back to article Bigger on the inside: WD’s Tardis-like Black² Dual Drive laptop disk

The phone call from Western Digital's people promised me “a completely new category of hard drive”. Naturally I was sceptical. After all, what could possibly be new in the world of rotating magnetic media – and don’t we all just want fast SSDs anyway? In fact, there’s no denying that WD has indeed delivered something new and, …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    to the big Samsung is the 960Gb Crucial M500. I've found these to be a little cheaper than the Samsung.

    I have two in my laptop and it goes like [redacted] especially running VM's which I do a lot.

    Also cloning an HDD is fine but you will find that some software binds itself to the HDD serial number. Then getting it working again can be more trouble that it is worth (sigh).

    'No Mr software supplier, I didn't pirate my copy. I just changed the Hard drive...'

    'No, I won't pay for another license, just let me change the HDD.'

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Alternative

      >Also cloning an HDD is fine but you will find that some software binds itself to the HDD serial number.

      Thanks for highlighting that potential hurdle!

      That's just a stupid policy... It would save a lot of headaches if it was just easy for the average user to create system images - even if they have to call upon a technical friend to restore the image to a new HDD. It took long enough for MS to include cloning tools with Windows.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Not only windows products.

        MS Office for Mac is a nasty piece of software. It not only ties itself to the hard disk but spereads itself all over the disk into places that frankly it should be going.

        So you change your HDD to an SSD and copy everything over and Orifice won't start. You follow the online guide to uninstall and the re-install fails.

        Total and utter crap. Typical MS Software.

        1. James O'Shea

          Re: Not only windows products.

          "MS Office for Mac is a nasty piece of software. It not only ties itself to the hard disk"

          Are you sure about that? I have on my Mac mini at home a copy of Office Mac 2011 which was first installed on an iMac. I moved it over to the Mac mini using Apple's migration tools. No muss, no fuss, I just connected my backup drive to the Mac mini, told it to update, and went to bed. By next morning all was copied.

          " but spereads itself all over the disk into places that frankly it should be going."

          Other than the Microsoft Office folder in Applications, and the Microsoft and Application Support folders in Library, where?

  2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Linux support... well, who can say?


    I'm making a (possibly erroneous) assumption that this thing is put together using industry standards, which may be wrong, but...

    If this is two disks, with a 2 port SAS expander built in, then plugging it into a laptop will show 2 drives under Linux. They should just work.

    What won't work is any fancy Acronis drive imaging software. But, boot from a live CD, attach your old drive via USB and then use gparted to partition and copy the data around. Only problem you may have is writing the boot record, but that should be relatively easy from Grub.

    Anybody fancy giving me one to test this assumption?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux support... well, who can say? @Peter Gathercole 10:59

      "Anybody fancy giving me one to test this assumption?"

      How 'bout you buy one and tell us, rather than the usual "Yeah, it should be fine with Linux" line that we usually get from Linux evangelists? (Not accusing you of the evangelism here, just the arm-waving.)

    2. Phil W

      Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

      I was about to comment in this vein.

      Frankly the author's comment of "who can say?" is utter crap, and shows a lack of effort.

      All you need do is download Ubuntu/Mint?Debian/Fedora or any one of the many other popular free distros and boot up, see if it gives you the option to install to the device.

      Sure that's not going to give a full compatibility chart of what kernels and distros are supported, but it's a hell of a lot more insightful than "who can say?"

      Who can say? Anyone who is given one of the device to review who has an internet connection, a DVD burner, a spare blank disc and an ounce of initiative. That's who.

      Oh and to the AC, why should a Linux using reader have to buy one to find out when El Reg could of tested it with the minor effort indicated above?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

        >Frankly the author's comment of "who can say?" is utter crap, and shows a lack of effort.

        Do bear in mind that the reviewer concluded that, even for Windows machines, this drive is only recommended for a limited group of users. Throw another circle at that Venn diagram, "People with a Linux installation", and the number can only get pretty small, even if we used a figure of 20% for argument's sake.

