX 485 from a USB stick with only the new drive inserted? I am reluctant to mess around with the server itself but if I need to I will.

I went ahead and installed the new drive anyway to see how much of an issue it will really be knowing that I can update the setting later.

My existing WD10EADS has an LCC of 62 after about 2 years. My existing WD20EADS has an LCC of 101,986 after about a year and a half (just under 9 LCC per hour). I am hoping that the new WD20EARS will not be worse….but I don’t have my hopes up since it is at 22 after about 20 minutes.

Brandon February 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm

You can keep the drive in your WHS box – just make a bootable DOS USB stick and put the wdidle3 utility on it and boot from the stick.

You *might* have to temporarily switch your SATA controller from AHCI to IDE mode for wdidle3 to see the drive, just don’t forget to switch it back if you have to change it.

George February 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

I have an HP MSS that is headless. I’m not sure I would be able to pull it off blind…and if I screwed something up I would probably be looking at a server restore. Or am I missing something?

Haje Korth February 14, 2011 at 9:50 am

I am in the same boat in that I am not sure how to work this on an MSS server, especially for drives in my external USB enclosure tower. I do not have a spare machine readily available. So I am still looking for an easier solution.

Brandon February 14, 2011 at 10:54 am

I never recommend trying *anything* in the BIOS without being able to see what’s going on. Every BIOS is configured differently, even between different versions on the same machine.

There is no easier solution AFAIK. Sometimes you just need to be in a “simple” OS like DOS without Windows looking at and limiting what you can poke around in.

One alternative that exists is to use an IPKVM solution so you can get keyboard/video/mouse on another computer over the network (think RDP, but based in hardware and accessible no matter what OS the machine is running). But that equipment lies in the server realm and therefore even the “cheap” ones are not cheap, so I wouldn’t consider that easy.

Techvet February 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I’m not sure you can get WDIDLE3 to run on the MSS and I’m 100% sure you won’t get it done without a monitor and keyboard. You’d be better served by pulling your hard drive(s) and taking it/them to a friend’s PC and running the program from there. Opening the case and attaching the cables will take longer than using the program to make the changes. Even if you had 3-4 drives, I seriously doubt you’d have more than 15 minutes invested total.

Brandon February 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Definitely if you have another machine with SATA/ESATA, that’s the easiest way to go. My response was under the assumption there wasn’t another SATA-enabled machine available.

dave Mayhew February 16, 2011 at 5:58 am

Hi still stuggling with trying to use this wdidle tool. I can boot the dosboot disk successfully via an attached USB cdrom drive to my whs (and added a screen and keyboard and mouse. However now when i try to load the freedos to get the wdidle app, it does not recognize a usb cdrom, it only seems to recognize a sata attached cdrom. So close but no cigar. I guess there is no driver for a usb cdrom drive on the cd? Appreciate the article and the help.

dave Mayhew February 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

Completed the WDIDLE3 on my WHS (took sata DVD drive from my deskop). worked like a charm. note you can do all your drives assuming you have enought sata ports. I did 7 drives, 4 at one shot and 3 the next time. (note: i have three drives on a Supermicro SAS controller AOC-SASLP-MV8 and they are not recognized until put on the MB directly). If you use wdidle3.exe /R it shows you what your drives are currently setup re: the timer (mined showed 8.0 secs) and if you enter wdidle3.exe /D is then it disables the timer on your drives. Re-wired everything back together again and re-booted. Soon after boot i lost one of the WD20EARS drives running off the Supermicro computer. Starts as an error message in WHS system events as basically a timeout, which is the problem that lead me to this article. So perhaps its back to the drawing board on the problem (now have to suspect the controller card). At least this heading parking issue should be stopped. Thanks again for the article.

Brandon February 16, 2011 at 10:41 am

For the benefit of others who run into the same issue Dave did:
Generally speaking bootable DOS CD/DVDs use floppy emulation, which means it boots a floppy image of the DOS boot disk.

On boot, the contents of the floppy image mount as drive A:, just like it was a real floppy, while the data content of the CD/DVD remain as if it was on an inserted CD/DVD.

