People Discover Their Western Digital Reds Are Running at Higher RPMs

By Bill Toulas / September 8, 2020

After the legal trouble that Western Digital found themselves in due to the false marketing promises they made around “WD Red NAS,” the company is called to give additional explanations about another aspect of the same product.

More specifically, the WD Red users noticed that their disks were a lot noisier and drew more power than what is expected from a hard drive that runs at a maximum rotational speed of 5,400 RPM (rotations per minute), so they suspected that it could be actually spinning faster.

Since last week, users from around the web have been testing various WD models that are known to belong to the “5,400 RPM class” and found that they spin at 7,200 RPM.

Related: ‘Western Digital’ Sued for Selling Inferior Quality NAS Drives

So far, the following models have been confirmed to operate at different specs from those declared in the official spec sheet:

In some cases, users didn’t find evidence only through actual measurements, but by discovering that some models are basically re-badged UltraStars that are known to be 7,200 RPM disks. That is even though the drivers’ own firmware SMART interface reports 5,400 RPM, so apparently, there’s a high level of trickery going on here.

wd red

Source: Imgur | Amaroko

Western Digital’s official response was the following:

For select products, Western Digital has published RPM speed within a “class” or “performance class” for numerous years rather than publishing specific spindle speeds. We also fine-tune select hard drive platforms and the related HDD characteristics to create several different variations of such platforms to meet different market or application needs. By doing so, we are able to leverage our economies of scale and pass along those savings to our customers. As with every Western Digital product, our product details, which include power, acoustics, and performance (data transfer rate), are tested to meet the specifications provided on the product’s data sheet and marketing collateral.

So, essentially, for Western Digital, the difference between 7,200 and 5,400 RPM is wholly attributed to “fine-tuning” on some models. The vendor’s statement basically says that a 7,200 RPM disk can belong to a 5,400 RPM class if they deem the performance similar to other products in that class. Also, by not being accurate, they are saving costs and passing these savings to the customer. Confused?

spec sheet

Source: Ars Technica

If the spec sheet isn’t there to inform the user of the technical characteristics of the device they’re buying, then what is the purpose of the spec sheet in the first place? Rotation speeds are an important factor to consider for users looking to get something quiet and frugal, so defining everything in terms of write and read speed performance is plainly wrong.

That said, a class-action lawsuit against Western Digital wouldn’t be a surprise now.

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