Accelerate Your Hard Drive By Short Stroking

“Niagara,” The Short Stroking Tool

Niagara main screen.

The Niagara tool is small and does not require installation, but it is only available for large Hitachi customers. To our knowledge, it’s not (yet) available to the public. However, the Niagara tool is required for SAS drives only. You can accomplish very much the same thing using Hitachi’s Feature Tool, which is available for download at After launching the utility, it makes sense to first lock hard drives that you do not intend to modify. We found this feature useful, as it prevents accidental modifications in systems running multiple hard drives. Your selected settings will be applied to all drives that aren’t locked.

Lock your system drive before you apply short stroking settings.


Niagara offers several features, including a drive self-test and some configuration options. The formatting process, which we need for our short stroking project, isn’t straightforward, but it is logical. You have to select the format button to move to the next step, and format the drive using only a limited number of blocks. In the following screenshot, we selected the full number of available blocks, which results in the full 450 GB capacity of the Ultrastar 15K450 drives.

In this example we format 879,097,968 blocks at 512 bytes per block, which results in 450,098,158,616 bytes. Hard drive makers define one kilobyte as 1,000 bytes, which turns the 450 billion bytes into 450 GB. Defined as 1,024 bytes per KB, it would be 419.19 GB.

We formatted the 450 GB Ultrastar 15K450 drives using three different settings, so we reached 100% (450 GB), 10% (44 GB), and 4% (20 GB) of the total capacity. The following screen shot shows our formatting choice to receive 44 GB volumes. These settings were recommended by Hitachi, as this figure covers the first three zones of the 15K450 drives.

In this example we formatted 90,151,200 blocks at a 512 byte block size, which results in a 44 GB capacity.

We only had one issue during the process: the tool would not reformat the SAS drives when we used Adaptec’s 5805 RAID controller. Switching to a non-RAID Adaptec 48300 SAS host adapter solved the issue.

Formatting Results For Short Stroking

Voila. Here are the results. For this screen shot, we formatted two of the drives to provide 20 GB capacity, and two more at 44 GB capacity:

We could have selected other capacities as well, but we decided to benchmark the short stroked drives at 20 GB and 44 GB capacities.

SATA Short Stroking via the Hitachi Feature Tool

As already mentioned, the Niagara tool would not work with SATA drives such as the Deskstar 7K1000.B. To configure these at lower capacities we went to and downloaded the Hitachi Feature Tool. It doesn’t operate using LBA blocks, but rather actual capacity figures, making the process a bit easier. The result, however, was the same. We configured the 7K1000.B 250-GB drives to 250 GB, 33 GB and 12 GB for our benchmark session.