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Hard drive benchmarking

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October 7, 2009 10:04:02 AM

Hi I was just satisfying my curiosity and trying out some benchmarking on my drives using HD Tune 2.55, and I'm interested as to why my USB external drives and one sata drive perform at around 30-40MB per second transfer, while my SATA drive on which the OS resides only performs at around 3mb/sec transfer? Is this normal or is there some problem with the drive, given the considerable difference in data transfer speed? thanks
a b G Storage
October 7, 2009 1:40:18 PM

Run manufacturer hard disk diagnostics. That is too slow.

a c 127 G Storage
October 7, 2009 2:37:29 PM

If its a flat line paired with very high CPU utilization, its a PIO issue. Could you post a screenshot of the benchmark here?
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October 7, 2009 11:17:59 PM

I left the test going without anything running in the background, here is the screenshot
a c 127 G Storage
October 7, 2009 11:28:48 PM

Yeah that's probably a PIO issue. Go to the Device Manager and delete the controller serving that drive. Reboot and it should be found again, this time without using PIO.

PIO is a fail-safe mechanism when a problem occured. This may be nothing to wory about and just reset itself, it may also be a problem with cable connection or otherwise. The bad thing is, Windows offers no warning message when this happens, like a flashing balloon they use so often to remind their customers to activate their product. :) 
October 7, 2009 11:44:55 PM

did that and still same transfer rate as before
October 7, 2009 11:57:30 PM

also changed sata cable for good measure, same results
October 8, 2009 12:29:42 AM

undergoing a defrag right now, but shouldnt be too defragmented as its set on autodefrag when it detects fragmentation problems
October 8, 2009 9:34:22 AM

been defragmenting for like 12 hours and 66% complete, for a 120GB drive that seems quite excessive :S
a b G Storage
October 8, 2009 1:48:47 PM

Run a diagnostic...I bet the SMART test fails.
a b G Storage
October 8, 2009 1:50:46 PM

Ultimately it looks like your HDD is dying. It's a good idea to back it up ASAP.
October 8, 2009 2:20:43 PM

Smart test says its fine, the only thing in yellow is the reallocated sector count
a c 127 G Storage
October 8, 2009 3:31:09 PM

How many reallocted sectors drtanz? Because this is an age variable. A few won't matter but if you have hundreds of bad relocated sectors and more adding daily it indeed would be consistent with a failed drive.

Though i want to point out the slowness of the drive is caused by it running in PIO mode. It may run in PIO mode because it timeouts the requests its been given, though, so the ultimate curlpit may indeed be the disk dying. Either way i'd still would try to fix it. If the PIO issue is gone you should run the benchmark again and post it here. The slowness should be gone in that case.
a c 127 G Storage
October 8, 2009 3:31:53 PM

Oh and defragmenting has no effect at all. HDTune tests the raw surface; filesystem fragmentation will not affect these scores. So if HDTune gives a low raw read, your drive is not functioning properly.
October 8, 2009 6:18:29 PM

hmm yeah the tests are pretty much identical now to what i posted earlier. as regards to PIO I dont know what exactly it is, what i did was go into device manager and uninstall the disk, then restarted the pc and it found the drive again and installed it. was that what i had to do or something else?
October 8, 2009 6:19:26 PM

reallocated sectors 92 current 92 worst 62 treshold
a c 127 G Storage
October 8, 2009 6:43:47 PM

Look at the RAW value, these numbers are threshold values: 0 means your drive is virtually dead - 255 means perfect. Some values are meant to be lower than 255. If you look at the raw value you'll see "3" for example. This is the actual number of reallocated sectors - aka bad sectors that have been replaced by reserve sectors.
October 8, 2009 6:59:23 PM

ok got those from hd tune, where can i get the RAW value?

also was the uninstall procedure in device manager correct or should i have done something else? thanks
October 8, 2009 7:12:24 PM

actually i just realised that i might have done the uninstall procedure, so this time went into device manager and installed the sata controllers, did a restart but im seeing no improvements in the benchmarking results
a c 127 G Storage
October 8, 2009 7:22:18 PM

Are you sure you removed the right controller? Can you post a screenshot of the device manager with the properties of the controller you think is serving your drive?

It should have a Details tab with information about the SUPPORTED transfer mode (DMA) and the ACTUAL or CURRENT transfer mode, which i suspect is PIO.

In general, posting as much information, such as raw SMART info, will help you get more definite answers here. I'm a linux user so can't help you as much as i would like with windows specific issues, but there should be many free SMART monitoring applications for windows. If not you can always download an Ubuntu Linux cd, boot from it without installing anything, and use utilities available on the command line to test your drive.

A surface check can be done with the dd command:
dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/null bs=1M
This command will read from the device /dev/hda and write to the device /dev/null (nothing; so the data goes nowhere). You should change /dev/hda to the name of your harddrive, which can also be /dev/sda for example. This procedure is safe if you don't make any spelling errors in the command. So it won't destroy any data its just a read test. It won't output anything until its finished or encounters a read error.

