Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology

22Apr/111

The Telltale Hard Drive

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And so it came to pass that my 160GB 5400 RPM Travelstar in my ThinkPad T43 became full. In late 2010, finding large 2.5" PATA drives was becoming more and more difficult. Searching, I found that Western Digital had just what I needed: a 320GB 5400 RPM Scorpio Blue.

I ordered the drive from a trusted supplier, never looking to find complaints about newer Scorpio or "Green" models (not that I would have necessarily viewed a Scorpio as a "green" drive, anyway). The price was acceptable, and the shipment was quickly delivered.

Using my favorite cloning utility, DFSee, I cloned much of my trusty Travelstar to the new Scorpio Blue. Some partitions needed changing, though: my handy HPFS eCS maintenance partition, for example, really needed to be migrated to a JFS volume, and my type 35 JFS data volume, consisting of two segments, really cried out to be recreated as a single type 7 JFS partition. As such, these took a little more manual work (read: xcopy /s/e/r/h/t).

Ah, the fun...

The original IBM-supplied XP primary, of course, cloned without error but refused to boot (just a black screen). That would require some more TLC.

The JFS eCS 1.2R boot partition refused to boot, as well, warning that it could not operate my hard disk drive. That was a nice touch, too.

My newly migrated JFS eCS 1.2R maintenance partition seemed to get lost trying to find CONFIG.SYS.

Months passed.

I kept cleaning my 160GB Travelstar, pruning its ever-growing directory structure (ever wonder when directories became synonymous with folders?).

Soon, spring of 2011 was upon me, and then a month yet had gone by.

Working on a drive replacement for a client whose original 40GB Travelstar had definitely seen better days, I took advantage of the waiting, and went back to cobbling together my larger storage device.

With a little bit of effort, I managed to upgrade the clone of my JFS eCS boot partition and the contents of my JFS data partition. XP and my eCS maintenance partitions still stubbornly refused to boot, but my "working" eCS parttion did seem to come up consistently.

I was finally in business.

Almost.

Once booted fully, I started checking to ensure that all of my data was as it should be (as OS/2 relies heavily on extended attributes, all manner of odd behavior may ensue when these are damaged in some way). All filesystem data appeared to be fine, and then...

click!

What was that?

Eight or nine seconds passed.

click!

What in blazes!?

click!

Huh?

click!

Could it be a bad head? That didn't make sense. It wasn't a ker-klunk, ker-klunk, ker-klunk. It sounded like...

click!

Grrr... What was it?

click!

It sounded like the heads parking. Yes, that was it. Every...

click!

...eight or nine seconds.

It haunted me. It taunted me. I wanted to bang on the palmrest, under which I knew my tormentor lay. I knew that would do no good, though. So...

click!

Yes, I know!!!

I did what every other IT consultant would do: I went to the manufacturer website, to check support for updated firmware and/or a technical document. Unfortunately, all I could find was anecdotal commentary from non-technical people in the user-to-user forum, talking about their noisy drives (Green and Scorpio Blue, alike).

(For the remainder, dear reader, I shall spare you the reminder of that infernal click! which by now was ringing in my ears even as I left my desk for yet another hot, steaming cup o' joe.)

Googling, I found references to a Western Digital utility to disable this aggressive parking behavior. Unfortunately, the utility is only good for a handful of drives and is (from their description) a firmware patch. Voiding the warranty on a five-month-old drive was not first on my list, though I did know that I had to do something to save my sanity.

A quick OT post on the DFSee support list brought me the more expert advice I sought from several of my online (and personal) friends.

The secret, it seems, and what must be done at each boot under whichever OS is running, is to disable (most) APM functions. Under eCS, newer versions of Danis506.ADD are able to achieve the desired result using the /APM:255 (or possibly a lower value)  switch (and for creating Danis506 in the first place, a very warm and heartfelt "thanks" to Daniela Engert; for pointing me to this particular solution, I owe my good friend, Andy Willis a beer - at least). For Windows, I now read that NHC can do a similar trick, and for Linux, hdparm should handle it. (N.B.: From these other links, it appears that 254 may be a more appropriate setting, vs disabling APM altogether with 255.)

My Telltale Hard Drive is now resting comfortably, and my secret should now be kept quiet (I hope).

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  1. A quick thanks to my friend, Steven Levine, for all the work he does, including maintaining DaniS506 these days, too.


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