When DOS boots, the CD/DVD-ROM driver in CONFIG.SYS (CDROM.SYS, ATAPI.SYS, SCSI drivers, etc) loads the device driver, and the Microsoft CD Extensions (MSCDEX.EXE) gives the drive a letter.

Without the previous two steps all you get is what’s on the DOS floppy image.

WDIdle3 is tiny, so you can put the executable on the DOS floppy image itself using a tool like WinImage, rather than on the data section of the CD/DVD. Then you don’t have to mess with the CD/DVD driver and MSCDEX – the WDIdle3 utility will be on the virtual A: drive with the DOS boot files.

BTW for the non-old-school-ers who may not know, all you absolutely need to boot DOS is COMMAND.COM, IO.SYS and MSDOS.SYS

Or, if you use a bootable USB key, it can be made bootable as a hard drive, rather than using floppy emulation, then everything is in one place. I use this method as it gives me more space and keeps me from having to burn a disc each time I make changes.

Phill December 11, 2011 at 2:24 am

Dave, I was wondering how did you solve your problem. Because I think my server is having the same symptoms as you described. I have 6 HD attached to the Mobo and 3 harddrives are connected to the Supermicro SAS controller AOC-SASLP-MV8. I read about the Advanced Format but it was already to olate, I had already 2 WD20EARS en 1 WDEAD running. The EARS didn’t have the jumpers set and they are full of data. I used Wdidle on a bootable CD using an EXT CDrom Drive. The drive attached to the SATA controller of the Mobo could be reached fine but the HD’s in my Backplane who are connected thru the SAS controller could not be found by wdidle, so I had to add them to the mobo’s controller first. There was one EARS drive attached to the AOC-SASLP-MV8 and now I can not boot my server anymore and thesame timeout problems of the controller appear : AOC-SASLP-MV8 timing out – The device, \Device\Scsi\mv64xx1, did not respond within the timeout period. I also have a JRAID error 117: “The driver for device \Device\Scsi\JRAID1 detected a port timeout due to prolonged inactivity. All associated busses were reset in an effort to clear the condition”. With the EARS drive in place the server hangs. Even with the drive removed the server is booting so slow that it takes hours to reach the logon prompt. When I try to logon with my administrator account , the desktop never loads. the only thing I can do is ctrl-alt -del which brings up the standard WHS dialog, but none of the buttons work (logoff, logon, ect). I pulled out the EARS Drive and hook it up on my laptop and can’t even access the drive or see if anything is on it. When you pull out a drive from WHS that is not properly removed from the pool, is it normal that you don’t see anything on it, or should I still see my data ? I was wondering how did you fix your problem ?

effendenby February 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I am a newbie at this stuff. I am not sure if there is anything wrong with my network so what would be indications that the drives are not playing well together?
I have 3 of the WD 2TB Green 5400RPM 64MB SATA drives with the original factory shipped hdd in a EX470. With that I have 2-Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB hdds in a 2 bay eSATA hdd ThermalTake BlackX Duet plugged into the eSATA port and I also have a 500GB IDE hdd attached via USB.

dave Mayhew February 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Sounds to me that you dont have Advanced Format Drives (denoted by EARS in the model description from WD re: WD20EARS). I havent had any problems (other than normal HDD issues with EADS drives). If you are not experiencing drives dropping from the storage pool or other slow performance issues then you ok.

effendenby February 19, 2011 at 5:57 pm

3xWD20EARS…followed recommended procedure of removal, installed jumpers on 7-8 and re installed. Just restarting the system now.

The only real issue that I have/have noticed is the % of Network utilization if more than 2 downloads happening at the same time. I have no idea how 4 or more users accessing would be able to work. Any suggestions?

