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Seagate Hard Drive Fiasco Grows 452

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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  • On linux... (Score:2, Informative)

    by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:15PM (#26492899) Homepage

    For your first drive:
      sdparm -I /dev/sda
    For your second:
    sdparm -I /dev/sdb
    or whatever your drive is.

    It appears to affect 1GB drives as well, such as the ST31000333AS.

    I will ask if they have a firmware updater for Linux.

  • MS-Windows Only? No (Score:5, Informative)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:17PM (#26492915)

    And, of course, the Seagate referenced page says: "This can be done in Windows - it's easy! Download and run, or simply run as is, the Seagate Drive Detect software program." No mention of Linux, MacOS, Solaris, or BSD. So I guess there is an implied "If you are not using Windows - it's hard!".

    Then later in the page, "you can download SeaTools for Windows" with a convenient link. Again, no mention of Linux, MacOS, Solaris, or BSD.

    What they don't tell you is that you can create a self-booting (MS)-DOS floppy/CD so you can test your drive, regardless of your OS (as long as the system is X86). Get it here: [] but if you DO need to flash it, you have to contact Seagate via Email and wait for a response and code so you can use yet another program to flash the drive.

  • Re:On linux... (Score:5, Informative)

    by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:32PM (#26493039) Homepage

    Oops, hdparm not sdparm. And note the option is uppercase "i".
        hdparm -I /dev/sda
    For your second:
        hdparm -I /dev/sdb

  • Re:On linux... (Score:4, Informative)

    by windsurfer619 ( 958212 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:42PM (#26493137)

    Better yet:
    sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda | grep Model

  • by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:46PM (#26493171) Homepage

    Save yourself the time and effort, the required firmware updates are on bittorrent []

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:46PM (#26493173)

    Oh, it gets better. We purchased two expensive 15,000 RPM SCA drives recently to work as backups for our RAID arrays on our Linux servers. Called Seagate *FIRST* to verify compatibility, as well as with Adaptec. Then a few months later when we needed to use one to replace a failed drive, it would NOT negotiate properly, making it useless.

    Hours on the phone with Seagate we FINALLY get confirmation that there is a "firmware problem" with the drives we have and we should "upgrade the firmware". We go through the crap of getting a "key" and being sent the firmware only to find that their self-booting program would not run on our servers. Their suggestion? Find some other SCSI SCA machine just lying around and try it there. WE DON'T HAVE any such machines. We asked if we could mail the expensive, useless drives to them so THEY could upgrade the firmware. The response was "you can send in the drives for exchange, but we can't guarantee the drives sent back will have the firmware you need". This is support?????

  • by Smooth and Shiny ( 1097089 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:49PM (#26493203)
    I think you have that backwards, no? Seagate bought Maxtor, not the other way around.
  • The last time I had to replace a Seagate drive (about 3 years ago) I discovered that they had changed the way they replace drives. Years prior when I was a fan of their products, their replacement policy was to send the replacement drive to you first, so you could get your data off the failing drive and then send it back and have only a very minimal amount of downtime.

    However, this replacement for me was the opposite process, only worse. They also had a list of other things I had to comply with in order to get a replacement for a drive that failed when only 2 months old:
    • It had to be packed in their anti-static clamshell case
    • The case had to be in at least 2 inches of foam (no packing peanuts or bubble wrap allowed)
    • The box had to meet a prescribed standard
    • I had to pay for insured shipping both ways

    Needless to say, I wasn't happy with that. I spent some time on the phone with them, after spending two days running around town trying to find shipping materials that would comply with their asinine requirements (they stated they would void the warranty on my drive if I failed to comply with the packing requirements). Eventually I convinced the person on the phone - we'll call him Raj - to talk to his manager about the situation. Raj then was able to to get his manager to eventually approve of sending the drive first, so I would have the proper packing materials to send my drive back in.

    And then when the replacement arrived, there was a copy of a note that Raj had written while on the phone with me where he described me as "extremely irate". If I ever have to deal with them again, they'll see what irate really is when it comes from me...

