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During Black Friday, I snagged a WD Elements SE 2.5" 1 TB hard drive at an absolutely amazing price thinking that it would be my end all portable data solution. Unfortunately, during holiday traveling, I quickly realized that this particular Western Digital drive had a bit of a problem. Regardless of your computer's power saving options many portable hard drive units, especially Western Digital's new "Elements" line, spin down or go into standby immediately after short term data access / usage ends. So, if you are for example running a movie or song off of your hard drive and you pause or change, the hard drive will immediate spin down, leaving you waiting while whatever you are doing hangs until the hard drive spins back up. This is incredibly annoying and terrible for your hard drive. What's worse, is when you run a portable application, say a web browser, off of the drive, if you take a quick break from web browsing, the entire browser may freeze for over half a minute. This behavior is dictated by hard drive manufacturer's aggressive power-saving firmware coding, but there is a solution for Windows users.
Firstly, navigate to Crystalmark's website to download the latest "Portable Edition" of CrystalDiskInfo (3.9.4a at the time of writing). I suggest extracting this zip archive to a folder on your portable hard drive, so that you can run the application every time you use a Windows computer.
Once you've downloaded CrystalDiskInfo, navigate to the location where you have unextracted the archive (preferably on the external drive in question), and double click the executable entitled, "DiskInfo".
Now that you have launched the application, at the second bar (underneath the tool bar), you will see a list of all available hard drives on your particular computer (including external and internal). Click the icon until the correct drive is found. You can confirm that it is the correct drive by looking at the interface (which should say "USB (Serial ATA or IDE)", checking the listed serial number, and looking at the capacity. You can also confirm that this is the correct drive by matching the drive letter shown.
Once you have found and selected the correct hard drive, follow this sequence:
keep external hard drive awake running spinning on
Function (on the tool bar) -> Advanced Feature -> AAM/APM Control
If the correct drive is not shown in the top drop down box, please make sure that you click the drop down box and select it so that it does show.
Finally, click the large "Disable" button for both AAM and APM; this will ensure that you get the best performance out of your drive and that it does not spin down (you could also change the APM setting to spin down after 10 minutes like with most drives). You can now exit the application and enjoy your fully functional external hard drive, but do note that you will need to re-run this application when you use it on another computer as it needs to remain a resident process. Also, if you don't want to re-run it at startup, you may install the non-portable version.