Western Digital to Settle SMR HDD False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit

Gavel and HDD
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

WD has moved to settle one of its ongoing class-action lawsuits for false advertising associated with its SMR WD Red hard drives, according to a report from LawStreet. The proposed settlement comes after widespread criticism from WD's customers about its surreptitious use of slower shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology in some of its hard drives without disclosing that fact in marketing materials or specification sheets. Notably, this settlement is only proposed for one of the multiple litigation actions against Western Digital on the matter.

With the settlement, WD would agree that the WD Red NAS HDDs with SMR tech aren't suitable for NAS and RAID usage. The negotiated terms come to $2.7 million, with complainants receiving $4 to $7 in cash for each drive purchased with a maximum pro-rata adjustment of 85% of the retail price possible. That means the maximum damages per drive in the ~$160 range (although this is hard to calculate due to inflated pricing due to ongoing HDD shortages). You won't need proof of purchase to make a claim.

WD previously disclosed to Tom's Hardware that the 2 to 6TB WD Red hard drives, among others, use SMR technology. This tech boosts capacity and results in a lower manufacturing cost, but it comes at the expense of performance, particularly in random write activity. Aside from generally slower performance, that can also cause excessive rebuild times (resilvering) in the targets NAS use cases, particularly if they use ZFS RAID arrays.

The settlement value comes as the culmination of 10 weeks of negotiations and also includes lawyers' fees and other costs. WD also agrees to fully disclose the recording technology used in its drives, both on the packaging and its web pages, for the next four years.

The original false advertising claims against WD touched off a wave of class-action lawsuits, with one even calling for a ban to block WD from selling SMR drives for NAS usage. The company has since clarified which drives use SMR technology and even released new drives to address the issue.

WD isn't the only HDD manufacturer to ship the slower SMR tech without full disclosure — Toshiba and Seagate also shipped drives without full disclosure. We aren't aware of any pending litigation against those companies. We do know that multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed against WD in different regions. LawStreet reports that one such lawsuit has been dismissed while the plaintiff amends the complaint. 

Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • velocityg4
    Lawyers will get summer homes in the Hamptons. You get $4 to $7. Sounds fare to me.

  • digitalgriffin
    I was one that bought a couple of those drives for my UNRAID array just when the story broke.

    I added the ZFS plug in and filled it with garbage and then forced the array to rebuild the parity disk. It was abysmally slow on 6GB drives. I would have taken over 5 days with a Ryzen 2400g CPU. Not exactly comforting when another failure could mean death.

    Since I was within my 1 month window, I returned them to amazon as defective because WD support didn't offer me an upgrade option (which I would have paid for)

    I since have gone Seagate Ironwolf and haven't looked back. I'm a little concerned about temps on parity checks (57C) (std operating is 55C max) But my drive cage may just need a good cleaning for fan flow. Or I may need to adjust the fan curve up. So far only post warning's I've seen have been about head realignment due to vibration which is pretty standard fare.
  • DemonicSky
    Sadly I bought mine just before. I was concerned but didn't know how bad it would be. I think I replicated 2.5Tb and it took some 10h if not more. If I knew the full story I would have returned them, but don't have the option right now :(
  • vern72
    I almost got burned by SMR but I bought a 8GB drive which were not SMR at the time.