Forum Focus: Western Digital Advanced Format Drives and Windows Home Server

Western Digital are leading the charge to implement a new “Advanced Format” technology in their Caviar Green 1TB, 1.5TB, and 2TB hard drives. This new technology is replacing the traditional 512 byte hard drive sector with a 4 kilobyte (4,096B) hard drive sector to improve future drive efficiency and capacity. The move to 4KB sectors is likely to be adopted by all manufacturers in 2010-11.

“So what?”, you may ask, and it’s a fair question. Right now, there’s little consumer benefit to the transition, other than in the future, it will enable drives larger than 2TB to be developed. (There’s a great explanation of the detail around the technology here). The issue is that only Windows 6.x operating systems and above (that’s Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2) have in-box support for the new technology, whilst older operating systems which aren’t aware of the tech are likely to have poor default performance from these drives due to alignment issues.

So, Western Digital have released a utility to enable these drives to be realigned for use on older operating systems such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. A jumper solution is also available as a work around. But guess what? The utility, called WD Align, is blocked from running on Windows Home Server. Great work Western Digital!

WGS Forum members are starting to hit the issue, and are seeking alternative ways of working around the problem – with some, (but not total) success. Nailing compatibility is likely to require WD or Microsoft patching the utility or operating system for compatibility, but with a new version of Windows Home Server in development, who knows if that is likely?

There is a great thread going over on the forums which explores the issue in detail:

WD Green 2Tb Drives – Should We Use WD Align?

A couple of readers have hacked the WD Align file to remove the OS check, whilst this appears to enable alignment support for new system drive installations, but problems are still occurring for drives attached to the storage pool. You can spot the new Western Digital drives by their model number, which will end in EARS.

Reader Headhunter3000 states,

  • EARS as system drive must not be jumpered but aligned immediately after install (before other EARS drives are attached as data pool drives).
  • EARS drives as data pool drives can only be used with jumpers
  • Never run WDALIGN on WHS with a jumpered EARS drive as data pool drive.

For now, your safest bet is to avoid the new Western Digital Advanced Format drives with Windows Home Server until a full resolution can be found. With WHS v2 being based on Windows Server 2008 R2, it should not be affected by this problem

Update: I pinged the Windows Home Server team and they’ve confirmed they’re aware of the drives and are in discussion with Western Digital. That doesn’t necessarily mean a fix is on the way, but keep your fingers crossed.

More Info: WGS Forums



    1. Aligning the drive in an XP machine is not an option for drives in the data pool, as WHS will not recognize the drive after putting the "externally aligned" drive back to the WHS machine and says it's not added to the pool.

  1. I don' think that's a great solution for everyday users…. we need to see MS and WD step up and sort this out. I've emailed the WHS team with a link here to see what (if anything) can be done.

  2. I'm not sure what to make of this. I have a 2TB EARS in my pool, are you saying that this don't work or just that I'm looking for trouble?

    1. You might have bad performance on this drive if it is not aligned. You could remove the drive from the pool, set the jumper on that drive (as described on the sticker), and then add the drive to the pool again. But this is only wise if you use these drives ONLY as data pool drives.

  3. I ordered 2 WD Caviar Green EARS drives for my WHS and had terrible trouble getting them to work. Eventually a complete install from scratch got them working (with jumpering) but it ran _very_ slowly. I took them out, got a refund and put 2 x 1TB Spinpoints in which are now running perfectly. I definitely won't be going near EARS drives in the near future!

    1. In the current situation (no proper WHS support) this is the safest solution as the jumper solution only works if you have a single partition on the drive (e.g. data pool drives). System drives don't work properly when jumpered.

  4. Hmm not sure this will affect me, my next drive will be a 2TB, but this will be for off-site backups. I don't see myself passing the 2TB barrier inside my server before vail is released.

  5. Don't want to sound like a killjoy here, but first and foremost I would like to understand why WD blocks this in Windows Home Server? Is this simply a marketing issue, or is it a technical issue? I.e.: Would it mess up folder replications?

  6. I am happy that I did not have to go through this myself.
    I was going to move to 2TB drives in the future, replacing ALL of my 500GB drives. BUT with problems like this the manufacturer (WD) will have to get it right first. If they need help and support from MS then they should work closely together. That way ALL of their customers, both WD & MS will be happy and can migrate to larger disk capacities as needed. I hope they get this done quickly and correct.

  7. I just installed a 1.5TB EARS drive in my EX490. No jumper, no problems. Already have about 500GB of data on it. It is the third drive in my WHS, data pool only. Not noticing a performance issue.

  8. FYI
    WD EARS Green drives also have 64 MB Cache rather than 32 or 16 MB. Just another way to tell them apart..

  9. Does this problem affect the WD20EADS Caviar Green 2TB drive? Might be worth writing a list of model numbers that have the problem.

  10. I recently bought a 2TB Ears and added it to my pool with no jumper, it failed within a week but no problem with my new drive so far, now with jumper in place.
    Don`t know if this had anything to do with this maybe my first drive was faulty.
    Just thought I should mention it.

  11. Hiya – first time post…

    After reading the thread here (and just having purchased a new server with a non-EARS system drive, and 4 x 1.5Tb EARS pool-drives, I've done some experimentation.

