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  1. #1
    Glorious Leader I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    Do hard drives "go slow"

    Has anyone experienced, or seen documentation, of a hard drive degrading and operating slower with age or use? Fresh software, not bogged down by any old installs or similar - just talking about hardware here.

    I have never seen a hard drive enter a grey area like this - in my experience, and from what I have seen in documentation, everything implies that a hard drive is either operating normally, or it shows signs of emminent failure. But normal operation without errors or other negative signs, but just slower than normal is not something that just happens AFAIK.

    Recently I've had a discussion in a thread on another topic (I'll copy over some discussion we had there), and thought this question warranted its own thread.
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  2. #2
    Glorious Leader I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    Editted slightly for length:

    Quote Originally Posted by fadirocks
    If you tried reinstalling windows and still going slow then your friend laptop's hard drive was over-worked and now lost its performance. 128MB is not acceptable and it's #1 reason for over-worked HDs and I've seen tons of Desktops and Laptops specially DELL (aka smELL) hard drives go so slow after about 1 year of usage
    Quote Originally Posted by I.M.O.G.
    I have never heard of or seen a hard drive "go slow" from being used... I have seen hard drives show tell-tale signs of failure, however, normal operation that is just slow is different than long periods of unresponsiveness which would indicate a HDD problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by fadirocks
    You should see the DELLs at my old work these PCs used to be good new till after about 1.5yrs of usage and they got really slow and we image thses suckers every semaster!
    Quote Originally Posted by fadirocks
    Don't forget you are an overclockers and you know better about providing enough cooling for your HD. Most manufacturers care about low cost with nice numbers than making efficently cooled off systems
    ...snip...
    If you look closely at many DELLs they really have not much HD cooling, so don't be suprised

    Cheers,
    Fadi
    Quote Originally Posted by I.M.O.G.
    What I am saying is that where I work, we support commercial systems on a VERY large scale - tens of thousands of systems at various ages and in various models. In proportion to this, we see all kinds of problems every day and part of my job is to figure out as many of them as possible. I also spend a lot of time in public computing facilities so I know a little about that. My experience is probably broader than someone who is just overclocking his own PC.

    I have never seen a slowness problem on a PC that can be attributed to the HDD "going slow" and you have no direct evidence to support your opinion that HDD's can "go slow" after any amount of time - it sounds like hocus pocus to me and there is likely an underlieing issue which isn't understood wherever you are basing your perspective from.

    Insufficient cooling can shorten the MTBF of a drive, however a drive doesn't just slow down... It either works, or begins to show signs of failure, one of which is not a general system slowness.
    Quote Originally Posted by fadirocks
    about Spyware and adware, these systems are locked down and these PCs are behind nice giant firewall sever that filters all junks I guarntee you I've never seen even 1 spyware except for cookie spyware. I'm talking about 5yrs experince with many different models and generations! My job was to find ways to go around being destructive and report to the IT to have more locks on.

    I just moved out for grad school so don't have my old HDs that I extracted from few of these PCs they are supposed to be WD 5400RPM HDs they still work but very slowly and you can compare to an older HD model Fujitsu 4500RPM but with minimal usage. well guess what the 4500RPM HD works faster if you like it or don't like it

    I specifically done experiments (that I wasn't supposed be doing) and abused different PCs (I'm not going to say HOW = trouble) and for sure you find different performances after 2yrs of abuse

    so yea RAM does help in protecting HD from over-working and yea over-worked HDs can stay for few years working till their ULTIMATE death!

    I've seen most of slowness with WD & Seagate, for Maxtor usually just works or doesn't at all. JUST TRUST ME ON THIS I've seen about 100 cases!

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  3. #3
    Member Steven4563's Avatar
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    im not sure its the fact it goes slower its more likely they have got used to it so it "seems" slower or it could be they've had much faster h/d so going back to an old one makes it feel really slow like going back to my first 400mhz K6 after my Athlon xp system
    Last edited by Steven4563; 09-27-04 at 11:30 AM.
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  4. #4
    Inactive Pokmon Moderator JigPu's Avatar
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    I have never experienced a hard drive "slow down" with use, but I have not quantatative data to back-up or refute the claim My experience lies along with yours IMOG, in that a hard drive (so long as zillions of sectors aren't bad or the drive is dying) does not slow down with age.

