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Seagate Hard Drive Fiasco Grows 452

Posted by Soulskill
from the drowning-barracuda dept.
AnInkle writes "Two months after acknowledging that their flagship 1.5TB Barracuda 7200.11s could hang while streaming video or during low-speed file transfers, Seagate again faces a swell of complaints about more drives failing just months after purchase. Again, The Tech Report pursued the matter until they received a response acknowledging the bricking issue. Seagate says they've isolated a 'potential firmware issue.' They say there's 'no data loss associated with this issue, and the data still resides on the drive;' however, 'the data on the hard drives may become inaccessible to the user when the host system is powered on.' If users don't like the idea of an expensive data-laden paperweight, Seagate is offering a firmware upgrade to address the matter, as well as data recovery services if needed. By offering free data recovery, Seagate seems to be trying to head off what could become a PR nightmare that may affect several models under both the Seagate and Maxtor brands."
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Seagate Hard Drive Fiasco Grows

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  • Re:Say what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:19PM (#26492921)

    It's a bit like saying "Yeah, your stuff is still in the safe, but there ain't nobody who knows the combination and unfortunately the only way to open it is to call in a team of our experts and blow it open it in their presence".

    So the data is still there. That's good. To access it, though, I'll probably have to send it to Seagate. That's bad. For two reasons. First, I don't want Seagate to be able to read the contents of my hard drive. A lot of the stuff on it is not for public viewing (and I'm not talking about my pr0n collection). And second, I will not be able to access my data for the time being until I get the HD back from Seagate.

    Yes, talk about PR desaster. Seagate ain't really the cheap "to hell if it breaks, buy a new one" manufacturer. Usually they're the ones you turn to when you want good, not cheap, hardware. They can't really compete in the price war, but so far, I had fairly good experience with Seagate HDs and used them for important data.

    Guess I have to go elsewhere now. And I guess I won't be the only one.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:21PM (#26492939)

    I agree... the bad things began after Seagate took over Maxtor.

    Maxtor's were good for a period, but towads the end of the Maxtor years, their drives had a very bad reputation for failure.

    My first 1gig drive was a Seagate from many years ago and it served me a long long time and it only broke because i pulled a pin off the power plug and did not bother to try and fix it.

    Seagate makes good products, and this is not good to see. Personally i think some of Seagates products now are really "Maxtor" products :)... and those are the ones that tend to crap out. I'm not a fan of their external drives etc. No fans, they heat up like mad and die fairly easily.

  • by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:23PM (#26492957)

    "Oh if it crashes and takes your primary business machine offline just email use the serial number and we'll email you a keygen^H^H^H^H^H^Hdetection tool then email us the output of the tool and well email you some other shit that only runs on X86 windows... oh you're running PPC Linux on an embedded appliance... too bad, so sad."

  • Bye Bye Seagate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:30PM (#26493013)

    Given Seagates increasingly poor product quality, this has guaranteed I will never buy another Seagate drive. They used to be my favourite manufacturer, but this kind of sloppiness is unacceptable. Obviously all they care about is turning out high density cheap drives, with no thought to real quality assurance.

    With the economy as it is this could spell the death of Seagate.

  • by v1 (525388) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:41PM (#26493113) Homepage Journal

    I think it's a matter of when. Seagate USED TO be the gold standard in quality HDs. They cost more too. Then maxtor bought them out and now I can honestly say as a computer repairman, that I have replaced easily 5x as many seagate laptop drives as any other brand, for click/chirp of death. (and now seagate is cheaper, and who wants a 5 yr warranty now when you're going to get four or more opportunities to use it?)

    The last seagate I bought sounded like a circular saw was running in the basement when I got home two weeks after buying it. That was enough for me.

    Back then WD was trash, and so was toshiba. Now, toshiba seems to have an even rep, and WD is looking good.

    Another buy-and-die brand was quantum. Fireballs were good drives until they got bought out by IBM, who then almost immediately gave us the DeathStar series.

    I used to make a habit of buying quality drives. Now there's just no knowing. Backups, backups, backups.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:43PM (#26493145)

    At about the time of Linux's birth, Seagate was the dross of the HDD world because of their well known problems with drive stiction. [wikipedia.org]

    I've avoided Seagate drives ever since then. Ironically, the first Seagate drive I've bought since that time was a recent purchase of a Seagate 1 TB . . . fool me twice -- shame on me.

