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Terrible Maxtor SATA Performance

By nephmon ยท 7 replies
May 14, 2007
  1. Hi

    I just installed XP on my new Dell XPS 410 because Vista is so bad (BSOD, numerous incompatibilities). To do it, I bought a new Maxtor 7H500F0 500GB SATA II drive (which seems to have a good reputation for performance) and installed an OEM XP SP2 on that. It got assigned the drive letter H: (C: is the bundled Vista) but apart from that it all seemed to go OK. It's certainly nice to have a relatively stable OS again!

    BUT... the performance of the H: drive is truly terrible, especially under XP, where it's the boot drive. Even under Vista, where it's not the boot drive, it seems slower that the bundled WD 320GB drive, but not half as bad as it is under XP. When I access the C: drive from XP, the performance is just as good as when I access it from Vista.

    Any activity on the H: drive seems to come with a LOT of track-seek noise, but even on the occasions when this isn't the case, data transfer speeds are still very low. As an example of the relative performance, a file copy that takes 11s on the C: (it's about 230MB, I think, but I'm not at that machine at the moment), take over a minute copying the same file from C: to H:.

    As a control, I have an external 500GB IDE drive connected via USB. The same file copy from C: to the external drive is almost as quick as copying from C: to C:.

    I ran HD Tune on al three drives from both OSes, and posted the results here. (Select the "original" size to be able to read the text.) As you can see, the throughput of the Maxtor drive is wildly erratic over time, especially under XP. The deep dips are obviously the reason for the lousy performance, but I have no idea why it's happening. I've disabled all possible sources of conflicting disk access, and even the page file on C: even under XP.

    One other note: I do the dual boot by physically exchanging the cables, so the boot drive is always on SATA port 0, whether it's the C: drive for Vista or H: for XP.

    Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

    Oh, BTW, I let the XP install format the Maxtor (using the [very!] long format) instead of using the Maxblaster tools (which I didn't have at the time). Might that make a difference? the drive is fully defragmented anyway.

  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    You can download the Maxtor hard drive tools from the web site.
  3. nephmon

    nephmon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Maxtor Tools

    Yes, I have the tools thanks. I downloaded the Windows version (the one that needs .NET 2.0) but that fails at the first hurdle by giving a stack trace on any operation because it can't parse a path. Not very impressive.

    The DOS-based one just has two very basic drive tests (checking the data integrity, not the speed), so that didn't tell me much either.

    As I mentioned, I've got MaxBlast, so if nothing else comes up, I'll just reformat the drive using that and see if it helps. Another XP reinstall, sigh.

  4. nephmon

    nephmon TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Found a solution

    The answer was to replace the drive. I didn't want to replace it with another drive of the same type, since I didn't imagine it was a problem with just that sample, so I got a WD 320GB drive for $40 less. And it works fine! The copy that took 11s from the original WD drive to itself and 70s from the WD drive to the Maxtor takes 6s from the WD drive to the new WD drive! (Around 46MB/s).

    Very strange phenomenon, but I'm happy now!

  5. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    Thank you for taking the time to update us. Sometimes we never know the real problem, or what worked.
  6. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,426   +112

    WD is that SATA or UATA prior was reported to be slower than a MAXTOR. You should have sticked with the MAXTOR.
  7. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    We do not agree. The Maxtor is a terrible drive, and the Western Digital people have finally made some major improvements.
  8. nephmon

    nephmon TS Rookie Topic Starter


    tipstir, your comment is slightly ridiculous. I got a 10-fold speed improvement on a 230MB file copy when i changed from the Maxtor to the WD. Any theoretical advantage the Maxtor has is clearly irrelevant in the light of my real-world experience. You could argue, perhaps, that I should have tried another sample of the Maxtor, but I think it would be a very odd fault indeed that affected only one sample of the drive in that way. More likely it was some incompatibility between the Maxtor and the Intel controller, or possibly some conflict between the original WD drive and the Maxtor living on the same bus.

    Anyway, I'm a happy bunny, no matter what the perceived advantages of the Maxtor are.


    PS I'm in no way biased against Maxtor drives. I've owned many in the past.
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