Ubuntu laptop clan trapped in hard drive hell
OS 'not to blame' for maniacal disks
The Ubuntu operating system has been charged with crimes against hard drives. A number of users have complained this week about the OS (7.04/7.10) forcing drives to spin up and down at an unnatural rate due to some very aggressive power management features. According to Ubuntu wizards, however, this is a firmware/BIOS issue and not the OS's fault.
A couple of user forums have started fill up with people commenting about their systems going through an unusual number of load cycles while under battery power. This excessive throttling of the hard drive could lead to quicker than expected hardware failures.
One user complains, "When switching to battery power, /etc/acpi/power.sh issues the command hdparm -B 1 to all block devices. This leads to extremely frequent load cycles. For example, my new thinkpad has already done well over 7000 load cycles -- in only 100 hours.
"That's at least one unloading per minute. Googling for "load unload cycles notebook OR laptop" shows that most laptop drives handle up to 600,000 such cycles."
This best explanation we've found of the hard drive mechanics at play comes from Linux-Hero.
The drive reported has a life span of 600,000 load/unload cycles before the precisely machined tolerances in the drive begin to deteriorate. Somewhere along the line, the drives are being asked to spin down very frequently. These are factors controlled by a power management utility within the drive called Advanced Power Management, or apm, and are dictated by Ubuntu after boot-up. The problem is simply that the drives are spinning up and down too often, and the sliders are being forced to roll on and off the ramp where they’re stored when in off use, causing wear and tear on the slider assembly (not to mention the motor spinning the drive).
But the Ubuntu nation contends that it's the laptop makers who are after aggressive power management that are causing the problems.
One blogger writes that the issues are OS independent. "These aggressive power management settings are set by your BIOS or harddrive firmware. Windows and/or Mac OS X might be overriding these settings which might make Ubuntu look bad if Ubuntu doesn’t override these settings."
Meanwhile, an Ubuntu developer explains that the OS creators have tried to avoid messing with the BIOS and firmware setting provided by hardware makers. So, this hands off approach can lead to major hard drive wear and tear, but that's what the laptop vendors intended.
According to Linux-Hero, you can fix the problem by running hdparm -B 255 /dev/sda. This will shut down the advanced power management features of your hard drive. A number of users have confirmed that this workaround has helped them as well. (Of course, your hard drive my eventually catch on fire, which would also lessen its lifespan.)
It looks like Hitachi, IBM/Lenovo and Dell units are all mentioned as potential culprits. And, if you hear you hard drive clicking, you're almost certainly suffering from this condition.
Good luck. ®
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I see a MS vs Linux flame war erupt in Reg comments I notice that the Linux fans attack the Microsoft fans' Operating System's security, stability, efficiency, privacy, cost, ethics and so-on while the Microsoft fans attack the Linux fans' sexuality, fashion sense, body odour, social skills and hairstyles.
I think this probably says all you need to know about Microsoft, Linux and their respective fans.
what the watt?!
Adam Williamson: 5W is huge! my laptop uses 11W on battery, I will definitely notice the difference of a few watts.
don't believe the raw value
when you run smartctl on your disk and look at the Load_Cycle_Count entry, and the RAW_VALUE column, you may very well *not* be seeing the number of times your hard disk heads have unparked.
SMART is not designed to reliably report counters, instead it reports an indication of health.
You will see VALUE, WORST and THRESH columns - these are the useful ones. Load_Cycle_Count is an Old_Age type of SMART value, which means the VALUE starts at 100 and counts down to THRESH (usually zero).
When that counter reaches zero, it means you have reached what the manufacturer of the drive believes is the end of its expected lifespan.
By way of an example, my thinkpad x40 reports a Load_Cycle_Count RAW_VALUE of almost 3 trillion, which for a 14 month old laptop is very clearly not a real counter. The VALUE is actually only about 71, so I've used less than 1/3 of the drive's life, even though I've had aggressive laptop mode enabled in Ubuntu for at least a year.
Some drives will report the absolute count of head unparks in the RAW_VALUE column, but please don't assume that it is always the case. Use SMART for what it is supposed to be, an indication of health that is interpreted by the drive's firmware (ie by the manufacturers). That is why there are thresholds and stuff.
Sadly this entire issue has blown up because of a mis-interpretation of data and some broken assumptions about what Ubuntu does when you are on battery.
> I run XP because only XP and OSX have the software I need to run without requiring massive amounts of knowledge to set up
Same old FUD as usual here and your earlier post, David. "massive amounts of knowledge to set up" hasn't been true for Linux for ages but of course if you could only extract yourself from your Windows handcuffs and stop acting the shill you'd know this. I seriously doubt you've *ever* tried to install Windows onto bare metal.
Does this happen with laptop-mode disbled?
I am using Ubuntu 7.10 on an ASUS A6Rp laptop. For a short-while I *manually* enabled laptop-mode. I found that it did indeed park the hard drive and power it down. I found that the time to park and unpark, seek and read info then start whatever application I was trying to use was annoying, so I turned off laptop-mode.
My point is that I had to *manually* enable laptop-mode, and *manually* disable it, to recreate the behaviour that is being discussed. It does not happen otherwise.
Are the people who are having this issue getting it with laptop-mode disabled?