  • by Sopor42 (1134277) on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:52PM (#26493221)
    I will always trust Seagate...

    ...if not to produce 100% failure-proof designs, then to do everything they can to fix the problem and make it right by the costumer.

    Years ago I had a Barracuda die and need replacement under warranty. It was real clear when I sent it in that there was NO guarantee of any sort for my data. What I received back was a different drive (different serial) complete with ALL of my data. That's as good as I can ask for.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:21PM (#26493437)

    I work at a PC repair shop where I RMA hard drives weekly. I RMA just as many Seagates as I do Western Digitals. Truth be told, Seagate has always been very friendly to us. Sure they say that you have to have the crazy packaging. I always wrapped the drive in bubble wrap, threw in some packing peanuts for good measure and taped the box up and never had a single problem. I've only sold 4 or 5 1TB+ Seagate drives so far however I've had no complaints on them. The only series of drives that I've ever had complaints on actually were a series of WD800s all made in early 2008. We had 5 come back to us dead from brand new machines within a week of the customer buying them. WD was very generous however and sent us WD1600s in return so this was no big deal. I honestly don't see why Seagate offering free data recovery and a firmware upgrade to fix the drives is so crazy. Most companies would try to ignore it, Seagate however is taking the right path here and doing what they can to fix the issue.

  • by yorkshiredale (1148021) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:26PM (#26493469)

    Western Digital went to crap a while back (personal opinion, based on professional experience)

    Now Seagate appears to be going down the same path

    Both are/were leading-edge drive manufacturers

    So has magnetic hard-drive technology simply reached an end-stage of current magnetic and mechanical capability, and does this hasten the introduction of technologies like SSD?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:29AM (#26493939)

    They claim to be helping, but I'm not seeing it. I bought a 1.5 TB drive in December, and noticed I needed the firmware update.

    It wasn't on their site, so I had to e-mail them and ask for it. The website said wait 24 hours for a reply. 20 days later I got my reply "firmware is being emailed to you shortly". That was 12 days ago.
     
    Still no firmware. Just sent a nastygram back. We shall see.

  • by Metasquares (555685) <slashdotNO@SPAMmetasquared.com> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:25AM (#26494347) Homepage

    One thing I've found firsthand is that it isn't always the drive itself that's at fault. I had a similar experience with Seagate - not a single problem before they bought Maxtor (and not the other way around), but problems began to occur in later models. At first, it was just one drive, which I backed up and returned for repairs. They sent me a new one, but that didn't work either. I figured I was done with Seagate and bought a WD drive, which seemed to work for a while.

    When it too started experiencing problems, I decided to delve deeper into the problem, suspecting something wrong with the system itself. The root cause was actually my power supply, which was supplying very low voltage on both the 5V and 12V rails. I replaced the supply and all of the drives resumed working properly.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:23AM (#26494651) Journal

    Yep we had the Deathstars, those lovely Maxtors of I believe it was 2001-2002 that would just shit themselves have a head crash and die, when was the last WD nasty, I think 2004?

    Whenever you are cranking products in that kind of numbers bad batches are to be expected. You either return them or avoid the product(Nvidia I'm looking at you) until the bad product is out of the channel. That is why for the past 4 years I have been buying strictly on price for me and my customers. Seagate/Maxtor, WD, Hitachi, hell even ExcelStor, which actually makes pretty decent drives as long as you want quiet over speed. Luckily you can usually spot bad batch problems before the warranty goes out and with the size of drives ever growing folks will usually replace long before they die. Which is why I have a drawer full of 40-200Gb drives left over from customer upgrades.

    But this couldn't have been at a worse time, not only with a bad economy scaring buyers but so soon after Seagate cut the warranties down to 3 from 5, well i bet this will make a lot of techies pause. Let us just hope for the poor bastards that got these(the data is still there but you can't get at it while running? WTF? Yeah I'm sure that will give them the warm fuzzies) that they are better at providing replacement for dead parts and getting the bad out of the channel than Nvidia. After the way they screwed around the problem I am seriously thinking of buying a ATI HD 3xxx card just to show my support. Do their drivers still suck ass on WinXP?

  • by osu-neko (2604) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:28AM (#26494665)

    Yup, my IBM drives have been good to me, for the most part. I had one of the bad Deskstars, but I've also had a bad Conner, Quantum, Western Digital, Maxtor, and Seagate over the years. Sooner or later, everyone gives you a bad drive. If I never bought from anyone who's given me a bad drive before, I think I'd be unable to buy any drive at this point.

