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WD Sets the Record Straight: Lists All Drives That Use Slower SMR Tech

(Image credit: WD)

News emerged last week that WD, Seagate and Toshiba are all shipping hard drives using Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), a slower form of HDD technology that can result in reduced performance in some types of workloads, but without disclosing that critical bit of information in marketing materials or specification sheets. The backlash has been swift, and now WD is striking a conciliatory tone with its customers in an update to its blog. The company also divulged that it is also shipping SMR technology in some of its WD Blue and WD Black hard drives for desktop PCs and laptops. 

The new disclosure comes on the heels of WD's blog post yesterday that outlined its stance on using SMR drives. The company contends that SMR technology is adequate for the applications the drives are designed for, but that is certainly an open matter of debate with many users claiming the drives cause problems in RAID arrays. The issues purportedly stem from the slow random write speeds, which do cause a measurable reduction in performance, and background activities that are purportedly responsible for the drives dropping from RAID arrays. (Quick explainer at the bottom of the article here.) In either case, The WD blog advised users they should step up to more expensive models designed for heavier workloads if they have more demanding needs.

Today the company updated its blog with a more conciliatory tone, and also disclosed all of its drive models that are shipping with SMR tech. In addition to the WD Red NAS drives that the company previously admitted used SMR tech, WD is also shipping the tech into its 2.5"and 3.5" WD Blue and 2.5" WD Black lineups. Both models are designed for desktop PCs and laptops, with the former coming as a value drive while the latter is designed for high-performance users. 

WD acknowledged the recent brouhaha surrounding the fact it was shipping drives without disclosing they use the slower recording technology, stating:

"The past week has been eventful, to say the least. As a team, it was important that we listened carefully and understood your feedback about our WD Red NAS drives, specifically how we communicated which recording technologies are used. Your concerns were heard loud and clear. Here is that list of our client internal HDDs available through the channel:"

WD Drives with SMR TechnologyWD RedWD Red ProWD BlueWD BlackWD Purple
3.5"1TB or BelowCMRCMRCMRCMRCMR
3.5"2TB - 6TBSMRCMRSMR/CMRCMRCMR
3.5"8TB and AboveCMRCMR--CMR
2.5"500GB or Below--CMRCMR-
2.5"1TBCMR-SMRSMR-
2.5"2TB--SMR--

The table above lists the WD drives that come with SMR technology and the drives that use the faster conventional magnetic recording (CMR). Importantly, the blog states, "...Thank you for letting us know how we can do better. We will update our marketing materials, as well as provide more information about SMR technology, including benchmarks and ideal use cases."

That's a welcome announcement for users who want to make the decision of when, and where, to use SMR drives in their systems and NAS arrays.

SMR does result in lower performance, but it enables cost savings that are attractive to some users, and if used in the correct types of workloads, those savings are worth the exchange of gaining access to deeper capacity. However, using SMR tech for desktop and laptop boot drives will likely remain a topic open for debate, as their underwhelming performance in sustained random write workloads could hamper performance in standard operating systems. 

WD's blog also says the company will share further data in the future, including benchmarks that might prove otherwise, so we'll have to wait to see what the company shares. As usual, the proof will be in independent third-party benchmarks, but it is encouraging to see WD confront the recent issues head on and promise to be more forthcoming in the future. We hope the other remaining HDD vendors follow suit.  

  • digitalgriffin
    Meanwhile I have two new 6TB Red Drives that I use in my UNRAID NAS (one as a parity) that I have to question if they will fail when they fill up. I guess I can pull them and return them but I have to order two new drives to replace them and that will be a mess. Or I'll have to buy a new Parity drive just to be on the safe side.

    Sure as hell won't be WD. I've been reading on reddit how people are having all kinds of problems with the ZFS Raid. This mess has drained them of my good will. I paid a premium for those drives over other brands ($150/drive) I'm sure an OS patch could fix it, if the OS realizes it's a SMR drive. The OS would have to trim, wait and retry after a couple minutes. That might work if you are rebuilding an array. But if you are dumping in new data from an outside source, that doesn't work so well. Try telling windows backup to wait 3 minutes before it can write another file.
    Reply
  • drtweak
    Yea think I'll be buying Seagate now. They are even a little cheaper.

