The content of the article
External drives are cheaper than similar in volume hard drives sold without a case. It would seem that it makes it difficult to disassemble the case, remove the hard drive and use it separately? Nothing prevents, except that this activity may be meaningless. Let's try to figure out which discs are hidden in black plastic cases together, whether they can be used separately, and if so, in which scenarios.
Agree, it is hard to imagine that the manufacturers of hard drives WD and Seagate do not know how to count money and sell good products much cheaper, sometimes even doubled. But it’s worth using it only if you know well in advance what exactly will be inside the case. Manufacturers are not at all keen to put under the knife more profitable sales of “drives separately” and, with rare exceptions (we will talk about them later), they won’t talk about which drive is installed.
Moreover, in the same model of an external drive – for example, WD Elements Desktop – completely different disks can be installed both in volume and in other parameters unknown to the general public. Did you plan to get WD Red, but was WD Blue inside? Sorry, but this is a bad reason to return. I agree to WD Blue, but came an incomprehensible disc with a white sticker? This is not always bad, but there are important features.
It would seem that a good way to find out about the contents of a particular model is to search on Google. It is likely that the first links in the output will be discussions in Reddit. And the first thing I ask you to do is to forget for a moment what you could read about external drives in the popular Reddit community. Different drive models can be installed in different batches of external drives, and the fact that a particular model fell into the hands of an anonymous user does not mean that you will get the same or at least similar one. Moreover, there are many myths among Reddit users that are repeated in different ways from year to year. We will also talk about these myths.
Wonderful new world
Just a couple of years ago, everything was simple: Western Digital external drives up to 6 TB in volume were ventilated (atmospheric, that is, filled with ordinary air) and based on CMR honest recording, and the spindle speed was 5400 rpm. For models with a capacity of 8 TB or higher, the CMR method was also used, but the disk housings were already filled with helium, and the spindle speed was 7200 RPM (confusing the inscription “performance class 5400 RPM”, which is not related to the spindle speed, but it’s a kind of assessment of disk performance and another way to sell the same with a different label is more expensive). Now, models with SMR (2 and 6 TB, I personally have already managed to get there) added to the mix and atmospheric models of 8 TB are hot and noisy compared to their helium-filled counterparts.
The situation with Seagate external drives has also become controversial. Not so long ago, everyone knew that external Seagates, regardless of volume, came with a tiled SMR record. Due to the lack of support for the trim command, the speed of re-writing to such disks dropped sharply immediately after the first filling of the buffer zone. It wasn’t worth buying a model from Seagate to eject a disk – the difference in price compared to WD counterparts deprived this idea of any sense. But today in the mix there are at least two models with a capacity of 10 TB, inside of which there is an excellent helium-filled drive with CMR and a spindle speed of 7200 RPM, the speed potential of which is strangled by a frankly inexpensive USB controller (I will discuss this in more detail in the corresponding section). Removing such a disk will reveal its potential. I did this procedure and shot performance graphs in HD Tune, which clearly demonstrate throttling at the USB controller level.
Who is the manufacturer?
There are three main manufacturers of hard drives – these are Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital. At the same time, only Seagate and WD have massive offers in the consumer segment; You can find a Toshiba drive if you wish, but it makes little sense. But external drives offer both large manufacturers, and a great many small ones. Companies such as Transcend, Verbatim, Intenso, and a bunch of regional brands buy hard drives from one of the manufacturers, insert them into an external case and sell them with their own warranty and after-sales service. But in the case of the first-line manufacturers, warranty and after-sales service will be carried out by the brand that made this drive.
The first of these is Western Digital, which sells external drives under the WD brand and the “premium” G-Drive brand. Inside such drives are WD or HGST (Hitachi) hard drives, which since 2012 has been part of Western Digital. By the way, buyers of external drives consider luck to get an HGST disk. Typically, gel-tagged HGST disks are installed on WD My Book and WD Elements models from 8 TB or larger. In drives of smaller volume disks of production of WD are established. However, if you do not want to play the lottery, but want to buy a real HGST without the hassle of re-marking, the manufacturer will be happy to meet you: in the WD_BLACK D10 model with 8 and 12 TB volumes, just the Ultrastar series drives are built in.
The closest competitor to Western Digital is Seagate, which also offers drives under its own brand and under the “premium” LaCie label. And if everything is unambiguous with Seagate drives (what other drives did you expect to see there?), Then there are questions to LaCie.
Once upon a time, LaCie was an independent company. LaCie external drives could contain almost anything (the model disassembled by our laboratory had a drive from Hitachi, which now became part of WD). In 2014, LaCie was purchased by Seagate, and now all LaCie external drives are equipped (or should be equipped with) exclusively Seagate drives. Distinctive features of the LaCie line of drives are the Thunderbolt interface and the symmetrical USB Type-C port. In multi-drive external drive models, LaCie installs Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives; LaCie and Seagate single-disc models come with Seagate Barracuda series discs.