    However, I would never buy anything that says "Iomega" on it... :p

  • Re:Bye Bye Seagate (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:55AM (#26494789)

    I doubt it. I own a hosting company and we buy about 5-10K drives a month from Seagate.

    wow, a hosting company buying 10.000 drives a month ?!?

    what do you host, google ?

  • by CranberryKing (776846) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:12AM (#26494867)
    My philosophy with this is always buy the extra drive/s when building the RAID/whatever. You know they are coming from the same source at the time and it will be a bitch finding them 2 years later even if the price has come down for that drive. You can just throw them in a drawer and put a sticky note on the drive (bag) saying "do not use; spare drive for nutsak/server", and put one on the drive bay on the machine that says, "spare in phil's left desk drawer". Then forget about it.
  • RS-232? Really? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:16AM (#26494889)

    connect to it via the drive's on-board serial port, and reset the BSY signal manually via the terminal interface. [ ... ] unless you happen to have the little external RS-232 interface board needed for this adventure along with a bit of courage.

    Really? Not I2C or JTAG or some other standard? Just RS-232?

    I mean, if I read you correctly, I can plug a sufficiently-modern hard drive into a +5/+12V power supply, and speak plain-old RS-232 to it? Using nothing but a few wires (and maybe a MAX232C to get it to work with TTL voltage levels) I can talk to a hard drive using a 20-year-old dumb terminal?

    It's been a long time since I thought of hard drives as anything other than "places where host computers store stuff", but it's only tonight that I've realized that of course there's a full-fledged "computer" (for lack of a better word) on every hard drive... Anyways, long story short...

    That sounds like fun.

    Got a picture of what that "little external interface board" looks like, and where the relevant pins on the controller board are? Or is it blindingly obvious just from looking at the controller board of the drive?

    Seriously, it's the middle of the night but that sounds like a fun weekend project.

  • by NerveGas (168686) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:17AM (#26494897)

    A few years ago, I put together yet another machine with a RAID array, it had 8 brand-new Seagate drives.

    Within a month, one drive had died. Within the next month, two more of the drives had died. Guess what Seagate replaced them with? Refurbs.

    Of the three refurbs, two died within two weeks. And another of the original.

    I called Seagate, and asked them to replace the entire lot, as they were obviously from a bum lot. They agreed, and I was happy... until they sent me 8 more REFURBS.

    Just for fun, I put them in a machine and gave it light duty. Within a month, FOUR of them had died.

    At that point, I decided to never buy Seagate again. Every manufacturer can (and does) have bad lots, but giving me refurbs was particularly low-class.

    Now, for SATA, I buy only WD RE or RE2 drives, and in buying them by the dozens for three years to run in RAID arrays, my failure rate has been lower than with any other IDE/SATA drives, I've only lost one or two. They're good enough that I install them on all of the desktops for my clients as well, and have yet to have one fail in that usage.

    I can't comment on WD's service, as I haven't had a chance to test it - and I like that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:29AM (#26494937)

    Makes you wonder what they've done with the original of your data. There might be two Sopor42's hanging around. How do we know this is really you?

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:19AM (#26495153) Journal

    Seagate may be making the "right moves" now, but IMHO, they should have been more proactive, before this many defective drives were out "in the wild".

    The 1.5TB Seagates have been drives to avoid for Apple Mac Pro owners since day 1, since they have all manner of issues in them. (Web sites like xlr8yourmac.com have advised people not to use them due to firmware issues.)

    It sounds like in both the case of the 1.5TB and now the troublesome model of the 1TB drive, Seagate was pretty slow to respond to complaints. I've read a number of stories of people who had arrays of 3 or 4 of these new drives fail in a matter of only a couple months, only to send them back for warranty replacements that died quickly too.

    A little better QA testing before initial sale seems like it should have caught these problems.

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:27AM (#26495197) Journal

    Actually, there was a particular WD 160GB EIDE drive that was a real "dud" for WD. I remember each and every one of them we had in new Dell Optiplex computers dying on us, as well as one I bought personally for a home computer.

    But that said, I'd have to agree that otherwise, WD drives have always been fairly reliable for me. I've had a couple of DOA units, but that happens with any drive (and many times, you wonder if that's to really be blamed on the shipper tossing the box around).

