Ubuntu is a notebook hard drive killer

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 31 2007 @ 12:06 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
Bug hunters have found a harmful bug in Ubuntu Linux which can dramatically reduce the lifespan of your notebook hard drive.

The bug makes your notebook drive go to a bit more than one load cycle a minute when you're running on battery power. The problem with this is that notebook hard drives can only handle up to 600,000 such cycles according to specifications from hard drive makers. Some quick calculations learn us that in a worst case scenario your notebook HDD will only last a bit more than a year due to this bug.
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. As these values clearly show, this issue is of high importance and should be fixed sooner rather than later.
In case you're not willing to wait on an update from the Ubuntu developers here's some info on how you can fix the problem:
1) make a file named "99-hdd-spin-fix.sh". The important thing is starting with "99".
2) make sure the file contains the following 2 lines (fix it if you have PATA HDD): #!/bin/sh
hdparm -B 255 /dev/sda
3) copy this file to 3 locations:
It's not clear if only Ubuntu is affected, some people report other Linux distros are also affected. We also don't know if the Ubuntu developers are going to fix this problem as they claim it's not their problem. I read a comment from a developer who claimed that Ubuntu reads out your hard drive's power management settings by default and doesn't touch them:
There's certainly an argument that we should work around BIOSes, but in general our assumption has been that your hardware manufacturer has a better idea what your computer is capable of than we do. If a laptop manufacturer configures your drive to save power at the cost of life expectancy, then that's probably something you should ask your laptop manufacturer about.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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