Best/most silent SATA drive today?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by macstatic, May 24, 2010.

  1. macstatic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Which 3.5" SATA drive would be the best choice when I want something that runs silently, has reasonably high performance and is reliable?
    I'll be mounting 4 SATA drives in a Proavio S4UF Firewire 800 enclosure.

    The drives will be used mainly for photographic purposes (digital photo storage, Photoshop files etc.) and backing up/archiving these.
    I'm opting for 1GB drives.
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Western Digital Caviar Green is pretty quiet and reliable. It's fast enough for FW800 as it tops out at around the same speeds as FW800
  3. lasuther macrumors 6502a

    Feb 13, 2004
    Grand Haven, Michigan
    I bougt a WD Caviar Green 2TB bare drive last week for $130. It is very quiet and cool.
  4. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I've heard that those WD drives are very quiet as well, but that Seagate are supposed to be the most reliable. Any truth to that?

    Another concern is the automatic sleep mode of certain drives. I have a Western Digital ATA (IDE) drive in an external enclosure that I bought a few years back and it goes to sleep every now and then (after 10 minutes of inactivity I think).
    Very frustrating in situations where I'm working on something which doesn't access that drive, then try to save a file. Since the drive is sleeping the Mac OSX "beachball" comes up and spins indefinitely. The only solution is to switch off the external drive, then on again in order to spin up the drive.
    And this is after having turned off "Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible" in the Mac OSX Energy saver system preference.

    So do the current WD drives act the same way, and if yes -is there a way to turn it off? I don't mind if Mac OSX does it (as it should be smart enough to spin up the drives again if it needs to access the drive), but I see no reason for the drive to spin down on its own.
  5. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I'll do some video editing as well (not HD, but regular Mini-DV stuff). Will those drives be fast enough to keep up, or would I need higher performance drives for that sort of thing?
    I get the impression the WD Caviar green series aren't among the fastest.
  6. darkplanets macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2009
    WD Caviar Green are not the fastest. In fact, quite the opposite. They are, however, cool and quiet from what I hear, but have some build issues, as my friends (and online reviews) can attest to.

    With that said, WD is the way to go.

    I see after a quick look your rack has fans, this is good, as well as a JBOD arrangement, also good. Sadly however, it appears as if your rack doesn't support RAID :eek:, and also doesn't have eSATA, which really is fine in the end, given what you want to do with it. Also of note is the fact that your rack looks pre-configured with Seagate 7200RPM 32MB Barracudas, something I'll address below. If you really want high performance, you need eSATA and a Mac Pro, but with plain storage in mind, and possible light editing, FW800 will do the trick. RAID would really be nice though, especially RAID0.

    As for the HD(s), I'll just leave my thoughts on a few below...

    -WD Caviar Black 7200 RPM 32 MB 1-2TB (SATA II)
    Highly recommended; I've heard nothing but good things about these drives, they're fast and powerful (dual platter), and for their size really move. They do heat up some, and do make some noise however.

    -WD Caviar Black 7200 RPM 64 MB 1-2TB (SATA III)
    This is newer. Look on newegg to find it, note however its SATA III, which is probably not supported by your rack. These drives are supposed to be wicked fast in a raid setup, but once again, you'd need eSATA to enjoy it. I wouldn't recommend this yet though as its still new.

    -Seagate Barracuda .11 or .12 7200 RPM 32MB 1-2TB
    I can't say I'd recommend these. SG drives used to be quite good, but recently the .11 and .12 revisions of the Barracuda have been quite the opposite, with the click of death really being prevalent in a lot of DOA or delayed death situations. I'm not entirely sure they worked out the problems in the .12. If you get higher end SG drives, it shouldn't be a problem.

    -WD RE3, RE4, AV, or AV-GP
    Not recommended. Reliability and/or overpriced.

    -WD Caviar Green
    Already covered.

    -Hitachi Deskstar 7200 RPM 32MB 1-2TB
    Mixed reviews here, but I would say an overall recommended. I have heard of possible build issues, but that's mostly from the Internet, and you know how that is. I would recommend the c revision.

    -Samsung Spinpoint 7200 RPM 32 MB 1TB
    Haven't heard anything bad about this drive-- but I'd do more reading in on it.