  • by ZosX ( 517789 ) <> on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:52PM (#26493227) Homepage

    I gotta agree. The HD manufacturers have all had their ups and downs. I gotta admit thought that I've been real partial to WD so far and have had only one failure before EOL (still managed to recover 95%), but I'm not running a data server or anything but after many many drives the WDs have utterly failed so rarely. I have a Maxtor drive running on this box here that should have died months ago and it still keeps chugging along in defiance of the limits of ECC. Of course a low level format did wonders......

  • by FromellaSlob ( 813394 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:58PM (#26493273)

    You're suffering from some data retrieval issues:

    Maxtor bought Quantum in 2000.
    Seagate bought Maxtor in 2006.
    Hitachi bought IBM HDD division in 2002.

  • by daoine_sidhe ( 619572 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:06AM (#26493323)
    Sadly, many of the Seagate HDDs are losing the 5 year warranty and moving to three. Here [].
  • by N7DR ( 536428 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:23AM (#26493451) Homepage
    I note that Seagate says (at []): "Desktop and Mobile SATA and PATA drives are not designed for firmware updates in the field."
  • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:30AM (#26493509)
    So we're going to lynch them for being open and honest that their drives have a problem and they're doing everything possible to minimize the harm to their customers?

    No, we're going to lynch them because they've been aware of the issue since at least the beginning of December and have continually denied the existence of any problems until now, when the failure rate reached a point where they couldn't keep a lid on it any more. We're also going to lynch them because the SD15 firmware that's causing the problems was itself a bug fix, and obviously not tested very thoroughly.
  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:40AM (#26493597) Homepage

    I'm wondering if you got stuck with clueless support personnel, or it was a special case, or what.

    I've replaced several drives in that timeframe. The standard procedure is always to send the replacement first, and send the old one back in the same box, pre-paid. (IE, it doesn't cost you anything)

    They take your credit card details as insurance (otherwise an unscrupulous person would use this method to steal a hard drive by pretending theirs is bad) but that's acceptable.

    All the drive manufacturers I've dealt with (seagate, WD, Maxtor) work this way...

  • Re:On linux... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:43AM (#26493607) Homepage Journal

    Turning off write-caching ("hdparm -W0" on linux) appears to work around this firmware bug, till you can get the drive flashed/replaced.

  • by minion ( 162631 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:49AM (#26493647)

    I don't understand why manufacturer's keep insisting on writing the apps for Windows or DOS, with the growing trend to use these drives in other systems.

    I use Supermicro systems in my datacenter, and the coolest thing is, all of their flash utils, and CDROM discs boot FreeDOS. This alleviates the problem that you just might not be running Windows on your server. I wish all manufacturers would get the hint.

  • by bugi ( 8479 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:54AM (#26493693)

    I tried getting through their contact page. It was incredibly frustrating, and they won't even let you contact them unless you agree to some ridiculous terms absolving them from anything and everything, allowing them to email you whenever they want, stuff like that, in order to signup for an account.

    Google's a little more helpful. This page at least might be kinda sorta related: []

    Then I tried to search for some of the terms in the title of the page (eg. "SD14") and it couldn't find any pages. That's some search function you've got there, Seagate -- it isn't by any chance hooked up to an empty database is it? Did you by chance have it on a 7200.11 drive?

  • by KikassAssassin ( 318149 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:59AM (#26493719)

    On top of that, all of Western Digital's performance-tuned "Caviar Black" line of drives are now carrying 5-year warranties (in addition to their enterprise-class and Raptor drives, which have always had 5-year warranties). I used to be a big Seagate fanboy and only bought their drives when possible, but lately I've been a lot more impressed with Western Digital's product lineup. My next hard drive purchase will probably be WD.

  • Re:Say what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:08AM (#26493783)
    That's a totally different issue, albeit still an annoying one. The SD15 issue results in the drive reporting BSY continuously (seems to be kind of NCQ-related bug in the firmware) , which prevents the computer's BIOS from being able to see it on power up, which does effectively brick the drive. The problem only shows itself on power-up (the drives don't die while the machine is running), and the only way to bring the drive back to life once it's in that state is to connect to it via the drive's on-board serial port, and reset the BSY signal manually via the terminal interface. Once that's been done, the drive can then be flashed with the new firmware without data loss, but otherwise it's a paperweight unless you happen to have the little external RS-232 interface board needed for this adventure along with a bit of courage.
  • by Darkk ( 1296127 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:28AM (#26493921)

    I recently picked up the 2.5in Elite Series 500GB Western Digital portable hard drive from Costco when it was on sale and it's been running great so far.

