Fixing the Western Digital excessive load/unload problem with idle3-tools

I have an always-on machine (self made Ubuntu 16.04 based using retail parts) that is lightly loaded in CPU but is continually writing to the hard disks. I recently added a Western Digital 2TB drive ( WDC WD20EZRZ-00Z5HB0 ) about 2 weeks ago (368 hours) and noticed that the Load/Unload cycles was over 30,000.
The other two drives, both WD Blue 1TB ( WDC WD10EZEX-08M2NA0 ) showed up with less than 100 on 15,000 hours so something was very wrong with this new drive in my system.
The fix is to adjust the wdidle3 setting from its default of 80, which means 8.0 seconds, to a bigger number such as 129, which means 30 seconds.

The number on newer drives is not just divided by 10 but is staggered scale so 1-128 is divided by 10 but 129-255 is in 30 seconds increments (129 = 30sec, 130 = 60sec and so on) for newer drives but it is just divided by 10 for older drives. I do not know what is deemed new or old manufacturing date for WD drives.

You can read and set the wdidle3 parameter using hdparm -J option but it has a very cautious warning message as the option is experimental.

You can read the S.M.A.R.T value for the Load/Unload using smartctl from the command line, (or GSmartControl using a GUI) and the ID is 193 thus,

sudo smartctl -A /dev/sdc | grep "^193"

I get…

193 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 190 190 000 Old_age Always - 31283

where the 31283 is my current, but now stable, excessive count.

To set the parameter I downloaded and used the idle3-tools from This is a small program that you just untar and make or you can install it with,

sudo apt-get install idle3-tools

I set my drive with…

sudo idle3ctl -s 129 /dev/sdc

…which for new drives means 30 seconds ( and -s 130 would mean 60 seconds and so on) . After you set the value in the drive you must turn off the power to your computer (drive) as the value is read at power up. So do a shutdown and then power off.

I have no idea why Western Digital do what they do but it is not that friendly unless you delve deep. Reading the WD support forums the problem is from many years ago and is still taking place today. I expect to be able to install a disk and not have it artificially age itself but adapt to the load. Equally I have no idea yet if the 30 second value I have set is a better compromise. It has stopped the value increasing and if my programs stall then the disk will unload reasonably early.