    Beyond that, its no mans land.
    If you want more performance over storage, go WD Velociraptor or the equivalent, or go SSD :rolleyes:
  7. joaoferro37 macrumors 6502


    Jul 31, 2008
    Vogon Planet Destructor
    I tried hitachi, seagate, and WD.
    Overall, hitachi is reliable but not as quiet as WD green.
    I use hitachi drives in my stardom ST8-U5 with ATTO R380.
    In RAID 5 I was running about 800 MB/s and the unit was no were near as loud as my Editbox and much quieter than my Sonnet Fusion D800RAID.
  8. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Greens have read/write speed of ~77MB/s if I recall correctly and FW800's real world maximum is around 80MB/s so the gain from 7200rpm drive would be few MB/s. Greens are IMO best for RAID and as storage due low price and noise. Latency is still the same I think and read/write speeds only matter for OS&app drive
  9. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    Any solid state drive should be dead silent unless the electronics start buzzing.
  10. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    What do you mean by "build issues"? I found some discussions on problems with Windows XP as the drive uses some sort of special format, but that doesn't apply to MacOSX, or that's what I read.

    I deliberately bought this enclosure instead of one with RAID because this one unit with its removable, and completely individual drives allows me full flexibility, backing up any drive I like, creating an offline backup and an archive copy. With a RAID system I'd need yet another enclosure for backing things up.

    However, it would be nice if the enclosure could have a RAID option for later if I needed that.
    Yes, eSATA would be nice for later use as well (in case I do invest in a Mac Pro, but I couldn't find any enclosure with eSATA, RAID and JBOD and be affordable/reliable. From what I read, Proavio seems to make quality products and are used a lot in the video editing industry.

    As for the pre-configuration for Seagate Barracuda drives -I'm not sure what they mean by that, because I bought the bare enclosure with empty drive bays. Surely it doesn't mean that's the only drive that works with the device? As long as the drive is a standard sized SATA drive I assume it would work. I'm guessing they're referring to the drive bays with drives Proavio sell.
  11. Zortrium macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2003
    I'm pretty sure the .12 revision fixed the firmware issues. For the record, I've got both a .11 and a .12 and neither have given me any problems, though I wouldn't buy another .11 based on the firmware issues I've heard about.
  12. darkplanets macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2009
    Yeah, by build issues I mean general quality concerns-- I've have friends whose WD CG drives have conked out a couple months in. I think its hit or miss really-- drives these days just don't seem to have the same quality as they used to, at least that's what it appears to be. As for the format, yeah, if I recall correctly it uses a 4k sector, something that XP doesn't support, but Vista and 7 do. There's a workaround for it, but you don't have to worry, because OSX already has it covered ;). Overall, I guess I would just be cautious with these drives-- they're cool and quiet, seem to fit your needs, and others on this site as well as the Internet have had good experiences with them, its just as always there are a fair amount of poor quality cases (like my friend) present in a fair percentage of the batch. Don't let it discourage your choice, its just a precautionary statement in case you become a statistic.

    All reasonable conclusions and explanations for your logic and purchase. However, you can back up with raid; you can do a raid 0+1 and have 4TB;4TB-- with each 4TB block being two raid 0 2TB drives. I totally understand your reasoning though, as getting all three together (eSATA, JBOD, and RAID) can get pricey.

    As for the drives, I suspect you're spot on with that last sentence; on that page (I looked quickly) it appeared as if you couldn't purchase the bare case, as it looked like Proavio wanted you to buy those ("their") drives so they could make more $$. As you said, any SATA drive will work, except for SATA III.
  13. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Just to add a data point, the new WD Green Advanced Format drive (model number ending in EARS instead of EADS) that I got recently is the quietest (and coolest-running) 3.5" HD I've ever used. It's noticeably quieter than the previous-gen Green EADS drive it replaced despite having 3 platters instead of 2, and beats every Seagate, Hitachi, and Samsung I've installed at work. I haven't done a side-by-side test of a range of 1.5TB or 2TB drives versus each other, but given how quiet the 3-platter EARS I'm using is, I'd recommend it highly on that front.

