Seagate Ultra Slim Portable Drives

Seagate has another batch of dubious drives in circulation at the moment. These slim disks are often used in external Ultra Slim Portable enclosures, but also appear in laptops. Visually these disks have a new-look design that seems a bit strange at first glance. For starters, instead of a solid metal top cover, these disks only have a partial top lid, sealed by nothing more than the printed label. If you decided to peel the sticker from one of these, you’d be unsealing the top cover and allow dust to fall straight onto the disks. This is BAD.

Aside from the visual differences, these disks also feature a number of new firmware changes that are barriers to recovery. The industry standard recovery tools only have limited support at this stage but the good news is that we can already recover from most common issues.

D.S.A.A (Dead Shortly After Arrival)

Another fun feature of these disks is the way that some of them just fail after a couple of weeks light use. As always, we only see faulty disks here, but it’s always a surprise to see a disk that’s only a few weeks or months old on our desks.

Something we’ve seen more than once is a customer that buys an external drive, copies a load of data onto it, wipes their computer, and then finds when trying to load the data back on that the backup disk has failed. Always remember to take two separate backups when erasing your main disk!

Variability

Another annoying trait with these disks is that they are manufactured from lots of different internal parts. This makes it a nightmare to locate suitably matched heads when we need to replace them.

List of Affected Models

  • ST1000LM035
  • ST2000LM007
  • AKA Rosewood Drives

Seagate Ultra Slim Portable Drives

OS X Base System Data Lost

We’ve seen a few cases recently where a user has unexpected lost all data, and been left with a disk named OS X Base System. Inside the disk is a file named Install macOS Sierra or Install macOS High Sierra, and a few other system files.

The OS X Base System is usually part of a macOS installer or update, so it’s unclear how disks ended up getting replaced with this.

If this has happened to you, we’d love to hear more about how.

We can usually recover these disks, but it’s really important that you stop using the disk as soon as possible. If you install anything to the disk you could risk losing all the data permanently.

We’ve still got more of these to investigate so we’ll update the post when we’ve learned more.

Update: Could be related to Internet Recovery?

Privacy Policy Update

Like almost anyone with a website, we’ve updated our privacy policy to reflect the new requirements of GDPR. Although we’ve never shared or sold our user’s data, we’ve taken the opportunity to remove all third party services from our website. It’s the only way we can be sure that we not only comply with the word of the law, but also with the spirit of it. This means no Google fonts, no Google Analytics and no “Share Buttons.” We also had to find a new way to stop spam from clogging up our website comments.

Harmless Tracking

Although most of these free services seemed harmless at first, we now live in a different time. Now,if we let them see your IP Address, and which page you are on, they can combine that with their vast pools of other data to target ads at you, and build profiles about your online behaviour and preferences. If you’ve ever seen an advert for a product you were recently researching that follows you around the internet for days, you’ll know what I mean.

You may wonder why anyone ever allowed such tracking, but these services crept up on us. Google Analytics genuinely helped website owners to easily see which pages were working well. We could use the information to make changes and see how they performed. Share buttons allowed an easy way to get content into valuable social networks. These things eventually felt normal and necessary, and were not really given a second though. Now, with advances in machine learning and AI, any crumb of information we give them can be processed with others into something much more potent.

Trust

Large (free) web services have proven that they don’t respect user privacy, so we’ve totally cut them off. We can’t stop them doing dubious things, but we can stop giving them our data. Hopefully as more companies implement GDPR, we’ll see a trend away from the tracking-by-default we see from the likes of Facebook & Google.  Did you know for example that many of the “Like on Facebook” type buttons that appear websites, often leak information back to the other site even if you don’t click the button!

Winning

Although it sounds like we’ve just thrown away a bunch of useful services, we’ve actually made a few gains. Our page-load speeds should be a bit faster without the third-party scripts. We also found a replacement anti-spam tool that runs directly on our site, and doesn’t send any information to a third party service.

You can read our new Privacy Policy at the link below.

Privacy

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.