Configuration & Testing
CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex
RAM: 16GB G.Skill TridentZ RGB 3200Mhz
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 FE
Drive: iStorage diskAshur2 2TB
OS: Windows 10 Professional X64
We’ll deviate from the norm just a bit here for a moment and tell you to READ THE MANUAL cover to cover before connecting the drive the first time. There are specific sequences you need to follow to correctly unlock the drive. Doing this incorrectly a few times WILL lock the drive, meaning you need to follow additional steps to unlock it. If you do this incorrectly a few more times, the protection system on the drive WILL (effectively) delete your data to protect it. While it doesn’t actually wipe the drive end to end, it will permanently delete the encryption keys which renders any data on the disk unrecoverable beyond government standards. At this point, you can follow another procedure to reset the drive to factory defaults and use it again as if you have just taken it out of the box the first time. Your previous data is gone forever, but you can continue to use the drive like normal after the reset.
One fun feature that will give anyone with a childhood admiration of spy movies a tingle: you can set up a ‘self-destruct’ code. Let’s be clear, this won’t cause the drive to go up in flames or blow up in spectacular Hollywood fashion, but it will trigger the above protection mechanism instantly and render all data permanently inaccessible. There are no attempts to put in a password, no brute forcing, it’s gone right then and there in a split second. Pretty cool right? Just make sure you’ve had your morning caffeine first and don’t accidentally punch this code in trying to unlock it.
It also probably goes without saying, don’t forget your password right?
When you first plug the drive in, you get a single red lock light. Nothing happens. The host device, a laptop in our case, doesn’t even acknowledge something was connected. It might seem minor, but this is REALLY important. If the drive was detected, a knowledgeable ‘hacker’ would have low-level access to the hardware and may eventually figure out a way in. Many ‘encrypted’ drives act like this and depend on a piece of software to allow access. iStorage protects the drive at a hardware level. Until you are approved by the correct pin-code, the drive isn’t even connected to the host device at the data level, it’s just borrowing a little power. When you punch in the correct code, the drive checks it, and then the green unlock light will light up solid after blinking back and forth with the blue light. This same green light also indicates drive activity. Now that we have the details out of the way, let’s see how performance looks.
An HDD/SSD utility software which supports a part of USB, Intel RAID, and NVMe.
CrystalDiskInfo gives us quite a bit of insight here. We can search the drive part number at the top and we find out internally the diskAshur2 uses a Seagate Mobile hard drive.
This is the spec sheet for this model (and the 1TB version from Seagate). We see the drive is rated for up to 140MB/s which is pretty decent for a 5400 RPM low power drive.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
“As the industry's leading provider of high-performance storage & network connectivity products, ATTO has created a widely-accepted Disk Benchmark freeware utility to help measure storage system performance. As one of the top tools utilized in the industry, Disk Benchmark identifies performance in hard drives, solid state drives, RAID arrays as well as connections to storage. Top drive manufacturers, like Hitachi, build and test every drive using the ATTO Disk Benchmark"
Atto shows pretty consistent speeds right at the 120MB/s mark.
“CrystalDiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows measuring sequential and random read/write speeds."
CDM gives very similar sequential speeds. 4K testing might look terrible if you are used to what SSD’s look like, but this is pretty typical for a mechanical hard drive.
Anvil's Storage Utilities
Anvil's Storage Utilities is a powerful tool that was designed in order to provide you with a simple means of assessing the read and write performance of your Solid State Drive or Hard Disk Drive.
The benchmark tool helps you monitor and check the response time of your unit as well as view the system information collected using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).
Anvil’s Storage Utilities has been designed to be the most comprehensive benchmark tool for Solid State Drives on the market. That does not mean that you can’t use it for conventional platter-based drives as well, but you do get the most out of the program when you test the speed and performance of SSDs with it. The program has gone through a series of beta and release candidate builds already and is currently available as Release Candidate 3. It is usually linked from this forum thread, which currently is not the case for the RC build which you can download here directly. You can’t use previous builds as they are set to expire automatically.
You can run a benchmark right away by selecting a drive from the menu at the top right or check out the settings first to make sure everything is configured correctly here. Here you can simulate a compression level of the test file, e.g. database, application or uncompressed, and whether you’d like to use the same test file on consecutive runs or generate a new one every time. As far as benchmarks go, you can run a standard SSD benchmark that is testing read, write, or both performances of the drive, or run threaded IO benchmarks only.
For a 5400rpm drive, the diskAshur2 does great. Interestingly, the default sector alignment doesn’t exactly correspond to physical block alignment, and we suspect this is a byproduct of the encryption system.