Seagate 7200.10 AAK firmware performance issues!

Hello readers!

I'm writing an article about Seagate's 7200.10 disks with AAK-firmware. Apparently, this firmware has much lower sequential throughput than other firmware like AAE and AAC. I can even say some panic has arisen from the fact that people had one of those AAK disks and were unhappy with its performance. The number of reports on the internet is growing and I'm investigating their claims.

My question to you, readers, is if you have an AAK drive or other firmware? For me it is important to know how widespread the problem is. Only vote if you have a Seagate 7200.10 drive!

Also, i would to ask owners of said disk the following questions:
- Do you have any problems or concerns about the performance of your drive?
- Have you run benchmarks after having bought the drive?
- If so, have you noticed any degraded performance?


Thank you for reading. I will update the topic when i have more information. As of the moment of writing i can confirm the performance issues with AAK-drives! AAK-disks appear to be quite slower than AAE disks. I am currently doing exhaustive and thorough benchmarks and integrating that into an article. I've also written to Seagate asking to respond to the issues.

Some people claim Seagate had offered to take back disks with AAK-firmware even though the disks were error-less. This could mean that they recognize the performance problems with the disk. One user also said he got a reply from Seagate saying that the disks were crafted for a specific OEM customer and that it was not possible to update the firmware of AAK-disks to AAE or other, because of physical difference between the two drives.

Oops! :(
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More about seagate 7200 firmware performance issues
  1. I have a home server I set up with a RAID 5 array on a 3Ware 9650SE. I currently have 3 Seagate 7200.10 750GB drives, one drive has AAK firmware, the other 2 have AAE firmware.

    I have not noticed any performance degradation of the array specifically because I always access the server over the network, and Gigabit Ethernet transfers at only about 30 MB/sec. Local testing with HD Tach shows the array doing almost exactly 90MB/sec reads across the entire array, which seems low to me, as the controller is a PCIe x4 controller in a PCIe x16 slot, on a 945G chipset. I should expect mid to high 100's of MB/sec in this setup.

    If you can confirm that Seagate will trade out AAK firmware drives for AAE firmware drives, I'd like to switch mine out and see if performance improves.
  2. Hm well performance in RAIDs is trickier, since a lot more factors are involved. But yeah you could see performance improvements with AAE-only. But if you keep using gigabit then it will not matter in practice.

    Yet if people bought a 'next generation perpendicular Seagate disk' expecting it to perform admirably, they might feel taken by Seagate. They will get a disk that does not perform as expected in numerous benchmarks over the net. Especially the drop in STR is inexcusable - at least that's what i think.
  3. How to I find out which firmware I have? I do have the 7200.10 and it makes some weird high pitched clicking noises sometimes.
  4. The noises might just be calibrations and could be perfectly normal. You can view your current firmware version:

    - on the disk itself, it will say 3.AAE or 3.AAK
    - during the POST/BIOS possibly
    - with a hardware identify application, like Everest or SiSoftware Sandra and probably a lot more utilities
  5. Speedfan will tell you what firmware it uses. Click on the SMART tab, then look just a bit down from the top on the right side. Mine says Firmware:3.AAC. I've never benched this harddrive, it works fine as far as I'm concerned.
  6. Question: is the loss in sequential throughput a tradeoff for improved access times, or are those about the same or worse than other firmware revisions? Because I would gladly trade faster access times for less throughput... at least based on my experience with various drives and RAID setups.

    -mcg
  7. Thanx guys. Turns out I do have the 3.AAK firmware.

    Not knowing squat about hard drive performance I couldn't tell you if I'm having any performance issues. It's also my first SATA drive so I can't compare it to anything else. Any programs I can run to test what effect it's having?
  8. In XP, simply go to device manager, double-click on your drive to get to the properties page, then the details tab. Under 'device instance id', look after the first long set of underscores and you will see your firmware rev.
  9. I have two 400GB 7200.10 rev 3.AAC drives. Burst speed is ~95MB/s and average speed is ~65MB/s. random access time is ~15.8ms

    I think this is normal, right?
  10. i have 4x 7200.10 drives with the aae firmware, in a raid 0 configuration, my performance is astounding and is never a problem, i don't generally run benchmarks on it myself but the "feel" of the speed is there (bootup, games loading ect)
  11. You can see the firmware version from device manager (to bring that up, run devmgmt.msc). Next bring up the property page for the disk drive. From the details tab, select "Device Instance Path". There will be a bunch of underscores then the firmware version. Mine is 3.AAE.