    It's also faster than I expected in a FW800 case, although there's a caveat: At least in this case (Newer MiniStack 3) both the EARS and EADS drives have a tendency to partially sleep--at least, they're parking the heads--after a rather short period of time, regardless of Energy Saver settings, which can get annoying when you need to wait ~2-3 seconds for it to spin back up on first access. had a tip a few weeks ago about using WD's config tool under a DOS boot to change the head park time (default is 8 seconds), but even disabling it on mine didn't seem to make much difference.

    I haven't tested it in another enclosure to see if it's just this case or if it's the drive's firmware to blame.
  14. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    A silent drive is mainly what I'm looking for, although reliability and decent speed goes without saying.
    The WD10EARS (1TB Caviar "Green") sounds like the drive I should get although I have a few concerns:

    - speed: WD seems to want to hide the fact that this is a 5400 RPM drive while most other 3.5" drives these days run at 7200 RPM. Perhaps this is part of the reason for its low noise though...

    - reliability: mentioned earlier in this thread, but is this more a case for this particular drive or something common to all hard drives of today (they don't make 'em like they used too)?

    - the sleep feature. I can't have a drive sleep on me every few seconds. I'll be spending more time waking the drive up than getting work done!!!
    I found the abovementioned article in XLR8yourMac here, but didn't quite understand if the utility software is used to access the firmware so you can set the sleep mode to a different period of time (or turn it off perhaps), or if it's an application that actually needs to run all the time. In case the former I can probably bring my drive over to a PC owning friend, connect it via USB (the enclosure has Firewire and USB), then turn sleep off.
    In case of the latter however I'm out of luck: the computer's a G4 Powerbook meaning I don't really have many options when running Windows, neither am I interested in doing so.
    So, am I out of luck if I want to turn sleep entirely off (then turn on the power saving feature in MacOSX to spin down drives automatically which haven't been used for an extended period of time)?
  15. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Yes, it is--slower spinning equals less power equals less noise--and honestly for the average user 5400RPM at today's data density is perfectly acceptable. More importantly, if you've got it in a FW800 case, the speed difference between 5400RPM and 7200RPM is going to be minimal apart from slightly lower latency.

    Note, also, that the slower it runs, the cooler it runs, and the longer it's likely to last.

    Actually, I think they make them much better than they used to. My sample size is admittedly small--only about 20 computers at work I manage, a half dozen of my own, and another half-dozen friends and family members--but I've seen a marked improvement in reliability over the last 20 years.

    No, it's not going to last forever, but then nothing with moving parts will. They have a 3-year warranty, which tells you roughly how long WD thinks it's going to last. You can always go up to the similar-but-theoretically-more-reliable WD RE series drives if you want.

    Personally, with my ~30-40 drive sample size I've seen less failures of WD drives than Maxtor or Hitachi/IBM, and I've had terrible luck with Seagate, but apart from Storage Review's old reliability database (or outliers like the old Deathstar series--had one die myself--or Seagate's undercooled externals that were notorious for killing drives) I think it's hard to draw conclusions.

    It is a set-once thing; you put it in something that can boot a DOS, use the WD utility to change the setting in the drive's firmware, and that's it--it should stick permanently from then on unless you change it again. You should, in theory, be able to set it to "off" then tell the Mac to sleep the drives when necessary to reduce noise and power use.

    As I said, though, it didn't seem to resolve the behavior I was seeing. Given that I disabled the drive's internal sleep entirely, though, I'm wondering if my problem isn't actually something related to the enclosure rather than the drive itself. I no longer have a desktop with easily-accessible drive bays in which to test this, though I will note I've never had it "doze off" on me while using the Mini it's connected to directly--only via the network (it acts as a fileserver). I've also only tested it in this single case, so for all I know it's the case itself acting up.

    At some point I'm probably going to do some experiments with either another brand of drive or another case, but I still like the drive, and it may work for you unless people who've used GP drives more directly, in a case connected to a MBP like you want to do, can say it doesn't.
  16. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    What kind of enclosure do you have?
    So you're saying that some bridge boards (e.g. SATA to Firewire/USB) inside enclosure actually control drive sleep (idle) as well?

    It looks like the XLR8 earlier mentioned WD idle 3 utility doesn't work for a selected few drives and not for the Caviar green series:

    But you're saying it still works?
    I already have one WD hard drive; a WD5000AAKB (500GB PATA) and it also likes to set itself to idle mode after a short period of inactivity. It would be great if I could disable that feature there as well. I solve the problem by opening a folder on that drive which hasn't been cached (previously opened during that session). Actually it often seems to try to go to sleep but can't as it emits this strange buzzing noise. If I open a previously unopened folder on that drive the noise disappears. Perhaps the drive's firmware sleep function is in conflict with MacOSX's drive sleep mode which has been disabled.