M Kroes February 28, 2011 at 2:13 am

I’ve added a wd20ears to my hp datavault x510 this weekend following the procedure. It works perfect.
Maybe a little note: after i installed a jumper onto my drive, the x510 wouldn’t recognise it. A first had to format it in my win7 pc and create a new mbr. after that, it worked fine.

hawkmanyc June 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

hi all

Anyone have any experience with these going into a mediasmart 495???
Barracuda® Green Desktop Hard Drives
Model ST2000DL003 SATA 6Gb/s 2 TB 64MB
Seagate SmartAlign™ technology simplifies your transition to the Advanced Format (AF), 4K standard. There is no need for time-consuming integration utilities required by similar AF drives.
do i need to go through the process
i can leave the boot drive and just add these for storage

guillermo June 16, 2011 at 7:33 am

did you find a reply?? i just installed a barracuda green 2 tb in my hp mediasmart server and now I’m panicking that I may loose my data!

effendenby June 16, 2011 at 8:24 am

I have had no problems with the 3 – WD20EARS 2TB Green HDDs that I have in my EX470. I still have the factory 500GB HDD but I am seriously thinking of adding a 4th 2TB Green WD20EARS in the first bay and use the factory HDD elsewhere. fyi: I did put the jumper on each of the 2 TB HDDs. Drives are balanced nicely. Everything works great.

hawkmanyc June 16, 2011 at 7:47 am

I have not been able to find any data
I have called Seagate believe it or not they don’t have any more specs then is on site- I particularly asked about the head park feature-they don’t know
Hp will not give any input beyond they don’t support it
I can format the drive in w7 to use 512 sectors
I’m going to use them but still burning and testing them 3 or so full loads and deletions cycles so very time consuming
Ill report in a month or so
Good luck and please report your results


guillermo June 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Well, the thing is…. I don’t know what behavior I should expect if something’s not working well. So far, I have added the hardrive as is… rigght out of the box into the HP Mediasmart server’s 2nd bay. I installed it as a “pool” drive as opposed to a “server back up” drive. The Mediasmart server formated it and added the total disk capacity to the pool available for storage. I wrote stuff to it, but ii’s hard to know what went where. So far I have been able to read all my data. My question is… what will happen when I turn the server off? It really never occurred to me that newer disks would have problems with HP mediasmart servers. I just bought a reasonably large one (2 TB) and jammed it in.

Can anyone give me suggestions as to what to do? should I run diagnostics? should I back up everything immediately and remove the seagate barracuda green? should I just let it be and be assured that my data will stay where it is?

Alex Kuretz June 17, 2011 at 8:22 am

The most common side affect is poor disk performance. This guide covers what you should do to properly use Advanced Format drives with WHS. You can use the “Remove” button in the Home Server Console to safely remove the drive from the storage pool, shut down the server, physically remove the drive, then follow the guide.

guillermo June 17, 2011 at 9:06 am

My learning curve is steeping out quite a bit. I read the post and paid better attention to a few details.

My HP mediasmart came with a 750 GB which has always been the system drive. I made the ill-informed decition of adding a seagate barracuda green 2TB as a pooled drive. Some data has been recorded to the disk in excess of the original 750 GB, therefore I’m sure there is data in the new barracuda, but I don’t know which… coz the whole capacity is seen as a single pool, right?

Now after rereading your post, it seems that what I need to do is buy a new hard drive – this time a WD EARS – and install it “jumped” into my server without further due. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that since I won’t be changing my system drive, I do not need to use Wdiddle or alignment procedures .

My question is… how do I safely remove my barracuda disk? I thought about just copying the files to an external HDD, but how do I know which files need to be moved over? Should I just “ADD” a WD disk and then “remove” the barracuda? What happens to the files in the barracuda when I remove it from the pool?? will those files automatically migrate to the WD?

The other issue is… can I fix the barracuda?? I am stuck with a HD that I can’t use now. Big bummer.

Gordon Currie June 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Re wdidle – This fixes the WD green drives tendency to go into idle. It has nothing to do with Advanced Format drives.

