How to upgrade your Iomega IX4-200D Disks

10th May 2011 44 By Simon

As some of you may have read previously I had a number of issues when I tried previously to upgrade my 2TB IX4 to make it into a 6TB IX4, whilst the disks were read and configured correctly, no matter what I tried I couldn’t configure any Data Protection on them.

Over the weekend I had to remove a disk from one of my test systems due to an ongoing SMART issue with the drive, the drive itself is showing up OK with my BIOS but using a USB boot disk running SMART scanning software (Parted Magic) I discovered an issue with the Spin Up Time Attribute that was causing me issues with NexentaStor (it was dropping the drive which is what caused me to do some in depth diags).

This failure lead me down the path of replacing the disk, as luck would have it I have a total of 8 of these disks shared across two storage environments, the first being the test lab, the second being my Buffalo Terastation Pro II. Not wanting to decommission the TS Pro II until the data had been replicated to another device I decided to bite the bullet and see about upgrading the disks in the IX4 again, this time using the same 2TB Seagate Barracudas currently sitting in the 8TB unit.







A quick trip down to my local PC World (shocking but I wanted the disks the same day), I struggled to find Seagate Barracudas, I did however find some 2TB Western Digital EARS disks at a lower price than the Barracudas were listed at.

Going through the procedure of removing all the data from the IX4 I powered down the device and removed 3 of the old 500gb drives and replaced them with the new WD EARS drives, powered the unit back on and got the usual message about "Data is unavailable due to a failure" and then a further request about wanting to overwrite unused drives to add them back into the system, what this process actually does is partition the drives into two partitions, the first is the OS for the IX4 whilst the second is the data partition.

A quick check back after the drives have been added gives me the following.







Now a word of advice about the EARS disks, they use the new advanced format which has now the default disk format out, it should also be pointed out that there have been issues with older OS’s not being able to read the new disk format correctly correctly (older OS’s such as Windows XP, WHS and 2003 all have issues with the native format of these drives) Now depending on the manufacturer of the drive there are a number of fixes out there to get around this issue, you can either use a jumper to short out two pins (7 and 8 ) or use a bootable cd image and change it with the drive vendors software. In my case I wasn’t sure whether the EMC Lifeline OS was capable of supporting the new Advanced Format drives and the last thing I wanted was a unit that wasn’t functioning correctly. Luckily enough I had gotten past the first hurdle and that was that the drives were recognised by the IX4, now I needed to ensure that performance wasn’t going to take a hit with the new format (again something that has been hinted at by users).

Using my now trusty IOmeter VM I carried out some tests to see what kind of performance I was getting from the new drives compared to the old ones. As you will see in a moment I was a tad disappointed with my results.






Especially when compared to my other 8TB unit.






Obviously I had some performance issues here, now I should admit that this device is actually my backup device for my main NAS (I have replicated data across two NAS devices currently, the idea with the new disks in the IX4 is to replace my existing Buffalo Terastation so I can use the disks from there in my testlab) so theoretically I could just live with the performance hit, or I could see if I could squeeze some more out of these drives, of course I went for the second option.

As previously mentioned there are two fixes available to owners of these drives, unfortunately because these devices are going to be formated by the EMC Lifeline software I didn’t want to try the software approach so I went down the route of shorting out pins 7 and 8 using jumpers (no, not the wooly kind).

Removing 3 of the drives from the unit I placed the jumper between pin 7 and 8 and placed the drives back into the unit, I also removed the 4th drive and placed one of the original 500gb drives back in there to ensure that the drives didn’t get corrupted during the rebuild process (thereby potentially bricking the device again), luckily the unit span up, added the 3 drives which allowed me to power it down and replace the 4th drive. Powering the unit backup and allowing all 4 drives to be placed online I proceeded to re-create my RAID 5 Array. One thing to note, RAID creation is a timely process, creating the first RAID 5 array took me nearly 24 hours so I wasn’t expecting great things, however in about 14 hours I had a freshly created RAID 5 array waiting for testing.

Again powering up my trusty IOmeter VM I carried out further testing to see if there was any improvement when using the newly formatted drives I got the following results.






Here we can see that the latency issues experienced when the drives were first tested aren’t there and the results are on par with the results found from my Barracuda equipped unit.

What that means is that whilst the WD20EARS drives are recognised in both formats we can see that there are latency issues when using the new 4k format, if you’re not concerned about performance then you don’t need to worry about jumpers and can leave the drives as is, however you will be impacted if you’re trying to transfer large amounts of data onto the device and as such you may be better off using the older format.


Obviously there are issues when it comes to upgrading the IX4 to a larger capacity, my own experiences show this, what wasn’t obvious previously is that this is dependant on drives (not something I have had issues with in the past with my Buffalo Terastation Pro II which took everything thrown at it). My advice for those wanting to expand their IX4’s is to try and get the same disk type (in the case of my original 8TB unit you can see that they had the Barracudas fitted) if that’s not possible then try and get disks with the same characteristics (spin rate etc), the last thing you want and need in something like the IX4 is fast spinning disks because that equates to increased heat which could cause failures further down the line).

I can confirm that from a heat perspective that the WD20EARS offer no change in operating temps when compared to the Barracudas.

A quick run down of the process to upgrade the drives in your IX4.

First of all you need to ensure that the storage is empty and that all shares have been deleted, carrying this out on a unit that’s got shares\data involved hasn’t been tested by me mainly because I know of no way to expand the RAID partitions once created and this could prove to be an exercise in futility if you try to expand the device with data on it.

Once the unit has been purged of all data power the device down via the website interface, remove the case and remove three of the disks ensuring that one of the original disks is in place, so far in my testing I have always left disk 0 in place and I haven’t experienced any problems when it came to the disks that were removed\replaced because as long as the unit has a drive in it with the EMC Lifeline OS installed then you should to get that replicated to the new drives when they are brought online, once those three disks are online repeat the process to bring the final disk online.

Once the new disks have been brought online it’s time to create your drive protection, in the case of JBOD your device will be online in a few minutes, when it comes to RAID 5 allow for a day before the device is ready for use.


Final word, whilst this has worked for me I can’t be certain that the drives you use will be accepted by the IX4, one of the things that Iomega have never offered is the ability for the units to have their disk space increased by the owners, they do offer replacement disks however should one of yours fail.