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Teardown of Apple's new Time Capsule reveals consumer, not server, grade HDD

post #1 of 117
Thread Starter 
According to one teardown of Apple's Time Capsule released earlier this week, the hard disk drive inside the wireless base station is a consumer version, not a server-grade disk as advertised by Apple.

French Mac site MacBidouille tore down Apple's fourth-generation Time Capsule. The 2TB Time Capsule received by the publication featured a Western Digital Caviar Green HDD.

Various publications have noted that the WD Caviar Green model is generally considered consumer class. However, on its website, Apple advertises the Time Capsule as having a "Serial ATA server-grade hard disk drive."

According to MacNN, a comparable server-grade model to the Caviar Green would be the RE4-GP. However, the RE4-GP does not have a 3TB option.

Apple quietly released the new Time Capsule on Tuesday, adding a 3TB model and discontinuing the 1TB option. Hints of upcoming Time Capsule and Airport Extreme refreshes were discovered inside a routine Airport Utility update earlier in the month.

The first-generation Time Capsule from 2008 used a Hitachi Deskstar, which was also criticized as not being server-grade. The 2009 model used a Western Digital Caviar Blue drive.



The rest of the teardown revealed no other significant changes, though the publication claims that the addition of rumored features, such as a private cloud, an iTunes server for the network, or local storage of software updates, "will certainly come later via a firmware update of the terminal."

Apple also quietly released a new Airport Extreme model on Tuesday. While the company doesn't advertise any specific changes to the device, AppleInsider reported on Thursday that Apple's filing with the FCC for the new Airport Extreme revealed the base station may have as much as a 2.8 times power boost over its predecessor. That power boost could theoretically provide a 60 percent increase in range, but real-world usage will vary.


post #2 of 117
I'm pretty sure when the first TC came out there plenty of debate over how "server class" is defined and that the result was 1) Apple is free to label them as such, and 2) that the ratings are higher than HDDs that were originally put in this made up category. I don't see how these drives are any more or less "servery" than the old ones. If you are that concerned about the supposed quality of a storage disc then you aren't likely looking at the TC with it's single, spinning drive.
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post #3 of 117
and I'll plug in my RAID 1 external storage. The Time Capsule does not convince me at all. WD Green is a poor quality harddrive, I would never buy it as my primary storage.
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post #4 of 117
I am sure FCC will step in (in a year or two)
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post #5 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I'm pretty sure when the first TC came out there plenty of debate over how "server class" is defined and that the result was 1) Apple is free to label them as such, and 2) that the ratings are higher than HDDs that were originally put in this made up category. I don't see how these drives are any more or less "servery" than the old ones. If you are that concerned about the supposed quality of a storage disc then you aren't likely looking at the TC with it's single, spinning drive.

Exactly. "Server grade" is a meaningless term. If you really want a robust backup server, then buy a backup system with at least RAID 5.
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post #6 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by iVlad View Post

I am sure FCC will step in (in a year or two)

The FCC would have nothing to do with Apple's claims on hard drives. The FTC might but as it us had been pointed out the claim "server grade" probably isn't specific enough to warrant action.
post #7 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabberattack View Post

WD Green is a poor quality harddrive, I would never buy it as my primary storage.

Based on what? Can you provide some facts and experience to back up your claim? I'm not saying you are wrong, but when making public statements, generally proof is needed for credibility.
post #8 of 117
The WD Green drives are of high quality. They are also energy efficient. This allows them to run cooler than a higher performance 7200 rpm drive like the scorpion series. Heat is the enemy of all electronics. Most "server class" hard drives are higher performance, but they are fan cooled. Most servers sound like jet engines.

I currently have a WD Dual 2t raid 1 NAS. It has been flawless for over two years. It is nearly silent. It does not need fans.

So, IMHO the green series is an excellent choice in the Time Capsule as the WiFi is currently not fast enough to make any use of the higher performance drives.
post #9 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by iVlad View Post

I am sure FCC will step in (in a year or two)

The Federal Communications Commission? What for? I had no idea that the FCC has some authority over a distinction between a so-called "server grade' HD and the regular kind.
post #10 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabberattack View Post

WD Green is a poor quality harddrive, I would never buy it as my primary storage.

It's not poor quality. It's just energy-frinedly and the cheapest of all WD HDD. You can't call it "server grade" (though I suspect it is popular among many server farms out there because of the price and energy performance). Black: absolutely, Blue: might be.
post #11 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Exactly. "Server grade" is a meaningless term. If you really want a robust backup server, then buy a backup system with at least RAID 5.

