Advanced Format 4K sector transition

DQW Bureau
08 Feb 2011

What is Advanced

Advanced Format is the
name adopted by IDEMA (The International Disk Drive Equipment and
Materials Association) for a new data structure format that defines
an increase in the basic sector size used on the media of hard
drives. This new IDEMA standard mandates that a hard drive sector
size will change from 512 bytes to 4096 (4K) bytes.

Does Seagate support
the Advanced Format standard?

As an active member of
IDEMA, Seagate supports the adoption of Advanced Format, as a needed
change and enabling factor of hard drive technology that will drive
higher capacities and more robust error correction into the future.
All hard drive companies in the IDEMA organization have agreed that
beginning January 1, 2011, all new product platforms for desktop and
laptop drives sold through distribution channels will be Advanced
Format compatible. Products for OEM customers and for the enterprise
markets do not apply to this agreement and may or may not be Advanced
Format compatible.

What are the benefits
of Advanced Format?

Advanced Format will help
the hard drive industry deliver higher-capacity hard drives with more
robust error correction capabilities. This is accomplished by
increasing the size of a sector from 512 bytes to 4096 bytes, thereby
reducing the total amount of space used for sector separation and
addressing and increasing the space used for error detection and
correction codes.

Is there a downside or
side effect to using an Advanced Format hard drive?

There are potential
performance impacts to using Advanced Format hard drives. These risks
depend on how the drive manages partition misalignment conditions.
The sector size increase, described by Advanced Format, occurs at the
hard drive media level. Host systems will continue to request and
receive data from the hard drive in 512-byte sector sizes. However,
the translation from 4096-byte sectors in the hard drive to the
512-byte sectors in the host will be managed in the hard drive. This
process is called 512-byte emulation.

It is important that every
drive partition start with an LBA offset that is aligned to the
drive's physical 4K sector. If partitions are un-aligned, then hard
drive performance will be degraded.

How can partition
misalignment conditions be managed?

The first management step
is to avoid misaligned conditions in the first place. This can be
achieved by creating hard drive partitions with a 4K aware version of
your operating system or through a hard drive imaging software

The second method to
manage misaligned partitions is to use partition-alignment software
to identify and fix misaligned partitions. This technique should be
used during the hard drive integration process.

The easiest way to manage
partition misalignment conditions is to use a Seagate Advanced Format
drive with SmartAlign technology. SmartAlign technology automatically
resolves partition misalignment conditions in real time while
preserving consistent hard drive performance. SmartAlign technology
makes Advanced Format drives look just like legacy hard drives.

When will Seagate
transition to Advanced Format hard drives?

Seagate introduced the
first Advanced Format hard drive with SmartAlign technology in May,
2010, with the 750GB Momentus laptop product. In the coming months,
and in accordance with agreements established within IDEMA, Seagate
will continue to offer new Advanced Format products. Our goal is to
utilize Advanced Format to achieve higher capacity points sooner for
Seagate customers while making their transition to the Advanced
Format standard easy and hassle-free.

Read the Next Article