        If the reviewer's primary OS is not Linux, it is reasonable to suggest he might not be the best person to get the drive working under Linux... indeed, he might spend some trying, and even then merely reach an inconclusive conclusion, such as "It might be possible to get it working, but I personally couldn't make it behave".

        Why not leave it to users on a Linux forum to provide an answer?

        1. Phil W

          Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

          I wasn't suggesting the reviewer spend time struggling to get it to work if it didn't, or indeed spend any time becoming overly familiar with Linux in order to test it. As you say the number of people it would affect or who would care is not particularly large.

          What I was suggesting was that he download an installer and at least get as far as seeing if the device is presented as a location to install to if it didn't immediately work, then fine. With a distro like Ubuntu this requires little more than the ability to follow a simple GUI, a level of computer literacy any author on an IT news site should have as this one clearly does.

          He could even have not mentioned Linux support leaving the question unraised. But what he did do instead was say "who can say?" indicating that there's no way he could possibly know.

    3. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

      The 1TB disk does not show up under Windows at all until the driver is installed. It doesn't show up when the drive is connected to a Mac - and I mean 'isn't listed', not simply 'doesn't auto-mount'.

      Would Linux have a driver already installed for such a set-up? Maybe, but I suspect not. Still it will be worth looking at in due course.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

        Yeah, but what does the "driver" do?

        Did you try plugging it into a linuix box (or live distro) for shits'n'giggles?

        dmesg is often a useful tool for these kind of things, as is lsscsi

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

          @Alan Brown yep, he just said he plugged it into a mac

      2. LaeMing

        Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

        If it doen't come up on MacOS immediately without extra drivers, I would strongly assume it wouldn't be any different on Linux. It wouldn't be the first or second drives from a major drive manufacturer (WD, Segate, both) have some some funky custom chipery that /isn't/ industry standard and requires special drivers (though at at least in this case - unlike the two previous I alluded to -- they might actually have an excuse this time!).

      3. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

        Requiring a "driver" to activate the 1TB rust disc is a fail on WD's part. It stinks of the Good Old Days(tm) when we used a boot wedge (hack, kludge) to activate drives larger than the BIOS could handle, but seemingly less necessary. Since SATA supports multiple devices on a single link, would it have been a problem to provide a SATA hub on the driver controller and allow the drive to be seen natively?

    4. James O'Shea

      Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

      if there aren't any Linux drivers for the actual hardware then there may be a slight problem getting the thing to boot.

    5. Jason Ozolins

      Re: Linux support... well, who can say?

      It couldn't be a SAS expander - you'd need a SAS controller in your laptop to make use of that. It could well be just a SATA port multiplier chip, as Marvell does make those:

      If so, it looks like it comes up in a transparent passthrough mode before the extra driver magic is added to the host. There doesn't look to be a publicly available detailed datasheet for their port multipliers, but it would be interesting to see if a decent SATA controller under a recent Linux kernel would detect the chip.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Linux support... well, who can say? @Jason

        Ah. I'd forgotten the difference between SAS and SATA. I work so much with SAS that the restrictions in SATA compatibility flew past me while I wasn't thinking.

  3. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    An entirely new drive type...

    Which seems broken and pointless give the amount of phaf required to set up and use - and no Mac / Linux support either? What a crock of crap in this day and age.

    Epic fail because this is one.

  4. Humpty McNumpty

    Yeah I don't get it either.

    I run an SSD and HDD combo in my Desktop, but the solution is far from perfect. Remapping or hard linking the user directories onto the HDD and then choosing on an app by app basis which drive you want to install on is a pest, assuming the installer even gives you a choice. In my case the configuration also appears to prevent the Windows 8.1 update from installing.

    All this seems to do is replicate this set-up which for many is not something they will relish. Perhaps if it had come with some fancy caching software to make the SSD invisible it would more more tempting, but having been on the receiving end of NVelo Dataplex thats not exactly something to relish either.