Yep - my 4 Caviar Greens in Raid-5 are perfectly server grade, one on it's own, not so much.
post #12 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

According to one teardown of Apple's Time Capsule released earlier this week, the hard disk drive inside the wireless base station is a consumer version, not a server-grade disk as advertised by Apple....

This is the exact same story as when the first Time Capsule came out and after a week or so of arguing about it, it turned out that Apple was not lying as per the actual definition of "server grade."

Five seconds of Googling tells you that a server grade hard drive is one that is rated a million hours MTBF and guaranteed as such.

The drive in question is the energy efficient model of one of the best hard drive series made. If Seagate or whomever wants to guarantee the MTBF then it's officially "server grade." It seems likely to me that this is just as much of a non-story as the first time.
post #13 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

It's not poor quality. It's just energy-frinedly and the cheapest of all WD HDD. You can't call it "server grade" (though I suspect it is popular among many server farms out there because of the price and energy performance). Black: absolutely, Blue: might be.

Server grade meant something years ago, but these days I agree that it doesn't mean nearly as much as far as actually higher quality. Where the designs are nearly identical and the server warrantee is longer I just assume that the drives are at least getting some better, or an additional layer of, QC. Sometimes the stated MTBF seems more like an insurance policy detail than an actual performance one.


I think the fan issue in desktop drives has been an interesting evolution. It used to be that we accepted the drone of a fan in a drive enclosure or CPU because we turned it off when we wanted to listen to music/watch a video if it was too loud. They can't get away with anything too loud there anymore, green or not, not only because the computer runs the media but because the computers stay on all the time now. Drives that let you know they're working aren't so popular.

Servers stay on all the time too, naturally, but most people don't need to watch videos in the server room, so cranked fans can rule : )
post #14 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I'm pretty sure when the first TC came out there plenty of debate over how "server class" is defined and that the result was 1) Apple is free to label them as such, and 2) that the ratings are higher than HDDs that were originally put in this made up category. I don't see how these drives are any more or less "servery" than the old ones. If you are that concerned about the supposed quality of a storage disc then you aren't likely looking at the TC with it's single, spinning drive.

Same stupid argument started in 2008 with the first TC. I think the media just like's to recycle stuff. Probably more fodder for short-selling Apple stock. I've had plenty of drives that lasted for years without any problems and usually I retired them due to needing more storage capacity and not because of failure. I've always used multiple drives so they get a distributed load and I doubt if any drive runs full time since I do have them shut down if not in use.
post #15 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post

Based on what? Can you provide some facts and experience to back up your claim? I'm not saying you are wrong, but when making public statements, generally proof is needed for credibility.

EDIT: I'm not saying that WD Green is poor quality, just pointing out that it is not the server version of WD hard disks, hence not "server grade".

http://www.hardmac.com/news/2011/06/...ime-caspule-v4
"[Update] According to Western Digital, this disk is a general public model. There are also similar models for servers, but they are more expensive as they have a lower bit error rate 1x1015 while this one has 1x1014, 600,000 load/unload cycles (300,000 for this one) and is covered by a 5 years warranty, while this one is covered for 3 years."

That disk in the Time Capsule is NOT "server grade". Apple has a tendency for hyperbole but calling it "server grade" is in this case, a lie. I make this decision based on the statement by Western Digital reported by Hardmac.com that his is NOT the model of hard disks used for servers, hence it is not a "server grade" hard disk.

All kinds of companies do these kinds of things, but there is definitely change underfoot at Apple as it becomes more of a "mainstream" kind of company, if it isn't already.

With Steve unwell it is sad to me to see signs of lack of cohesiveness at Apple, my theme for the year. But all things change.

Flame away.
post #16 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by iVlad View Post

I am sure FCC will step in (in a year or two)

Quote:
Originally Posted by diddy View Post

The FCC would have nothing to do with Apple's claims on hard drives. The FTC might but as it us had been pointed out the claim "server grade" probably isn't specific enough to warrant action.

I believe you mean the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). I see no reason why an organization charged with overseeing radio communications would give a blip about HDD quality.
post #17 of 117
I think there are three flawed lines of thinking with some of the comments on this thread.

1. "Well, anyone using this for backup would use RAID anyway, so it doesn't matter if it is server-grade"
This is besides the point that Apple is advertising this as "server grade".

2. "Well, hard drives tend to last longer nowadays, so it doesn't matter if it's for servers or not"
This is besides the point that Apple is advertising the hard drives in the Time Capsule as somehow DIFFERENT from ordinary hard drives.

