Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB,Internal,7200 RPM,3.5" (WD5000AAKS) Hard Drive Reviews

Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB,Internal,7200 RPM,3.5" (WD5000AAKS) Hard Drive

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Western Digital WD5000AAKS *Caviar 500GB SATA Hard Drive *Must be Beluga!

May 8, 2008 (Updated May 27, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Inexpensive way to get a fast, reliable hard drive to supplement or be primary storage.

Cons:You need to be or become SATA or SATA II compatible.

The Bottom Line: This is a keeper and a very rare 5 star from me. It answered the issues I had at a relatively nominal cost.

Once upon a time, a man nicknamed Mongo had an 80GB SATA internal hard drive that came stock in his trusty, antique Dell Dimension 4700 PC Desktop . Not so quickly, it became full to the point where virtual memory, hard drive space that acts similar to RAM when working on projects larger than RAM onboard (2.5GB’s for me), was too low to work on any video projects. Mongo was mad at page file size and BSOD's. Though he had an external USB 2.0 device of 300GB, namely a Seagate OneTouch III 300 GB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive, he needed something internal or external that would move a little more quickly. Mongo surveyed his options and there were many.

He knew he had an available SATA juice connector on his power supply and a Sata I data port(150 MBps transfer rate - half the speed this device is capable of reaching) on ye olde motherboard. A hasty bit of research had Mongo purchasing the Western Digital WD5000AAKS Caviar 500GB SATA Hard Drive from newegg.com after looking all over, including Amazon.com. Having suffered through many a blue screen of death due to the lack of hard drive space, Mongo was mad no more… For that day anyway.

Other Options Considered

e-SATA was the first exploration. While there are no connectors on the Dimension 4700 for eSATA, PCI and PCI-E cards are available to not only provide that external interface, but they can also provide as many as four internal connections. Most PC’s have a free PCI slot, I would imagine, for those folks curious but not familiar with the inside of their tower. Based on the Spring of 2008 pricing, the cards range from around $8.00 to $65.00.

The eSATA devices of 500GB or more range from $130.00 upwards of $400 for an apparatus that includes the hard drives. I say that because you can get an external enclosure, which requires the purchase of hard drive(s) to place in it. The USB 2.0 devices were perused, but they are not much cheaper and are slower. See “Tests Performed” below.

Mongo may be mad, but Mongo also CHEAP and poor! “Mongo but a pawn in the game of life…”

Enter the Western Digital WD5000AAKS Caviar 500GB SATA Hard Drive

For a mere $89.99 with free shipping, I procured this device from newegg.com. OK, they stung me with a $2.89 data cable and $5.99 to ship that IN THE SAME, DADGUM BOX, but still I am under $100, though Amazon.com would have saved me a couple dollars overall in this situation. All in all, this is not a bad deal either way, for half a terabyte of storage.

It is SATA II for 3 Gbps - Gigabits NOT Gigabytes - every second, though if you have only a SATA I supported data port like me, it is 1.5 Gbps. This HDD also has a 16MB buffer/cache which will help you attain near that boastful speed. The drive will spin at 7200 rpm’s which is fairly fast, though there are those out there that spin at 15k rpm’s and on a smaller form factor, 2.5” versus the 3.5” on this Western Digital. 10K is a little more prevalent. The advantage is the quicker it spins, the faster it can get the data sent and the smaller the disc, the speedier it is to access.

What You Get and the Installation

You get a 500GB Hard Drive and that is it: no box, no software, no instructions. As near as I can tell by many, many searches, the only way to get it is OEM. No panic – Mongo make easy for you! It will fit standard hard drive bays and if you need to measure to make sure, it is 4 in x 5.8 in x 1 in (WxDxH).

Find the manual for your PC and if you lost it, fear not, there likely is a copy on the Internet. For Dells there certainly are. Follow the steps for adding a SATA HDD, being sure to note and perform the step to unplug your PC’s power cord before cracking the case. Not doing so could be a shocking experience. There are no master/slave jumper settings in the SATA world.

After plugging in the power and data cables, fire it up. Check and see if it is there – for Windows XP and Vista go to Start / (All) Programs / Administrative Tools / Computer Management and then expand Storage where you will see Disk Management. If it is there, great!

