Advanced Format hard drives is a new technology which can be attributed as a milestone in the class of hard drives. The older format hard drives used to have a 512-bytes physical sector size and this has been the case since the invent of the hard drives in 1956. Advanced Format changes the physical sector size from 512-byte to a larger chunk of 4096-bytes while the logical sector size remains 512-bytes. This is attributed as a milestone as it will tremendously increase the performance of the hard drive for larger files while smaller files will perform slower than normal.
So how does this Advanced Format more efficient than the legacy 512-byte one? Let’s take a birds eye view at how this format works. When sectors of the hard drive are read, they are read sequentially by the head of the hard drive and the head reads after every 512-bytes of data. While Advanced Format hard drive head will read after every 4096-bytes of data combining eight 512-byte chunks into one sector which increases the speed of the head as it has to read less no. of time (8 times less theoretically).
This Advanced Format (AF) is still very new and is not supported by all the Operating Systems. If we take a look at Windows Operating System, only Windows Vista and Windows 7 support this Advanced Format. There are software and drivers for other Operating Systems like Windows XP for Advanced Format to work.
With the performance advantage, Advanced Format hard drives have some issues with the the mismatch of physical and logical sectors. I have already told you that the AF hard drives have the physical sector size of 4096-bytes and logical sector size of 512-bytes. The problem comes when you partition the hard drive and the logical partitions don’t align with the physical sector sizes. This is not a big problem but still can have some effect on the performance of the hard drive.
If you have an Advanced Format hard drive and are facing performance issues, you can test the alignment of the partitions of your hard drive by using a free tool called Disk Alignment Test. You only need to download the tool and run it. It will automatically detect and scan the AF hard drives installed in the system. The software comes in both command line and graphical user interface. You can select whatever you are comfortable with. If you are using the graphical tool, the partition with red color is the one which is not properly aligned. If you see a red partition in your hard drive, you should go to the next step otherwise relax because you are not a victim of alignment problem which this new technology causes.
If you see the red partition, then you have to identify the manufacturer of your hard drive. Most manufacturers who manufacture AF hard drives have tools to fix this problem. You can search their respective websites for the fix for this problem. Otherwise you can use a universal fix tool called Paragon Alignment tool which will fix this problem for you.
Guest post by Usman who runs his own Technology Blog.