TechSpot: WD Black 4TB Hard Drive Review

It's been a long year of HDD supply shortages and wacky premiums, but things are finally stabilizing and new designs are trickling out of drive makers. Recently WD expanded its flagship Black series with a 4TB model, meant to deliver a balance between speed, capacity and price.

At ~$350, a Black 4TB drive is slightly cheaper than a pair of WD Black 2TB drives and much more affordable than the previously released enterprise WD RE 4TB drive. Given that we've been spoiled by SSDs over the last few years, we don't expect to be blown away by the new drive's blistering speed, but it should be fun comparing its performance with other terabyte-plus hard drives if ample capacity is what you're after...

Read: Western Digital Black 4TB Hard Drive Review

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I use A LOT of drives and have always preferred 2nd drives as backups...but I'm leaning towards finally just getting a 4bay RAID...3TB drives are around $125 and if I go RAID I assume I can afford to lose one and still be safe and save money.

Most technical users rely on manual backups or RAID, while casual users can turn to Storage Spaces in Windows 8. Personally I'm a huge fan of the simplicity of Storage Spaces and have most of my drives configured into a single, massive array.

RAID != Backup

Already been discussed above, but I'd venture that only non-technical users see RAID as a backup.

RAID is all about either speed (RAID0) or downtime minimization (RAID 5, etc), not backups.

LogicalApex said,
RAID != Backup

Already been discussed above, but I'd venture that only non-technical users see RAID as a backup.

RAID is all about either speed (RAID0) or downtime minimization (RAID 5, etc), not backups.


RAID1 is about keeping all of your data intact if one hard drive suddenly dies. That's not a backup for all cases, but it IS a backup for some cases.

At home, I have 2x 2TB hard drives running in RAID1. For the very important files, I do keep backups in other locations. But for the majority of the data, I view RAID1 as sufficient for me.

Even a RAID 1 isn't about being a backup. It is still about minimizing downtime. The biggest risk of all forms of RAID above 1 is that you have media issues, among other things, making a restore on drive failure impossible. If you the RAID volume can't successfully rebuild you'll have far more downtime (and the risk of transient data loss as the rebuild corrupts the existing data) as you'll need to restore from a full backup.

RAID 1 means you'll be able to get a new drive up and running quickly and you'll be able to do so with minimal downtime. As I said earlier, RAID (other than 1) is all about minimizing your downtime.

Single drive fails, all data is gone forever. Drive in a RAID fails, data is still safe.

It is almost as if the other drives are some kind of backup...

No, the data isn't guaranteed safe. If the RAID level is anything other than 1 you can have multiple drive failures occur before a rebuild is completed (data is now all gone) or media errors can kill all the data on a rebuild (corrupted parity data can make rebuilding the data impossible).

So, if you're using RAID as a backup you're only giving yourself a false sense of being safe.

LogicalApex said,
No, the data isn't guaranteed safe. If the RAID level is anything other than 1 you can have multiple drive failures occur before a rebuild is completed (data is now all gone) or media errors can kill all the data on a rebuild (corrupted parity data can make rebuilding the data impossible).

So, if you're using RAID as a backup you're only giving yourself a false sense of being safe.


Listen, RAID1 is easy. I can be sure that both drives are up-to-date. No need to schedule long backup tasks and keep checking that they are working properly. If either drive dies, my data is safe on the other drive. Right now I could yank either drive from the system and know that all of the data can be accessed by plugging the drive into another system.

I know there are certain events that could cause me to lose data from both drives. Because of this, I keep a fairly recent copy of my most important files on an off-site USB drive. For the majority of the data on these drives, it would be VERY inconvenient for me to lose, though not the end of the world. I guess it really depends on what sort of data you're talking about.

I never understood the whole "you'll lose so much data" thing. The alternative is to not have the data in the first place isn't it? It's sort of like saying you don't want a big house because it might burn down. You need to have backups no matter what size your drive is, then you don't have to worry about losing all your data.

TRC said,
I never understood the whole "you'll lose so much data" thing. The alternative is to not have the data in the first place isn't it? It's sort of like saying you don't want a big house because it might burn down. You need to have backups no matter what size your drive is, then you don't have to worry about losing all your data.