    Two questions: (1) is there a small disk drive benchmark program downloadable somewhere? and (2) how do you know if NCQ is available/actually being used? There is a bit of uncertainty whether this drive actually has NCQ.
  12. An example HDtune screenshot of an AAK disk:


    As you can see, the disk does not perform as expected. It more or less has a straight line (horizontal) and only begins to fall from 80% of the capacity. It almost seems like there is a 'cap' on the disk.

    A normal score for the 7200.10 disk is:


    Here it begins to slide nicely down, as it should. The AAE disk appears to match the speed of AAK at 80% of the capacity - where the speed drops below 58MB/s.

    I first was inclined to believe the HDTune were giving wrong impressions because of lack of read-ahead which the AAK disk may have needed. Yet even with maximum read-ahead i could not move this disk faster. I did real-world copy tests like extracting a WinRAR archive with lot's of small files - not exactly something that needs high sequential performance. That was half a second slower too. The AAK needed 4:02 minutes while the AAE disk needed only 3:35. These benchmarks were run at least 5 times - i did very thorough testing.

    There are some cases where the AAK disk manages to get a small lead over the AAE drive, but the occasions are few. Overall i could say the AAK disk appears 15-20% slower than AAE. To me the questions is: WHY? Why would Seagate cripple their own cash cow? It doesn't make any sense to me. Yet i feel customers now buy disks believing it has the performance level they read in the reviews, while actually they get the performance level of a generation backwards. Not really what you paid for.

    That said, there appears to be no reliability issues with the disk -- no bad sectors or any sign of reduced lifespan. They are also most likely not rebadged Maxtor disks, since they both feature the exact same size in sectors -- unless Seagate has gone to great lengths trying to obfuscate their operation. I'm still unsure why AAK even exists, and why it's so much slower.
  13. Reading your posts it strikes me that maybe the AAK is not actually the same design or possibly not even a Seagate drive. It could be from another disk drive maker with Seagate's name stamped on it or a new design with a different number of platters or something of that nature. That would explain why the firmware is not interchangeable and the performance graphs are so different. Take a look at the two drives physically next to each other; do they have the same identical enclosure & circuit board layout? That could provide a clue.
  14. I also thought of that. The disks physically look the same, though i will do another careful inspection. But the sector count is exactly the same. If they are different disks, they should be different. Seagate might have 'capped' the AAK disk to the sector count of AAE disks - that is a possibility.

    But all mechanical harddisks should have a falling graph in HDTune - the AAK one just looks capped or crippled. It just does not make any sense to me. The most probable explanation is that AAK is made for a specific purpose - such as databases or any of that. But i haven't been able to find the type of I/O it's really good at. It's more or less.. wanting.
  15. I have one of each, and I have confirmed (before ever seeing this post) that they are different. I read about it on Storagereview awhile back.

    I have an AAE drive purchased OCT/11/2006, and an AAK purchased JUL/2/2007. The AAE is my boot drive, AAK is a storage drive. Both are SATA drives. Neither has any SMART errors, and they never have. No bad sectors either.

    I have had no errors or problems with either drive. I have made no attempt to contact Seagate or to exchange the AAK, as I don't really want to be without its capacity for the time a return would take. As long as there are no problems, I will probably just keep it.

    Here are my HDTune results, using the program's default settings.


  16. Update: My article has finished, i ran over 10 different benchmarks and the conclusions are pretty interesting.

    To read the article, click here:
    http://www.fluffles.net/articles/seagate-AAK-firmware

    Now hope Seagate releases information and offer to exchange AAK drives, since it's not possible to update the AAK firmware.
  17. Thanks for this post. I'm having much better results in my RAID 0 setup after replacing the AAK drives I was using. The low performance was really bugging me and I couldn't figure out what was going on! More details at http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/243893-32-raid-performance-seagate-firmware

    Before: RAID 0 w/ 2x Seagate 320GB Barracuda, AAK firmware (ST3320620AS)
    http://img61.imageshack.us/img61/5168/before.th.png
    (flat graph, average read 86.4 MB/s)

    After: RAID 0 w/ 2x Western Digital 500GB RE2 RAID Edition (WD5000YS)
    http://img61.imageshack.us/img61/1595/after.th.png
    (Normal curved graph, average read 130.5 MB/s)
  18. nice info
  19. I have two Seagate 500GB 7200.10's with the AAK firmware bought 2 months apart from one another. One I got OEM from newegg and the other from fry's in the older "big" retail box and both were made in thailand. I was curious after reading about this whole firmware issue so I ran some test with a biostar tforce965PT board using the ICH8 controller in sataII "jumpers removed from drives".