To do a SMART poll, the following command can be used:
smartctl -a /dev/hda

This will also give you the raw SMART values i requested. After this just reboot your system and take the cd out of the drive, and you boot to Windows again.
a c 127 G Storage
October 8, 2009 7:24:28 PM



This is the controller properties screen i talked about. Here you can see if it is *actually* using DMA mode or if it is using PIO mode. The screen may be different for SATA controllers though, i can't tell.
October 8, 2009 7:50:42 PM

ok here are some screenshots from what ive been up to, showing the device manager stuff i was messing around with (unfortunately couldnt find the place where it says pio), and also the new benchmarking test, after i uninstalled the sata controller i did a restart as described earlier but nothing changed, then did another restart and got some better results, now the drive is reaching higher speeds but also fluctuating heavily as you can see






October 8, 2009 8:08:47 PM

another screenshot of benchmarking, this time without me doing other things on the pc. I was preparing the screenshots when doin the previous test :) 

a b G Storage
October 9, 2009 5:08:18 AM

That makes a huge difference, as you can see. Now, it's looking pretty close to right (it's still a bit odd, but not too far off).
October 9, 2009 7:16:37 AM

yes its much better, why does it dip in speed towards the end? is this normal?
October 9, 2009 8:45:00 AM

hm just noticed that when i start using this pc it gives an audible click and everything freezes. I have to restart the computer to get it back to work. This happens when im active on it for example working in dreamweaver, and doing some other thing in the background such as copying files from one hd to the other.
a c 127 G Storage
October 9, 2009 1:53:09 PM

Your drive is not just having some higher speeds; its using DMA mode now which is a world of difference. As a result, you can also see the CPU utilization drop and you should have less issues with moving the mouse being choppy, etc.

However, your HDD may still be faulty. You have 1630 bad sectors that have been replaced with reserve sectors. That's a pretty large number; and the danger is that if it keeps growing, the harddrive will run out of reserve sectors and that would mean the disk has to be replaced.

You can check if this number (1630) goes up of if it stays the same. If it stays this number, there's no immediate danger to your disk. However disks can die quite suddenly, so be sure you have a backup elsewhere on another disk of the stuff you don't want to loose.

If i understand correctly, this is your system drive though, so some fluctuation would be expected due to background I/O during benchmarking. This can be seen especially due to the higher seek rates (the yellow dots) - in the last picture you posted these are more consistent than the picture before.
October 10, 2009 8:58:16 AM

thanks, would the freezing issue be connected to the hard drive as well, or is it some other component which would typically cause this failure?
a c 127 G Storage
October 10, 2009 2:17:36 PM

Could you describe the freezing in detail? Freezing can happen if the I/O is slow to respond, which is virtually always the case when using PIO mode.

Do you still have the freezing after enabling DMA mode to the disks? In the last screenshot you posted, the PIO issue has to be gone.
October 10, 2009 7:47:48 PM

yes this happens with or without pio. I can leave the pc on all day playing music or playing movies (its a secondary pc and im usually working on another one), but when i start working on it, say transferring files from one disk to another and doing some other processor intensive operation like editing images, it gives this click and stops. It's not entirely predictable however, but it definitely happens when the pc is more busy than usual.
a c 127 G Storage
October 10, 2009 7:57:02 PM

Can you do some surface tests of all HDDs in your PC? Just make sure the hangs/freezes are not caused by the HDD. It could be you're having multiple issues and the PIO issue was just one of them.
October 11, 2009 10:46:47 PM

sub mesa said:
Can you do some surface tests of all HDDs in your PC? Just make sure the hangs/freezes are not caused by the HDD. It could be you're having multiple issues and the PIO issue was just one of them.


how do i perform a surface test? i have hd tune dont know if it can be done using that or some other software
October 11, 2009 11:17:07 PM

tried hd fit from recoveryitalia and it didnt show any bad sectors. all green and ok
October 12, 2009 7:15:05 AM

also gave a scan with hd tune to all my drives, no reported problems there
a c 127 G Storage
October 12, 2009 4:32:01 PM

So how frequently do these 'clicks' happen, can you explain in more detail what you hear/see happening?
October 12, 2009 8:06:33 PM

i cant really speak of frequency as i dont use the pc actively daily, but whenever I try to use it for say image editing and i start feeling the processor being worked up, it does this thing basically you can hear he hard drive working and loading for example an image, then a loud click (similar to a toc of the clock) and silence, everything freezes and i have to switch off the pc
a c 127 G Storage
October 12, 2009 8:12:38 PM

Does sound like a HDD issue, or perhaps a power issue.

But if its a HDD issue, it most likely will be included in the SMART logbook. SMART disks store the last 5 errors, and by looking at the date (relative to their power-on-hours SMART value) you can know if it happened some long time ago or just ago.

Even with all sectors being good, the HDD may still have some issues. The SMART values you posted (which is something else than the log book) do state 1630 reallocated sectors; so this drive does have some issues. Could you check again if this number changes? If it does; your drive is dying.

Also double check the cable; because the UDMA error count is not zero; which has to do with the data interface; the cable. This may just have happened over time though and is not a problem by itself.
October 12, 2009 8:18:48 PM

current 92 worst 92 treshold 63 and data 1630 so that is still as before. i've also changed the cable to make sure its not causing any issues. so if my pc locks up the best place to check for what went wrong is in the SMART logbook of the hard disk?
October 15, 2009 10:34:39 AM

i think the hd is really dying, now it restarted on its own and wont go past step 4 of checkdisk, getting stuck in 3-10% region each time :( 
a c 127 G Storage
October 15, 2009 1:30:33 PM

Just get a new one then - save you some trouble. :) 
!