28 Mar 2013

Recently, NewEgg had a fantastic price on this Seagate STCA4000100 4TB USB 3.0 external hard drive.  It was at that time I decided to purchase three of these to move to a more traditional NAS setup, either with a Drobo style NAS or a home built server based design.  I'll have more on the home built variety in a future article, but for now I wanted to show everyone the method to cracking this guy open and some test results on the drive itself, which in most cases is a 5900 RPM drive, unless you were one of the ones that ended up with a 7200 rpm model.  This whole process actually takes less than five minutes and should not void the warranty.

Removing the SATA HDD from the Enclosure

Tools Needed:

(1) Flat blade screwdriver

(2) Phillips screwdriver

The first thing we need to do to get at the internal drive is separate the bottom portion of the enclosure.  Once you pull this apart as below, you find that it has a SATA port exposed (the drive's SATA port):

Next we take a small flat blade screw driver and insert it in the location shown below.  Push in with the flat blade till it pops loose.  

Now we can use a finger to pry up the side panel the rest of the way towards the top of the drive enclosure.

Keep pushing downward until the whole side portion is removed.  Next we will work our way around to the other side, continuing along.

Now from that point, just lay the panel aside and turn the drive in the other direction, keeping the bottom of the actual harddrive/enclosure towards you as below.  Now we have to work the edges loose, in this case we are only concerned with the top edges.  The top pops off revealing the drive as you will see.  In the image below is where I began using the flat blade to pry loose the top panel.  I did it in about 2 or 3 random spots along the edge of this side to start.  The line in the image represents the space you need to stick the flat blade to work it loose (zoom the image).

After that side has been loosened, we turn to the other side panel where we removed the panel and work along the "top" of the enclosure here as well.

Then we rotate to the bottom of the enclosure where the SATA port is located and pry the lid of the enclosure here as well.

Now we just pull the lid upward and remove it.

This reveals the drive, a ST4000DM000 in my case (all three that I bought).  Which if you look up the part number, in my case, turned out to be the 5900 RPM drive.  If you go to the Seagate Warranty website and look up the drive and serial number, you will find that the drive itself is under warranty for 2 years.  In the event you need to return the drive, you could just file an RMA on the drive itself, rather than needing to put it back in the enclosure and send back.  At this point, we pull the tape at the bottom upward to remove the drive, pulling the drive towards you once the bottom is free.  This just removes the drive with a metal frame still attached.

Once you get it out, with the frame you will see rubber spacers on the side.  Simply pull those off to reveal screws that need removed with the Phillips screwdriver.


HDD Use and Benchmark Results

Before cracking open the case and directly connecting the drive, I took a look at how the drive functioned via the usb 3.0 connection.  After hooking it up you see "Seagate Backup Plus Drive" show up in Windows Explorer as below.  The actual free space is 3.63 TB to begin with.

I opted to use Performance Test DiskMark to test the performance of the drive inside the usb enclosure.  The Disk Mark came in at 881.5, with sequential reads at 114.2 MB/sec, writes at 127 MB/sec and random + RW at 2.50 MB/sec as shown in the graphic below.

The actual contents of the drive look as below, with some videos and the Seagate Dashboard Installer as well.

Due to the way the USB enclosure is formatted, if you look in Disk Management you actually see 3 partitions listed.  The drive is actually using 4096 byte physical and logical sector sizes and doesn't support advanced format 512 byte sector emulation.  You have to use their proprietary backup solution to backup data to the drive, rather than be able to use Windows Backup as it will fail due to the native 4k sector size.  These types of drives are directly supported under Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, however. 

At this point I did the procedure to crack open the enclosure and removed the drive.  I deleted the partitions and created a GPT partition, with the standard NTFS 4096 byte allocation size.  Then, I attached it directly on a SATA III connection on the PC and re-ran the Disk Mark PerformanceTest test.

The results even on SATA were not that much different than on USB 3.0.  Reads in the 142.2 MB/sec range, writes around 81.3 MB/sec and Random Seek + RW at 2.42 MB/sec giving a total Disk Mark of 817.1.



Overall for the money, this 4TB USB 3.0 enclosed 5900 RPM Seagate Hard Drive cannot be beat.  The performance is solid and the low power consumption of a 5900 drive makes it a good choice for in a NAS type setup, where the data doesn't change much over time.  Watch in the future as the price on these units will probably decrease even more.  I didn't have a chance to test Windows Backup to test the drive formatted as GPT, but in theory this should work fine, if you use this drive to do more than just store files.


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