The Advanced Format is a generic term pertaining to any disk sector format used to store data on magnetic disks in hard disk drives (HDDs) that uses 4 kilobyte sectors instead of the traditional 512 byte sectors. The main idea behind using 4096-byte sectors is to increase the bit density on each track by reducing the number of gaps which hold Sync/DAM and ECC (Error Correction Code) information between data sectors. The old format gave a format efficiency of 88.7%, whereas Advanced Format results in a format efficiency of 97.3%.
There are two types of AF drives:
- Advanced Format drives, marked with an orange "AF" logo: internally, they use 4k sectors, but provide an emulation layer for compatibility with OSes which lack support for them.
- Advanced Format 4k native drives, marked with a blue "4Kn" logo: they require OS support (Windows 8+, or Linux 2.6.31+). Because they don't need a translation layer, they are cheaper, however they might be incompatible with old tools.
How to determine if HDD employ a 4k sector
The physical and logical sector size of hard disk
/dev/sdX can be determined by reading the following sysfs entries:
$ cat /sys/class/block/sdX/queue/physical_block_size $ cat /sys/class/block/sdX/queue/logical_block_size
Drives with a translation layer (see above) will usually report a logical block size of 512 (for backwards compatibility) and a physical block size of 4096 (indicating they are AF drives).
Tools which will report the physical sector of a drive (provided the drive will report it correctly) includes
- smartmontools (since 5.41 ; smartmontools -a, in information section)
- hdparm (since 9.12 ; hdparm -I, in configuration section)
Note that both works even for USB-attached discs (if the USB bridge supports SAT aka SCSI/ATA Translation, ANSI INCITS 431-2007).
- Western Digital’s Advanced Format: The 4K Sector Transition Begins
- White paper entitled "Advanced Format Technology."
- Failure to align one's HDD results in poor read/write performance. See this article for specific examples.