Did it seem to you that the variety of drives that WD and Seagate install in their external drives is excessive? Just a few years ago it was much worse. In our office there is a small warehouse of old drives, the capacity of which ranges from 60 to 320 gigabytes. Research curiosity prompted us to disassemble the drive enclosures before disposing of the drives. In the LaCie 60GB drive was a drive from Hitachi, and in three identical WD 320GB drives were WD, Toshiba and Fujitsu drives, respectively.
WD or Seagate?
So, with the manufacturers sorted out. We will exclude the G-Drive and LaCie lines from consideration: buying external drives under these brands just to extract disks from them is not a good idea in terms of price. But with external drives WD and Seagate, the idea is not without meaning.
So what to choose, Seagate or Western Digital? If we ignore the personal preferences and reputation of the manufacturers (each of which had its own successful and unsuccessful models), we can see that the internal filling of their external drives differs dramatically. Let's start in alphabetical order.
Each manufacturer has variations of the same drives that are sold under different names. For example, exclusive and anniversary editions, available in buildings of a different form or designed to be implemented through a specific chain of stores. Seagate has Amazon as its exclusive partner, Western Digital has the American Best Buy, for which WD Elements Desktop tagged drives are shipped under the WD Easystore brand.
External drives Seagate
The company offers two main lines of external drives of standard size 3.5 inches: the Seagate Expansion Desktop and Backup Plus Hub models.
The rulers differ in the form of cases, a set of features (the Backup Plus Hub has a built-in USB hub for two ports), and also in some countries – additional buns, including a two-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud services. At the same time, hard drives of identical models are installed inside devices of similar capacity. If you do not need a subscription to Adobe CC, and you plan to get rid of the case right away – it makes sense to buy a less expensive option.
What is inside?
Seagate Desktop models came across some time ago, but now Seagate Archive or Seagate Barracuda series drives most often fall into external drives of the Expansion Desktop and Backup Plus Hub lines. The latter are of two types: Barracuda Compute (up to 8 TB inclusive; 5900 RPM, atmospheric, with tiled SMR recording) and Barracuda Pro (so far only 10 TB models are available as external storage devices; helium, 7200 RPM, the recording method is CMR).
For example, in a 6 TB model, as a rule, one of two drives is installed – ST6000AS0002 or ST6000DM004. In an 8 TB model, the ST8000AS0002 or ST8000DM004 drives are often installed. So, in the Seagate Expansion Desktop 8TB model received in March 2020, the Barracuda Compute ST8000DM004-2CX1 drive was installed, hot and noisy.
When purchasing an external drive, you need to clearly understand what exactly Seagate saves on. If the Ironwolf family of discs uses honest perpendicular recording (CMR), the Archive and Barracuda Compute models, which are installed in models with capacities up to 8 TB inclusive, use the Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) tiled recording method.
What is tile recording?
Not so long ago we published a detailed study – the article “Tearing the Veils. Tile SMR Record in WD and Seagate Drives. ” I will not repeat myself, I will only give a conclusion regarding Seagate. Seagate SMR discs suffer re-write speeds after you fill up the disc once with data. Recording is carried out in a fast CMR buffer, the volume of which is limited. After the buffer is full, the cyclic compaction process begins – transferring data from the buffer to the tiled recording area. This process is so slow that the average write speed drops to 30 Mb / s, sometimes sagging to 10 Mb / s. As candidates for "gutting" Seagate drives with SMR (today – models up to 8 TB inclusive) I can not recommend.
So, with external drives Seagate Series Expansion Desktop and Backup Plus Hub up to 8 TB, inclusive, we figured out. If I wrote this article a year and a half ago, I would put a big bullet here, rejecting Seagate external drives as donors for hard drives. However, something has changed since then: in an attempt to keep up with the main competitor, which has 10, 12 and 14 TB external drives in its arsenal, Seagate decided to launch a 10-terabyte external drive on the market. In light of the noticeable lag behind WD in terms of capacious external drives, Seagate decided to postpone the development of a cheaper model of a 10 TB disk with SMR. To quickly enter the market, the company decided to use what was at the moment. And there was a line of three 10-terabyte drives Seagate Barracuda Pro, Ironwolf and Skyhawk. As a result, the Barracuda Pro 10TB model ST10000DM0004, excellent in all respects, got inside the Seagate Expansion Desktop 10TB and Backup Plus Hub 10TB models.
I purchased a Backup Plus Hub 10TB drive and tested it in HD Tune. The result was interesting.
