Elements 2TB, Advanced Format, and Windows XP = confusion


I have a brand new WD Elements 2TB external USB drive, model WDBAAU0020HBK-01.  I would like to use it to backup two different Thinkpad laptops, each running Win XP SP3. 

One PC has historically used the Lenovo Rescue and Recovery software, and the other PC historically used Paragon Backup and SyncBack software. But I am really indifferent about which backup software to use.

Eventually, those PCs will be replaced by newer laptops, probably running Win 7 or even 8.

In any case, my reading about Advanced Format leaves me confused.

It seems that the new 4k sectors are truly “better”, thanks to improved ECC, and possibly even improved speed, relative to the old 512-byte sectors.

And, I believe that this new Elements external drive already has the Advanced Format media inside.

Is that correct?

There is some reference to moving a jumper in order to use Advanced Format with XP, but I imagine that would not apply to this tightly sealed external drive box.

My reading on this site suggests that perhaps I should download and run the WD Align program because it “allows Advanced Format drives operating under Windows XP to run at full performance”.

I don’t really understand how it would do that.

However, I was also told that the WD Align program would only apply in this circumstance to an INTERNAL WD hard drive, not one that is external and connected via USB.

The drive is recognized by XP and assigned a drive letter.

Obviously, I want to use the new drive “at full performance”.  If I need to run the Align program, I would prefer to do that before putting any data on to the drive.  If the Align program is irrelevant to my situation, I can avoid a step.

I would appreciate some clear direction on how to proceed, from someone who is more knowledgeable in this arena.

Thank you very much!


Perhaps this information will be useful to the next person… I ran the “Acronis WD Align” version 1.0.314, and it reported that my new Elements 2TB external drive (purchased in April 2010) is already optimally aligned. Hence no action is needed and I’ll start using the drive now. My thinking is that the newest Elements external drives ship pre-formatted (NTFS) and properly aligned. If I had used XP to reformat this drive, I guess it would cause a mis-alignment. Since I am not going to reformat, I should be good to go and “optimal”.


Actually, you can reformat an aligned drive with XP without losing the alignment.  You just can’t delete the partition, and then repartition and reformat without using WD Align on Windows XP.  As long as you don’t touch the aligned partition, you are fine.


Thank you for that clarification. So once it is already “optimally aligned”, it will stay that way, even if I re-partition and re-format it using Windows XP ??


No, you can’t repartition.  That would through it back out of alignment for XP. You can only reformat it.  As long as you don’t touch the partition, you should be fine.