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Does anyone have a new Seagate portable USB 3.0 drive to test with?

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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I'm puzzling over the very hit-and-miss performance of a drive I've just bought for a customer. Here's a benchmark I did just now:



The drive on the left is my own Seagate portable drive that I bought a few years ago that I have no problems with. The drive on the right is the one I've just bought and TBH that ATTO benchmark is the new drive on a particularly good day (and the drive in very general terms seems to be improving).

I was first alerted to a problem when I was transferring a backed-up user profile (so lots of small files in AppData followed by large image files in say the Pictures folder). I was seeing delays in robocopy that I'd normally associate with copying to a flash drive: tiny files taking a second or two each, then a second or two delay between each file from time to time. But then even more alarmingly the images were taking a good second or two each as well rather than the 'multiple files transferred per second' scenario I'd normally expect.

As I've recently migrated to Linux I was wondering if this might be related to that, but I had similar results in Windows 10 (I'm dual-booting and I have Win10 for gaming mostly). I'd see odd behaviours like transfer performance improving if I stopped it for a few minutes and let the drive settle down for a while. Sometimes I'd see a transfer rate of 60MB/sec for images, sometimes 6MB/sec for similar-size images.

That ATTO result is among the best I've seen for the new drive. One of the first ATTO benchmarks I did came out with 118 BYTES/SEC write and 3 BYTES/SEC read at the start of the test. It literally took a couple of minutes to post the first bar.

As that graph shows, it's like the drive is busy doing something else, but in Windows I'm watching the Task Manager graph for that particular drive, wait for it to completely flatline for 10 seconds then run the benchmark.

SMART data for the drive is fine, neither Windows or Linux reported anything in the logs to suggest a drive failure.

I had to transfer about 130GB of data to the drive for this customer. I stopped the transfer a fair few times and attempted the same transfer with the same cable and USB port to my own drive which was pushing things through at at least twice the speed for small files. Eventually I just let the newer drive get on with it, and it did at a fairly reasonable rate for the images (80-90MB/sec), but the random performance is kind of like how a friend put it, as if the drive was somehow having to format sectors on the fly before starting the copy. Just in case something bizarre was done to the file system, I have wiped that drive more than once (quick format NTFS) before doing things under Windows in earnest (like the final transfer). The wonky performance of that drive also showed up with a brand-new laptop with a clean install of Win10.

If I had one solid bit of evidence that strongly suggested a faulty drive I would have started the returns procedure on it without question, but unfortunately I don't. I think the next time I need to buy such a drive I'll be scrutinising its performance though.
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
51,960
6,900
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Sounds like their new drives, using tiered storage internally. SMR platters, with a little bit of flash memory. I don't think that your observations are wrong.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,845
5,038
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Sounds like their new drives, using tiered storage internally. SMR platters, with a little bit of flash memory. I don't think that your observations are wrong.
Thanks. Ok, then I guess I should shop elsewhere for portable HDDs in future! I've avoided WD for a long time because I've never known a way to be sure how to avoid their weird drives that require drivers to use the drive. Do you have any tips (or suggestions for other alternatives)?
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
54,963
4,889
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I have a 2tb toshiba drive that works well. I haven't run benchmarks or anything, but it seems to operate appropriately.
 

Mr Evil

Senior member
Jul 24, 2015
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mrevil.asvachin.com
I have a couple of Seagate drives, so I benchmarked them:

The first two are two runs of the same, older drive. I don't know why the write speed was so slow the first time. Running the benchmark a few times more gave results consistent with the second time.

The third one is the new drive. Running the benchmark again on it gave different results each time, but always randomly varying with transfer size.

Note that the newer drive is half full, while the older one is only quarter full.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,845
5,038
136
In my case the new drive was empty, then down to ~800GB free, whereas the older drive I think is at least half full.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,845
5,038
136
Sounds like their new drives, using tiered storage internally. SMR platters, with a little bit of flash memory. I don't think that your observations are wrong.
Is there any kind of useful article on this topic so I can learn more about it? I'm just wondering if there's any usage scenario that I consider them valid for (in the context of my work). I sell portable storage almost completely for backup purposes, and while backup speed isn't as important as say fixed storage speed, most of my customers are less likely to run backups if they take longer, and a good argument for a portable HDD aside from capacity is that they normally run rings around USB flash drives.
 

mxnerd

Diamond Member
Jul 6, 2007
6,152
886
126
Maybe it has something to do with the USB to SATA controller?

And what's the rotation speed of the drives?

Try to swap drives then re-test.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,845
5,038
136
I have a 2tb toshiba drive that works well. I haven't run benchmarks or anything, but it seems to operate appropriately.
I've stuck with Toshiba drives since, and their performance is exactly what I'd expect from a half-decent 2.5" HDD connected via USB3; no inconsistent performance issues that I've noticed with that new Seagate model.

Thanks for the recommendation.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,220
39
91
I've stuck with Toshiba drives since, and their performance is exactly what I'd expect from a half-decent 2.5" HDD connected via USB3; no inconsistent performance issues that I've noticed with that new Seagate model.

Thanks for the recommendation.
I've got 6 Seagate portables, varying in age and size (500GB to 2TB.) My newest one, bought to replace a not-so-old one with a bad plug, has had funky write characteristics, but I've not run ATTO on it... yet. Seeing this, I might, just to see. I've always found them to be pretty fast (for a portable) and reliable (except for the one with the bad plug,) it will disappoint me if I have to move on...
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,845
5,038
136
The thing is, when I sell portable HDDs, they're almost invariably for backup purposes so therefore their job is probably 99% write related rather than read.
 
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Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,220
39
91
Bam... there it is. That's horrible.

I only use my externals for nightly backups, but that explains why file transfers are wonky and take forever.



10468
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,845
5,038
136
I must take another look at AT's recent review that included the new SG drive because IIRC they somehow managed to write a review that made it not look terrible.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,220
39
91
Those runs were made on a fresh boot with nothing running... just to compare apples to (rotten) apples. All the ATTO's I've ever run on my portables look like the right, I've kind of gotten away from benching... apathy and all that... becuase they always turn out the same. That'll teach me.
 

CuriousMike

Diamond Member
Feb 22, 2001
3,010
479
136
Are you testing on the same USB port?

I had been experiencing horrible external USB drive writes only to discover my rookie move - I was using a USB-3 hub that shared mouse, keyboard and harddrive. Plugging the drive directly into a port on the mobo and the performance increased exponentially.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,220
39
91
I thought of that... but both of my portables are plugged into mobo USB3.0's... it's as apples to apples as I can get. I do have PCIe 3.0 hub, but that's not what I use it for... but that's an interesting thought... I might just try it to see.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
6,220
39
91
Just for fun, I ran my new Seagate drive on the mobo port, expansion port, front case port (respectively) and this is what I got... very consistent, but very poor.
 

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