    Seagate, I find just like many people say here; they go in cycles of "good" and "bad". They really have produced a lion's share of "known troublesome" drives, along with some great products.

    There may also be some truth to them having higher RMA than the norm because they're the first to push performance limits. (The early Barracuda and Cheetah drives spinning at 10K RPM and up would die EASILY if they didn't have really good cooling. If you put one in a standard mini or mid-tower desktop case? You were probably letting it run too hot. They really needed a fan right in front of the drive cage, blowing across them, to run them in the safe zone.)

  • by Barny (103770) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:41AM (#26495263) Homepage Journal

    Yay for anecdotes, as a techy with over 10yrs of selling about 10-15 computers a week, I deal with about 98% seagate, 2% western digital. In that time I have installed about 15 drives not of either of those brands, and have RMAed 14 of them so far (waiting to see if the last samsung will be a homing pidgeon too).

  • Re:RS-232? Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @07:13AM (#26495923)

    Yup, just RS-232 with TTL matching circuitry. A little board like this one [frys.com] does just fine although you do have to give the board +5VDC and jumper TX/RX to the appropriate pins on the drive. For the 7200.11s, there is a block of four pins adjacent to the SATA data connector on the back of the drive - the pin closest to the SATA connector is RX, and the one right next to it is TX. Note that this will just give you a terminal interface to the controller, as opposed to letting you actually use the drive for its intended purpose.

    This is just freakin' cool.

    Fry's isn't open at this hour, but I built one of those a few years ago and dug it out of my parts box, and yes, you can talk to the bare metal of the drive this way. (Failing that, I found a schematic that does the same thing with a 74LS14, seeing as how most serial ports can speak TTL now by default!)

    Anyways, looks like there are commands for diagnostics, memory peeking/poking, raw sector reads/writes, the works. 38400 8N1, or 9600 8N1. (Googling around, looks like some Samsung drives with Marvell "CPU"s like 57600 8N1)

    Got the T> prompt, level "T" meaning "T"ests, and you can "Q"uery it. There appears to be self-help, pressing "?".

    /A, /C, /1..9, seems to change command levels
    At level C (F3 C&gt prompt, "F3" refers to the architecture, "C" refers to the level), you can get a list of all commands with "Q", for Query.
    ^V echoes commands on, useful.
    ^C resets/spinsdown the drive.

    More googling...

    Looks like there are two groups of people: One group of Eastern European hackers intent on protecting their commercial ability to do data recovery -- there's an expensive but slick GUI wrapper around some of the common fixes, and everyone in Eastern Europe (I wound up in a Russian and a Polish forum) seems friendly enough to talk about hacking the terminal interface, but (obviously) doesn't want to give a cookbook answer. (I do kinda respect the "Read between the lines of our hints and you'll eventually figure it out!" attitude, though. :)

    For instance, the tail end of this video [members.shaw.ca] (which is basically the "cookbook" answer for the commercial product, and provides a lot of hints at the DIY solution -- the video doesn't show the commands being sent via the terminal window, as I guess that'd make it too easy :)... but the status window of the commercial tool, plus the status bits at the bottom of the GUI screen, makes it clear what's going on. Specificlaly, the status log shows the results of commands that have arguments that look an awful lot like the ones that the drive's self-help output, like this one:
    Level T m: Rev 0001.0000, Flash, FormatPartition, m[Partition],[FormatOpts],[DefectListOpts],[MaxWrRetryCnt],[MaxRdRetryCnt],[MaxEccTLevel],[MaxCertifyTrkRewrit es],[ValidKey]

    The video also shows some drive (or drive board?) powering on/off activity. These appear to be the level 2 commands "U" (SpinUpDrive), "Z" (SpinDownDrive), and/or the level 1 command "e" (SpinDownAndResetDrive. And/or some other commands that I haven't figured out, to power down the drive so that the PCB can be removed for the BSY fix, then power it back up again after the PCB's plugged back into the "drive" half of the drive.

    Not sure if those are the same as the power on/off things the video is showing, or if there are other commands to control power. Also not sure about things like SmartControl, (level 1 "N"), but maybe that's how to clear things like the SMART list (/1 to get to level 1, then N1 to clear it?)

    There also appears to be a fairly active thread at msfn.org about a "Look, just hook the drive up to a serial port, and be careful not to make any typos, and remember that all the control-characters are case-sensitive" sor

  • by blahbooboo (839709) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:19AM (#26496241)

    Bought the NEW 3 platter seagate 1tb from Newegg. 3 out of 3 died within one week.

