An inexpensive Seagate 4TB 2.5″ SATA – get ready for density!

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Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 drive liberated
Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 drive liberated

Thanks to an eagle eyed STH forum member Deslok, we found an easy way to get 4TB Seagate 2.5″ 5400rpm disks for a paltry $124 via Amazon, with Prime shipping. Compare this to the normal price of around $200, which is over 61% more than the STH forum members have been buying them for. As you will see with the tear down, there is a nice USB 3.0 to SATA interface PCB and you can also get 200GB of OneDrive storage with these drives which are nice extras especially since you are already saving a huge amount of cash.

The Seagate Backup Plus 4TB Enclosure

Here is the Seagate Backup Plus 4TB enclosure. Of course, we are about to open it up. However, if we were not going to do so, it is actually a nice external drive enclosure. We may order one more for backup duties yet.

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 closed
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 closed

To open these you can use one of two methods. You can push along the case’s sides near the seam and get the lid clip to disengage with the rest of the shell. Alternatively you can use a pocket knife and pry. These units, even without screws are well designed so the fit on our drives has been excellent. Here is a picture of where we start from. Start away from the USB 3.0 port.

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 how not to pry open
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 how not to pry open

As you can see, there are very small clips holding this enclosure together. They do a good job. On the lid, you can see two of these clips on the top/ bottom edges and three clips on each side. There is adhesive keeping the lids on so the entire assembly is secure for travel use. The adhesive gives easily so it is not a barrier to opening. You will also see that using the knife method we did bend the metal lid. We were able to bend it back onto the drive but it took a bit of work after being deformed.

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 open
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 open

At this point, we pulled the drive out via the blue rubber shock absorber. Why have we been using this one? It is blue and we figured there had to be a reason one of the four was a different color.

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 removing drive assembly
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 removing drive assembly

After removing the drive from the outer shell, we see the drive has rubber shock absorbers and a foil shield around it.

Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 with shielding
Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 with shielding

After taking off the shielding and rubber/ silicone shock absorbers, we can see that the actual SATA to USB 3.0 converter is very small.

Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 with SATA to USB 3
Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 with SATA to USB 3

Here is a picture of the other side of that USB 3.0 to SATA connector. As you can see, it is very compact.

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 USB 3 to SATA
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB STDR4000100 USB 3 to SATA

This is a nice compact USB 3.0 to SATA interface PCB which is handy on a standalone basis. You will only want to use this with slower 2.5″ hard drives and SSDs as it only has USB 3.0 bus power available.

It should also be noted that if you get one of these drives you also receive 200GB / 2 year Microsoft OneDrive storage. Here is the Seagate FAQ on that program.

Our total dis-assembly time on these drives was about 2 minutes by our third drive.

The Seagate ST4000LM016 4TB 2.5″ Drive

Inside you will find a Seagate ST4000LM016 2.5″ 4TB hard drive. Here is a link to the official spec page.

Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 drive liberated
Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 drive liberated

The Seagate ST4000LM016 is a 15mm thick 2.5″ drive which has some significant implications. The most important of which is that you need proper hot swap bays. Many hot swap enclosures support only 7mm drives as they were designed for SSDs. The Seagate 4TB drive must pack enough rotating platters for that capacity in a 2.5″ drive size.

We did test the drive and like other sites found that although the spec mentions 128MB cache, our drive shows only 16MB.

Seagate 4TB drive warranty – or lack thereof

Some drives, e.g. the WD Backup drives with HGST 8TB drive we recently tried, will come up on the manufacturer warranty sites even with the bare internal drives. We tested the drives with the Seagate Warranty Validation page:

Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 Warranty Check invalid
Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 Warranty Check invalid

It appears as though these drives are tracked as part of their enclosures so you cannot RMA the drives outside of their enclosures.

For every eight of the 4TB external drives you buy ($1000/ 32TB raw) you could only buy five of the internal versions of the drive ($1000/ 20TB raw) which means self warrantying these drives (buying spares to cover failures yourself) is very easy to do.

Performance

Performance of these drives is certainly well below what we would expect from 3.5″ drives or from 2.5″ higher speed drives. The spindle speed and small platter size do not help the drives much. We did a few quick ATTO runs using a number of the drives we purchased and the USB 3.0 interface is not slowing these drives down.

Here are ATTO Benchmarks with the USB 3.0 enclosure:

Seagate Backup Plus USB 3 4TB STDR4000100 ATTO Benchmark
Seagate Backup Plus USB 3 4TB STDR4000100 ATTO Benchmark

And with a direct SATA III connection:

Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 SATA III ATTO Benchmark
Seagate 4TB ST4000LM016 SATA III ATTO Benchmark

These are not scientific, but they do show you approximately how well the drives perform. There was a decent test run variation so assume that these drives are around 110MB/s maximum or the line rate for a 1GbE connection to your NAS.

Conclusion

After trying these drives out, we now have 8 of them that we are planning to use on a backup server. If you have Intel Xeon E5-2600 V1/ V2 systems, older Xeon E3 systems, or Atom C2000 series systems with SATA II 3.0gbps ports, these drives are a perfect match since they cannot saturate a SATA II port bandwidth wise. For those looking to build compact home servers, you can fit four of these drives, for 16TB raw capacity in a 4-in-1 5.25″ enclosure. The drives are big enough that you cannot use denser configurations. We were able to test these with Thermaltake MAX1542 enclosures and they barely fit. Another huge benefit is that the drives work in standard 24 bay 2.5″ 2U chassis. That means you can mix these drives as a slower tier with SATA SSDs as a faster, higher performing storage tier. You can easily get 24x 4TB drives in a 2U chassis for 96TB total raw capacity. Using a mix-and-match architecture (SSD and HDD) you can skip the 3.5″ drive size and standardize on 2.5″ disks. For $200+ per 4TB drive we would not recommend this. At $124 with Amazon Prime, these drives are a nice find.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Amazon sells the bare drive as the Samsung Momentus ST4000LM016 for $140.

    http://amzn.to/1VPOBBb

    It’s a little more expensive but you’re not voiding the warranty by cracking open an external drive. It’s also worth noting that this is a PMR drive. The only other 4TB SATA 2.5 I’m aware of use SMR (shingled) storage which has questionable durability in write heavy situations.

  2. Been going this route for a few years now, ever since the 1TB 2.5″ seagate has made the external drives available months ahead of the bare drives…
    interestingly i never had any problems (lightly used nas 12x 1TB, 12x 2TB, disks in sleep mode ~20h per day), not a single drive has failed. in the same timespan i had multiple wd red’s fail. but i have a far too small sample for any meaningful analysis…

  3. Anyone tested their performance in a RAID yet? I’m thinking of putting 4x 2.5″ in 5.25″ bay backplane. Wondering if the performance will be enough though, maybe with two of those (8drives in a RAID 5 or combining to 4 disk RAID 5’s as a software raid 0) I could achieve 500-600MBs read/write? Any thoughts?

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