    However, being a mechanical device, it certiantly could be possible for it to happen. Heat or over work may be a cause (I know exposure to high temps causes hard drives to develop a distinct whine), and I'd be interested in data on this subject.

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  5. #5
    Glorious Leader I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    I would also like to see something on this matter... I think if there were any information solidly confirming or refuting this it would be at www.storagereview.com. Perhaps I will bump around there sometime when I get the chance.
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  6. #6
    Member Dukeman's Avatar
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    There are two ways a HDD (and thus the system) becomes slow.

    1. I used to be a field and bench tech for Apple and Compaq and I did quantify that people think their systems slow down even though they are running at the same speed. I've actually had customers where I timed the boot speed of the system when first installed and then again when the customer complained and the difference was always so small that it was explained by the additional drivers and run-at-startup software they'd added. Once these were removed there was usually less than 1% difference. So the first way is simply psychological.

    2. Drives can degrade over time and it can be due to heat, shock, vibration or inherent flaws in the media. Generally when a drive slows down it is due to excessive retries, the drives attempt to read data from a bad sector. Drives have extensive error correction algorithms that can have up to 256 levels. If a large number of sectors require retries during a read then the drive's performance will indeed degrade. In some cases these "bad" but readable sectors can be re-written and corrected. Other times the media is degrading due to corrosion or other issue or environmental issues such as heat is causing the write or read element to fail.

    Also, if the drive has reallocated several sectors, it may be seeking away from the current track to go get those sectors. Drives provide spare sectors as replacements for bad sectors in the main data area. These sectors may be spread out in each zone or they may be concentrated in the inner diameter area. Each time the heads seek to a reallocated sector the drive performance takes a hit. You can use a benchmark like H2Bench to see a good graph of the drive's performance. H2Bench is better for pure HD testing than HDTach since H2Bench runs under DOS and eliminates interference from windows. The graphs should be a fairly smooth stair step from faster speed in the outer diameter to slowest speed at the inner diameter. Any large spikes down in the middle of the graph show an area where there are either reallocations that the drive is having to go get or excessive retries are occuring.
    Last edited by Dukeman; 09-28-04 at 01:42 AM. Reason: Added to the first para

  7. #7
    Glorious Leader I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    Thanks for the post Dukeman, pretty informative.
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  8. #8
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    Now there is an explaination... not just some ragging on dell...

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  9. #9
    Member Drec's Avatar
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    it is possible for the motor to experiance some deterioration overage and slow down overtime, or the powerlines feeding the motor to deteriorate and have the motor not receving as much power as it should, i havent seen this with hard drives, but i have seen it with larger electric motors, ie. fans.

  10. #10
    Member PhobMX's Avatar
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    maybe off topic and still not...

    my gfs hd is a 4gb 5400 one, i believe its like 5 years old... somebody stated that seagates just work or dont work... well my gfs hd is the slowest drive ever... i mean a 566MHz celeron, soyo mobo and 320mb o ram are good enough for winxp anyday. Still this drive takes ages to page, load programs or install and is loud as hell. WinXP is out of the question since its now running win98 and its still feels sloppy. Of course im using adecuate drivers for everything.

    I couldnt ever conceive this drive has worked as slowly as it does since it was new. I have little experience with different systems, i think ive tried around 40 computers overall and if you ask me, hd slowdowns are true. Some have more impact, some just die. Technology is getting better and drives are faster and quieter, like a 20gb 4200rpm maxtor drive (used to be in my main rig) that still runs good enough. I also had a quantum 4gb hd (in my previous main rig, before the maxtor one) that still performs fair.

    Think about hds as car engines. We all now a car engine does degrade no matter how good it is maintained (not moded, and with stock components). A hd is also mechanical so i think the analogy is adecuate.

