Seagate SSHD ST500LM000 Recovery Update

I have good news for our customers, our developers have been working hard and have produced a solution to the firmware failures of this model hard drive. I posted a blog alerting our customers back in March 2015 when we started to see the problems arise. A solution was tested just before the end of last year and we now have a process that fixes these issues.

We also have firmware fixes and recovery solutions for other Seagate Hard  Drives.

ATP 259: I Hired Myself

ATP – 259: I Hired Myself 🔈

TL;DR/L – Storage is hard. Move your data with you. Make redundant copies. Don’t trust manufacturer-quoted lifespans.

In this week’s Ask ATP, the guys got a question about long-term data storage. As my accidental pet subject, I always pay close attention to storage-related chat. Fortunately whenever our hosts talk about storage it’s from a thoughtful & sufficiently cautious point of view. They know that storage is unsafe, and then plan ways round it. After hearing their countless conversations about Synology & Backblaze I know I can always trust ATP on this topic.

I don’t have much to add to the discussion here. They covered the important stuff. If you’ve not listened already, it’s well worth your time. Also, before talking about data storage, there was some interesting discussion about Raspberry Pi , which is always cool.

First, Do No Harm

Primum Non Nocere

The maxim “first, do no harm” is a great first rule for data recovery, and is at the heart of our whole approach. If you’ve lost data, it’s only natural to panic, but the safest thing to do is stop and get advice. It’s usually best to switch everything off, but there are rare times where you wouldn’t want to do that either.

When you should switch off a failed disk

If the drive has failed completely and you can’t access the data, definitely switch it off. If the disk is clicking, or making strange noises, switch it off. Certain types of hardware failure will get worse if you leave the drive powered on. If the heads have been damaged, they could scrape all the magnetic storage coating from the disk. When the heads are stuck on the disk, they can be wrenched off and take a chunk of disk with them.

If you’ve accidentally deleted some files from a disk, switch it off. You might not realise but as your computer sits there idle, there are all sorts of processes, downloads, updates and other background tasks that will be writing to your disk. Also  a system task could attempt to repair the disk, or reset the computer and overwrite your files. All of these issues are avoided if the device is turned off. Your computer will happily reuse the space where your deleted files are, so once files are deleted it’s crucial to stop the computer accessing the disk. Once data is overwritten it really is gone for good despite what anyone tells you.

If you have a cloud service setup, you should download the data using another computer & disk. Make sure you check the downloaded data thoroughly before writing it back to your original disk. If you write the cloud data straight back to your computer, you’ve lost any chance of getting more data back if there’s something missing.

When you shouldn’t switch off a failed disk

If the data shows up at some point, copy it straight off. Hard drives are complicated machines, but sometimes the stars align and give you one last chance to access the files. Make sure you have enough free space on another disk, and make a copy of your files while you still can. There is a chance that if you power the disk down it might never show up again. Don’t waste that chance!

⚠️ If you start copying files and the speed goes down, while the time remaining goes up, you should stop and get advice. The hard drive could thrash itself to pieces trying to read the files and make recovery much more difficult. You don’t want to leave the disk unattended during this process, as it could fail and need to be switched off.

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Meltdown and Spectre Data Recovery

Meltdown

More than enough has been written about the Spectre & Meltdown CPU vulnerabilities so I won’t go over them directly here. If you’d like more info, I’ve included some links at the end.

My interest is more with the trouble caused by the intended fixes. Despite CPU manufacturers testing the fixes for some months, in certain circumstances they are causing random reboots, and other performance problems.

Safely Remove

Spectre
To “Safely Remove” a disk is standard practice to avoid filesystem corruption. In simple terms, the computer stops writing to the disk and then you’re safe to unplug it. In the case of a random reboot, the computer doesn’t get the chance to finish with the disk.  A crash at a critical moment can damage the filesystem and render the machine un-bootable. Even if the system can recover itself, if you crash enough times your chances of trouble increase. It’s hard to trust a system that could randomly reboot at any moment.

A Solution?

Until we get fixes from the manufacturers, there’s not much else we can do. Now would be a really good time to make sure your backups are working and up-to-date. These fixes could take a while to stabilise, and in the meantime you could be one random reboot away from data loss.