I will no longer use Seagate drives in WHS (three burned out in 18 months, all system drives) and will probably swap my WD drives for Samsung F4 (I have one right now and it needs no jumper. It did need a firmware upgrade but most likely all shipping now are updated).

guillermo June 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Gordon, thanks for your advice. Now that I know better, I’ll make better informed decisions when I need another drive. My problem now is how do I get out of barracuda (if at all necessary) without losing data.

hawkmanyc made a good point below: seagate is including “smaralign technology”, which reportedly solves the missalignment problem. Here’s a FAQ sheet:

I’ll try to run wdidle.

hawkmanyc June 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I had initially just placed the drive in the server and everything seemed to work ok –media collector is just not powerful enough for me so I have issues with the box already
I didn’t benchmark speed
And if I understand the problem correctly it is that there is deterioration of the data base over time-not a good thing
So I am as well looking for best practies

Alex Kuretz June 17, 2011 at 8:18 am

This guide is a full documentation of the best practices in regards to Advanced Format drives with Windows Home Server. What additional specific questions do you have that aren’t covered by the guide?

hawkmannyc April 22, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hi Alex

the documentation in the stream is directly related to the wd Green drives are the same factors in play with the Seagate barracuda greens
regardless of the Seagate “smaralign technology”,

If I upgrade to whs11 can I use the new 3&4 tb Drives???
will the hardware in a 495 be enough to handle the load


hawkmanyc June 17, 2011 at 10:31 am

Hi Alex

This Information stream relates directly to the WD drive
The Seagate drives I have (supposedly) has a built in alignment tool
So my specific questions are
1-do I need to do anything ?
2- Can I just format the drive in w7 to use 512 sectors-and be done?
3-do i need to jumper the drives?
Can’t find data on IntelliPark function-or whatever Seagate calls it for this drive- if it exists
Btw, I am using these drives for storage not boot
I had installed them and they were recognized and functioning well-but pulled them because hp Scared me and was looking for a workaround
My concern as is everyone’s is long-term data integrity
So that’s where I am

drive info
Barracuda® Green Desktop Hard Drives
Model ST2000DL003 SATA 6Gb/s 2 TB 64MB
Seagate SmartAlign™ technology simplifies your transition to the Advanced Format (AF), 4K standard. There is no need for time-consuming integration utilities required by similar AF drives

guillermo June 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

here’s a FAQ sheet about the smartalign technology.

Strategerizer September 4, 2011 at 2:55 am

The remaining Caviar Green EADS drives on the market are getting pretty pricey… Can I avoid these issues if I get a Caviar Blue, like the WD10EALX. It does not say that this has Advanced Format?


Strategerizer September 4, 2011 at 3:09 am

To clarify the above… more specifically I was looking at this drive:

My googling shows this drive is likely not AFD… so would I be able to use it without having to go through the effort of jumpering or removing the parking feature of the green caviar?

BrandonH September 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

According to the WD model sheet at

It seems only the Caviar Green drives are Advanced Format.

Strategerizer September 4, 2011 at 11:37 am

So is it indeed easier then to just get a new Caviar Blue or Caviar Black and not worry about any of these issues? I know that the Blue/Black are a bit more expensive than the Green but I think not enough to justify the elaborate workarounds and the risk of something going wrong.

BrandonH September 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm

There are 3 issues in play:

1. 4K sectors aka Advanced Format, needs alignment or poor performance results. WD drives require use of the WDAlign utility for use in Server 2K3 and therefore WHSv1. Formatting them in an aligned-OS won’t work because WHSv1 erases and reformats drives upon adding them to the storage p\pool.

Getting a Caviar Blue or Caviar Black will avoid this issue.

This issue does NOT affect data integrity. You can use an AF drive without alignment and your data is still safe. The drive will simply perform more slowly than if it was aligned.

2. Caviar Green drives potentially have an issue with excessive head load/unloads in some OSes. This is known as the Idle3 timer issue or Load Cycle Count issue.

This is not supposed to be an issue in drives directly-attached to Windows, but can be an issue in drives used in a RAID-type storage device attached to Windows.

Getting a Caviar Blue or Caviar Black should avoid this issue, as the Idle3 timer is also specific to the Green drives, though it is important to remember that this is a completely separate thing from AF.