3. "The media is blowing this out of proportion and recycling an old attack on Apple"
This is besides the point that a non server-grade hard drive was found in the updated Time Capsule.

Any reasonable interpretation of Apple advertising the hard drives in the Time Capsule as "server-grade" would be:
A. These hard drives in Time Capsule are different than the ones in consumer computers
B. These hard drives in Time Capsule are normally used in servers

Where A and B are not fulfilled, Apple is not being truthful, ie. falsely advertising the Time Capsule.

It could be a mistake in the production line, or what I suspect is a product manager trying to shave some costs, and maybe Apple just hasn't updated the website to remove "server-grade" references.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

Same stupid argument started in 2008 with the first TC. I think the media just like's to recycle stuff. Probably more fodder for short-selling Apple stock. I've had plenty of drives that lasted for years without any problems and usually I retired them due to needing more storage capacity and not because of failure. I've always used multiple drives so they get a distributed load and I doubt if any drive runs full time since I do have them shut down if not in use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jlandd View Post

Server grade meant something years ago, but these days I agree that it doesn't mean nearly as much as far as actually higher quality. Where the designs are nearly identical and the server warrantee is longer I just assume that the drives are at least getting some better, or an additional layer of, QC. Sometimes the stated MTBF seems more like an insurance policy detail than an actual performance one.
post #18 of 117
I had a TC that went bad in just over a year. I had an extra Airport Extreme that I connected to USB HD as a substitute. It was not as power efficient and would not power down... plus made a lot of noise. Apple eventually replaced the TC. Now I use as the primary back-up, I back the TC periodically into another external USB that I turn off.

RAID are ok on paper. Except that I had RAID 5 in a Dell Server loose 2 drives in a weekend. Fortunately I had back ups for the critical info. It happened again overnight. I know Dell sells junk and it was a mid range unit. My next purchase was a HP rack mounted server with good RAID hardware. Plus I use off site auto back.

Even I had home it is essential to have some offsite back for important stuff like documents, photos, etc... even if it is to protect from robberies, floods, fires, etc.
post #19 of 117
Did it ever occur to anyone that all WD drives are "server grade" and the differentiation is only for marketing purposes?
post #20 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by JuanGuapo View Post

Did it ever occur to anyone that all WD drives are "server grade" and the differentiation is only for marketing purposes?

Western Digital has stated to Hardmac.com that there are distinct differences:

http://www.hardmac.com/news/2011/06/...ime-caspule-v4
"[Update] According to Western Digital, this disk is a general public model. There are also similar models for servers, but they are more expensive as they have a lower bit error rate 1x1015 while this one has 1x1014, 600,000 load/unload cycles (300,000 for this one) and is covered by a 5 years warranty, while this one is covered for 3 years."
post #21 of 117
My web server has a fast raid of caviar blacks. My home server has a mirrored raid of caviar greens. I don't know if the greens can accurately be called "server-grade", but they make the most sense for a time capsule. Time capsules don't need high performance. They only need reliability and average performance. And using less power is always a nice bonus. As long as the greens prove to be reliable, they should be a great choice. Mine are probably a year or two old and I've had no issues.
post #22 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

According to Western Digital, this disk is a general public model. There are also similar models for servers, but they are more expensive as they have a lower bit error rate 1x1015 while this one has 1x1014, 600,000 load/unload cycles (300,000 for this one) and is covered by a 5 years warranty, while this one is covered for 3 years."

Oh friggin boo hoo. One file in a series of backups will get corrupted because of a bit. You shouldn't be relying on one backup anyway if your information is THAT critical.
post #23 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by JuanGuapo View Post

Did it ever occur to anyone that all WD drives are "server grade" and the differentiation is only for marketing purposes?

No, "home" and "server" disks are different
post #24 of 117
the drives apple put in are great, they are no server drives, cause they are not scuzzy drives, but we knew that. But they are top notch drives anyway, see the stats about them. They are prosumer drives...who the f. uses scuzzy drives without a server rack anyway... what a bunch of rubbish...
post #25 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by l008com View Post

My web server has a fast raid of caviar blacks. My home server has a mirrored raid of caviar greens. I don't know if the greens can accurately be called "server-grade", but they make the most sense for a time capsule. Time capsules don't need high performance. They only need reliability and average performance. And using less power is always a nice bonus. As long as the greens prove to be reliable, they should be a great choice. Mine are probably a year or two old and I've had no issues.

exactly, there are no server grade drives...nowadays, with modern i/o, this drives are so good, and their mttf is so good, that server grade or not is beside the point.
post #26 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

EDIT: I'm not saying that WD Green is poor quality, just pointing out that it is not the server version of WD hard disks, hence not "server grade".

http://www.hardmac.com/news/2011/06/...ime-caspule-v4
"[Update] According to Western Digital, this disk is a general public model. There are also similar models for servers, but they are more expensive as they have a lower bit error rate 1x1015 while this one has 1x1014, 600,000 load/unload cycles (300,000 for this one) and is covered by a 5 years warranty, while this one is covered for 3 years."