    I dont know why but I am not seeing this "capped" effect.



  20. Hrm.. What if the CPU was the bottleneck, then would the hard drives still affect the performance? I'm thinking about a RAID 5. Some good quality used 750gB HDDs would be good. Provided cost + shipping was a good deal as opposed to new drives.

    Another question. Is this firmware on all sized drives in the 7200.10 family or only certain sizes?
  21. I have two 7200.10s. One with AAE bought December 2006, another AAK bought today. I'm rebuilding my RAID 1 (linux md) right now.

    I didn't notice the throughput cap. In fact the resync speed resembles the normal graphs shown above - stared at around 84000K/sec and slowly fell to around 65000K/sec (50% now as I'm typing this on that very box ;-))
  22. notice that in the HD Tune graphs all STR-challenged AAK access time samples are capped under ~20ms - could this be tuned for some realtime application or something?

    I have (1) non.AAK and (1) AAK, each 500g, but so far too lazy to connect the Thai AAK one. I am over-confident that the AAK one is differently abled - because I bought it from NewEgg, AND I eat my vegetables. That's clearly overwhelming proof! Besides, who's ever heard of a 'chinese fortune hard disk?' I'm thinking about just leaving the AAK sealed in its bag, so it's crunki-badness can't leak into my only good hard drive.
  23. ok heres mine one drive drive (the aac) is from newegg and the other (aak) is from wally world.

    aak


    aac


    So with this my aak is my boot drive with 2 partitons and i've never noticed any issues.

    oh i'm running sata 150 with these drives
  24. I currently am running a Seagate 7200.10 400GB model #ST3400620AS with firmware 3.AAE. I have the drive set up with Win. Vista Home Premium 32bit. For the most part, the drive seems to perform well, although, I often hear it running alot because of the indexing services in Vista or Windows Defender running when I first boot up. This does slow performance a bit. I did notice a feature for disk drives in Vista for improved performance. To find this go to Device Manger, click on your disk drive, then go under Policies. There you will find a check box under the Enable write caching on the disk, check this box. Also under the aformentioned check box is the Enable advanced performance check box, check this box as well. This second box was not enabled when I loaded Vista, and it is recomended that you have power redundancy in case of power failure, or you could lose data. Good Luck
  25. I just bought the 500 gig st3500630as with the AAK firmware from Fry's. My drive came with the jumper setting to cap it at the 1.5 gig transfer mode to make it compatible with some older chip sets. I completely removed the jumper and it greatly improved my performance.

    HD Tune: ST3500630AS Benchmark

    Transfer Rate Minimum : 38.6 MB/sec
    Transfer Rate Maximum : 70.0 MB/sec
    Transfer Rate Average : 60.8 MB/sec
    Access Time : 13.0 ms
    Burst Rate : 137.7 MB/sec
    CPU Usage : 2.2%
  26. Sorry. Here's my results after doing a re-boot and disabling wireless networking.

    HD Tune: ST3500630AS Benchmark

    Transfer Rate Minimum : 28.1 MB/sec
    Transfer Rate Maximum : 70.6 MB/sec
    Transfer Rate Average : 61.0 MB/sec
    Access Time : 13.1 ms
    Burst Rate : 150.1 MB/sec
    CPU Usage : 2.0%
  27. Very nice article. I purchased my AAK HD last Thursday. I'm not a big gamer; I do use my PC for video and graphic editing, but I haven't had any speed issues that have caused me to groan yet. My only concern at this point is a noise the 7200.10 makes. My PC temperature is fine, maybe even a bit on the cooler side (would this affect HDD noise or performance much? I know excessive heat is detrimental). To avoid being redundant, I'll link the post I left on an older thread in this forum:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/243788-32-seagate-7200-seek-noise

    Has anybody on this thread ever heard the noise from the AAK or other firmware versions? I don't want to return the thing and look like a hypochondriac if it's just a normal function of the drive. The PC is in a separate room so it won't wake me up at night.
  28. I thought I would add some experience with this issue that may be of help.

