Do HDD's slow down even if rarely used?

I have a 7 year old 500 GB which I hardly used (<1000 hrs) Its S.M.A.R.T values report it to be in good health so I decided to use it as my daily driver. However windows performs poorly on it. Even on a fresh install windows 7 takes about a good 7-10 mins to boot up. I have done a surface scan , changed SATA cables ,switched ports but nothing seems to improve the boot up speed.I have no issues copying large files and transfer rates hover between 50-60 Mbps. Its only while booting up or opening common applications like chrome things begin to crawl.
Conversely my 1TB hdd which I bought 6 months ago has no issues working on the same machine and works fine with Windows on it. However I plan to use it only for storage and the 500GB one for primary OS.
So is it that HDD's slowdown over time irrespective of usage, or something can be done to improve seek time.
Reply to realmatrix
6 answers Last reply
More about hdd slow rarely
  1. HDD's don't necessarily 'slow down', especially with a clean OS install.

    What can be an issue though, is the SATA revision implemented - and the technology in place at the time of manufacturing.
    Reply to Barty1884
  2. The areal density of HDs has will change a lot over a period of 7 years.... from about 200 Gbits per square inch 2008 to 1,100 in 2014. Of course you wouldn't see those speeds in many consumer grade drive, those numbers from that source represent "demonstrated technology".

    Usually the biggest thing that slows down HDs is Windows itself as it gets bloated over time, but you have addressed that already. As for Chrome, that bigger has been a conundrum as on some systems, removing Chrome has resulted in massive speed improvements and other times not.

    Try booting from the 500 GB w/o having any other SATA drives plugged in.
    Reply to JackNaylorPE
  3. JackNaylorPE said:

    Try booting from the 500 GB w/o having any other SATA drives plugged in.


    Did that , no improvement.
    Reply to realmatrix
  4. HDD slow down the more data there is on it.
    Most likely you have an old 5400 RPM and this is the cause of the slowdown.
    Reply to dextermat
  5. windows , especially at boot up, is notorious for a lot of small block access. Onto its self This is could tend to murder performance. The bigger issue is not only does the areal density improve over time, but there improvements to the mechanical assembly. As a result the sustained data transfer rate improves. for example; my older WD 500Gig has a sustained transfer of 126MB's/sec whereas my new(er) 1TB has a sustained rate of 150MB/sec This would also be accompanied by improved access algorithms, cache, and sector interleave.
    I hope this gives a better understanding so you ban get the most of you gear.
    Reply to erendofe
  6. The OP is saying that the HD slowed down from what he remembers it being ... if he has a slow 5400 rpm drive then it would still have been a 5400 rpm drive back 7 years ago.

    A 7200 rpm drive takes 21.2 seconds to boot up, the difference from 126 to 150 MB/s or 5400 versus 7200 rm can not account for 7 - 10 minute boot times. Like an old phonograph, the rate that the music comes through is dependent on only two things.... the density that the track is laid down and the rotational speed. Like the phonograph, while the mechanical design of the arm can improve reliability, put the needle on the LP faster and address other issues like handling vibration, only 2 factors affect how much sustained data gets read off the disk.

    Firmware and cache can contribute to the initial burst and firmware for example can tweak access times in favor of other performance factors, but these primarily affect initial data reads. How long it takes to find the file, and the 1st few MB of data off it can all be improved by these factors, but sustained data reads are limited by dessity x rotational speed.

    Data read = Data per unit length of track on the platter times the speed at which the platter moves under the head. The disk is typically twice as fast at the outer edge as the inner. We had over a 5 fold increase in attainable areal density in 7 years; not all of that made it into consumer drives.

    So while areal density is the the biggest factor in sustained read speeds, it still does not account for 7 - 10 minute boot times.

    And no, HDs to not actually slow down as data is added. Two things however affect how a drive performs.

    1. The length of a track around the platter is typically more than twice as long as the inner tracks; therefore twice as much data is read per revolution at the outside of the platters as the inside. As more data gets added the more the disk is filled, and the more data starts getting laid on those inside tracks.

    2. The more data that gets stored and removed, due to the HDs prioritization of where it puts files, it will fill empty spaces at the inside tracks first. This can lead to file fragmentation and to read a file the head may have to move to 3, 4 and maybe 5 locations on the drive to read the entire file.

    The 2nd is easy enough to fix by defragging the drive. However this may lead to placement of large important files at the inner tracks. Those concerned about this slowdown, will utilize a partitioning strategy that prioritizes the placement of files on the drive. With no SSD in play to simplify things, this usually meant:

    OS Partition
    Page and Temp Files Partition
    Games partition
    Programs partition
    Data partition

    Of course the order and size of each partition, well typically all but the 1st two anyway, are user choice dependent and those using certain apps (video editing for example, typically has a "scratch" partition unless they had another drive for that purpose.
    Reply to JackNaylorPE
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