    While I can agree Linux evangelists are often overly quick to say something will work, SATA controllers and the like often do right out of the box. Its things like obscure revisions of WiFi chip-sets or those form a few notable very closed source chip-set makers that cause the major issues.

  5. NogginTheNog

    Not for me

    I like the idea, but I can't say I'm keen on any storage that needs specials drivers to use. I like the idea that in general I can pull out drives from my various boxes (SSDs, SATA and even the occasional PATA HD!) and connect them to my USB dock for emergency surgery and file removal when things go awry.

  6. PleebSmash

    1 TB 2.5" platter

    1 TB in a 2.5" platter? Isn't that beating the 3.5" 4 TB (800-1000 GB/platter) drives and the upcoming 6 TB (~850 GB/platter) helium drive? Where's the 8-10 TB 3.5" drives then? This platter should have its own story.

    1. Leo Waldock

      Re: 1 TB 2.5" platter

      I completely agree, which is why I reported comments that were unsubstantiated - but plausible - and couched them in those terms as I haven't read them elsewhere and thought the hint of a 2TB laptop drive too good to ignore. If it's true.

    2. thomanski

      Re: 1 TB 2.5" platter

      > 1 TB in a 2.5" platter?

      Yeah but no but yeah but it's not a single platter, contrary to WD's initial claim:

      "Update 2: WD initally told us that the drive is a single-platter design but they've now corrected their earlier statement. The hard drive consists of two 500GB platters" -->

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    modern laptops with single drive bays

    perhaps its time to return to dual bays on some larger models?

    (I've a hand-me-down Acer of about 6 years ago with twin bays )

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: modern laptops with single drive bays

      Some laptops do have an mSATA slot (suitible for an mSATA SSD) in addition to the normal SATA drive bay... but some laptops have a non-functioning mSATA slot, including the Dell reviewed by The Reg today:

  8. Matt_payne666

    another alternative....

    a medium sized SSD - 256gb jobber for stuff and online storage for cold data...

    I run a 256GB Samsung Pro and have 125GB in a skydrive account... running win 8.1 I have the default save locations in the cloud with local sync on my commonly used folders. big stuff like VM's live locally on the SSD... works a treat - cold boots take 15 seconds, read and writes are 450 upwards, my day to day files are at hand and general guff is only a quickish (transparent) download away...

    This arrangement does rely on an internet connection for my photos and crap from 2004, but I don't need that on this machine... the tinfoil brigade will also point to the NSA/Mi5/the irish or any number of online authorities that may be interested in cat photos and whatnot, but that doesn't bother me...

    the setup also makes workstation builds a breeze.... upgrading from win8.1 ent preview to 8.1 enterprise final took 4minutes to install (rfom a usb3 zalmann virtual drive) , then a further 30 mins to install applications and instantly my documents and settings were inplace with a fully useable online machine in less time than an edition of strictly

  9. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Are Microsoft working on a Fusion type Drive for Windows 9?

    I actually think Apples approach seems interesting. Sadly it only works on their Systems though... DUH!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Apple was toying with ZFS for a while, and some that file system's ideas have been implemented in OSX's CoreStorage.

      As far as I can make out, Windows 8's 'Storage Spaces' isn't capable of presenting two drives as a single volume to the OS if one of those drives is the boot drive... but if I've misunderstood, please do post a link!

    2. GettinSadda

      What you need is the drive to just appear as 1TB to the system, but automagically use the SSD to cache frequently used files.

      But... wait... there also needs to be a way that the drive can be instructed by the user to fix certain files to the SSD or to never put them on the SSD. Then the OS can have a property for this in explorer (or similar) and you can tune as you see fit.

      The problem is that the drive itself doesn't know enough about what is going on to do this - so how to solve? Perhaps you need a driver that works as a helper? Or perhaps you make the first nGB of space always cached in the SSD and the OS just places "high speed" files in the low space and "low speed" files in the high space. Perhaps you can configure the percentage of the SSD capacity that is used for this, but start with maybe 50% reserved and 50% frequently used data.

  10. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Storage Review results showed that this is extortionate bla.