As you can see, the cheap USB controller built into the drive does not cope with the data stream, limiting the maximum transfer speed of 175 Mb / s. We remove the disk, insert it into a high-quality case (QNAP TR-002).
Now we are witnessing a more familiar chart with a maximum reading speed on external tracks of 225 Mb / s.
I find Barracuda Pro 10TB drives to be very successful: quiet in both idle and random read / write processes, fast and fairly cold (especially compared to 6 and 8 TB models) drives are definitely worth the money.
An interesting point: Seagate has completely different discs under the same name and even with the same model identifier. The suffix of the model is changing (what Seagate calls part number), and the characteristics are changing. So, in the Backup Plus Hub external drives, I came across ST10000DM0004-1ZC101 and ST10000DM0004-2GR11L disks, which differ in both speed (in favor of the second) and a set of parameters S.M.A.R.T. (the first, the older one, displays parameters such as G-Sense Error Rate, while this and many other parameters were removed from the diagnostics of the second). Data format for S.M.A.R.T. in the new model it is also different (for example, the old model gives out the number of hours of work, it seems, in seconds, and the new one – in hours). In addition, the new version showed a lower level of vibration – however, this can be explained simply by the spread of parameters. But such a difference in performance graphs cannot be explained by any variation in parameters.
The benefits are clear. A Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB drive alone costs about 290 euros. Drive Seagate Backup Plus Hub 10TB, inside which is located exactly the same drive, sell for 190 euros. Saving? Surely – saving, but for some it’s also a way to make a very dubious business. Dozens of sellers on Amazon and eBay offer the ST10000DM0004 at an attractive price. Tempted by the low price, buyers receive a completely new disk in OEM packaging, however, checking the warranty on the Seagate website by serial number gives a denial of service: the disk is intended for sale as part of an external drive. Cunning businessmen simply dismantled a batch of external drives, removed disks from them and decided to earn extra money. In some cases, buyers were able to return such discs to the seller, but I wouldn’t really count on their fulfillment of warranty obligations.
The only argument in favor of buying a disc separately is the warranty. Seagate offers a five-year warranty on a disc separately and only two years on a disc in a case. Whether the 30% savings are worth the extra three years of warranty is up to you.
Are there any rational reasons to disassemble Seagate external drives by removing drives from them? The answer is yes, even if you forget about the difference in cost between the disk in the case and the disk separately.
Seagate enclosures are poorly designed. There is practically no ventilation in them: the only holes are in the lower part of the case (the honeycomb structure that you see on the top cover of the Seagate Backup Plus Hub is a decoration; in fact, the cover is deaf). As a result, atmospheric disk models (especially 6 and 8 TB models) quickly overheat; during a long recording (and writing to a disk with SMR will be very long) I happened to see the figure of 61 degrees. Such temperatures are not useful for discs.
Seagate uses the cheapest USB controllers to limit data transfer rates. I have given comparative graphs of the speeds of the same 10 TB disk in the Seagate case and, after extraction, in another external case. The difference is obvious.
Finally, there are bugs in the firmware of Seagate Backup Plus USB controllers that cause Linux to disable certain features (in particular, the UAS functionality – USB Attached SCSI), which further reduces performance. Details – in this post on reddit. Even if you are not sitting on Linux, you might want to use the drive as a backup drive for the NAS, which will almost certainly have Linux. According to some reports, the described errors in the Seagate Backup Plus Hub model fixedbut in the Linux kernel the UAS work is still just in case blocked.
Why not do it
What should I think about before picking up a screwdriver?
Having disassembled the disc, you automatically lose the guarantee. And if the WD Elements Desktop or WD My Book disks can be disassembled and reassembled without damage (WD is quite liberal in such scenarios, without refusing, as a rule, warranty service), then Seagate cases are decidedly disposable: during disassembly, plastic latches are usually break down. Most likely, the buildings were deliberately designed in this way. In the event of a warranty situation, insert the disc back and pretend that “there was nothing”, you most likely will not succeed. I have no other arguments against disassembling Seagate external drives.
How to disassemble
There are more than enough instructions on the network that demonstrate the process of disassembling and removing disks from external drives. Here is the manual for the Seagate Expansion Desktop.
And here is for the Seagate Backup Plus Hub.
If you wish, you can easily find a dozen or two alternative instructions, including from Russian-speaking users. I found a helpful instruction from iFixIt user and instructions from the site mattgadient.com.
Western Digital External Drives
Western Digital offers several lines of external drives in a 3.5-inch form factor. This includes the WD Elements Desktop, WD My Book, WD My Book DUO, and WD_BLACK D10 models. Perhaps it is worth sorting them out, but first I’ll give a brief squeeze.
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