Turn Off Hard Disk - Good or Bad Idea?

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vroscigno

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Turn Off Hard Disk - Good or Bad Idea?

#1

Post by vroscigno » Tue May 15, 2012 9:46 pm

Hello All,

My Win7 Media Center is set to sleep (S3) after 20 mins, and wakes to record, or on-demand via Harmony Remote or WOL. Occasionally the media center will not sleep automatically for various reasons, and I am considering letting the hard disk turn off after 30 minutes in these cases to conserve energy (I have it set to 'never' turn off right now).

What are the prevalent opinions about hard drive power down for a media center? Anyone care to share their experiences?

Thanks.

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newfiend

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#2

Post by newfiend » Tue May 15, 2012 10:06 pm

Have you tried MST? I use this and it works great for PC's that don't like sleeping.. http://slicksolutions.eu
newfiend~

barnabas1969

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#3

Post by barnabas1969 » Wed May 16, 2012 2:03 am

Letting your hard drive spin down (turn off) is fine, but it will only save you 5 to 15 watts. Try Media Center Standby Tool (MST) as suggested by newfiend. Works great.

BTW, I wanted to comment more on HDD power utilization. Many people have the misconception that because the HDD has a motor, it must use a lot of power. Research it. You'll find that the typical HDD uses less than 15 watts max.

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CyberSimian

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#4

Post by CyberSimian » Wed May 16, 2012 8:55 am

vroscigno wrote:I am considering letting the hard disk turn off after 30 minutes in these cases to conserve energy (I have it set to 'never' turn off right now).
Is your operating-system drive physically separate from your capture drive (the drive containing "Recorded TV")? I have a suspicion that the OS drive almost never spins down, because Windows is constantly fiddling with its page file. On the other hand, the capture drive will spin down if you are not using it.

The unfortunate aspect of the capture drive spinning down is that when you come to watch live TV, the channel will start to display and will then either freeze or the screen will go black, for several seconds. This is because the live TV buffers are on the capture drive, and so Media Center has to wait for the drive to spin up before the live TV can resume. This gives the impression that something is wrong. I know this to be true because this is how my HTPC behaves! I have my disk spindown time set to quite a small value (10 minutes I think).

Was your question motivated by concern about accelerated disk wear with frequent spin-up/spin-down? I am no electronics expert, but I think that the general view is that the most stressful time for an electronic circuit is when it is powering up, with the steady state being less stressful. So frequent power-ups might result in a shorter time before failure. On the other hand, perhaps this is just a myth. Anyone with real knowledge care to comment?

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#5

Post by crawfish » Wed May 16, 2012 3:42 pm

CyberSimian wrote:Was your question motivated by concern about accelerated disk wear with frequent spin-up/spin-down? I am no electronics expert, but I think that the general view is that the most stressful time for an electronic circuit is when it is powering up, with the steady state being less stressful. So frequent power-ups might result in a shorter time before failure. On the other hand, perhaps this is just a myth. Anyone with real knowledge care to comment?
I tend to believe it, but I think it's significantly overblown.

I never slept the hard drives until about a year ago when I got an SSD and put the majority of my working files on it in addition to the OS. I kept two 2 TB green drives for Recorded TV, music, large downloads, etc, and I decided to try enabling sleep on them to reduce noise even further for my quiet PC, which is my main PC as well as my HTPC. I was curious enough to track the start/stop cycles in a spreadsheet by using the SMART parameters, and I was able to distinguish start/stop due to system sleep (call it "Type 1") from just the HDs sleeping (Type 2). I found that Windows loves to spin up hard drives, even my two purely data drives. After about 8 months, I concluded I don't believe in sleeping hard drives on a primary PC at least. There are too many random spin-up delays, not enough quietness benefit, and there's the nagging concern about wear and tear.

I started with many Microsoft processes that grovel hard drives turned off, including having nothing in the Music library, Distributed Link Tracking Client turned off, etc, things I routinely do when I install Windows. With the HDs set to the default 20 minutes, I was getting 2 Type 1 and 7 Type 2 hard drive power cycles per day. The Type 1's, which represent System Sleep, remained pretty much constant throughout the experiment, so the rest of this will be about the Type 2's, the HDs sleeping due to power saving. Going to 30 minutes decreased the Type 2's to about 5, which was still too much, as I was wanting them to stay off most of the time for noise reasons, not to mention I was concerned about wear and tear. I used Process Monitor to determine the activities that were causing the spin-ups, and I next turned off Jump List "Recent Files", Explorer Disk Space Checks, removed one of the drives from Indexing, and turned off recent file tracking in programs like Adobe Reader, Notepad++, etc. This got it down to about 4 Type 2's. I got an additional fractional improvement by removing all references to my data drives from the Explorer navigation tree Favorites pane. By this time, I had sacrificed some functionality I consider important, I had not eliminated all unnecessary spin-ups, and I was getting more and more frustrated with the seemingly random 10 sec delays I was experiencing. My breaking point came with the iTunes 10.4 upgrade. Despite having all the info about my music library stored on the SSD and not performing any library updates automatically, iTunes had always spun up the music drive when I merely clicked on a song, say, just to review its metadata, but I could still browse the library without spinning up the drives. With 10.4, iTunes began to spin up the hard drive even when clicking on an album to review the list of songs that are on it, so just browsing the library in iTunes implied spinning up the hard drive. It was just hopeless.