    The price is a piss take, it should be £100 cheaper, given the separate parts would cost no more than £150, including profit! What is worse, is it needs OS support to mirror the SSD to part of the modified WD Blue 1TB; this should have been done to look like a small RAID 1 SSD drive, and a larger 2nd drive for the rest, with extra SATA commands to manage the mirroring, then I might have been worth part of the extra cost.

    1. Leo Waldock

      Re: Storage Review results showed that this is extortionate bla.

      The £249 pricing does indeed take the shine off the Dual Drive however if you want the combo of boot SSD and 1TB of storage in a single drive then the pricing only needs to match a 500GB SSD to make sense. It seems to me that WD picked a price that makes you wince as you hand over the credit card, but nothing like the level charged by tablet and phone manufacturers for an extra 16GB or 32GB of flash. Cough.

  11. TheProf

    HDD Caddy

    I replaced my CD drive with a hard disc caddy. Now I've got a fast SSD for the operating system, a large but slow HDD for data storage and the CD drive lives in an external USB box. It very rarely gets used.

    HDD caddy and CD box together cost less than £20 from a well-known tat-bizarre.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: HDD Caddy

      As noted on some of these HOWTOs I've read about setting up an Apple Fusion Drive.

      You NEED to note which "Caddy" you need as I gather they com in either PATA (The One I need for my Laptop), and SATA. So if this could be a thing, ya need to do your Homework first...

  12. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    I replaced my laptop hd with a 750GB WD Black. It's a very fast drive and has a 5 year warranty. I've tested it with quite a few tools such as hdtune and about half a dozen others. It seems a good bit slower than what people were getting in testing when they initially reviewed the drives. They showed some pretty impressive screenshots. But it's still a blazer of a drive and I doubt that would be grounds for returning it anyway.

    One thing it does is, whenever I am in Linux on either one of my usb stick installs or the LMDE on the HD itself, it makes a horrendous clicking sound, loud as a thump almost. It doesn't do it in windows at all. Apparently it is a known problem with most people saying it is harmless. I think it is parking the heads or something. I have also done S.M.A.R.T. tests with quite a few tools and everything appears fine so far, though I am keeping an eye on it. It does seem to be a specifically Linux issue and it does it with all different flavours I've tried so far.

    But the thing only cost me 60 quid. It was the largest/fastest 2.5" drive I could find for the money at the time. I'll tolerate the clicking and the slightly lower than specced speed. Doing audio on it with large channel count throughput on multiple tracks. It's a superb drive for the cash.

    As for this new hybrid WD drive - no thanks. The paranoid bastards that make audio software (like their stuff isn't cracked black and blue already) make you go through a full re-authorisation which dependent on software can be anything from mildly irritating to full on you have to be kidding me jumping through circus hoops that take five days of emailing fucking customer support. There are quite a few cases where a lot of the audio software people don't make you do that, to be fair. But I have a silly amount of software and it all adds up. And everything paid for in full. I even buy software I haven't installed yet to 'support' the devs.

    So the hassle with two drives in one would at first glance just be double trouble. It takes days to re-authorise everything already. I wouldn't want to risk the nightmare with this new one. I like the idea of it though. If not the price.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Completely wrong concept, WD!

    You need driver trickery to make a disk visible that is connected to a standard interface? I wouldn't be happy to save anything of importance on there. Who knows for which OS versions the driver will be maintained, or which unwanted side-effects it may impose?

    Better to wait until January when everybody's done with Christmas (and all unwanted presents are returned). Prices for SSDs will fall, especially consumer-grade products.

    WD come about a year or two to late with this idea, and it seems half-baked. As if there weren't enough devices with driver problems already... A disk clearly shouldn't have this issue.

  14. Tannin

    THE HEADLINE: "The world’s first SSD-HDD combo"

    THE FACT: Seagate has been making a variety of SSD-HDD combos for years. Their design is quite different - for one thing there is no user-level trickery or special setup required or even possible, you just plug them in and use them, with whatever operating system you please.