    I read in another thread that the Caviar Green series puts the drive to sleep every 8 seconds! And that this greatly reduces a hard drive's life. Perhaps WD deliberately designs them this way so they won't last beyond their 3 year warranty, reasoning it to its "green" profile (lower power consumption etc.).

    In any case I'm not going to buy a drive that constantly goes to sleep on me.
  17. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I have a Onnto DataTale 2 bay external that has the opposite problem -- in JBOD mode, the drive won't sleep.

    In my case, I swapped every drive I had, by way of testing whether it had to do with Seagate's firmware (or Hitachi's). Oyen Digital (the vendor) was helpful but neither they nor Onnto could solve the problem.

    Onnto blamed Oxford (maker of the Firewire chip).

    I mention this only because it supports the hypothesis that the enclosure's electronics can affect sleep.
  18. Sensamic macrumors 68030

    Mar 26, 2010
    Im looking to buy an external drive to use as the main drive of my imac 27. My main goal is to work as quiet as possible too. Im thinking of an SSD but they are very expensive, so Im looking for an hd that is quiet too.

    The WD Caviar Green looks good. What kind of enclosure would I need? I guess firewire 800, but I cant find any on the internet. Also, better if it doesnt have fans.

    Would there be difference in silence between the WD Caviar Green and any SSD? I mean, are they both the same quiet?
  19. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    After reading through lots of discussions/websites on the subject I have to say i'm even more confused about this drive.

    Apparently there's a function called "Intellipark" which parks the drive head every 8 seconds if there's no drive activity! I also read that each drive has a limit on how many times the head can be parked before it needs a replacement, so why WD have chosen 8 seconds here is beyond me.... other than a cynical calculation of slowly killing the drive though extending it past the warranty period so you have to buy another one.

    Furthermore, from what I read, the DOS utility "WDidle 3" should work with the Caviar Green drives even though WD doesn't say so.
    To complicate things even more I read that the drives have to be in IDE mode (as opposed to SATA mode -whatever that means) in order to disable auto head parking and that newer Caviar Green drives may not even support the disabling done in WDidle 3!
    By the way, is auto head-parking the same as a "spin down" of the drive's motor?

    I also read that Caviar Green drives are unsuitable for RAID setups, but by using a special utility called WDTLER you can disable it an once again make it work in a RAID setup.

    So to summarize: there's talk about auto-parking every 8 seconds by default, TLER disabling for RAID setups (some sort of sleep function I presume) and possibly the inability of disabling these problematic issues on recent WD drives. I'm a novice when it comes to these issues, and most of the stuff I found elsewhere online concerns Windows/Linux systems, so if someone here with the mentioned drives could check and confirm if these irritating and potentially harmful "features" can be turned off for the WD10EARS drive, or if I should look elsewhere?
  20. Sensamic macrumors 68030

    Mar 26, 2010
    How quiet is Western Digital My Passport Elite?

    I've read on the internet that it is very quiet.
  21. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Well, I had my eyes set on a WD Green drive (WD10EARS or WD15EARS) until I found out that it's a hit and miss if you can turn off "Intellipark" or not. You could do it in the past, but there's been speculation that newer firmware won't let you disable that function. WD themselves say it's not possible to turn off, but then again they've been rather secretive about their WDIDLE 3 utility, so what's correct or not is anyone's guess. I'm guessing that this feature is good for business as it most likely kills a drive not long after its warranty expires because of unnecessary wear.

    Short of accepting that a hard drive parks its head if there's no drive activity for 8 seconds I'm starting to look for other drives without this "function". Are there other drives just as quiet?
  22. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    To add a follow-up to my previous comment, I ran the WD low-level firmware mod to disable head parking on my EARS-series drive, and the utility confirmed that the park was disabled.

    Didn't change the behavior I'm seeing at all. Whether this means that the newer drives really don't pay any attention to that setting (WD doesn't say they're supported, but the utility recognized the drive, read its setting, and claimed to change it), or that I'm having some other issue (interaction between the drive and my case?), I don't know.

