I have a WDC WD5001AALS-00L3B2-type hard disk drive: Western Digital Caviar Black, 500 GB SATA-2 with 32MiB cache.

I have came across this Advanced Format, and I am not entirely sure whether my hard drive supports it. I heard that if it does, some modifications need to be done to the partitions. My current system layout is like this:

  • sda
    • sda1 - 25GiB ntfs (Windows XP)
    • sda2 - 55GiB ntfs (Windows 7)
    • sda3 - 390GiB extended
      • sda5 - 4GiB linux-swap
      • sda6 - 35GiB ext4 (Ubuntu 12.04)
      • sda7 - 351GiB ntfs (data storage)

When the partition layout was created (in GParted), no alignation was set. Do I have to alter anything on my system, or can I leave it that way? It's pretty fast, so slowness it not an issue for me.


Well, if the system is fast enough, just use it.

If you are curious of finding out if it could be faster, then first check if the drive supports Advanced Format (see below). If it does, then check the partition table to see if the partitions are aligned on 4k boundaries. (They already might be)

As to the first part: There are two ways of finding out if your drive uses 4K sectors (also known as Advanced Format)

  1. Go to the Western Digital website. Check the drive specs.
  2. Theoretically you can query also the drive. The SATA specification allows the drive to tell you both what real sector size it uses and what sector size it shows to the OS. In practise this does not work since some (all?) drives lie. (see page 533 in the PDF for more details)
  • Well, I have checked the drive with HDSentinel and it says Bytes Per Sector: 512. So apparently, my drive is not an advanced format one. Thank you for the answer. – Whisperity Jul 6 '12 at 8:42
  • @Whisperity many AF drives pretend to have 512 byte sectors for backwards compatibility. so seeing that value does not indicate that it's not an AF drive. – jbg Mar 17 '19 at 16:22

If you are using Windows, you can use the command:

fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo C: 

It will show you the field byte per sectors, cluster size and other info.

If it shows that your sector size as 4k bytes then you are good to go, but there is a concept of "512-Byte Sector Emulation" that fools the OS into believing the sectors size is still 512 bytes (to prevent compatibility issues).

you can see more info here: Transition to Advanced Format 4K Sector Hard Drives | Seagate

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