A sector is the smallest unit of storage on a hard drive, and each sector stores a fixed amount of data. Traditional hard drives have a sector size of 512 bytes, and such drives are called 512-byte Native (512n) drives. With the increasing demand for hard drive capacity, in order to increase the data recording density, drive manufacturers have introduced hard drives with a sector size of 4096 (4 KB) bytes. These drives are called Advanced Format drives, also known as 4K sector drives.
There are two types of Advanced Format drives: 512-byte Emulation (512e) drives and 4K Native (4Kn) drives. 512e drives are designed to be compatible with traditional computers because many traditional hardware and software components assume that hard drives are configured around 512-byte sector boundaries. 512e drives logically divide sectors into 512-byte sector segments and expose them to the operating system and application software. Such sector segments are called Logical Sectors, while the sectors actually read and written on the hard drive are called Physical Sectors.
4Kn drives do not perform sector translation, but instead expose physical sectors directly to the operating system, so the logical sector organization visible from the outside of a 4Kn drive is directly mapped to its internal physical sector organization. 4Kn drives are supported on Windows 8 or newer operating systems.
You can follow the steps below to determine the type of drive by examining its logical sector size and physical sector size.
- Open Command Prompt as Administrator.
- Type the following command and then press Enter.
fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo x:where x: represents the drive that you're checking. The drive requires the NTFS file system.
- Find the following values in the command output.
The former refers to the logical sector size and the latter refers to the physical sector size.Use the following table to determine the type of drive that you have.Bytes Per SectorBytes Per Physical Sector
- Bytes Per Sector
- Bytes Per Physical Sector
4096 4096 4Kn
512 4096 512e 512 512 512n
If your operating system is Windows 8 or newer, you can also run the following command from elevated command prompt to check the logical sector size and physical sector size of a hard drive:
fsutil fsinfo sectorinfo x:
where x: represents the drive that you're checking.
In the command output, find LogicalBytesPerSector and PhysicalBytesPerSectorForAtomicity. The former is the logical sector size and the latter is the physical sector size.