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Western Digital NAS drives flash ‘warning’ after three years even if nothing’s wrong

Western Digital NAS drives flash ‘warning’ after three years even if nothing’s wrong

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Western Digital hard disks used inside Synology NAS units are giving warning notices just for being powered on for three years.

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An NAS offers long-term storage.
A Synology DS920 Plus NAS system that accepts 3.5-inch drives like Western Digital’s.
Image: Sean Hollister / The Verge

If you’ve owned an HP laser printer like I have, you’ve probably replaced a toner cartridge just because the printer warned you it was depleted. But buried in the printer’s settings is a way to override the message and continue printing 100, 200, or even an indefinite number of sheets — because shocker: the toner is actually still good despite the alert.

That “low toner” warning is similar to what owners of some Western Digital storage drives say they’re seeing with its hard drives and diagnostic software. Ars Technica reports many Synology users are dealing with warning alerts that the Western Digital hard disks they’re using in their NAS are bad. The Synology alert is triggered because the Western Digital disks’ WDDA analytics — internal SMART data that reports usage stats and monitors health — seem to be set by the manufacturer to flash a warning after it’s been powered on for three years.

In March, user andrewilley on the Synology-focused forum SynoForum found the warnings happened to two of their drives, both running for approximately 26,400 hours, or a few days after three years. On top of that, the user notes the warranty for the drives also expired at the three-year mark. And last month, YouTuber SpaceRex pointed out that these warnings can get people to miss real issues like reallocated sectors.

Some say that Synology could be at fault for signaling the alarms on its product to react to Western Digital’s timer and hoping users buy that company’s disks instead. But tech YouTuber SpaceRex doesn’t think so. He found that Western Digital’s documentation that’s valid for Synology’s NAS system software DSM 7 or later indicates to flag for drive replacement as a recommended action at the three-year mark.

Being on for an extended period of time alone, much like a printer only counting how many sheets of paper ran through it (and not how much ink was actually used), is at best an arbitrary reason to indicate a drive is in bad health and needs to be replaced. We reached out to Western Digital to learn more about why the drives are set this way but haven’t heard back at the time of publishing.

The Synology subreddit has had discussions about how to disable WDDA and thereby ignore the warning to use all Synology features again. However, right now, the subreddit is part of the Reddit blackout to protest the company’s intense monetization of APIs, marking all threads private.

Western Digital has made some other eyebrow-raising moves before. The company was sued due to sneakily refreshing some of its Red NAS drives with shingled magnetic recording (SMR) ones that can hold more data per disk by overlapping data at the cost of write speed and longevity. Also, SanDisk, which is owned by Western Digital, recently had its Extreme Pro portable SSD go on an erasing spree for some users, and Western Digital’s own NAS devices with cloud services went down earlier this year due to a security breach.