    I have a large SAN RAID unit at work, using 15x Seagate ST3750640NS drives (Barracuda ES, 750GB, SATA300, NCQ, 16M cache). The firmware on these drives is not the same as the desktop models, but is labeled similarly. While the desktop versions have 3.AAE or 3.AAK firmware (or other versions), my Barracuda ES drives have 3.AEE or 3.AEG firmware. Note the "E" in the middle character vice the "A", this probably notes the difference between the desktop drives and the ES drives.

    Anyway, I had a drive fail in my SAN last week, purchased another ST3750640NS to replace it, and it had 3.AEK firmware. As soon as the array was running on that drive, it showed a marked drop in performance. Now, this doesn't necessarily indicate an inherent problem with the 3.AEK firmware, but rather that the mismatch between the other 14 drives (on 3.AEE and 3.AEG) and the single 3.AEK drive was causing a problem.

    I called Seagate and ended up doing two things to resolve the issue, but found out a few things that are very interesting. First, the 3.AEK drive is not only different firmware, it's different hardware. Apparently, the controller board on that drive is a different, newer revision. This is evident in the internal Seagate part number. Drives with 3.AEE or 3.AEG firmware have a part number of 9BL148-301, while the drive with the 3.AEK firmware has a part number of 9BL148-303. Seagate told me that because the controller board is different, there is no way to flash the firmware to a matching version because no other firmware other than 3.AEK will run on that controller board.

    They offered to RMA the drive for me and give me a -301 drive with 3.AEE firmware so that it would match the rest of the drives in my SAN.

    They also gave me a password-protected web site where they have firmware flashers. The site was password-protected with a key that was tied to my technical support case number, and is only open for my password for 9 days. It also restricts me to downloading only the flasher specific for my drive model, and my requested firmware. He gave me the 3.AEG flasher, which I will use soon to flash all the 3.AEE drives in my array to 3.AEG, thus they will all match. He said that 3.AEG is the latest firmware for the -301 part.

    Even though all of this is in the context of Barracuda ES drives, I suspect that the overall issue is identical for the desktop drives using AAE and AAK firmware. i.e. The hardware is different, and flashers for the drives do exist but can't change AAK drives to AAE drives because of the different controller board.
  29. My one year old 7200.10 AAK began to get progressively noisier as time went on (it was never very quiet.)

    I RMAed it and Seagate sent me a "repaired" drive, another AAK.

    The replacement drive was still very noisy and the performance was disappointing. Someone sent me the "AAM" firmware and it increased the drive's performance slightly. The noise levels remained the same.

    The HD seek noise was driving me nuts in my living room, so I replaced the drive with a 500 GB WD GP.

    The GP is WAY quieter than the 7200.10, and it kicks the crap out of it performance wise, too. It also runs about 6 degrees C cooler than the 7200.10.

    The 7200.10 was my first Seagate drive in many years, and I have to say it was a big disappointment.

    I don't see myself buying Seagate again.
  30. Have to agree. Reviewers need to start including acoustic measurements in their benchmarking. The Seagate seek noise is just too much for many environments.
  31. enlightenment said:
    An example HDtune screenshot of an AAK disk:


    As you can see, the disk does not perform as expected. It more or less has a straight line (horizontal) and only begins to fall from 80% of the capacity. It almost seems like there is a 'cap' on the disk.

    A normal score for the 7200.10 disk is:





    I noticed the temps of your drives are different by quite a bit. [11c] Not sure how that temp is read if it means anything or not, but looking at all the other ones posted here none of the other ones show this discrepancy.
  32. No wonder I feel my 500GB disk is much slower than 750GB or even slower than 400GB drive from Seagate. I have this exact firmware!

    Seagate's quality really sucks bit time after buying Maxtor.
  33. I have a 7200.10 with the 3.aak firmware. I can tell you that I'm going on my 5th replacement this year. Spinrite showed every single one of these drives having 1000s of ECC and seek errors. This last one that is going back next week lasted only a week.
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