    I can say that I seriously doubt the behavior is standard for the drive, or I'd have read a lot more complaints about it--it'd be nearly unusable as a boot drive if it did this under normal use. (I also haven't seen similar behavior out of the attached WD Green backup drive I use, which is in a Fantom case, but that's not usually being accessed.) I suppose I should put the drive in another case and experiment to get a definitive answer.

    I will reiterate that the EARS is the quietest and coolest drive I've ever used, by far, and it's also relatively fast--certainly fast enough to saturate the FW800 bus. It makes the EADS I had before it (which in fact had one LESS platter) sound downright noisy, which it wasn't. If it weren't for this parking quirk, I'd be 100% happy with it. Even as is, I'm still 85% happy, as it serves most of my needs.

    What's odd is that I've never once noticed it stalling while accessing it directly from the mini it's hooked to (for example, playing video files, stuff off Hulu, or ripped DVDs--it's a media center). Not so much as a twitch. It ONLY seems to happen when accessing files over the network. Whether this is because of the differing use patterns (caching?) or just coincidence, I'm not sure.
  23. pprior macrumors 65816

    Aug 1, 2007
    Did you end up buying that enclosure? I can't imaging the enclosure with those small fans wouldn't be way louder than any drive put inside it.

    Interested in your feedback on this enclosure or whatever you're using currently.
  24. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Yes, I ended up buying the Proavio S4UF and several of those Western Digital drives. The drives are indeed silent and I really don't know how the head parking situation is since I don't have a PC, but took my chances since a silent environment is important to me.

    As for the enclosure.... a disappointment! :(
    First, it's NOT quiet at all. The two cooling fans blast away at full speed all the time, which I expected NOT to be the case with something in this price range and marketed as a "professional" device. The electronics inside do nothing to control the fan speeds but just alert (with an LED and a buzzer) if the fans don't spin and/or the temperature exceeds a specific threshold.

    Secondly, being a 19" rack device I was surprised at didn't fit my rack. It's a tiny bit too wide, with the rack rails blocking it. I certainly don't know what the designers have been thinking since they don't seem to have followed standards, and there's enought empty space inside to make it narrower. So, I highly recommend nobody buys this enclosure!

    Other than that it functions fine (from the Mac's perspective). I love to have the ability to swap drives at any time without much fuss. I can now have access to two main drives and a two backup drives. In addition I have two "archive" drives which I back up more seldom than with the backup drives, but store at a different location in case of theft, fire etc. That way, even if it doesn't have the latest files I won't lose absolutely everything I have.
    The Firewire connections are a bit strange though as the unit's interface doesn't cater for 4 drives, but instead there's two dual interfaces which are daisy chained (via a small Firewire cable on the outside which you have to plug in yourself). Very strange and not a professional solution if you ask me. This also prevents all drives to be "hot swapped" (physically removed with power on).

    If I knew all of this I'd probably look into another brand/type of enclosure. I've never tried it, but I'm guessing OWC's Mercury rack Pro is a lot better.
  25. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    To add a data point on that Mercury Rack Pro, I bought a very similar Stardom branded 4-drive rackmount unit from OWC a couple years ago for work. Ours has four eSATA ports instead of a single port multiplier (which I picked intentionally--easier to hot-swap), so it obviously has a different controller, but based on the other hardware in OWC's brand, I'm nearly certain that OWC's unit is a house-branded version of the same OEM hardware.

    And I can say I've been very happy with it--it's run smoothly for the past two years without issue. That said, it's also not quiet at all--I don't care because it's in a rack with some very noisy server hardware, but while the fans aren't horrible they also make a lot more noise than the drives in the enclosure.

    An aside, I just got a 2TB Samsung F4 in today, so I'm going to get a chance to compare it to the EARS-series WDs in terms of noise, and to see how it behaves in the same Newer enclosure. What sold me was that the F4 guarantees a 3-platter 2TB, while with an EARS WD you can get either 3 or 4 platters depending on when the drive was manufactured, so unless you're confident that the stock is fresh it's a bit of luck on ordering one. (I try never to go over 3 platters, both for the noise/power reduction, and because the failure rate of drives increases with more platters--3 seems to be the sweet spot of capacity and reliability.)

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