    Also, picked up a 1TB Seagate SATAII drive as my primary HD for the PC I am using now. I thought about the 1.5TB and then I remember all the problems people are having with them so I picked up the 1TB instead. The little price difference wasn't worth it to me.

  • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:42AM (#26494039)

    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.

    I can't argue about the service, but that's very trusting of you, sending your data as well. I can't imagine any business users doing this.

  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:48AM (#26494071)

    I had a set of Western digitial bought at the same time but put in unrelated computers that all failed within days of each other. Never bough another western digital in the last ten years. But now from what I read they have a good rep.

    My last drive was a refurbed Seagate 750GB. died after about 30 days. Vendor replaced it. then it died again. Seagate replaced it. Died again.

    So now Seagate is on my shit list. My next drive however is going to be a western digital as they seem to be very quiet compared to the seagates these days.

  • by choco ( 36913 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:51AM (#26494083) Homepage


    I'm CTO of a Telco and we buy and use a lot of HDDs - Server and Desktop.

    On the Desktop, the Maxtor Story has been simply appalling. Fortunately we backup data properly and keep spares in the server room - so when a HDD dies, it's nothing more than a PITA. I don't even bother checking whether there's any kind of warranty. I don't want a replacement from Maxtor even if it is free.

    On the Server - well I was persuaded to buy some Seagate/Maxtor drives specifically intended for RAID. Everything cross checked for compatibility.

    Result ? Several lost night's sleep while I drove 100 miles to Data Centres to reset RAIDs where one of the HDDs has dropped out for no apparent reason. "Hot Spare" prevented serious consequences, but the situation was not sustainable. A firmware flash improved things - but not enough. We've still got those drives lying around in boxes somewhere and give them to employees who want a HDD.

    So we went with WD and their (very) top end stuff.
    Result : Not hugely different.

    Current policy here is Raptors on the Desktop. They seem to be performing well.

    Top-end SAS only on the Servers and Raid. Even then only with every component fully cross-checked for specific support. If we are anything less than mega-fussy, it bites us!


  • by ishobo ( 160209 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:54AM (#26494105)

    Quantum wanted to focus on its tape products, selling only its HD division to Maxtor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:22AM (#26494335)
    DeathStar was a nickname it earned, its proper name was DeskStar.
  • by Ostracus ( 1354233 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:23AM (#26494337) Journal

    "...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."

    Then you might want to read this link [] in it's entirety since it's obvious the person who modded me couldn't be bothered to. Seagate made right, but the arm twisting that it took shouldn't have happened.

  • Re:Bye Bye Seagate (Score:5, Informative)

    by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:37AM (#26494421)
    I doubt it. I own a hosting company and we buy about 5-10K drives a month from Seagate. We'll continue to buy drives from them, just not the ones they're having problems with (the 1.5TBs). Their service for us has been fantastic (and should be because of our volume with them). Feel free to not buy another drive from them. You'll be stuck in the same boat as US cellular customers. There's only a handful of businesses to choose from, and you have to buy from one of them if you need the product *shrugs*
  • by shoegoo ( 674914 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:36AM (#26494971) Homepage
    Also, WD recently changed their warranty from 3 years to 5.
  • by Spikeles ( 972972 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:44AM (#26494997)

    Customers can expedite assistance by sending an email to Seagate ( Please include the following disk drive information: model number, serial number and current firmware revision. We will respond, promptly, to your email request with appropriate instructions.

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

    by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:51AM (#26495027)
    Yup, just RS-232 with TTL matching circuitry. A little board like this one [] 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.

    Note - if you blow your drive up, it's all on you. :-) I've not actually tinkered with my drives in such a manner, but it seems a few folks have, with good results.
  • Re:Say what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:12AM (#26495121) Journal

    Do you really have to go elsewhere and where? It seems to mean this is not exactly a quality issue. Its a firmware problem that only shows up under some conditions. Perhaps stricter QA might have caught this but thats hard to be sure of. Your points are not incorrect; but then you should have backs right? If you had backups most of your arguments go away. As for Seagate they seem to be doing the best they can to make good. They are offering free data recovery and to repair / replace the drives. Most companies would probably only do the latter.