    Maybe sometime ramdrives will get cheap and big enough to save us, that wouldnt degrade evar...
    Last edited by PhobMX; 09-29-04 at 05:38 PM.
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  11. #11
    Member Sjaak's Avatar
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    A friend of me has a drive which started to fail on writing / reading files a month ago. He asked me for help, so i salvaged the data, then ran a low level format and repartitioned the drive. Its working fine now, but its slow as hell. Writing something like a CD image or Movie (approx. 700MB) takes over 5 mins, while usually it would take only 2.

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  12. #12
    Inactive Moderator larva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I.M.O.G.
    I think if there were any information solidly confirming or refuting this it would be at www.storagereview.com.
    Not an in-any-way-safe assumption.

    I have seen drives go bog slow for no apparant reason. I always attributed these occurances to faild ic's on the controller board, in the buffer ciruitry or perhaps the DSP that carries the processing load. The cause is mere speculation on my part, but drives can and do go bog slow just often enough for me to have seen it twice (over thousands upon thousands of drives).
    Last edited by larva; 09-29-04 at 08:54 PM.
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  13. #13
    Member PhobMX's Avatar
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    well, we all have experience with drives effectively going slow, dunno why tho... but none has stated the opposite...
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  14. #14
    Glorious Leader I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    I assume you probably are, but the safety of assumptions has already been mentioned...

    Are you guys running any sort of light/exhaustive diagnostics on these drives that go slow?

    I've seen drives which slow down for no apparent reason, and once formatted quickly go slow again... However there is consistently a trend of bad sectors and errors on the drive showing signs of failure.

    Basically this has been my experience with HDD's:

    A) The drive works fine.
    B) The drive has problems, slows at times, and fails diagnostics (this is a crapshoot, diagnostics often pass when the drive has obvious signs of failure)
    C) The drive has problems, slows at times, passes diagnostics, but scandisk fairly consistently finds errors or consistent (relevant to time) errors in windows (sign of failure, indeterminant amount of time)
    D) The drive has problems, and bad sectors, failure very emminent.

    Now Larva's experience could be something that could explain a drive just going slow, but with circuitry on the controlling board going bad... How can this propagate in the form of the drive just operating slower than normal, but avoid any other signs of failure in the quality of written data? That would seem very tough to technically explain or rationalize.

    Now, I have seen drives which emit a clicking sound when they are going bad, with very few symptoms other than the system almost becomeing completely unresponsive for the duration of the clicking - I presumed that this might be due to a loss of control over the arm. This is the closest thing I have seen to a drive just going slow, however it could not by any means be considered normal operation, and always means failure in a matter of months.

    As a mechanical part, it only makes sense that the HDD would show signs of wear and tear like anything else, and possibly slow down over time... But it also makes sense that by the time this becomes readily noticeable it would also almost certainly cause errors on the drive as it would become harder for the drive to write and read consistently where it should when the mechanics are not working correctly.

    I guess it appears as though "going slow" might be possible, however an extremely rare symptom of a hard drive having trouble.

    @Larva: Do you have a low opinion of Storagereview? From my experience reading there, they do one of the best jobs at reviewing drives anywhere, and they have some basic documentation on many things that is some of the best, though somewhat dated at times.

    @phobMX: We all know drives slow down, however, I've never seen a hard drive with a decent install (not older than crap and software bogged) just perform noticeably below its normal level, without accompanying signs of abnormal operation.
    Last edited by I.M.O.G.; 09-30-04 at 01:25 AM.
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  15. #15
    Member dansonang's Avatar
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    For me, I change 3 maxtor HDs over 5 yrs. When they start to die, they do get slow even after i format. Bad sectors start to appear, the HD gets nosier.....after 1 or 2 months...KO... I think the problem lies with the spin head and the disksurface. Nt sure of the technical aspects. But these are my personal experiences with all 3 maxtor HDs

  16. #16
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    Yeah I actually do think they slow down. My server hard drive was a Fujitsu (never again!). 20 gig as I remember it. It would get slower and slower as time passed, things would begin to load longer even with a defrag and all. Finally one day it took 1hr to load windows and thne died. It sucked... but yes it slowed down.
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  17. #17
    Member DocGiggs's Avatar
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    Has anyone thought the motor could just be wearing out? If the motor starts to wear out or the bearings go bad or even the fluiid for the bearings starts to dry out, I can easily see a drive slowing down. Usually a slowdown like this would cause imminent failure to occur. Meaning, it has about a month or so left to live. This isi usually because the drive is degrading and it will soon hit a point that it fail to spin, leave bad sectors, or worse, drop the head. Then there is always a chance that it degrades to a point where it slows down some... but then never degrades past that point for years to come. I think this would be a rarity but can and most likely does happen (although I've never witnessed it for myself). These are the type of drives that hang in there with some wierd tenancity to keep going. Kind of like those rag-tag cars that somehow manage to keep driving on the road when it seems like there is no way in hell they should even move at all.