  15. {'-,_Ultron6_,-'}


    I think you have missed the point. Seagate have been making Hybrids, which include Seagate jiggery pokery to guess which files are frequently used and to control everything.

    WD's drive gives the user complete control, albeit after a few setup shenanigans. This is better in my opinion.

    I think the idea is sound - greater control over your files for archive on HDD, and anything you want to be quicker than HDD on the SSD.

    By the way, HDD is a much safer place for personal files, when SSDs die, they properly die.

    1. Tannin

      Re: @Tannin

      Cheers Ultron.

      "I think you have missed the point" - not at all. The point I made is that the Reg headline is plain wrong in fact. This WD thing is not the first dual drive, in fact if I remember Hitachi's product line correctly it's not even the second dual SSD/mechanical drive - counting all the different Seagate ones as a single product line for the sake of simplicity, it's the third which, in a three-company market makes it the *last*. (Insert quote of your choice here, presumably Matthew 20:16.) I expect dumb headlines from the Reg - hey, that's all part of the charm of the place- but I draw the line at flat-out wrong.

      (You point out something the WD drive may be useful for. That's fine, but it's not my point, which is that a headline - OK a sub-head in this case - should have some vague relationship to the facts of the matter.)

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: @Tannin

        That is however what WD have been advertising for some time - and I expect that El Reg pretty much have to keep the WD description of the product.

        I think WD mean:

        "This is the first single-enclosure drive that has an SSD and a HDD which appear as two separate drives when you are running our specific driver under Windows."

        (Later on they'll probably claim the first Mac-compatible one.)

        - As opposed to the Hybrid drives where the OS sees the SSD and HDD appear as a single drive - which is more generally useful anyway.

        Presumably your marketing dept have to figure out some kind of first when you're last-to-market.

  16. Steven Jones

    Not perfect, but...

    I was considering this, but two things put me off. Firstly is what looks to me like excessive cost. Knock approaching £100 off that, and it makes more sense, and is surely closer to the economic rate. Secondly is the need for special I/O drivers. I know this is because of the inability of SATA to support multiple addressable devices down a single connection (a shame as PATA allowed two devices), but it strikes me that another approach could have been taken, and that is to present the HDD and SSD a single, concatenated device. Yes, it would be necessary to partition the device manually (and might pose some interesting firmware issues - especially for bad block mapping), but I'm sure some software tools could be developed to make this easier. Such a device would not require special device drivers.

    Also, why do reviewers fixate on maximum SSD throughput rates as the important feature for PC performance. For the vast majority of users it is not. What really matters is the vastly increased random I/O rate which is intimately tied up with the much, much lower latency of SSDs. It's that which gives you the vastly better responsiveness of a machine with the OS (and more active directories) mapped to SSD - which I find easy to do by mounting file systems into appropriate places in the system disk file hierarchy. It's also low latency which means you don't have to wait 10 minutes when MS decides to dump a massive system update on you. OK - there may be a few power users where the ability to copy large files at multi-hundred MBps rates, but then they probably need an all SSD solution anyway

    1. lurker

      Re: Not perfect, but...

      Yup, like all amateur reviews this assumes that 'big numberz hurr hurr' sequential read speeds are the most relevant metric, when in fact very few normal usage scenarios are based around large file transfers. Information about IOPs is easily available from SSD benchmarking tools, and is at least as relevant as the sequential transfer rate, since operating systems typically access a lot of small files rather than a single monolithic blob.

  17. Basler


    Why make it so complicated to the end user?

    I'm no expert, but it must be possible to present the two drives as a single drive with two partitions with a bit of hardware jiggery-pokery, no?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow! A Windows only hard drive!

    I guess I'm going to buy one and party like it's 1995. Overpriced too, what more is there to wish²? :-)

    ² Btw ElReg, you seem to have missed the footnote.

  19. Chris Ashworth

    Struggling to see any reason to buy this over a Momentus XT 1TB (which I have already given a friend's oldish laptop a new lease of life with).

    Anyone enlighten me?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022