That disk in the Time Capsule is NOT "server grade". Apple has a tendency for hyperbole but calling it "server grade" is in this case, a lie. I make this decision based on the statement by Western Digital reported by Hardmac.com that his is NOT the model of hard disks used for servers, hence it is not a "server grade" hard disk.

All kinds of companies do these kinds of things, but there is definitely change underfoot at Apple as it becomes more of a "mainstream" kind of company, if it isn't already.

With Steve unwell it is sad to me to see signs of lack of cohesiveness at Apple, my theme for the year. But all things change.

Flame away.

Obviously I am not going to flame you cause I respect your posting here, a lot, and I read your posts with care. But I think you are splitting hairs here. The hitachis they used to have in time capsule were not really server grade either, but tech is growing so fast, that last years "server grade" drives are shit compared to todays run of the mill drives. Apple is putting in the best prosumer devices in time capsule. Ok, they could have opted for server grade drives, charged 300 at least more, for a product that would be shit anyway in a year or so...and they are right to not do that, they are opting for the best prosumer drive now, to keep the costs down. Good enough, server enough, for me. Tech has advanced so much the lines are blurred.
post #27 of 117
Seriously, guys... there is nothing wrong with the WD Greens.


*) I use them in my OWN Server (attached via iSCSI) for years now. I have a 6 TB (4x2TB) RAID-5 with critical Data, and a 5 TB (6x 1TB) RAID-5 Testbed. I re-created the Testbed more times than I can remember in the last 3 years, and no HDD failed me, ever. I can personally attest that these drives meet the needs of a TC perfectly.

*) A client of mine uses 9 of them for a 12 TB mission-critical Aperture-Library for 1,5 years by now, and not a single drive has failed me once.

*) Hardmac actually replaced the HDD for a WD Green one in this Guide, and wrote about the benefits it brings.

In short, the WD Caviar Green is the perfect choice for TC, stop complaining.
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post #28 of 117
I have never had HDD failure based on the hardware itself since 1999. All sort of brands. Server or consumer does not matter much to me. I rather have high transfer or read speed over life expectancy. My current NAS RAID 0 configuration uses Hitachi HDDs, the cheapest 1TB 7200rpm HDD at the time.

For WD, there are Green for Eco, Blue for normal and Black for speed. I would rate them highly.
post #29 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Exactly. "Server grade" is a meaningless term. If you really want a robust backup server, then buy a backup system with at least RAID 5.

Bingo. Exactly my thoughts. It means nothing.

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post #30 of 117
As much of a PITA it is to deal with a failed drive in a TC, it's completely asinine to spend $500 or even $300 on one with a throw away drive. For the life of me, I can't imagine why Apple is willing to take the PR black eye on even more failures using a lower quality drive. What they should do (but won't) is to put a Thunderbolt port on the next version of the Airport Extreme, instead of the wimpy USB 2.0 port...

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post #31 of 117
I think part of the problem is that Apple has a bad reputation for using slow speed hard drives of dubious build quality, especially in their entry level products. As a result, when I first saw this article I was thinking "Oh lord, what clunker did they put in now?" but it could be worse. Edit: I would expect 7200rpm at least in a server-grade hard drive.

I am also interested in hearing people's RAID choices. I have always been a fan of RAID1 mirroring, and selected that type whenever possible and have never regretted it.
post #32 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabberattack View Post

and I'll plug in my RAID 1 external storage. The Time Capsule does not convince me at all. WD Green is a poor quality harddrive, I would never buy it as my primary storage.

You do realize that a RAID one is striped and if it fails, you lose everything right? Your solution is no better than Apple's. You might want to read up on RAID and start with at least a RAID five.
post #33 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post

Based on what? Can you provide some facts and experience to back up your claim? I'm not saying you are wrong, but when making public statements, generally proof is needed for credibility.

I would ignore his post. He clearly does not know what he is talking about.
post #34 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjitMD View Post

I had a TC that went bad in just over a year. I had an extra Airport Extreme that I connected to USB HD as a substitute. It was not as power efficient and would not power down... plus made a lot of noise. Apple eventually replaced the TC. Now I use as the primary back-up, I back the TC periodically into another external USB that I turn off.

