Western Digital (WD) is again suspected of using dubious methods to increase sales of its hard drives, writes Ars Technica. Synology NAS owners using WD WDDA-enabled drives are increasingly receiving warnings that the hard drive needs to be replaced, which users say pushes them to buy a new drive even though the existing one is fully functional.
You can see the warning message that the hard drive should be replaced in the DSM operating system interface that comes with the Synology NAS. The message appears when the total lifetime of the hard disk reaches three years. As Ars Technica writes, the first such warning plunged some users into the depths “in a bit of a panic”. Curiously, many models of the affected hard drives come with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty, but the message appears even if the hard drive also has a longer warranty.
To fix the “problem”, the system offers to replace the hard drive with a new one:”The drive has been used for many hours over its lifetime. Please think about replacing the disc soon., the warning says. At the same time, even according to the owners of such disks, the drives do not show any signs of imminent failure.
Speaking to Ars Technica, a Synology representative said WDDA technology was responsible for the warning. This is Western Digital’s proprietary technology that allows the user to monitor the health of the drive and receive recommendations for solving problems with the device. Western Digital does not provide access to a complete list of products equipped with WDDA technology. From Data Synology’s hard drives include the Red Pro, Red Plus for NAS, and Purple HDD series, which are positioned by the manufacturer as hard drives for use in surveillance systems.
A Synology representative noted that warnings may occur “WDDA-enabled devices, which include models ending in 13 and 21, running DSM 7.0, DSM 7.1, and DSM 7.2.”. However, newer models, starting with the DS1522+ that went on sale in July 2022, do not support WDDA.
According to the tech blogger and consultant, who goes by the pseudonym SpaceRex on YouTube, three years is a negligible amount of time for a hard drive as part of network storage. And the experience of the same cloud storage service provider Backblaze showsthat many hard drive models will function properly for eight years or more. According to SpaceRex, when one of their customers saw a DSM alert about the health of a WD drive, they immediately replaced it to protect against a possible loss of valuable data. The blogger added that QNAP network attached storage may soon get WDDA support, meaning scary warnings aren’t just for Synology NAS owners.
“This is clearly a predatory tactic used by Western Digital to boost hard drive sales.” SpaceRex commented in its June 10, 2023 video.
According to information published on Western Digital’s official website, WDDA technology provides device analytics that allow administrators to do this “Managing Storage and Maintaining Optimal Performance” And “Prevent Unexpected Failures”. WD claims the system is failing “Smart Troubleshooting Tips”and also “Clear and concise support instructions”. Synology states that the appearance of a warning may mean that the system “I have encountered problems or an increased number of bad sectors on the hard drive. Even if the hard drive is working normally, the user is advised to keep monitoring its status and bad sector count..
It should be noted that nobody forbids users who encounter the problem described above to simply ignore the system warning or disable WDDA altogether. However, in this case, you can lose sight of the real threat of drive failure and lose valuable data.
“Because the warning is triggered at a fixed number of driving hours, we don’t think disabling WDDA is risky. However, administrators should monitor their systems and look out for alerts about possible other problems. A more obvious indication of hard drive health issues is a significant drop in read and write speeds.– noted in Synology.
According to SpaceRex, there really isn’t anything useful in WDDA other than SMART data: “While some useful data is included, most of it is extended and redundant SMART information of little use. Almost all of this data can be obtained from a regular SMART test..
The blogger believes that Synology could completely remove WDDA from its NAS’s DSA firmware. However, the company pointed out that such a solution would require working with Western Digital. Additionally, Western Digital will likely explain the alerts as “extra precautions.”
Western Digital has been repeatedly observed using questionable marketing practices to reduce production costs or increase sales. For example, in 2020 the manufacturer was accused of using slow SMR recording technology (Shingled Magnetic Recording, “tiled” magnetic recording with partial overlapping of magnetic tracks) in WD Red hard drives. The company initially denied this fact, but later admitted that SMR technology is used in WD Red devices with capacities ranging from 2 to 6 TB. In addition, SMR technology was also found in select WD Blue (for desktop productivity) and WD Black drives (high-speed series for gamers and professionals). In addition, the manufacturer initially tried to shift the responsibility for performance problems with SMR drives onto the users themselves, but was unable to do so. As a result, the company was forced to pay compensation to owners of WD Red drives for the clandestine use of SMR recording.
In the same 2020, the company was accused of misleading customers. The manufacturer no longer specifies the actual spindle speed for some hard disk models. Instead, a vague feature “performance class” was introduced. In 2021, the company was caught degrading the performance of the popular WD Blue SN550 SSD model. Against the background of a global shortage of semiconductors, WD began to use cheaper components in these SSDs, which reduced their performance.