Friday, October 24, 2014

Toshiba Canvio: Sleep Function & Unallocated Space Fixes!

I recently ordered two used Toshiba Canvio 3 terabyte (TB) external hard disk drives (HDD) from Amazon. I made the decision after noting that a new Seagate 5TB external HDD would cost the same price. But what you get is what you pay for...

Toshiba Canvio
There seems to be a lot of different versions of the Toshiba Canvio with portable sizes and different storage amounts. Toshiba has never been my first go-to manufacturer for anything. I had a Toshiba Satellite laptop many years back, and it did right by me. However, I do recall that I had a different laptop with an internal CD-writer made by Toshiba that lasted a very short time. So, I decided that I would see how their external HDD's fared since I already have an external USB 3.0 Seagate.

Warranty Registration
A couple of notes on the 3TB model. It was first introduced to market in 2013, and has since been plagued by varying issues. The first being that there is no way to sign up for a product warranty through Toshiba's website. It will return an error as if you input the wrong serial number, but it won't matter in either case. You can contact Toshiba and they will tell you it is not possible online. This is despite having a 3-year warranty! Which is an additional reason I bought this since Seagate external HDD's normally have 1-2 year warranties depending on the model. Oddly enough, it is considered a NAS device if you check the first three serial number characters. This is in no way a NAS device by normal standards...

To remedy this, you will need to keep your receipt and just wait for a fateful day when you actually need to RMA it. Hopefully you never will, but there were many horror stories about how many of them died after a couple weeks of use. I bought this through Amazon, which keeps my order history (as does NewEgg, and many other large companies); so I just have to open my account for a receipt.

Once you need a RMA, and have the receipt, go to this link and click the "Start" button to begin the RMA process.

Sleep Function
This is the biggie that had all the Canvio users up in arms. Evidently, a lot of people bought this to make Windows backups. I do not use any type of Windows backup except for System Restore Points. I manually backup items to all my external drives, of which I have many. Putting that aside, it should still not be an issue to perform a Windows backup on one of these drives, but the fact is to the contrary.

The implemented sleep function on the Canvios is unable to be switched off. Toshiba has a sleep tool, but it is meant for older drives. And while Toshiba is well aware of the problem, they have yet to address the issue anywhere as these drives continue to be sold. This has impacted Windows backups by abruptly going to sleep during the procedure! Luckily, the problem has been around long enough that fixes have emerged from users.

Sleep Function Fix!
There are a few different techniques that should fix the sleep function issue. The most common fixes are software programs that will disable the sleep function. It seems that most, if not all, do not work. There is a registry hack, but this does not have any feedback and novice users should always stay away from the registry.

There are two working solutions: One is to have an empty file written (and then deleted) to the Canvio drive every so many minutes to ensure it stays on. The only problem here is that the drive is doing unnecessary work, and essentially using it up for nothing. The more practical method is using CrystalDiskInfo.

CrystalDiskInfo Method
Download the free CrystalDiskInfo program here (Standard .EXE edition). Install the program and you can make use of such things like how many times your hard drives have been turned on, and how many hours they have been ran. (This is quite useful for someone like me who took a risk and purchased used external HDD's!) More useful for this situation is the APM feature, which will help ensure the sleep function does not occur:

  1. Check off "Function > Resident".
  2. Check off "Function > StartUp".
  3. Go to "Function > Advance Feature > AAM/APM Control".
  4. Choose your HDD from the dropdown menu.
  5. Set APM to 80H (or 60H).
  6. Click Enable.
  7. Check off "Function > Advance Feature > Auto AAM/APM Adaptation".
  8. Go to "Function > Advance Feature > Auto Dectection > 30sec", you can make this faster if you like.

Note I: The reason we have chosen 80H for amount is that CrystalDiskInfo states that this is the minimum amount of power required to disallow a disk from going into standby (or in our case, sleep mode). I have tested and noticed that that lowest amount applicable is 60H. The different between those two amounts is the amount of power being used. So, 60H may be best in terms of saving power and disabling the sleep function.

Note II: The sleep function is there for a reason. Apparently these drives are fanless, so I believe the sleep function allows them to not overheat. This may also be why Toshiba does has not taken responsibility for the sleep function as an issue. Both of my Canvios heat up to around 50 degrees, however, one seems to always run a little hotter. Take heed that the sleep function is not always a bad thing!

Note III: To reenable sleep mode, just exit out of CrystalDiskInfo.

Reformatting a Toshiba Canvio
What many people will recommend when you first get an external drive is to reformat it. This will wipe out the preloaded manufacturer software, which is rarely needed, and usually found on their website.

I normally don't do this as I have never felt the need, but I decided to do so with the two Toshiba Canvio 3TB models because I had nothing on them yet. After all was said and done, I did notice a slight increase in the transfer rates, but nothing to get excited over. The said and done part was what really mattered here...

Unallocated Space
If you use Windows, you can reformat the drive by just going into (My) Computer and right-clicking on the desired disk. Then choose Format, and format as you like. But if you want to create partitions on the drive, or just prefer a more professional formatting feel, you'll want to use Disk Management.

What I discovered was truly odd. My mission for reformatting the drives was to see if I could find any way in which to perform a software RAID (in which I have not found one viable solution without hardware assistance). So, I deleted both volumes to begin the process.

The unallocated space, which is what that drive will then become, was separated into two parts: A one and two terabyte partition for each Toshiba Canvio. And no matter what I did I could not get the partitions to come back together.

Unallocated Space Fix!
I wasn't about to let two full terabytes go to waste, so I went ahead and use third-party software to resolve this issue.

I used EASEUS Partition Manager, which is free, and I prefer the interface. However, I would recommend against this as even if you choose custom installation and opt-out of all the extra software it wants to install, it will still install a piece of software that continues to pop-up on your desktop to advertise their programs. I ended up having to use the latest version of ComboFix to get rid of most of it. The last lingering part was going into the Program Files (x86) > EASEUS Partition Manager > bin and deleting the folder named "TrayPopup" (where you might need to reboot your computer first before doing so).

Another free program, which will not install adware, is MiniTool Partition Wizard (Home Edition). This will do the same thing as the aforementioned program, and is quite well-known in the Android community.

Using either software you will want to create a new partition, label it and add a drive letter, then apply the action. Ensure that you have allocated all the disk space so you get the full amount, otherwise you will need to go through this again. And even if you go through all the steps and it looks like everything should now be working, unless you have applied the action [button at the top], the actions you have performed have yet to be taken.

Note: The partition table is set as MBR, so it can only support up to 2TB when initially formatted. Another way around this problem is to use DiskPart and convert the drive to GPT, but this is not recommended for novice users as you can easily make mistakes and there are no safeguards.

Used From Amazon
As a finalalizing piece, I wanted to throw in that the used drives I got have been working fine. I have had no real troubles other than those mentioned above. With CrystalDiskInfo I found that one drive had been used for a little over 3 months, while the other was used for less than a day. The one that runs a bit hotter is the one that was hardly used. So, they both have their trade offs in terms of which is better. Had I been able to wait a couple months, I could've bought brand new ones at almost the same prices, but I couldn't, so I didn't. Used products is fine if you have tools to measure how they run, but if you don't, then used is really only preferable when affordability comes into play.

This Is The End
You should now know how to properly use a Toshiba Canvio, or be fully prepared if you plan to buy one (as it is the cheapest option for a 3TB on Amazon!). Other external hard drives are usually plug-n-play, as long as you have the appropriate drivers already installed. But the price for these Canvios is enough to sway many.


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