RAID are ok on paper. Except that I had RAID 5 in a Dell Server loose 2 drives in a weekend. Fortunately I had back ups for the critical info. It happened again overnight. I know Dell sells junk and it was a mid range unit. My next purchase was a HP rack mounted server with good RAID hardware. Plus I use off site auto back.

Even I had home it is essential to have some offsite back for important stuff like documents, photos, etc... even if it is to protect from robberies, floods, fires, etc.

I had something similar happen. I bought a Drobo as the main storage for all items. I use a WD ShareSpace or SpaceShare (get confused) as backup to the Drobo, and I just the TC as backup for Time Machine on all my Macs. If one or more Drobo drives fail, I can still recover data and it does not care about the mix and matching of drives. Going to upgrade to 3TB soon.
post #35 of 117
Anyone here who thinks WD Green drives, especially 1.5 TB and higher capacity, are "high quality" drives needs to go read the customer reviews on NewEgg. It's seems 1 in 4 is DOA.
post #36 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Western Digital has stated to Hardmac.com that there are distinct differences:

http://www.hardmac.com/news/2011/06/...ime-caspule-v4
"[Update] According to Western Digital, this disk is a general public model. There are also similar models for servers, but they are more expensive as they have a lower bit error rate 1x1015 while this one has 1x1014, 600,000 load/unload cycles (300,000 for this one) and is covered by a 5 years warranty, while this one is covered for 3 years."

So the only difference is byte errors and the warranty? What about reliability? Performance? Any difference? No? Well then!

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post #37 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by gabberattack View Post

and I'll plug in my RAID 1 external storage. The Time Capsule does not convince me at all. WD Green is a poor quality harddrive, I would never buy it as my primary storage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapporobabyrtrns View Post

You do realize that a RAID one is striped and if it fails, you lose everything right? Your solution is no better than Apple's. You might want to read up on RAID and start with at least a RAID five.

Huh? RAID 1 is mirrored. That means if one drive fails, the RAID is rebuilt by the other drive. RAID 0 is striped. RAID 5 is the most common for performance with redundancy but needs at least 3 disks, RAID 1 needs only two.
post #38 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by sranger View Post

The WD Green drives are of high quality. They are also energy efficient. This allows them to run cooler than a higher performance 7200 rpm drive like the scorpion series. Heat is the enemy of all electronics. Most "server class" hard drives are higher performance, but they are fan cooled. Most servers sound like jet engines.

I currently have a WD Dual 2t raid 1 NAS. It has been flawless for over two years. It is nearly silent. It does not need fans.

So, IMHO the green series is an excellent choice in the Time Capsule as the WiFi is currently not fast enough to make any use of the higher performance drives.

True. The only one higher is the Black drive in the Desktop world, but the Caviar Green is the only one that is up to 3TB size.
post #39 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Western Digital has stated to Hardmac.com that there are distinct differences:

http://www.hardmac.com/news/2011/06/...ime-caspule-v4
"[Update] According to Western Digital, this disk is a general public model. There are also similar models for servers, but they are more expensive as they have a lower bit error rate 1x1015 while this one has 1x1014, 600,000 load/unload cycles (300,000 for this one) and is covered by a 5 years warranty, while this one is covered for 3 years."

Quote:
Originally Posted by benanderson89 View Post

So the only difference is byte errors and the warranty? What about reliability? Performance? Any difference? No? Well then!

I would imagine reliability is different since that is evidenced by the different bit error rate and load/unload cycles. Thus, making it a "server grade" disk which is how Apple is marketing a BACKUP device.

Performance is not a pertinent issue here, since this is marketed as a wireless backup device, rather than fast external storage.
post #40 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Exactly. "Server grade" is a meaningless term. If you really want a robust backup server, then buy a backup system with at least RAID 5.

True, any drive can fail at any time no matter the brand or estimated MTBF:

http://www.dailytech.com/Study+Hard+...rticle6404.htm

but they are still using the wrong term for it. If I sell a tyre that is stress tested to last 20 years and I get a blow-out after 2 years, it doesn't change the fact that under standard testing, it was deemed to last longer and designed to be durable.

Server-grade drives are designed to last longer, which is why they have a premium and Apple shouldn't call it a server-class drive if it's not.

But you're right that having a single backup drive makes it meaningless either way. They should at least have 2 drives in RAID1, even if it's 2 x 1.5TB 2.5".
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