Western Digital’s “5400 RPM” Hard Drives May Actually Be 7200 RPM

Image: Western Digital

If you buy a 5400 RPM hard drive from Western Digital, you’re getting a hard drive that spins at 5400 RPM, right? Not necessarily. According to users on r/DataHoarder and Hardwareluxx, the storage giant has been mislabeling a handful of its HDDs. More specifically, certain 7200 RPM hard drives are being sold as 5400 RPM.

This is a problem because faster isn’t always better. While 7200 RPM drives offer (slightly) faster read and write speeds, they’re louder and consume more power, too. Neither is desirable for those of us who prefer quieter, more efficient storage systems (e.g., NAS servers).

The discrepancy in rotational speed has been confirmed by users who measured the suspicious drives with a microphone. These HDDs emit a 120 Hz frequency, which translates to a speed of 7200 RPM. (As r/DataHoarder’s sbjf explained, 7200/minute = 120/second = 120 Hz.)

Here are a few of the drives that are allegedly impacted:

  • WD80EMAZ-00WJTA0 (WD Elements 8 TB)
  • WD80EDAZ (WD Elements 8 TB)
  • WD80EZAZ-11TDBA0 (WD MyBook 8 TB)
  • WD80EFAX (WD Red Plus 8 TB)
  • WD100EFAX/WD101EFAX (WD Red Plus 10 TB)

“For select products, Western Digital has published RPM speed within a ‘class’ or ‘performance class’ for numerous years rather than publishing specific spindle speeds,” Western Digital explained in a statement to ArsTechnica. “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.”

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