Another solution is to find the WDIdle3 utility (try to get v1.05 or if not, v1.03) which is a utility to change the Idle3 timer that requires a pure DOS boot (ie, Command Prompt WILL NOT work), and disable or set the timer to a longer timeout. This of course requires a machine that can boot into pure DOS and has a SATA controller that DOS can see.
Not all SATA controllers work for this. Most on-board SATA controllers and non-RAID add-in cards should work. My Silicon Image add-in controller doesn’t. Maxtor/Promise SATA controller does, as does my Nvidia ION motherboard’s built-in controller.

This issue does NOT affect data integrity *on* the drive. HOWEVER, it does affect the life of the drive itself. The heads are rated to be loaded/unloaded a specific number of times over the drive’s lifetime, so an excessive load/unload count may cause the drive to fail earlier.

3. WHSv1 does not support GPT volumes for the storage pool, therefore 2TB is the maximum usable space for a physical disk.
This happens no matter what drive you get.

CButter’s original workaround/hack addresses this.

With the workaround/hack done properly, this issue also does NOT affect data integrity, though it is possible that some future WHSv1 update or Power Pack may break the hack and cause any sort of WHS failure and potentially the inability to access your data.

Hope that helps shed more light on things. :)

WLynn September 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm

First EX490 with stock drive plus a seagate 1Tb then 6 2TB EARS (mediasonic enclosure (esata))
Been having corruption/chkdsk problems…backup service not running.
I decided to try what was listed here…
Had a retro-nightmare technology spree…. great boot to DOS, grabbed my HTPC, created a boot cd per instructions….a no-go (repeat several times) turned out bad dvd-rom…grrr. Dragged out from the depths of my closet …wait…. a floppy drive… ok… worked:
New 2tB EARS.. jumper 7-8 ,wdidle..ok,
Remove drive done (but not enough space)…wait an hour…
remove drive place in new……
WHS did not give the option of adding the drive for duplication, only server backup or increasing drive space, despite the fact that at that moment shared folder space is greater than the duplicated space.
So now I see 1.86TG free space …..but I want this drive for folder duplication…any ideas….
I am rebooting but it takes quite awhile boot… I will console and check the logs.
Please forgive any incoherency as a shipment of sake has arrived and it is looking better than HD calisthenics…

BrandonH September 5, 2011 at 3:41 am

You need to tell WHS which (shared) *folders* you want to have duplicated. It manages which drives are used for duplication data on its own.

Jimbo November 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I have an ex490 with the stock Green 1TB system drive failing. I’ve added other green drives to the pool over time but not until well after using the system drive for the first few months.

Anyway, even though setup was easy, i’m not a techie to deal with all the modifications necessary to deal with the advance format issue for a new green drive. I see my path of least resistance are to get a Caviar Blue or Black to replace system drive to avoid AF issue or get a green EARS drive and use jumpers? And if i understand the process correctly, the jumpers avoids all the other steps needed to make it work – just add the jumpers and then begin process of server recovery?

Thanks for any help or insights.

Techvet December 1, 2011 at 4:25 am

You can’t do the jumper trick on system drives. They have two partitions and jumpered drives must have a single partition for the trick to work. So if you’re not keen on doing the realignment, then you best option is to go with a non-AF drive as your system drive. Now if you’re talking about the pooled drives, then yes, the jumpers will work just fine.

Jimbo December 1, 2011 at 6:16 am

Would the Caviar Blue or Black work just fine for the system drive then?

Thanks again.

Techvet December 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Yes, they should. I haven’t shopped for drives that much here of late so I don’t know what’s currently being offered. Just make sure that whatever drive model you end up with is NOT advanced format.

Joe_Miner December 7, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I recently installed an advanced format WD20EARX as my system drive — doing a server rest and applying the WD alignment tool in windows.

I recently wrote up my experience here:

Everything seems to work OK — in fact better than OK. Has anyone had problems with the AF OS drives in a EX487 over time? Any problems I should be looking out for?


Justin February 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hi Alex,

Brilliant article! – seriously valuable to us all, thank you.

I’ve been using 3 x 2TB WD20EARS drives in my WHS v1 machine for 12 months now without a hitch (touch wood). They all use the jumpering method.

