Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500JB stalls when erasing contents

Tested system

OS: Windows XP SP2
Memory: 2048MB
CPU: Intel Pentium D 805
Sound: Realtek ALC888
Video: Radeon HD 4850
drive: WDC WD2500JB-57GVC0, firmware 21.02J21


After performing quick and extended tests with Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for Windows without reporting any errors, the drive’s content was erased by overwriting the drive’s contents with empty data.  During the erase process, the drive made occasional clicking noises when around 150-200GB of data were erased.  After erasing over 200GB of data, the clicking noise got more frequent, to the point the drive simply stalls, and any program tries to access the drive simply hangs.  SMART monitoring revealed the drive’s temperature had remained at maximum 48 degree C during erasure process until the stall.

However, after rebooting, the BIOS recognized the drive, but the clicking noise remains for a few reboots, but the frequency of clicking had reduced gradually.  SMART monitoring had not reported any error after rebooting from drive’s initial stall.  When checking the drive with Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for DOS using quick and extended tests, the test completed without any errors or clicks.  Was the clicking noise a result of thermal recalibration? For that matter, what is the drive’s rating for continous operation?  After all, the drive had been running continuosly for 8-9 hours in media scan before erasing the drive’s content, and the drive’s temperature had only reached maximum 46 degree C during the prior read tests.  More importantly, after the drive had been operating for such long period and stalls after multiple clicking triggered by writing data to drive, is the drive permanently damaged, even though SMART monitoring shows no warnings or errors?

Knowledge Base FAQ Answer 61[1] mentioned following possibilites:

  1. Faulty EIDE or Serial ATA data cable

  2. Incorrect BIOS settings (EIDE or Serial ATA drives in PC systems)

  3. Incorrect configuration (SCSI drives)

  4. Data corruption or the drive may be defective

  5. The power supply in the computer may not be able to power all the devices in your computer

Causes 1, 5 do seem to be the case because Data Lifeguard Diagnostic never have trouble of identifying the drive, and the stall only occurs after prolong erasure. Furthermore, the power supply uses far more power when running video games in the tested system and never has issue. Cause 3 is certainly not the case since it is a PATA drive. Cause 2 isn’t true since the tested system’s BIOS fully recognizes the drive’s capacities and capabilites. That leaves out Cause 4. Data corruption can be ruled out since Data Lifeguard Diagnostic tests done after the stall showed no errors. This leaves out possible cause as defective. However, is it really defective if the drive stalls only when erasing data pass 200GB, in condition mentioned above, and the clicking gradually disappear afterwards?

[1] http://wdc.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/61

Did you try chkdsk or other utility to test the drive ? 

In addition of Data Lifeguard Diagnostic, I have also tested the drive before and after the stall with Chkdsk and HD Tune Pro, but no error was found. However, after analyzing the drive erasure process, I discovered that the drive stalled only when Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) is disabled before erasing the drive. Either way, the drive temperature reaches maximum 48 degree C during erasure, and maximum 36 degree C during read operations.

Speaking of AAM, the drive (in fact, other WD Caviar drives including WD400BB, WD800JB, WD3200AAJB) has strange way of handle AAM values. In order to disable AAM, the feature needs to be turned on, and the AAM value is set to 254. Any other value, or disabling AAM bit, simply enables AAM.