We at Dataquest have been aware of the problem with 1TB Seagate drives for some time. It is pleasing to see that Apple are also recognising the problem and are offering their customers a free swap out. These drives are mainly seen in iMacs, but you may also get them in the Mac Pro so make sure your back ups are up to date.
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We are still seeing these drives failing even after nearly 4 years. This just shows that there is no specific time stamp when these drives are going to fail. So anyone out there who still owns a original mac book with its original drive needs to make sure a regular back up is in place.
A new 3TB drive is looming on the horizon, yet this may not be the breakthrough it seems. There appears to be major problems in the way older versions of Windows handle drives above 2.1TB. Windows XP and below will be unable to make use of these drives in any meaningful way, with some reports suggesting that only 990MB of usable capacity would be available to these vintage operating systems. It sounds like one more nail in XP’s coffin. If you need this mountain of storage it seems like it’s time to ditch XP already!
We have received two of these failed drives recently in succession. Further clean room examination has confirmed that the spindle stack has detached itself from the motor base and coil. When first handling the drive it becomes quite obvious that this has happened as you can actually feel the pack rattling. Surprisingly we cannot see any physical damage on the media or contamination and fortunately the clamp has kept the pack secure. We would not recommend spinning the drive up in this condition. The only rework available is to transfer the pack into a good Seagate donor as part of the recovery process. Pack alignment is a critical part of this process.
There have been some new reports of drive issues in the new MacBook Pros. It seems that the updated Seagate 7200rpm drives are getting a bit noisy at times and clicking. No reports that this causes anything particularly sinister, but after the (still ongoing) MacBook headcrash fiasco, it’s bad news to see another problem between MacBooks and their drives. There are suggestions that the new 7200.4 G-Force drives are noisy due to some new anti-shock technology. It sounds obvious that a drive spinning at 7200rpm is going to generate more noise than a 5400rpm drive. We’ll see what happens with this one. Updates to come I’m sure.
Seagate Barracuda drives are often thought of as premium quality hard drives, which is largely true. The build quality of these drives is solid and they feel heavy and look good when compared to some other drives. They are however still susceptible to the same failures and problems which affect other hard drives.
A common problem with Seagate Barracuda drives is firmware corruption (sometimes known as SA Corruption). This is something which can be fixed without taking the drive apart, however sometimes the extent of the corruption can prevent it from being repaired at all. The usual faults are corrupt log files which prevent the drive from performing it’s usual startup routine. Once corrected, the drive can usually be accessed for long enough to extract the required data using a controlled imaging process. Sometimes further repair is required in order to continue extracting data. Corrupt firmware can be an indication that there is an underlying problem with the drive. For example, if the drive is writing hundreds of bad sectors into the S.M.A.R.T log, it is likely that there is a problem with either the heads or the disk media which is causing the errors. Although the S.M.A.R.T counters can be reset to zero, they will quickly fill up again. The best option in this case is to recover your data and scrap the old drive.
Seagate drives have been used in G4, G5 & Intel Macs from Mac Pros to iMacs and various other PCs, such as Packard Bell and Compaq machines. We now also see Seagate Barracuda drives which have been used in external USB / Firewire enclosures. This opens up a new problem which these drives were not originally built to withstand. ie. Shock. External drives can be shocked, either by being knocked over or dropped. If the drive is reading or writing at this time it could cause a head crash, as it would with most other brands of drive (although modern 2.5″ laptop drives have protection for this type of shock). If the drive was not in use at the time of impact, the motor can still become stuck and fail to spin up. The motor spindle is attached to the hard disk casting, so the best way to gain access to these types of drives is by transplanting the disk pack into a known good casting (with a good motor).
Seagate Barracuda drives are also prone to electronic damage caused by faulty power supplies or having the power connector incorrectly inserted. It is often necessary to repair the damaged PCB, as it contains unique information which would not be present on a donor part.
We have had a lot of success recovering data from these hard disks and as long as they haven’t been dropped or knocked over, we can usually recover then externally without moving into a cleanroom.
It appears that Seagate are offering an unusual free data recovery service to customers affected by a recent firmware bug. The bug which affects certain 7200.11 drives, DiamondMax 22 and Barracuda ES.2 drives, makes the disks inaccessible when the host system is powered on.
The next battle in the war on SSDs may have just begun. Apparently Seagate are convinced that SSD makers such as Samsung and Intel are violating some of Seagate’s (and Western Digital’s) patents. The wizardry which relates to the way a storage device communicates with a computer is at stake, even though Seagate themselves don’t appear too taken with an SSD based future. CEO Bill Watkins is quoted as saying, “realistically, I just don’t see the flash notebook sell.” I would have to agree with that at the moment. Cost per GB, reliability and speed are among the many drawbacks currently facing solid state drives when compared to traditional hard disk drives. Once these issues are resolved then the need for regular backups will become all the more important in my eyes at least. There are currently many ways in which we can resurrect a failing hard drive but next to no ways to recover a failed SSD.