Hard Disk frequent head unloads (Disk Clicking whilst idle?) - Possible Solution?

I created a thread about a problem a I had with my hard disk clicking
whilst idle little while ago and I may now have stumbled upon a possible
solution. The strange thing with the problem is that Ubuntu/Kubuntu
didn't cause this problem but Opensuse 11.2 does.

I installed Fedora 13 to have a glimpse of what all the fuss was about
and noticed that I had the same problem (hard disk clicking whilst idle
~ every 20 secs or so). Now there's a wiki on this subject and a few bug


>  Problem Description
> Some ATA harddrives perform very frequent head unloads under Linux
> significantly shortening their lifespans.
> Root cause
> The inactivity timer for head unload is configured too aggressively
> either via ATA APM (Advanced Power Management) feature or other
> non-standard means. Such aggressive settings are very fragile to changes
> in IO pattern and under Linux many such drives unload their heads only
> to re-load them shortly. Note that this relentless unloading/reloading
> cycle can also be triggered under Windows by installing programs which
> can alter the IO pattern (e.g. certain vaccine programs which runs in
> background). 

Now two of the listed models with this problem are basically identical
to my model (Dell Inspiron 1520) and basically share the same hardware:
Dell Vostro 1500 and XPS 1520.

The workaround listed is to:

> set APM to 254 

Furthermore, there is a script: Storage-Fixup which can also be
downloaded from opensuse software search. Indeed there is a report of
this for a Vostro 1500:
'Gmane Loom' (http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.ide/38352)

The report suggests looking at:
'Disk Power Management - openSUSE'
which lists a method to create a configuration file to management disk
power management:

/etc/pm/config.d/disk and

the power management script:


My question is whether I could download the storage-fixup rpm
(https://ata.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Known_issues#storage-fixup has a
description of it and it can be found: 'Software.openSUSE.org'
(http://tinyurl.com/28arb8m)) and install it to (hopefully) solve the
issue or should I follow the method given in:
'Disk Power Management - openSUSE'

to set APM to 254:

    # Configure disk power management settings to ensure both
  # long disk life and good power management.
  # Space delimited list of disk devices this affects.
  # Power management modes
  # Powersave mode off
  #  Disable APM and spin-down
  DEVICES_DISK_PM_POWERSAVE_OFF="hdparm -q -B 255 -q -S 0"
  # Powersave mode on
  # Enable APM to conservative 200 and set spin-down for 21 minutes
  DEVICES_DISK_PM_POWERSAVE_ON="hdparm -q -B 200 -q -S 252"

Here are some further discussions on the topic if needed:

Thanks for any help in advance!


6/2/2010 5:16:01 PM
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Well I seem to have solved the issue. Basically, the problem is
something that affects a few hard drive models (see:
https://ata.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Known_issues for an incomplete
list). The problem is:

> Modern laptop drives have indeed the ability to suspend their activity
> (unloading the heads, as far as I understand). This reduces the power
> consumption of the disk, which is obviously good for a laptop on
> battery. However, a hard drive can only sustain a limited number of load
> cycles, so you don't want this to happen too frequently.

So this issue can kill your harddrive faster. Indeed using smartmon
tools I noticed that my load cycle count was increasing fairly rapidly
after just 5-10 mins usage. "Luckily" since I haven't been using Linux
much my load cycle count value was only 69000 (The typical lifetime
rating for laptop (2.5-in) hard drives is 300,000 to 600,000 load

The script storage-fixup is a script that solves the issue for specific
hard drives (since each one needs unique values set). Unfortunately
since my hard drive/laptop model was not on the list I would have to do
it manually. 

The fix involves using the hdparm utility to adjust the aggressive
power management set by the manufacturers (who only had windoze in mind
when configuring values).

Using hdparm we have to change two parameters:

> -B Set Advanced Power Management feature, if the drive supports it. A
> low value means aggressive power management and
> a high value means better performance.  Possible settings range from
> values 1  through  127  (which  permit  spin-
> down),  and  values  128  through  254 (which do not permit
> spin-down).  The highest degree of power management is
> attained with a setting of 1, and the highest I/O performance with a
> setting of 254.  A value of 255 tells  hdparm
> to disable Advanced Power Management altogether on the drive (not all
> drives support disabling it, but most do).


> -S Set the standby (spindown) timeout for the drive.  This value is used
> by the drive to determine how long  to  wait
> (with  no  disk activity) before turning off the spindle motor to
> save power.  Under such circumstances, the drive
> may take as long as 30 seconds to respond to a subsequent disk
> access, though most drives are much  quicker.   The
> encoding  of  the  timeout  value is somewhat peculiar.  A value of
> zero means "timeouts are disabled": the device
> will not automatically enter standby mode.  Values from 1 to 240
> specify multiples of 5 seconds, yielding timeouts
> from  5 seconds to 20 minutes.  Values from 241 to 251 specify from
> 1 to 11 units of 30 minutes, yielding timeouts
> from 30 minutes to 5.5 hours.  A value of 252 signifies a timeout of
> 21 minutes. A value of  253  sets  a  vendor-
> defined  timeout  period  between 8 and 12 hours, and the value 254
> is reserved.  255 is interpreted as 21 minutes
> plus 15 seconds.  Note that some older drives may have very
> different interpretations of these values.

You can temporarily fix the issue by using the command (as root):

    hdparm -B 254 -S 242 /dev/sdb

Note these values (254 and 242) are specific to hard drives (some do
not support all values such as 255 (to switch off 255, so some googling
and try and error may be needed before setting them). -B gives me better
performance (less power management) and -S 242 means standbying the hard
drive after 1 hour (to ensure that it doesn't heat up). 

You can check that you were succesful by issuing the command:

    hdparm -I /dev/sda
 (assuming sda is your hard drive)

and see if the output for APM gives the value 254 (mine was originally

After issuing this command in Fedora the hard disk clicking stopped and
the load cycle count didn't increase for 15 mins (as opposed to an
increase of 10-20 earlier).

To make this fix permanent:

'Power saving by enabling hard disk AdvancedPM mode HOW TO - openSUSE'

Essential reading before any even tries this:

'Power saving by enabling hard disk AdvancedPM mode HOW TO - openSUSE'
'Fedora 9 Sulphur on a Dell Latitude D430'

since messing with hdparm without reading the man page could screw up
your drive.

Anonymous1986's Profile: http://forums.opensuse.org/member.php?userid=38240
View this thread: http://forums.opensuse.org/showthread.php?t=439751

6/3/2010 1:26:02 PM
Sorry to bump this thread, but I'm having this problem on my recently
installed 11.4 as well (I'm new to OpenSUSE). Used to have it in Ubuntu
too, although it was fixed in 10.10 (or at least the problem no longer
occurred, not sure whether it was actually fixed or just a coincidence
of changed disk activity behavior). Does anyone know whether the above
mentioned permanent fix can be applied to 11.4, or if perhaps another
solution exists by now? Thanks.

john_jtvds's Profile: http://forums.opensuse.org/member.php?userid=58752
View this thread: http://forums.opensuse.org/showthread.php?t=439751

5/18/2011 9:06:05 PM
By the way, is there anyone who knows whether it is safe to simply add
the line

    hdparm -B 254 /dev/sda

to /etc/rc.d/boot.local, as an alternative workaround?

john_jtvds's Profile: http://forums.opensuse.org/member.php?userid=58752
View this thread: http://forums.opensuse.org/showthread.php?t=439751

5/24/2011 4:06:04 PM

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