    Though, this might be because of Newegg's TERRIBLE shipping procedure

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:26AM (#26496657)

    I agree that Seagate quality has been really bad recently. I got a new ES drive some time ago, that left the factory obviously dead (easy visible mechanical damage). Incidentially it was made in China, which seems to be a sure way to bring quality down by a large step.

    Howerver Seagate bought Maxtor, not the other way round. Maxtor had good drives, if handled right. What killed them was that their drives were only reliable when cooled well. I have had about 50 run 24/7 in an air-conditioned server room for 3 years with only 2 failures and these did give ample warning before dying and were very likely droppend in shipping. But run them hot and they die young. As they also had relatively high power consumption, this was a recipe for desaster. So their problem was marketing a professional product to an amateur market.

    As to good quality, Samsung looks pretty decent at this time, WD is reliable but has interface issues, i.e. incompatibilities. This can also be seen by them needing "Raid-Edition" drives, because their normal SATA drives keep dropping out of RAID arrays. No other manufacturer has this issue with healty drives. Hitachi seems to be reasonable again today.

    I think this just goes in waves: As soon as a HDD manufacturer is perceived to deliver good quality, some greedy incompetent in management pushes more and more for lower prices. This crosses a threshold at some point and quality drops sharply. Then they lie about it (IBM) or try to cover it up with long warranties (Seagate). At some time their sales have dropped low enough that they actually start to think about fixing the problem and a few years later, they have a good product again. I think the only one not hit so far is Samsung. Maybe this is due to them never aiming for the speed crown.

    The fix is to follow the development closely. Also things that look suspicuous, e.g. HDDs made in China or supposedly much better new technology should prompt a closer look. Sometimes you will be hit nonetheless.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:33AM (#26496695)

    I think Samsung is better because a) they do not aim for the speed crown and b) they make a lot of consumer electronics and kitchen appliances and they do understand that long-term reliability will give them better business in the long run. Thys may just understand that a commodity product is not a race car, but more like a high-quality microwave oven or a DVD player. People expect these to work for a decade or so.

  • by WNight (23683) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:47AM (#26496799) Homepage

    IBMs crime was in lying about the problems. I had problems with my 75gxp and the techs, the manager, everyone I could talk to about the problem, swore that the drives were just fine, that my problem was an isolated one, etc. In defiance of their own marketing they tried to tell me the drive wasn't rated for more than casual use (4-6h/day), etc.

    Their policy (supposedly) is to give someone a different model if the one they bought is a lemon but they refused to google for "75gxp issues", or anything else, that would have made the total failure of the line obvious. It's bad enough they produced something without adequate testing, but then to lie about it and send known defective replacements...

    Instead of another drive, from a non-failing line, they sent me another 75gxp (not even new according to SMART) which failed soon after.

    Yes, everything can fail but companies that lie about it aren't safe to deal with. IBM is evidently a corporate liar, as their institutional blindness was far beyond accidental.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:16AM (#26496959)

    If performance is not a factor, then consider using 2.5" laptop drives. They're inherently more rugged and reliable because if you think about it, laptops can handle quite a bit of abuse. If you need performance, go with 2.5" drives from Seagate (Savvio) or WD (Velociraptors).

    But of course, we're getting closer to a custom solution that might not be supported, which of course makes your job more complicated.

    Personally I would go with SSD's if I had the money. For the stuff that really needs to be reliable I would go with nested Raid, something like 1+1 or 10+10 for performance. Nested raid can also get expensive. I like this setup for some of my servers: 2 raid controllers, 2 disks on each controller in Raid 1. Then I do Raid 1 at the OS level spanning those 2 controllers. So 4 disks total, but only 1 disk in storage. But, I can have 3 out of 4 disks fail and a controller failure and I'm still up and running.

  • by krunk7 (748055) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @11:01AM (#26497293)

    Why? Simple. During the DeathStar fiasco almost a decade ago, IBM refused to acknowledge the issue. Leaving small businesses to clean up their mess and cover the costs of replacing prematurely failed drives and lost customer data.

    Seagate, on the other hand, has readily acknowledged the issue and pledged to replace drives and pay for possible data recovery?

    That's absolutely amazing. No vendor is perfect, shit like this happens occasionally. The true test of a good supplier, vendor, manufacturer, etc. is not what they do when everything's going right. It's what they do when it goes all wrong.

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