Interestingly during a conversation with HP today, whilst fixing a friend’s X510, HP insisted that despite jumpering or aligning these disks, they will never be suitable as any kind of drive in WHS v1 – in fact they go onto say that there is a ‘white paper’ around somewhere on the subject.

Alex Kuretz February 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Thanks for the comments, but we have to thank TechVet for the article. :) I suspect HP support was referring to the Knowledgebase article from Microsoft saying that WHS doesn’t support Advanced Format drives.

Philip McDunnough April 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm

If you install WHS 2011 on an HP MediaSmart EX490 then is it safe to use AF drives? That is, is there something about the HP hardware which precludes the use of such drives ( like some bios issues, etc…), or is it just an OS issue?


Techvet April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

WHS 2011 is a newer OS and AF drives should work just fine right out of the box. The HP hardware is not a factor.

Joe May 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm

OK . . . I just ordered a new WD 2TB green drive (WD20EARX) which I was planning to use to replace my failing system drive in my EX487. Do I still need to worry about disabling Intellipark? Or can I just do a factory restore onto the drive, then run the alignment tool and call it a day? Thanks!

Glenn June 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Great information here, well presented – thanks!
My question is, will this process work as a Restore, instead of a Reset?

My HP487 V1 system drive has died (verified in an external Sata/USB dock, fails Seatools basic test, data/partitions are sometimes visible, sometimes not). I know that my Data drive is still good, and have copied critical data from it to external drive.

I’d like to replace the system drive with a WG Caviar Green drive but don’t know the best scenario to follow:

Can I follow the steps outlined in the article but doing a server Restore (instead of a Reset), keeping my data drive mounted (and safe)? (It seems to me that it should work, right?)

Or, do I need to pull my data drive and do a Reset, go through the steps above (wdidle3, Acronis…) then shut down, insert the data drive, boot up and do a Restore? Will my data survive?


I’d REALLY rather not have restore the data from my external drive back onto my 2nd (still-working data) drive, so a Reset scenario makes me a little nervous – I can’t tell, after hours of poking around online, if my data drive is going to get reformatted in the process or not, or will the System drive pick up its “mirroring” function again…?

I’m not worried about getting through the adjustments necessary to get a Green drive to work as a System drive, but I am in the dark about the restore/reset issues I might run into. (What I really want to hear is, “Sure, do it as a restore, no prob…” )

Any advice, encouragement, would be Greatly Appreciated.
Thanks -

Techvet June 13, 2012 at 7:41 am

A Server Restore or Factory Reset should pretty much work the same way. However, my experience has been that the Reset procedure offers the surest way to get your data back on the server with no worries. Way back I tried the Server Restore route and wasn’t at all happy with the results. I did not loose any data, but I wasn’t successful either. Coincidentally, one of my storage HDD started failing over this past weekend. I elected to do a Factory Reset and am almost finished copy the data over. Regardless of how you look at it, it is very time consuming – even if done piecemeal.

Glenn June 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thank you – I appreciate your timely response. I just rcvd my new drive, have wdidle3′d it, and will see what happens tonight or tomorrow when I move forward. Whether I do the Factory Reset or attempt a Restore will ultimately depend on my confidence in my external drive – that it has everything, and will serve it back up when I attempt the big drag and drops required to move 360gig of data onto a reset server.
Thanks again for your insights.
– g

Glenn July 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I followed your steps carefully, successfully, and ended up running the Restore – figured I had nothing to lose, and perhaps something to gain – time. The Restore ran in just fine; I redid the few necessary settings, reinstalled the client machines and everybody was talking and sharing and getting on just like before the crash. Perhaps the most satisfying thing was waking up the next morning to find that backups had indeed run; life was good again, and the system (with its new Green system drive) has been running smoothly for almost a month now.

Finally, a day or so after it was back up and stable, I shut it down, tore it apart (nothing scary there, but having pix helped) and cleaned and oiled the fans – much quieter now.

