Another NAS-ty WD controversy —

“Clearly predatory”: Western Digital sparks panic, anger for age-shaming HDDs

Drives automatically get a "warning" flag if powered on for 3 years.

western digital red plus nas hard drive

The practice's revelation is the last straw for some users. Western Digital already had a steep climb to win back NAS customers' trust after shipping NAS drives with SMR (shingled magnetic recording) instead of CMR (conventional magnetic recording). Now, some are saying they won't use or recommend the company's hard drives anymore.

“Warning,” your NAS drive’s been on for 3 years

As users have reported online, including on Synology-focused and Synology's own forums, as well as on Reddit and YouTube, Western Digital drives using Western  Digital Device Analytics (WDDA) are getting a "warning" stamp in Synology DSM once their power-on hours count hits the three-year mark. WDDA is similar to SMART monitoring and rival offerings, like Seagate's IronWolf, and is supposed to provide analytics and actionable items.

The recommended action says: "The drive has accumulated a large number of power on hours [throughout] the entire life of the drive. Please consider to replace the drive soon." There seem to be no discernible problems with the hard drives otherwise.

Synology confirmed this to Ars Technica and noted that the labels come from Western Digital, not Synology. A spokesperson said the "WDDA monitoring and testing subsystem is developed by Western Digital, including the warning after they reach a certain number of power-on-hours."

The practice has caused some, like YouTuber SpaceRex, to stop recommending Western Digital drives for the foreseeable future. In May, the YouTuber and tech consultant described his outrage, saying three years is "absolutely nothing" for a NAS drive and lamenting the flags having nothing to do with anything besides whether or not a drive has been in use for three years.

A user on SynoForum discussed their "panic" upon seeing the label. And SpaceRex said one of its clients also panicked and quickly replaced the "warning" drives out of fear of losing business-critical data.

"It is clearly predatory tactics by Western Digital trying to sell more hard drives," SpaceRex said in a June 10 video.

Users are also concerned that this could prevent people from noticing serious problems with their drive.

Further, you can't repair a pool with a drive marked with a warning label.

"Only drives with a healthy status can be used to repair or expand a storage pool," Synology's spokesperson said. "Users will need to first suppress the warning or disable WDDA to continue."

Affected products

Oddly, Western Digital doesn't have a public list of its devices with WDDA. However, Synology has a partial list pointing to the WD Red Pro, WD Red Plus, and WD Purple, which Western Digital advertises for surveillance use, rather than NAS use.

On Synology's end, the company's spokesperson said the warning labels affect "devices supporting WDDA, which includes models with model numbers ending in -13 to -21 that are operating on DSM 7.0, DSM 7.1, and DSM 7.2." However, WDDA is no longer included in newer models, starting with the DS1522+, which launched in July of 2022."

SpaceRex also said that QNAP drives might support WDDA soon, so the automatic warning flags could affect non-Synology users working with Western Digital hard drives soon.

Channel Ars Technica