Sources

Add Another Time Machine Disk

If you need to add or change your Time Machine™️ backup drive, the process is pretty simple. Plug in a new disk and make sure there is nothing on it that you need. In most cases Time Machine will ERASE the disk before using it! You have been warned.

Now might be a good time to find the disk on your desktop and rename it to something obvious like “backups” for example.

Next, open Time Machine Preferences from the Time Machine menu. If you don’t have the Time Machine icon near the clock, you can also find the settings within “System Preferences”.

Open Time Machine Preferences
Open Time Machine Preferences
Click Add Or Remove Backup Disk
Click Add Or Remove Backup Disk
Select the New Disk
Select the New Disk

Click the “Use Disk” button, and Time Machine will start making a new full backup to this new disk. This may take a few hours.

Mislabelled Apple Hard Drives MK3253GSX MK1653GSX

I have a particularly nerdy Apple rabbit hole to share with you today involving the labels on Apple hard drives. At some point around 2007-2008 Apple started re-labelling the hard drives used in their computers. I’m pretty sure the hard drives in black & white MacBooks were standard white labels with an Apple part number (655-XXXX) printed on them. Now disks feature a black label with white text. Not particularly exciting, but maybe somebody (Jony?) wanted the disks to match the fancy black circuit boards now used in all Apple hardware. That’s the sort of attention to detail we’ve come to love from Apple devices. Whatever the reason, this has resulted in a batch of Toshiba drives in circulation with incorrect information printed on them. I assume these are the result of a simple ⌘+C, ⌘+V error. My speculation is that after printing the labels for the 320GB disk nobody remembered to change the text for the 160GB version.

For reference MK3253GSX is 320GB and MK1653GSX is 160GB. In Apple’s world, both disks use MK3253GSX on the label, even though the correct number is shown when you check Disk Utility or About This Mac > System Information.

This wonky number business all came to a head ? when we were looking for replacement parts for one of these disks. We needed the double headed 160GB drive, not the four headed 320GB.

Mislabelled Apple Hard Drives MK3253GSX MK1653GSX
Mislabelled Apple Hard Drives MK3253GSX MK1653GSX

When I was trying to research this, I was quite suprised to find an old blog post of ours that shows the same problem with Hitachi drives manufactured around the same time. I’ve not found any other mention of this labelling fault, so thought I’d post it up here for future Mac Archaeologists to find.

Bent iPhone Data Recovery

Bent iPhone Data Recovery

We’ve had our fair share of unusual and difficult recoveries over the years, but I have to share a photo of this bent iPhone we recently recovered. It’s an iPhone 5s that has seen better days. I’d love to know how anyone could bend a phone that far without also smashing the screen! It’s impressive.

As always, my first concern was extracting the damaged Lithium battery. I removed that straight away and disposed of it before starting the recovery.

With a bit of TLC and a new battery and screen, the phone was just about working. It stayed working long enough to get an iTunes backup, and extract all the data.

Bent iPhone Data Recovery
Bent iPhone Data Recovery

Backup Your Data. It’s Not As Tough As You Think

1 in 5 People Never Backup

According to the latest Backblaze survey, 21% of people have never made a backup of their files. The figures show a gradual increase in backups since 2008, but there’s still at least one in five people 🙋‍♀️🙎‍♀️🙎‍♀️🙎‍♀️🙎‍♀️ that are risking total data loss. And more than half of the people surveyed had no recent backup.

Fortunately technology has changed a lot in the last few years. There are a whole host of  companies that offer free cloud storage. Large capacity, fast, and cheap external disks have also made backups at home easier. Software improvements in macOS and Windows have made backups automatic, so there’s really no excuse these days. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

A Quick Guide To Making Backups 📝

Identify the files you can’t live without. These might be a few spreadsheets, some word documents, your thesis, anything irreplaceable. These are the files you’d grab if there was a fire. Forget photos for now as I’ve tackled them separately below ⬇️. If these files are small text or office documents, use something like dropbox or google drive to keep them synchronised in the cloud. An added bonus is this data will also be available on your other devices like iPads, iPhones or other computers. These cloud hosts give away a small amount of storage for free, so you might as well use it!

