Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ubuntu is killing your laptop.

Bronwen sent me a very interesting link the other day. I'm glad she did, because it turns out that Ubuntu has been killing my hard disk!

How? When your ubuntu laptop is running on battery, the disk heads are parked as part of the power saving strategy. When the disk needs to be accessed, the heads are unparked. Apparently this can only happen about 600000 times before a disk becomes likely to fail. This is all well and good, however the Feisty and Gusty releases of Ubuntu do this up to 4 times per minute, which is _bad_, considering that kind of frequency gives your hard disk a life expectancy of 104 days!

This problem only occurs when your laptop is running on battery. The way to solve it is (replace sda with your hard disk device):
sudo hdparm -B 255 /dev/sda
which turns off the aggressive power management features of your hard drive.

If you want to check how much life there is left in your hard disk:
sudo smartctl -d ata -a /dev/sda | grep Load_Cycle_Count
My laptop has clocked up 300000 cycles... which is amazing (in a bad way!), considering it is rarely unplugged.

Update: I've just discovered this is old news. I don't read slashdot anymore... :-) Shame there hasn't been a fix yet.

Update: According to an Ubuntu Dev, Ubuntu does not alter hard disk settings. So, it would appear that aggressive power management is not the problem. The problem is something is writing to the disk too frequently, which will unpark the disk heads. This is still an Ubuntu issue IMO.

4 comments:

Shawn said...

From what I've read, setting "noatime" on the drive helps reduce the severity of the problem. With atime turned on, it will write a timestamp to the disk even on read-only operations.

Tennessee Leeuwenburg said...

It's happening to me too. I'm at 378k after about oh, 2 years? I guess I'd better get good about my backups sometime in the next 6 months...

Reset Reboot said...

Well, the past week a friend of mine told me about this and I've not always had the option noatime set. I've been using the same laptop with Ubuntu since Hoary. And my count is only 78k...

What does make the difference? I don't know...

Bronwen said...

Glad I could be of service ;)

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