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I was about to buy the following 2TB HDD online.

http://www.aria.co.uk/Products/Components/Hard+Drives/Serial+ATA/Western+Digital+WD20EARS+2TB+Caviar+Green+3.5%22+SATA+II+Hard+Drive+%28OEM%29+?productId=40039&rqcType=q

However I noticed the following on the page

Compatibility

- Windows® 2000/XP/Vista Note: Compatibility may vary depending on user's hardware configuration and operating system.

What issues are they referring to? This harddrive will be in my file server, it already has 4 1TB harddrives but they're almost full. Im running windows xp sp3 but I can upgrade to windows 7 if neccesary.

Thank you for your advice

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You may have to use an OS which is younger than the ~8 year old XP if you want to use a new hardware with it. Well.. it happens. Or you can always.. delete some porn. –  Shiki Jul 13 '10 at 21:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The harddisk is a 4K sector size drive (the Western Digital marketing name is Advanced Format). See e.g. the article Western Digital’s Advanced Format: The 4K Sector Transition Begins on Anandtech.

Summary: The drive uses 4096-byte sectors internally (physical) but reports itself as a 512-byte sector drive (logical). The 4k sectors can cause performance problems if your partitions are not aligned on a 4K boundary. Windows 7 or Vista will align the partitions correctly but older Windows versions use another geometry and the partition will probably be mis-aligned (there are workarounds - see the article).

If you are a Linux user you may also want to read Linux Not Fully Prepared for 4096-Byte Sector Hard Drives including the comments.

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+1 Good catch!! –  jrista Jul 13 '10 at 21:15

I am not sure it is really an operating system compatibility issue. Hard drives come in a variety of interfaces, and not all interfaces are compatible with all systems. These days, most hard drives use SATA or SATA II interfaces, which have different types of data and power connections than legacy IDE drives did. If you have an older computer, that may be an incompatability, although there are adapters (I don't really recommend adapting, however.)

What may be a bigger issue when buying larger, newer hard drives, is to make sure that if they use SATA, that your system supports the version of SATA used. Most newer computers support SATA I and SATA II, however there is a SATA III standard that is very fringe, and care should be made when buying high-performance SATA drives. While a SATA III drive can be used with older SATA II systems, you will not get the top-notch performance that full SATA III compliance will offer. This is particularly an issue if you are looking to buy top-end, high speed SSD drives.

Beyond the possible physical compatibility issues, given how old Windows 2000 is (and possibly XP), you may need to make sure your system is fully patched with the latest Service Packs and updates to use SATA drives.

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