Photos deserve a bit of special attention here. Photos and videos are often the largest files for home-users, and will usually be well over the limits of free cloud storage. Fortunately both Apple’s iCloud and Google Photos can take care of them. Google Photos will take an unlimited number of photo uploads but limits the size of single files. The size limits are fair for most home users, especially if you just use a smartphone and not a fancy camera. Although not free, the price for extra iCloud storage is pretty reasonable too – £0.79 per month for 50GB at time of writing. If you are an iPhone user, the iCloud option has other benefits like device backups, data sharing with Macs, iCloud Keychain etc.

Once you have one of these options set up, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it for a while and make sure the files are being copied over. You can login to all of these services from a computer and have a look at the files stored on there.

The Whole Hog™ Whole Hog

Now you’ve sorted the important stuff, It’s probably worth going the whole hog and also making a local backup. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult, and once you’ve set it up, you hardly have to think about it again.

Mac Users 🍎

If you plug in a new hard drive, macOS will ask if you want to use it with Time Machine. BEWARE that this will usually ERASE the disk and DELETE any data that’s on it! If that’s what you’re trying to do, click YES! Time Machine will then make a backup of your whole Mac. The first backup can take hours to finish so try to leave the computer on until it’s done. Once it’s finished, Time Machine will make regular backups as long as the disk is plugged in. These smaller backups just copy over new changes so don’t take so long.

Recent versions of Time Machine will happily make backups to multiple disks if you have them. You could keep another one in a safe or at work, and bring it back periodically to update itself. Time Machine will figure out where it left off, and fill in the gaps.

If your Internal disk ever fails, you can use the Time Machine backups to restore everything, including Applications and settings. You can also recover single files at any point if you ever need to.

Windows Users 💼

Windows 10 has an automatic backup process too. It’s a little buried inside the settings, but once it’s set you can (pretty much) forget about it. I find the fastest way is to click the “Start Orb” and type “backup” into the search box. You want to choose “Back up with File History”. This should take you into the File History page inside Settings. Click “Add a drive” and select your external drive. Windows will now keep extra copies of your data files on that disk. The default options will backup things like Photos and Documents, as long as you store them in the standard Windows folders (which you should always do anyway!).

File history will only save your data files, so if the computer fails, you’ll need to get it up and running again before you can load the files back on. It’s worth checking if you have the original disks, or even seeing if you can create rescue disks. (It depends on your system). The “Backup & Restore (Windows 7)” program allows for a full system backup, but in my experience, this process is much more prone to errors, and also takes a long time to complete the backups.

Stuck MacBook Trackpad Bulging Battery

If you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro that’s a few years old, you might have a problem hiding right below your fingertips. If your trackpad has become difficult to press, or stopped clicking all together, you could have a dangerous faulty battery. In MacBook & MacBook Pro laptops, the battery is directly below the trackpad. When the battery fails it can expand, pressing into the bottom of the trackpad.

Stuck MacBook Trackpad Bulging Battery
Stuck MacBook Trackpad Bulging Battery

Explosion?

I’m not sure quite how risky these batteries get, but they almost double in size. Standard battery advice says don’t pierce or burn but when these battery start expanding they could easily get punctured. I saw one so bad last week that the bottom case and trackpad were being pushed apart. (see photo below)

Bulging Battery From A MacBook
Bulging Battery From A MacBook

Check

If you click the battery ? icon near the clock at the top-right of your Mac screen you can check the status. (If you don’t see the status, press the option (alt) key before clicking the battery icon.)

MacBook Service Battery
MacBook Service Battery

From Apple’s help document

You may see any of the following conditions:

  • Normal: The battery is functioning normally.
  • Replace Soon: The battery is functioning normally but holds less charge than it did when it was new.
  • Replace Now: The battery is functioning normally but holds significantly less charge than it did when it was new. You can continue to use the battery until you replace it without harming your computer.
  • Service Battery: The battery isn’t functioning normally, and you may or may not notice a change in its behavior or the amount of charge it holds. Take your computer in for service. You can continue to use your battery before it’s checked without harming your computer.

What Next

If your status shows Replace Now or Service Battery, I would look to get the battery replaced as soon as possible. At the very least, a bulging battery could cause cosmetic damage to your Mac. At worst it could potentially leak or catch fire ?.