    The thing I don't understand is that SMR is suppose to help increase density on large drives. I would think the 8+ TB Drives would be using this NOT 1-6TB Drives.
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    drtweak said:
    Yea think I'll be buying Seagate now. They are even a little cheaper.

    The thing I don't understand is that SMR is suppose to help increase density on large drives. I would think the 8+ TB Drives would be using this NOT 1-6TB Drives.

    It's because any given amount of storage they sell is going to be cheaper to make with SMR as opposed to CMR, regardless if it's 1TB or 8TB, because less material is needed to manufacture it.
    Reply
  • AtrociKitty
    digitalgriffin said:
    Meanwhile I have two new 6TB Red Drives that I use in my UNRAID NAS (one as a parity) that I have to question if they will fail when they fill up. I guess I can pull them and return them but I have to order two new drives to replace them and that will be a mess. Or I'll have to buy a new Parity drive just to be on the safe side.

    Check the model number and cache of your drives. I have four 6TB Reds in my NAS, and they're CMR.
    WD60EFAX - 256 MB Cache - SMR version
    WD60EFRX - 64 MB Cache - CMR version

    drtweak said:
    Yea think I'll be buying Seagate now. They are even a little cheaper.
    Seagate was doing the same thing: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/sneaky-marketing-toshiba-seagate-wd-smr-drives-without-disclosure
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    AtrociKitty said:
    Check the model number and cache of your drives. I have four 6TB Reds in my NAS, and they're CMR.
    WD60EFAX - 256 MB Cache - SMR version
    WD60EFRX - 64 MB Cache - CMR version
    EFAX unfortunately.
    Reply
  • Deicidium369
    digitalgriffin said:
    Meanwhile I have two new 6TB Red Drives that I use in my UNRAID NAS (one as a parity) that I have to question if they will fail when they fill up. I guess I can pull them and return them but I have to order two new drives to replace them and that will be a mess. Or I'll have to buy a new Parity drive just to be on the safe side.

    Sure as hell won't be WD. I've been reading on reddit how people are having all kinds of problems with the ZFS Raid. This mess has drained them of my good will. I paid a premium for those drives over other brands ($150/drive) I'm sure an OS patch could fix it, if the OS realizes it's a SMR drive. The OS would have to trim, wait and retry after a couple minutes. That might work if you are rebuilding an array. But if you are dumping in new data from an outside source, that doesn't work so well. Try telling windows backup to wait 3 minutes before it can write another file.
    Swore off of WD ages ago - aren't the WD Reds for small 8 drive NAS? - similar to the Seagate Iron Wolf - with the Iron Wolf Pro being for larger arrays and the Exos being for the largest arrays.

    Pretty crappy for Seagate and WD to not tell people
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    I noticed that they didn't say they would STOP using SMR drives in the line that is supposed to be for NAS (the Red line) - just that you should know & buy the Red Pro line if you are concerned about it. Sheesh....
    Reply
  • hiryu
    drtweak said:
    Yea think I'll be buying Seagate now. They are even a little cheaper.

    The thing I don't understand is that SMR is suppose to help increase density on large drives. I would think the 8+ TB Drives would be using this NOT 1-6TB Drives.

    Unfortunately Seagate is also doing the same.
    https://www.tomshardware.com/news/sneaky-marketing-toshiba-seagate-wd-smr-drives-without-disclosure
    Reply
  • mitch074
    Lucky - back when I built my NAS I decided 8 tb was the sweet spot. It looks like they decided to use SMR on their big volume drives, and that was 6 tb and below... I'm hesitant to fill up my NAS now, if by chance they decide to implement DMSMR on 8 tb too...
    Reply
  • Vorador2
    Right now all (Seagate, WD and Toshiba) of the major manufacturers have been selling SMR without clearly branding them as such.

    And is really worrying. SMR have such a huge drop in writing performance than they had to advertise them as "archiving" devices before. Until all of them come clear and clearly brand SMR devices as such, i will try not to buy an HDD.
    Reply