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I have a HDD 4TB WD 40EFRX (red series) and try to check the health of that disc. Actually, I erased all partitions and the table via gparted and build a new table + ex4 partition. Subsequently, I wanted to overwrite all the data with zeroes in order to get rid of old data. However, I figured out that using

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb status=progress

result in an I/O error right at the beginning:

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb status=progress
474558976 bytes (475 MB, 453 MiB) copied, 38.0445 s, 12.5 MB/s
dd: writing to '/dev/sdb': Input/output error
927977+0 records in
927976+0 records out
475123712 bytes (475 MB, 453 MiB) copied, 46.6914 s, 10.2 MB/s

while adding the option bs=64MB (cache of that HDD is 64 MB) the command works really fine. However, I guess based on the IO error the HDD is somehow dead or can I do other workarounds too? By the way, I have the HDD via SATA/USB connected to my laptop.

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    Does the error always occur at the same address? – Hauke Laging Dec 30 '17 at 13:44
  • @HaukeLaging, hmm, you're right, I didn't read the sample output very well, it seems. – ilkkachu Dec 30 '17 at 13:54
  • I do also wonder what happens if the drive is plugged directly to a computer. With a USB adapter in the middle, it could be another source of issues. – ilkkachu Dec 30 '17 at 13:55
  • @ilkkachu you are right but I have no other possibility right now. My desktop PC is 500 km far away. HaukeLaging I will check it out. Right now another HDD (same type) is running but the error occured always very rapidly (lets say after a few seconds so I guess it could be the same sample always). – Tobi Dec 30 '17 at 14:17
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    Use smartctl -a /dev/sdb to see what the disk thinks of its own fail state, and then run a -t short or -t long test too. – meuh Dec 30 '17 at 14:55
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I admit that I have neither encountered nor heard about the following problem but on the other hand I am not an harddisk failure expert... :-)

The pure amount of I/O operations might somehow cause the problem. Between the two kinds of dd calls is the factor 128,000 in the number of read and write operations. I do not know whether the Linux block layer somehow reorders direct accesses to a block device. If it does then this factor would be lower.

You may try smaller block sizes. bs=512KB would be a reduction by a factor of 1024. Perhaps you find that even a block size much smaller that the cache size makes the problem disappear.

  • If I do not set a block size, which one is used as default one? As I said, if I put an blocksize such as bs=64MB, dd works fine (at least for the first hour). If I do use bb without the block size specification, it fails - always but only with one of the two HDD. So, how could I be sure the HDD is still okay.? Right now, I am using 512KB and it works fine till now too. Thanks for your reply. By the way is it normal that the transfer (write) rate starts with 130MB/s and falls to 20 MB/s and goes back to 75 MB/s. – Tobi Dec 30 '17 at 14:48
  • @Tobi As ilkkachu alreasy wrote: The default block size of dd is 512 bytes. – Hauke Laging Dec 30 '17 at 14:50
  • @Tobi I am not familiar with the progression of transfer speeds but I assume that in the beginning the empty disk cache helps a lot. When the cache is filled up then it is probably partly flushed which stalls the I/O operations which arrive during that time. After the partly flush an equilibrium is reached, I guess, which is between the highest and lowest transfer rate. – Hauke Laging Dec 30 '17 at 14:56
  • sorry, I did not see that ilkkachu said that the default value is 512 bytes. The speedup explanation seems to be fine for me. Thanks for the reply. I checked the disc with smartclt and it seems there is a problem (comment above) – Tobi Dec 30 '17 at 16:58

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