I'm going back to 3.5" floppy disks! Anything bigger means I'll lose too much data if it fails!

Even though it's cheaper than 2x 2TB drives I'd rather have 2x TB drives to store that much data. Imagine if that drive failed!!! 4TB of data lost!

Still, if you just want to hoard stuff they are good. I'd certainly use one if I had the money.

Then buy two 4TB drives. You should always have a backup plan in place in case of mechanical failure, memory corruption (bad memory in RAM written to the HDD), fire, theft, or Acts of God ( http://www.biblegateway.com/pa...arch=Acts+1&version=NIV ).

I have two onsite backups and an offsite backup with Amazon S3 (everything is encrypted on the backup I do to S3 and Amazon never gets the decryption keys).

4TB is a good thing.

People have been saying the same thing for years. I felt the same when a buddy bought a 6.4GB HDD - I remember saying "What if it fails.. he'll lose SO MUCH DATA" - and then I told that to a friend who's a bit older than me, and he remembers having the same discussion when someone he knew bought a 40MB (yes, megabyte) HDD.

So fear of losing data on a large drive isn't exactly a new thing Just remember to take backups!

RAID is not a backup solution. It's about speed and/or data availability. If a bad bit is written, it is written to everything. If a file is deleted accidentally, it is deleted from all.

And then you have the problems inherent to RAID, like MTBF, environment, and disk first use dates being identical to all disks in a RAID, dramatically increasing chance of mechanical failure of one disk.

Rosyna said,
RAID is not a backup solution. It's about speed and/or data availability. If a bad bit is written, it is written to everything. If a file is deleted accidentally, it is deleted from all.

Well if you're going to talk about corrupt files being written then no type of backup in the world is going to help. You can't back up a file if it is bad to begin with. RAIDs are about protection from losing data due to a drive failure which is the most common cause I would imagine.

TRC said,

Well if you're going to talk about corrupt files being written then no type of backup in the world is going to help. You can't back up a file if it is bad to begin with. RAIDs are about protection from losing data due to a drive failure which is the most common cause I would imagine.

A real backup solution saves multiple revisions of a file. If something becomes corrupt (due to writing bad data) then you can restore the last known good version of the file. RAID cannot do this.

A mechanical failure is the least likely failure to occur. The most likely failure is a human caused failure. Backups can work around the human factor RAID cannot.

RAID is most definitely not about protection from losing data. It's about speed or data availability.

Seriously, backup to Amazon S3, cheaper than buying a new, bigger HDD every year.

Sounds like you really hate RAID. Obviously it's not a complete backup solution, and you realize you can have both right? As for cloud backups not all of us have super fast internet connections.

Edited by Bonfire, Dec 18 2012, 3:33pm :

you don't need a super fast internet connection to backup offsite. Just the initial backup will take a long time. subsequent backups will not.

RAID isn't a backup solution at all. Not a backup solution. RAID is for speed or catastrophic hardware failures.

Rosyna: I think you're underestimating how long it would take to back up large amounts of data (which is what purchasers of these 4TB hard drives will have). If you have 4TB of data to back up, cloud backup is only viable if you have a very fast connection. I have the fastest DSL speed available in my neighborhood -- 6mbit downstream, 1mbit upstream advertised speed, my actual speed is a bit lower than that.

At 1mbit/second, I can upload around 100KB of data per second, or 360MB/hour, figure 3 hours per GB. Therefore, it would take 4000 * 3 = 12,000 hours to upload my 4TB of data to a cloud backup provider, or 500 days.

There's also the problem of data caps - AT&T reportedly has a 250GB/month usage cap, so if I can only transfer 250GB/month, it would take 16 months to upload my 4TB of data.

And of course, the same constraints apply when restoring backups, if I could use my full 6mbit downstream bandwidth to restore, it would "only" take about 100 days to restore my data if my hard drive fails.

Some providers offer a "seeding" service that lets you mail them a hard drive for the initial backup, but this adds to the cost of a cloud backup solution.