    After being informed that EARS drives would work fine on my system, I gave a single un-jumpered EARS pool drive a go. The performance was *phenomenally* bad. Transfers would start out fine, but eventually bottom out at 4Mb/sec – this is on a 1Gbit network.

    With the jumper in place, the same system consistently gives average speeds of upwards of 40Mb/sec.

    I'm using MS's Rich Copy to do the transfers of roughly 300 files of sizes varying from 32 bytes to 800Mb, totaling 4Gb of data. Times were varying from 15 minutes(!) when un-jumpered, down to 1m09s with 2 pool drives, both jumperd.

    Hope this is of some use. 🙂

  12. This article and many of the comments are not particularly useful for the average user – it’s fearmongering in response to the natural progression of IT that got us to WHS in the first place …. A better coverage would be a simple guide:

    1. Advanced format drives are coming – WD have released some now, but all drive manufacturers will have to if they are going to break the 2TB limit

    2. In the current version of WHS, use a non advanced format drive as your system drive

    3. When using an advanced format WD drive as a data pool drive, set the jumper before adding it to the system.


  13. Same result as Jawright, slow performance when copying data after initial install. Jumpered (2) 1.5TB EARS in the setup and they are running smoothly.

  14. Over the last month and a half, I went through h*ll with these drives on my new WHS. Major File Conflicts. I wouldn't use them if you paid me.

    They were poor quality (bought 2 one was bad right out of the box), and the second one cost me a week-end of pain. Replaced them with the 1GB one with a non advanced format drive and am a much happier camper.

  15. i put four (4) WD15EARS in a Sans Digital TR5M with the jumper on position 7-8 and the drives work perfectly for me when added to the storage pool. $99 for 1.5TB + 64MB of cache… cannot beat it.

  16. hey all
    im not really familiar with EARS and EADS
    i saw a 1.5TB EADS / EARS-64MB for $150
    what exactly does the EADS or EARS actually mean becuase im not to sure
    i only want this hard drive to back up eveyrthing on my computer
    should i buy it?
    please help
    thank you

  17. After reading the comments here I used the jumper before installing my WD 2Tb EARS drive to the WHS pool.
    I found copying to the pool on occasion to be extremely slow after the new drive was added. In some cases going down to as low as 312kb/sec, but mostly averaging out at 4Mb/s.
    I did a HDTach now to compare speeds on my 1Tb Seagate to the new 2Tb WD which are both in the pool and the problem appears to be with the jumpered WD which is benchmarking at 4Mb/s.
    Only option I have now is remove WD 2Tb and use in my Windows 7 PC as Windows & supports the new advanced formating of these drives it seems.
    Has anyone had success with sustained speeds with jumpers on ??

  18. Was this patched? I have a WHS home build. Ran great for the last two or three months with 2 WD15EARS. After I installed them I heard that these drives don't play well with WHS, but I figured maybe they were jumped when I bought em and I got lucky. Due to this, I took the plunge on 2 WD20EARS ( blu ray backups take up a lot of space)_ figuring I could pull a couple of jumpers from some old drives. I didn't need them. The 15EARS weren't jumped, so I installed the 20s as is figuring I could fix it later. I'm getting 60 to 80MBs a sec transfers, hd tune is showing 100+MBs a second maximum speeds. I will point out that I have a funky ULI ( I think that's what it's called) Sata controller on this board. WHS didn't support it, I had to download drivers and the drivers were universal XP, 2003, Vista, 2007, and 7. Maybe the drivers support it therefore I didn't have any problems. Or WHS has been patched. Any thoughts?

  19. Same for me! I installed a 1.5 Tb EARS drive with 64 Mb cache in my SanDigital pool and suddenly I found WHS been very slow with data transfert, . On some occasion, WHS was freezen for a couple of second. I removed the hard drive and everything become like usual…FAST and reliable. For sure, I'm not using any EARS drive for a while (or until WD finds a solution)

  20. Just to say, I added an EARS 2TB to my pool, jumpered, and it's been running like a champ for a while now.

  21. What would you recommend I do in my situation?

    I have a WHS with the system drive a 1.5TB non-advanced format Samsung, and 2 x 2TB WD EARS drives that I added as data pool drives. I forgot to jumper the drives (i thought Server 2003 was okay with the advanced format drives). I have been running for about a week. Currently have about 3.5TB worth of backups from home PCs on the system. The performance seems okay – file transfers from my RAID0 to the WHS usually go at around 85MB/s.

    I am really worried about killing the drives – what do you guys I recommend? Should I pull the drives and jumper them?

  22. Im in the same boat. Just installed a 2TB EARS drive in WHS over two weeks ago. I did notice things were slow but thought it was because I was transferring files over WIFI instead of directly connected to the router. Im kinda worried now that Ive found alot of people having problems with the EARS versions. If I just put on a jumper would this work or will I have to tell WHS to remove the drive, copy it to existing drives in the pool, jumper it, and re add it back into the pool?

  23. I bought recently a wd20ears (2tb) hdd. My o.s. is Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. When i format the new disk, it will stop at 54%. Someone have this problem? Some solution? If i enter the BIOS i see 2000GB, so it's ok. Windows show 1803.01GB, so it's ok. I can't understand where is the problem. Than you.

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