WD, Seagate and Toshiba found selling slow SMR drives unsuitable for NAS RAID environments

A hot potato:Reports of WD, Seagate, and Toshiba quietly selling SMR disks have been confirmed by the respective manufacturers. SMR or shingled magnetic recording makes for denser and cheaper drives but also results in very slow write performance, limiting their use to archiving applications where such latency is endurable. The three manufacturers were previously accused of not mentioning this specification in user documentation of some models and marketing them as NAS drives, misleading consumers who were expecting high performance for their RAID configs.

HDDs don't usually get in the limelight these days because most of us are regularly blown away by blazingly fast SSD speeds and the associated wait for the tech to get cheaper by the dollar. Mechanical drives, however, are still just asfascinating as any other storage medium and continue to be a reliable, cheap way for storing large amounts of data such as backups and media files, alongside their widespread use in NAS environments.

In such use cases, small businesses and consumers use NAS drives that are purposely built to withstand extensive workloads, with a RAID configuration meant to ensure data reliability and integrity. These setups are also demanding of high storage performance, something which SMR technology exchanges for storage density and cost.

Overlapping write tracks form a shingle-like structure (Image credit: Blocks & Files)

As Blocks & Files notes , SMR disks are meant to store more data on a disk platter than conventional magnetic recording (CMR) disks by partially overlapping write tracks, resulting in much slower write performance than a non-SMR drive. The specification is also important for buyers in determining the type of disk they need for their use case.

For NAS, SMR drives are not recommended due to their slower write speeds, but manufacturers including WD , Seagate , and Toshiba have been getting away with selling several models as NAS and desktop drives without specifying SMR in their product documentation.

These include models like WD's Red (2TB - 6TB), Seagate's Barracuda 8TB (ST8000DM004) and 5TB Desktop (ST500DM000), as well as Toshiba's P300 4TB (HDWD240UZSVA) and 6TB (HDWD260UZSVA) desktop drives.

In a follow-up report, Blocks & Files also notes a senior industry figure calling out the PC supply chain for this issue, with OEMs like HP and Dell also failing to inform customers of the cheaper but slower storage technology accompanying their new machines.

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