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What are SMR Drives Good For?

So a long while back I bought a Seagate 8TB drive from Costco not knowing that it was a SMR drive. Looking back, I should have returned it. Live and learn. Now that I have it, I’d like to use it but using it as a backup drive is so painfully slow it will take days to get the data on this drive. I suppose if I just let it go and and only do incremental backups it will be fine but this first one is incredibly slow and painful.

Any of you have any SMR drives – if so, what are your legitimate use cases for drives like this?

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21 Yorumları

  1. I use the seagate 2TB SMR drives, 4 drives in a raidz (z1). I’m a big fan of them Why? They’re dirt cheap. $60 each. The only thing cheaper is LTO-5 (which is also shingled, btw).

    When resilvering, the write speed does drop to near zero for the last 12 hours (which should only take an hour or so), probably when it hits my Maildir files. It does complete, however, without any timeouts (on freebsd 12). Also, with that many drives I can get up to about 500megs/sec reads, for a fraction of the price of an SSD.

  2. They are useful when a consumer buys a hard drive with very, very large storage for very, very cheap, only to then load lots of useless data to the drive (like ahem movies), and for that drive to fail randomly less than a year later, wiping out entirety of said collection that was not backed up.

  3. Archival media backup, rips of DVDs, blu rays, 4k uhds etc. They’re plenty fast to play them back. As far as daily use? I wrote one with a bunch of DVD tv show box sets for my bedroom, and use it almost daily, it’s got like 20k hours on it and it works just fine. The seagate ones seem especially shock sensitive so make sure it’s in a safe location.

  4. I run unraid with 120TB. 48TB of that are smr 8TB drives, 99% of what’s on my array is staying there, it’s a write once situation. I can say I haven’t had any issues with those drives and they have been in service for about 5 years. These things were not even from a shucked enclosure, they are straight up Seagate archive 8TB drives.

    I will eventually get rid of them, but that is simply because I will replace them with larger drives so I can maximize my density

  5. I have one and have decided to keep it. Picked up some 14tb on sale and going to rotate out my older 8tb WD’s. They’re now 2-4 years old and I’m concerned about helium leakage. My Seagate 8tb smr is not helium filled. It is the offline cold storage device. It’s stored in a fireproof/waterproof safe most of the time.

    I’m not sure what you’re taking about with speeds. I do know it’s slower if you’re doing random writes. If you’re doing a full stream from empty, it should be totally fine, as there will be little reason for the drive to cache and re-shingle anything. If you’re doing massive incremental updates, and changes to this archive, it may slow down.

    The dirty secret is that it’s getting to the point the drives are so large and the data chains aren’t keeping up with speeds. More than 24 hours at full speed if it could do it.

    I have a drive backing up using a PI3 on one end. 10MB/s and I’m looking at 5 days worth. I have it tucked away and I’ll just let it spin at it’s leisure. For whatever reason, these newer drives seem to run hot in their external enclosures so I figure keeping the speeds down is helpful. Do a data transfer and fire up crystal disk info or some other Smart tool and look at your temps. You may be surprised as I was.

    But yeah, everyone is correct that it’s not good for raid that needs quick random read-write access. If you need long term backups of mostly static content, set it and forget it.

  6. Is there any place I can look to find out WHY smr is cheaper. I understand that shingling the data makes it fit more overlapped tracks but higher capacity cmr drives can do this without shingling. The technology to make low capacity cmr drives is there. The machinery to make them has Existed long before that of Smr. I just don’t understand how it’s cheaper to build machinery and change to this new process when all the infrastructure to build the old cmr drives is there.

  7. I got the same drives, only I have 5 of them and put them in a raid 5. It took days to build, and forever to rebuild when I had to replace one that died.

    I use it to store large files that almost never change.

    I can’t wait for them to all die so I can slowly replace them with proper drives. My luck the rest will last for years!

  8. chucked it in a box, JBODs, plex remuxes.

    the write speed not really important as its on par with the download speed.

    seems fine. its in a drivepool with 2 8tb shucked drives.

  9. Interesting. I feel like I have been living in a box. I thought only <8TB drives were primarily SMR. Fortunately, my drives are either older smaller drives or 14TB drives.

    Personally, I just don’t use SMR since my storage needs are all in my NAS or SSDs in my clients.

  10. I used them in a storage spaces array for backup. They don’t seem to have issues with dropping out of the array but do slow down on external writes. At some point t they are probably going to be relegated to offsite backups in a storage unit.

  11. What’s so special about SMR drives? How do their heads differ?

  12. If I had at home lame-legged tables, I would fix them with such disks.
    Actually, the magnets are still fine.

    The smr problem is not just what the disk made slower and unreliable. Main problem what it was made for utilizing already defective plates.

  13. I was going to use mine [3tb] just for storage.

    After 2 months, I’m already getting that

    intermittent 12khz >squeak< yet shows no errors.

    Just my latest regret.

  14. I’ve been trying to figure this out.

    Don’t these drives do garbage collection on their own (and clean up the data somewhat) if you leave it powered on constantly. And wouldn’t this garbage collection improve performance?

    If it does do this – how well does it do it?

    If I fill the (8tb – for example) drive with a bunch of small files, then delete 1/2 of them. If I give it enough time, will it optimize the remaining files so that I have a pretty clean 4TB section when I start writing files again?

  15. pasted before but a good read to understand how the drive handles data.
    either way you just gotta make sure you write as much as you can as sequentially as you can to get the best write performance when you’re first filling it up.

  16. WORM- Write Once Read Many.

    I did the same thing as you, except with four 4TB seagates. By the time I realized what happened, it was too late.

    To make lemonade from lemons, I currently use them as my Plex library on Truenas. To get past the ZFS issues, I use them as mirrored pairs. This makes rebuilding easier (supposedly, I haven’t tried it yet).

    Good thing is, using these in this application has freed up my CMR drives for more diversified usage- I have no hesitation writing/deleting/rewriting to that pool.

  17. Honestly, your first write to the drive shouldn’t be that slow. I got several of the Costco seagate 8tb smr drives when they were on sale (around march maybe?) and ran read/write tests on them, and they each consistently hit ~140-150 MB/s, which isn’t bad. It’s when you start deleting and re-writing data or shuffling things around that the speed drops to something horrible. For an incremental backup drive, it would be fine until it fills, then would get very slow as it starts deleting old backups and re-writing new backups over used areas. If the drive you’re backing up is small enough and you don’t make a lot of changes on it (incremental backups are small) then an 8tb drive could last a long time before it fills up the first write and has to start re-writing, but if you have a large drive you’re backing up and are making large changes to that drive regularly, the SMR backup drive’s usefulness will be done quickly.


    So the use case for these drives is for data that you want to write once and read however many times you like. Especially good for “data hoarding” data that you don’t plan to update often. Maybe you are backing up your DVD collection, storing family photos and videos, archiving scanned documents, etc. SMR drives aren’t great daily use drives, but for data hoarding they actually work just fine.

  18. SMR drives are useful for when-

    1. You are NOT using raid, ZFS, etc.. and you are using either a single disk, or a JBOD-based file-level raid solution.
    2. Write performance is not important.
    3. You don’t plan on frequently writing or changing data.

    In other words, Its useful for archival, or storing non-frequently written to data.

    If you have a bunch of media, its a good use-case, as media is mostly write once, read many times.

  19. Sounds like you got it figured out. They are for primary read heavy workloads or offline storage.