Spin Down and Manage Hard Drive Power on Raspberry Pi

On Windows machines hard drives automatically sleep and spin down when they are not in use. This theoretically extends the life of your USB or SATA hard drive. On Linux systems you often have to configure power saving parameters for your hard drive manually. For the little Raspberry Pi and its relatives (Banana Pi, Orange Pi, Beaglebone etc) there is an array of programs that will assist you. Which program will work for you depends on the USB to SATA controller you have and the hard drive itself. I have included guides for hdparm, hd-idle and sdparm which should cover most users wanting to manage hard drive power consumption on the Raspberry Pi. I recommend using hdparm or hd-idle and using sdparm as a last resort. I tested these guides on Lubuntu, Raspbian and Minibian and should work on any Linux Debian/Ubuntu based system for devices like the Banana Pi, Orange Pi, Hummingboard,  ODROID, Cubieboard and Hummingboard devices.

If you are trying to figure out which hardware would work best for you, consider reading the Pi benchmarks.

Pi Unit
Raspberry Pi 3
1.2 GHz ARMv8
Quad Core
450 MHz
100 Mbit
Raspberry Pi 2
900 MHz ARMv7
Quad Core
450 MHz
100 Mbit
Raspberry Pi
700 MHz ARMv6
Single Core
400 MHz
100 Mbit
Banana Pi
1 GHz ARMv7
Dual Core
432 MHz
Banana Pi Pro
1 GHz ARMv7
Dual Core
432 MHz

You can find out your device names on your Raspberry Pi, usually /dev/sda with this command

sudo blkid

Do update your repository list before installing any of these programs, you only need one to work so make sure to remove the others if they are not compatible.

sudo apt-get update

Install and Configure hdparm on Raspberry Pi

We are going to test hdparm first as it is widely used

Install hdparm

sudo apt-get install hdparm -y

Make sure your drive supports hd parm, if you have multiple hard drives it could be /dev/sdb or /dev/sdb – the command blkid will show you all disk drives connected.

sudo hdparm -y /dev/sda
sudo /usr/sbin/hdparm -y /dev/sda

You should get output like this indicating a successful standby command

 issuing standby command

If you see output like this you will need to use hd-idle or sdparm

 issuing standby command
SG_IO: bad/missing sense data, sb[]:  70 00 05 00 00 00 00 0a 00 00 00 00 20 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

Check if your drive supports write cache

sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda | grep 'Write cache'
sudo /usr/sbin/hdparm -I /dev/sda | grep 'Write cache'

If you see a * (asterix) then you are good to go.

*    Write cache

If you don’t see a star (asterix) then write cache is not possible for your drive

    Write cache

To make hdparm spindown the device you can use the -B flag

Values between 1 and 127 allow spinning down of the hard drive.

sudo hdparm -B127 /dev/sda

Time to make hdparm configurations permanent edit the configuration file

sudo nano /etc/hdparm.conf

The spindown_time value is multiplied by 5 and you have the total time in seconds. So a value of 120 yields 10 minutes (120*5=600).

Enable write cache and spindown time by adding this text to the bottom of the file

/dev/sda {
write_cache = on
spindown_time = 120

Restart the hdparm service

sudo service hdparm restart

More hdparm configurations are available here

Install and Configure hd-idle on Raspberry Pi

If hdparm didn’t work or you just would rather use hd-idle, remove hdparm

sudo apt-get remove hdparm -y

hd-idle uses a special system file for detecting disk activity, if it doesn’t exist it won’t work

cat /proc/diskstats

You should see some output including the lines below, if you get no such file or directory you cannot use hd-idle

   8       0 sda 342 0 2759 260 0 0 0 0 0 250 250
   8       1 sda1 102 0 815 90 0 0 0 0 0 80 80

You have to build hd-idle so make sure you have compilation tools

sudo apt-get install build-essential fakeroot debhelper -y

Grab the hd-idle source

wget http://sourceforge.net/projects/hd-idle/files/hd-idle-1.05.tgz

Unpack hd-idle and enter the folder

tar -xvf hd-idle-1.05.tgz && cd hd-idle

Build the hd-idle package and install it

dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot
sudo dpkg -i ../hd-idle_*.deb

Double check hd-idle works with your hard drive

sudo hd-idle -i 0 -a sda -i 300 -d

You should see output like this

probing sda: reads: 2759, writes: 0
probing sda: reads: 2759, writes: 0
probing sda: reads: 2759, writes: 0

Use Ctrl+C to stop hd-idle in the terminal

Open the hd-idle configuration file to enable the service to automatically start and spin down drives

sudo nano /etc/default/hd-idle

Change this line to enable hd-idle


Adjust this line to enable sleeping on the drive every 10 minutes (60 seconds * 10)

HD_IDLE_OPTS="-i 0 -a sda -i 600"

Ctrl+X, Y and Enter to save.

Restart the service

sudo service hd-idle restart

By default hd-idle will spin down drives ever 10 minutes which should be sufficient for most users.

If all else fails you can use sdparm

Install and Configure sdparm on Raspberry Pi

First remove hdparm and remove hd-idle

sudo apt-get remove hdparm -y
sudo dpkg -r hd-idle

Install sdparm

sudo apt-get install sdparm -y

Test sdparm works

sdparm --flexible --command=stop /dev/sda

You should see output like this

/dev/sda: ATA       FUJITSU MHW2160B  891F

Listen carefully, if it starts spinning up again immediately then you are going to need to find another option. Some users have had success with autofs for mounting and using the eject command.

If the hard drive stays stopped add the cronjob below.

Now we can set up a cron job to ask the usb hard drive to spin down ever hour at 5 past. This will run as the root user. /dev/sda is typically the first hard drive but you may have others, you will have to add additional cronjobs for /dev/sdb or whatever else you find by using the blkid command.

sudo crontab -l | { cat; echo "5 * * * * sdparm --command=stop /dev/sda"; } | sudo crontab -

If youw ant to run the same cronjob every 10 minutes you would add a / before the number, so this example will spin the drive down every 10 minutes

sudo crontab -l | { cat; echo "/10 * * * * sdparm --command=stop /dev/sda"; } | sudo crontab -

More about sdparm here

Now your Raspberry Pi device will spin down your usb hard drive to save power and hopefully extend the life of your hard drive.

These hard drives work with hd-parm and hd-idle:

USB Hard Drive Model
USB Speed
Amazon Price
Western Digital My Passport Ultra Portable Hard Drive
1 TB
USB 3.0
Western Digital My Passport Ultra Portable Hard Drive
2 TB
USB 3.0