Thanks for the solid support, the replies, and the amazing generosity of time, knowledge, and spirit that all make this site rock!

pmcdunnough July 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Does WHS 2011 deal with the larger than 2 TB issue? That is, will GPT drives be recognized by an HP EX490 that has WHS 2011 installed? For example could a 3TB drive be added to the drive pool?

With WHS 2011 what happens if one of your drives fail? Do you lose everything on the other drives?


BrandonH July 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

WHS 2011 doesn’t have Drive Extender and its dislike of GPT.

WHS 2011 seems to have little care about volume size, the OS controls the volumes as it would normally, and you just point your shares to the locations you want to share, much like normal Windows file-sharing.

WHS 2011 *does* seem to still have a 2TB limit for backup volumes though. Backup volumes are used for its automatic backup of shared folders. This 2TB limit is an annoyance for me as some of my shared folders are larger than 2TB, so I have to break them up into sub-2TB chunks to use the automatic backup.
(If someone has a workaround I’d be glad to hear it)

I’m using Drive Bender to pool drives for WHS 2011, no problems so far.

pmcd July 11, 2012 at 12:13 am

So could I add a 3TB drive (internal) to a WHS 2011 system and the OS will format it with all 3TB’s available?

No pooling? Does that mean a share can be no larger than the drive it lives on? Can shares point to different drives?

I currently can back up my HP EX490 by adding a Drobo to the backup list. The OS ( not the WHS console) sees the Drobo as a 16TB drive. It is formatted by a Drobo utility giving me just under 6TB’s of real space ( Server 2003 does recognize GPT drives). I can then back up all my shares. If I were to go through with this Acer RC111 WHS 2011 purchase then it would be really weird to not have the method of backup. Currently I do not have automatic backups but rather a manual one through the WHS console ( to the Drobo). So I don’t understand this 2TB limit. Doesn’t make sense!

Perhaps it’s time to give the Synology a closer look.


BrandonH July 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

Aside from the Dashboard GUI, shared storage management in WHS 2011 works the same as it does in your Server 2003 machine. Drives are just drives, there’s no fancy storage pool.

I have a two pairs of Drobos, that sit “behind” Drive Bender, so WHS 2011 itself sees two huge 32TB disks. So to be clear, there’s no limit on the size of drives WHS 2011 can use for shares and regular data usage. In that respect, it’s just “base” Server 2008.

WHS 2011 has an “automatic” share backup feature where you can add a disk as a “backup drive” and you specify which shared folder(s) you want to back up to it. That’s where the 2TB limit comes in.

For whatever reason (that I still don’t understand), the WHS 2011 native backup has a 2TB limit. I may be mistaken on where it lies (haven’t gone through it recently) – it’s either that you can’t back up a _share_ that has more than 2TB of data, or you can’t back up _to_a_drive_that’s_larger_than_2TB. Either way, it seems odd to me.

If you already have another backup mechanism that works in Server 2008, then it ought to work fine in WHS 2011. The 2TB limit ONLY applies to the native automatic share backup function that WHS 2011 has.

BrandonH July 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Oh, wrt to drive failure – in WHS2011 has no built-in fault tolerance so you’d lose whatever was on that drive.

If you have the automatic backup set up, then you’d have a backup of shares on that drive that were set to back up, but that’s it.

Both the drive pooling and duplication went away when Drive Extender was ditched.

David November 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I am doing a factory restore of an EX490 with WD advanced format drives. As stated above, the System Drive ends up with 2 partitions…the OS and a Data partition (i.e. landing area).

Question: Is the advice in this article to align both partitions of the system drive? And if yes, when in the factory reset process should this be done? Once the factory reset is completed and before doing any server setup, there is only an OS partition on the System Drive…the Data partition first shows up on the System Drive later in the install process.

Techvet November 19, 2012 at 7:28 am

The alignment will affect both partitions when you do it. As for timing, it’s best to do it before you start migrating any data to the server. I’ve aligned the system drive before I completed set-up as well as after completing it. Either way it works just fine.

David November 23, 2012 at 1:59 am

Thanks, Techvet. Appreciate it.

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