So, at the end of this experiment, I was back to more than 4 Type 2 power cycles per day and gave up in frustration at all the 10 second delays it caused me for about 8 months. I've since restored the good features I disabled and keep the HDs powered on at all times, as I've done for 20+ years. I put an extra 1200 or so power cycles on the hard drives over the course of the experiment (from ~ 500 to 1700), and it's had no ill effect in the 14 months since I started it. My guess is that I could have continued this for years, and I no longer think twice about sleeping the whole system 2-3 times a day.

vroscigno

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#6

Post by vroscigno » Wed May 16, 2012 5:05 pm

Thanks for all the replies and the information.

Normally my Media Center sleeps and wakes beautifully; it is only when I remotely access Remote Potato via my Driod phone that it seems to stay awake until manual action is taken. The TV is really only used 3-5 hours per day, so I want to conserve power when it is not in use and have 'instant-on' functionality when it is time to use it. My goal is to ditch my Cable Box/DVR when I shake all the wrinkles out.

So, I think I will keep the drive running because I have a single disk for the OS and media, and I will certainly look into the Standby Tool.

Thanks for all your help.

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#7

Post by barnabas1969 » Wed May 16, 2012 5:13 pm

I have my HTPC set to turn off HDD's after 20 minutes. I've never noticed a spin-up delay, and I'm not very concerned about a few extra power cycles of the hard drives. It's a dedicated HTPC. It also sleeps after 15 minutes of inactivity. It wakes, records, and goes back to sleep. Then, I wake it to watch TV. Works fine for me. When you really think about it, if the PC is a dedicated HTPC, you're going to wake it, watch TV for several hours at a time (the hard drives aren't going to sleep while you watch TV), and then put it to sleep when you go to bed. Plus, when it wakes for a recording, it wakes 5 minutes before the recording starts... plenty of time for the hard drives to spin up.

My machine has been in use for 14 months now. After looking at the SMART data on the hard drives, I'm pretty surprised to see that it is ON for an average of 12.85 hours per day. It records a lot of stuff!

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#8

Post by crawfish » Wed May 16, 2012 5:36 pm

vroscigno wrote:Normally my Media Center sleeps and wakes beautifully; it is only when I remotely access Remote Potato via my Driod phone that it seems to stay awake until manual action is taken.
What does "powercfg -requests" say at those times?

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CyberSimian

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#9

Post by CyberSimian » Wed May 16, 2012 6:40 pm

crawfish wrote:I was curious enough to track the start/stop cycles in a spreadsheet by using the SMART parameters.
Thank you for taking the time to report a very interesting experiment. It has certainly given me something to think about!

-- from CyberSimian in the UK

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TheReaper

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#10

Post by TheReaper » Thu May 17, 2012 2:21 am

Here is my experience:

System Sleep (S3): 45 minutes (my system sleeps and wakes correctly)
Hard drive sleep: 40 minutes (like crawfish, in ad-hoc testing, I found if you set this too short they turn on and off more frequently)
Monitor sleep: 24 hours (basically disabled, so that the only time my monitor goes off is when the system sleeps)


Drives 1 and 2 (2 is a mirror of drive 1): Contains my OS, music and pictures. I don't think I have ever seen this drive sleep.
Drive 3: recorded tv. This drive almost never sleeps, but once in a great while it does, it takse about 5 seconds to start up (which seems like forever).
Drives 4 and 5: DVD rips and saved recorded tv (in movie and video libraries, not TV). These drives sleep a lot of the time, except when I view something on them.
Drive 6: dedicated backup (weekly) drive. Sleeps almost all the time.

In conclusion, I tuned my Hard Drive sleep time so that I would get the power savings for drives 4,5,6. While minimizing the impact on my normal usage. Also, drives 4,5,6 probably wake when my system wakes (never really bothered to check), but are usually sleeping when I try access them.
<- My Media Center PC

vroscigno

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#11

Post by vroscigno » Fri May 18, 2012 9:52 pm

crawfish wrote:
vroscigno wrote:Normally my Media Center sleeps and wakes beautifully; it is only when I remotely access Remote Potato via my Driod phone that it seems to stay awake until manual action is taken.
What does "powercfg -requests" say at those times?
powercfg indicates that the remote potato service is keeping the media center awake. In fairness, I think it is my phone app though; it seems to reconnect multiple times during a session; it might be confusing remote potato...

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#12

Post by crawfish » Fri May 18, 2012 10:45 pm

vroscigno wrote:powercfg indicates that the remote potato service is keeping the media center awake. In fairness, I think it is my phone app though; it seems to reconnect multiple times during a session; it might be confusing remote potato...
I'd ask the remote potato guy about it. A quick google for /"remote potato" sleep/ indicates sleep has been an active topic of discussion.

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