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What is Advanced Format
Advanced Format is a new technology for increasing hard drive capacities while maintaining data integrity. Historically, hard disk drives (HDDs) have used 512-byte sectors; however, this sector size is now limiting HDD capacity. To address this limitation, the industry is moving Advanced Format drives with 4096-byte (4-KB) sectors, eight times larger than current drive technology. With 4-KB sectors, less space is wasted on the physical media, making the drive easier to manufacture and able to support higher capacities.
In order to create higher capacity drives, manufacturers have begun the transition to Advanced Format. Many host computer hardware and software components assume the hard drive is configured around 512-byte sector boundaries. First-generation Advanced Format drives retain backwards-compatibility by using external SATA communications based on a 512-byte sector; these drives referred to as Advanced Format 512e, or 512 emulation drives these drives operate internally at 4 KB. Thus, any PC with a SATA interface can use an Advanced Format drive; however, depending on the operating system (OS) being installed, extra steps may be required to optimize performance.
If an operating system that is not Advanced Format aware is being used, you may need to take steps to align logical sectors (OS) with physical sectors (disk media). For example, to avoid data loss, you must ensure that encrypted Advanced Format drives are suitably aligned.
Identifying An Advanced Format Drive
Options for identifying an Advanced Format drive include:
1. Open the Command Prompt by clicking Start Menu --> All Programs --> Accessories, right-click on Command Prompt, and open it as an administrator. In Windows Vista and later versions of Window operating systems type cmd.exe into Start Screen or Start Menu, right-click on Cmd.exe, and open it as an administrator.
2. Type following command and press Enter key.
fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo <drive letter>:
3. In the output you will find the value for "Bytes Per Physical Sector", which can be one of the following:
- 512 - for Legacy 512 native drives
- 4096 - for Advanced Format (AF) drives
4. 4K Sector Disk with 512-byte Emulation has the “Bytes Per Sector” field set to 512 and the “Bytes Per Physical Sector” field set to 4096 as follows:
For hard disk drives working in the 4K native mode, there is no emulation layer in place, and the disk media directly exposes its 4 KB physical sector size to the system firmware and operating system. That way, the externally visible logical sectors organization of the 4K native drives is directly mapped to their internal physical sectors organization.
5. Review the label on the HDD to determine if the Advanced Format logo is present.
Support For 4K Native Mode
Readiness of the support for 4 KB logical sectors within operating systems differs among their types, vendors and versions.For example, Microsoft Windows supports 4K native drives since Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2012 (both released in 2012) and Linux supports 4K native drives since the Linux kernel version 2.6.31 and util-linux-ng version 2.17 (released in 2009 and 2010, respectively). The color version of the logo indicating a 4K native drive is somewhat different from the 512e logo, featuring four rounded corners, a blue background, and text "4Kn" at the center of the logo.
When running an operating system (OS) that is not Advanced Format-aware in conjunction with an Advanced Format drive, your system may experience performance issues due to misalignment between logical sectors (OS) and physical sectors (disk media) – also referred to as a misaligned partition. You can typically use the Paragon Partition Alignment Tool ensure partitions are aligned, thus enhancing performance.
The Partition Alignment Tool first checks to see if the alignment of a particular partition is compatible with Advanced Format requirements and, if necessary, makes the appropriate adjustments.
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