Hello everyone, it's me again, the weirdo who writes those long posts. Do I hear people heaving a sigh of exasperation in front of their screens?
Scott, I just purchased two new hard drives because I needed more disk space. Both are HGST drives. One of them was relatively inexpensive, probably because it is not a current model, but that doesn't bother me so I bought it anyways. This inexpensive hard drive is the reason for me writing this post. It is an HGST Ultrastar 7K3000 2 TB, HUA723020ALA641; P/N: 0F12470; date of manufacture: April 2012. The datasheet can be found here
I provisionally installed the new hard drive in an external enclosure to power it on and see if it was working properly. The enclosure is a Sharkoon Rapid-Case 3.5” eSATA
. After switching on the power and letting the hard drive spin up to its operating rpm, I heard a low frequency grinding noise, somewhat similar to the sound heard during read/write activity of the drive. However, the enclosure wasn't even connected to a computer and the activity LED on the front of the enclosure wasn't flashing, which means that there was no drive activity and that the drive was just idling. (For the record: the grinding noise is also present when the enclosure is connected to a computer, either via USB or eSATA, and the drive is idling.) The grinding noise was also present after I installed the hard drive in another external drive enclosure (Raidon GT1660-SB3), so that excludes the enclosure firmware as a potential culprit.
I should probably mention two things: 1. I read the drive's SMART data with CrystalDiskInfo and it shows that the drive is new and wasn't used previously. 2. I ran HGST's Drive Fitness Test for Windows and executed the quick test and the drive passed the test without any issues. There is also the option of running an extensive test, but I haven't done that yet.
I didn't like the sound this drive was making, so I decided to try and record the noise that I suspect shouldn't be there and make it available for download in the form of an audio file.
My recording setup is somewhat cumbersome, but nevertheless I think it is effective and the resulting audio is of sufficient quality. I pressed the sound input side of a Sony ECM-TL3 earphone style microphone against one of the ear pads of a Lisle mechanic's stethoscope (Lisle part # 52500
). The Sony ECM-TL3 was plugged into my Sony ICD-UX522 digital voice recorder. The microphone sensitivity was set to "high". I set the recording quality to "LPCM 44.1 kHz/16bit", which creates a WAV file. During recording, the top of the hard drive enclosure was contacted at different points with the stethoscope's metal rod, so that I could later choose the portion of audio where the noise could be heard most clearly.
I realize that this is probably not the best way of recording the sounds a hard drive makes. After doing some research, I believe it would be better to use a homemade contact microphone made with a piezo disk. See this Youtube video
to see what I'm talking about. I might make one of these contact mics in the future, but right now I don't have the time or the necessary parts available.
Since it apparently isn't allowed to upload WAV or MP3 files as forum post attachments, I have made the WAV files available under this link: WAV files of sounds made by HGST hard drives
Scott, when I tried to upload a WAV file as an attachment to my forum post, I received an error message telling me that “The extension wav is not allowed.” I then converted a WAV file to MP3 to see if I could upload that. I couldn't. I received an analogous error message: “The extension mp3 is not allowed.” Why aren't these file types allowed to be uploaded?
I have provided two WAV files of the HGST Ultrastar 7K3000. On one you can hear the drive spinning up, on the other you can hear the drive idling. The files are named accordingly. For comparison purposes I have also provided some other audio files. There are two WAV files of my other newly purchased hard drive, an HGST Ultrastar 7K4000, which is installed in a Raidon GT1660-SB3 external HDD enclosure. There are also two WAV files of one of my old Deskstar E7K1000 drives, also mounted in an external enclosure (Icy Box IB-366StUS2-B), which has a power on time of 87 hours and a power on count of 141. This is the hard drive I use for back-ups and therefore it hasn't been used much, despite its age. Both of these drives do NOT make the grinding noise that is present in the Ultrastar 7K3000.
Some people might think that the audio recordings would be better (i.e. the sound clearer) if the top cover of the hard drive is contacted directly with the metal rod of the mechanic's stethoscope. However, I made several recordings while contacting the drive directly with the stethoscope and the results weren't better; if anything, they were slightly worse than when I contacted the top of the enclosure with the stethoscope. I also didn't want to contact the top of the drive directly, because even though the top cover appears to be made of quite rigid sheet metal, I didn't know if the light pressure that would be applied to the cover with the stethoscope's metal rod could cause damage or at least have some kind of momentary detrimental effect on the drive, even if it would only be a slight change in the drive's acoustic signature.
The HGST Ultrastar 7K3000 (HUA723020ALA641) has built-in bulk data encryption, and I pondered whether or not this could be the reason for the noise the drive is making during idle. However, after reading some of the FAQs about bulk data encryption
on the HGST web site, I have come to the conclusion that the bulk data encryption feature has nothing to do with the noise the hard drive is making, because encryption/decryption of data is done on the fly by the drive's hardware only when data is being written to or read from the drive. So it's not like the drive needs to encrypt itself initially after the first power on.
Scott, the reason for providing the audio files is that I hope you will listen to the noise the HGST Ultrastar 7K3000 is making and tell me if you think that this drive is defective or if the noise is a precursor of hard drive failure. I have zero experience in analyzing the acoustic signatures of hard drives, and I know you are vastly experienced in all things computer hardware related, so I'm hoping you can help me out. If there is even the slightest suspicion that this hard drive has an issue, I will send it back to the online vendor I bought it from.
I used a free audio analysis program called Praat
to do some simple analysis of the recorded WAV files of the idling hard drives. Praat has a somewhat unorthodox GUI, so you'll have to familiarize yourself with its user interface logic before you can do something useful.
What I did was create spectrum objects of the sound objects (in Praat, sound files are sound objects) by choosing “Analyse spectrum”->”To Spectrum...”, then I viewed the spectrum objects by choosing “View & Edit”. In the spectrum window you can zoom in and out to the frequency ranges you wish to view. You can then play back only the sound generated by the frequencies currently visible in the window by choosing “View”->”Play window” from the menu. What I found very useful for comparison purposes is to open two spectrum windows side by side, one of the 7K3000 and one of the 7K4000. Then I zoomed in to the frequency range of interest, e.g. 340 to 455 Hz, and played back the sounds of the two windows in quick succession to compare the noise signature. A great feature is that the zoom and scroll of one spectrum window is mirrored in the other spectrum window. You can turn this behavior off if you wish, by choosing “File”->”Preferences...” from the menu and deselecting the option “Synchronize zoom and scroll”.
What I found is that the grinding noise is made up of frequencies in the range of 340 to 455 Hz and to a lesser extent 750 to 1050 Hz. When analyzing the E7K1000 and 7K4000 idling WAV files using Praat as described in the preceding paragraph, it became clear that these other two drives have much less sound energy in these frequency ranges. From that I deduce that if two HGST drives, one older and one new, don't have the low frequency grinding noise, then this noise shouldn't be there and that the Ultrastar 7K3000 is defective. In auto tech terms, the Ultrastar 7K3000 noise signature is analogous to an engine that is running rough, the E7K1000 and 7K4000 noise signatures are analogous to an engine that is running smoothly.
I am convinced that the Ultrastar 7K3000 hard drive I purchased is defective. Scott, what do you think?