If your newest toy is not there, restart and enter your Bios (usually F2 at the manufacturer’s splash screen – - not Windows' F8). Make sure that the secondary hard drive, usually number 1, is on. The primary hard drive is typically 0. That should do it. The only other thing I can suggest is that if the chipset on your motherboard will not support SATA II, like mine, you may need to install a jumper to cut it to 150MBps, though mine did not require this adjustment. Details on how to do this are on Western Digital's web site.

Bring up Disk Management as detailed above and format the drive how you want it. Mine was done as Dynamic NTFS with a drive letter assigned to it. There are many options, including a version of RAID, depending on the number of discs you have, that I will leave up to you to figure out the best fit in your situation.

Tests Performed

Actual results depend on a variety of variables: processor, RAM, compressed vs. uncompressed and others as far as moving data. We are comparing a USB 2.0 External Hard Drive versus this Western Digital SATA. For my tests, I had McAfee Security Center v 8.0 running as well as all services related to it and all other services set at start up. Mine likely runs fewer things than most since I use MSCONFIG to prevent unnecessary processes from being launched at startup. My Processor is a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 with 2.5GB of unbuffered DDR2 SDRAM (non-ECC).

I also have manually adjusted my page file to be slightly over Windows recommended - if you are not sure how yours is set, you are likely at the setting, "System Managed". You can look at this by right clicking "My Computer" - "Advanced" tab, under performance, click "Settings", choose the "Advanced" tab from there and "Change". Cancel out if you want to leave it alone and I recommend that!

In each test I moved 17.6GB of data (My Music folder). The Hard Drive used as the constant is a SATA Maxtor 80GB, model 6Y080M0.

17.6GB uncompressed to the 500GB Hard Drive: 11 minutes 08 seconds

17.6GB uncompressed to the USB 2.0 External: 19 minutes 7 seconds

17.6GB compressed to the 500GB Hard Drive: 29 minutes 43 seconds

17.6GB compressed to the USB 2.0 External: 30 minutes 34 seconds

We see that compression does take nearly the same amount of time, based on the 1.5Gbps throughput. As far as file access, I do not have the abilities to test that, but am certain by empirical data that it is much faster in that capacity as well. SATA II may be exponentially faster, but keep in mind your pc's other components and processes running may prevent reaching the advertised speed. Do not get too caught up in the math as transfer speed and storage space are calculated differently - base 10 vs. base 8, repectively.

Cut to the Chase!

In my Epinion, this is a GREAT bargain and a wonderful way to vastly increase your storage, especially if you are in a similar situation that I was. The drive runs very quietly, though certainly audible enough to hear. It could not be easier to install, especially if this will be your primary drive or a secondary to an existing SATA HDD. There is VERY little room for disappointment.

It would be phenomenal to have an eSATA (external SATA) case with 4 of these to give you nearly 2 Terabytes of storage and a fast interface to retrieve data. If you work with a ton of video files, 2TB’s is not unthinkable as necessary storage or a waste if you deal with volume in any other respect! Also, setting up RAID would be a phenomenal way to have less worry of losing data based on the failure of one of the HDD’s. In my opinion, you will get years of use out of this and not be behind the times much, if at all, as technology races forward. You can easily move it to your next PC, as well.

Additional Specifications of Note Courtesy of Buy.com

WD Caviar SE16 drives combine 16 MB cache with 3 Gb/s transfer rate for lightning-fast performance in demanding desktop and workstation applications. Technologically advanced acoustics minimize noise and cool drive operation and enhanced reliability features help protect the drive and the data stored on it.

Top performance for Windows Vista:

The WD Caviar SE16 500 GB SATA drive received a 5.9, the highest possible score on the Windows Vista Experience Index.

16 MB Cache

Bigger cache means faster performance. A massive 16 MB cache combined with advanced acoustic and power-reducing technologies make these ultra-fast drives the perfect solution for the fully loaded PC.


Calculates optimum seek speeds to lower power consumption, noise and vibration.

Ramp Load

Parks the recording heads off the disk surface during spin up, spin down and when the drive is off. This ensures the recording head never touches the disk surface resulting in improved long term reliability due to less head wear, and improved non-operational shock tolerance.

Preemptive Wear Leveling (PWL)

The drive arm frequently sweeps across the disk to reduce uneven wear on the drive surface.

Dimensions (WxDxH): 4 in x 5.8 in x 1 in

Interfaces/Ports: 1 X 7-PIN SERIAL ATA/300 SERIAL ATA

And Mongo lived happily ever after.

The End

Recommend this product? Yes

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