  18. #18
    Member Dukeman's Avatar
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    It is unlikely that the motor wearing out would cause slow down of the drive. The motor wearing will cause the drive to take longer and longer to come ready from power up or sleep but if the motor takes too long to start up the drive will post "Not Ready" as the head will not come off the landing zone and fly soon enough for the firmware to be able to read it's initial data from the system sectors.

    IC wear is also an unlikely candidate as IC degradation also causes the firmware to miss timing or other thresholds necessary for the drive operation. The only IC that can fail gradually and not completely kill the drive is the memory chips. Buffer failures can cause data failure without the drive failing completely.

    Some things you can do to see if the drive has a "hidden" issue is to use a SMART tool that will show the "Retired or Reallocated Sector Count" or "Reallocation Event Count". (Some may be in hex so convert to decimal using the windows calculator) If these counts are high (more than 200 sectors per year of use) then the drive is growing defects fast enought to cause a performance hit (at least for the performance sensitive people here).

    As I.M.O.G. said above, some diags will pass even though the drive has poor performance. Most drives have a Self Test built in that will test the entire drive. In most cases this test should take no more than 1 minute per GB. If it takes longer then the drive is probably experiencing excessive retries for the read head to get data. I've seen 20GB drives that should have taken around 20 Minutes to complete a long self test take more than 12 hours to complete due to excessive retries.

  19. #19
    Member kiyoshilionz's Avatar
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    I've never heard of this "slowing down" after reformatting a hard drive. I've probably reinstalled Windows (in one form or another) 15 times in my past 3 computers. When I reinstall, I format the hard drive, wipe out all the old junk on it, and then the computer seems like it's incredibly fast after a clean wipe.

    After the format, things never bog back down. This could be because I've never had a true hard drive failure, just software problems in the OS that are easier to reinstall rather than fix.

    The one worst hard drive failure I had was about 3 weeks ago when I booted up the computer, once it got to the desktop, the computer rebooted, and then came to scandisk on the next bootup (This is WinXP). Scandisk found millions of errors, fixed all these files (And deleted a ton of crap ) but nothing would still work. Things just got corrupted left and right so I just formatted and reinstalled WinXP and everything's been fine from thereon out.

  20. #20
    Senior Member shadowdr's Avatar
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    Funny I should see this now as I am trying to research a slowdown on my system.It is not hardware related,but SP related as usual.With sp 2 or three I had issues with my Photodeluxe 2.0 program not working and giving out of ram errors as well as slow shut downs,relating to a "Roaming profile".After exhaustive research I found that removing Q811493 and Q329170 solved both problems.Somtime last year MS released a new q811493 that was of smaller size and I downloaded it with no problems,no errors.All was good for a while.

    Having autoupdate on, windows installed sp5.Yesterday I tried to open a picture that was associated with Photodeluxe and again,I got out of ram error.I had also noticed that my C: drive did seem slower than usual and while looking through the event viewer I saw the "Windows could not load your roaming profile,contact your administrator".So I go looking for the hotfix and find SP5 has uninstalled it and replaced it with hotfixes with completely different numbers.Great!

    I was allready researching the fact that when I first noticed the slowdown that chkdsk kept finding unused index entries relating to $__ of file 0x9 and fixing them.I had also noticed that some file associations had changed charictures.I found this in MS's database.I allready have all updates so now what? It seems that by backing up my data I have played into the hands of fate and caused a problem I cannot fix by re imaging my drive.

    It may not be the cause of everyones slowdown but service packs seem to go un noticed as the culprits for so many ills.
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