  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:13AM (#26495129) Journal

    I bought two of the Seagate 1.5 TB drives. I put them through the standard 7-day torture test pre-deployment before they went into production, which revealed a problem. A quick google search revealed that I wasn't the only one.

    Seagate support emailed me a firmware update that completely solved the problem. (knock on wood) They then easily passed the next round of torture test, and have been in production ever since as part of a D2D backup storage array.

    What parent poster says is true - ALL manufacturers have the occasional bad seed. In my experience, hard drive failures are usually due to mfg defects, much less so due to "wearing out". I have the most problems within the first month of purchase, or 5 years later, but I have plenty of drives from about 1 GB on up that have seen so many years of heavy, continuous use that their size is no longer relevant, but still work beautifully.

  • by Sits ( 117492 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:40AM (#26495261) Homepage Journal

    Some people really do have x86 servers that aren't Windows... Being able to build a DOS "disk" for flashing purposes on such "1%" machines (because it's not feasible to put Windows on) is extremely important in such scenarios and doesn't seem unreasonable.

    There really is a not-insignificant chunk of other stuff out there.

  • Re:Bye Bye Seagate (Score:3, Informative)

    by cowbutt ( 21077 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @06:38AM (#26495505) Journal

    According to the linked Seagate Knowledge Base article [], this is a new problem to the NCQ/CACHE FLUSH issue that Seagate publically acknowledge affects the 1.5TB models. This new problem apparently affects lots of current models.

    I avoided the 1.5TB models like you, but the 1TB Seagate drives I bought instead turn out to be affected by this new problem (hopefully I can get a pre-emptive fix from Seagate before they fail BSY). D'oh!

  • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @07:46AM (#26495781)

    You could always try Samsung. I've bought 4 of their Spinpoint F1 750GB drives that I'm happy with. Very silent, fast and reliable this far (going on 2 years now).

  • by agw ( 6387 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:45AM (#26496067)

    Why not play Hard Drive Roulette and throw a WD, Seagate and whatever else you can find in -at the same time-? Sure, your drives won't all have exactly the same read/write speed, but the odds of those drives having anything in common hardware defect wise is minuscule.

    My ex-employer practiced that for a couple of years on my request. But it's so "easy" to just by two or more disks for a RAID from the same "special offer", so they are probably not following that policy anymore.

    I've seen too many people have the same problem on harddisks they bought at a single time. Quantum/Maxtor Fireball, the Deskstars, one or two Fujistu models and now the big 7200.11.
    Going for similar models from two (really) different vendors should do wonders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:42AM (#26496369)


    I'm CTO of a Telco and we buy and use a lot of HDDs


    Result ? Several lost night's sleep while I drove 100 miles to Data Centres to reset RAIDs where one of the HDDs has dropped out for no apparent reason.

    No matter what it says on your business card, you're not a CTO, poser.

  • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:32AM (#26496689) Homepage

    Seagate bought Maxtor, not the other way around.

    That's perfectly true, of course. However, it doesn't change the short to medium term problem as I've mentioned in previous posts.

    Specifically, unless Seagate had made a clear promise to keep the two operations' products separate for some time after the takeover (they didn't) or unless they somehow got the Maxtor operation up to Seagate's pre-takeover standards exceptionally quickly (unclear, but unlikely), then one can't buy a Seagate-branded drive knowing whether it's a "genuine" Seagate drive or one produced by a former Maxtor facility.

    There may be ways to tell them (country of manufacture, model, etc.), but the last time I asked this question I didn't get anything useful on that count.

    Of course, as time goes on and the operations become more merged and less distinguishable, such a distinction becomes meaningless. And it's theoretically possible that Seagate's (supposedly) higher standards could have ultimately improved the ex-Maxtor products; but it's also possible that the Maxtor takeover is what led to this perceived decline in standards- and in that case, it doesn't matter who took over who.

  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:33AM (#26496699) Homepage Journal

    Why not play Hard Drive Roulette and throw a WD, Seagate and whatever else you can find in -at the same time-?

    The biggest annoyance is that now your RAID is no faster than the slowest of the set. Perhaps on mirrored reads it's not as bad because the quickest drives will take of some of the slack, but on striped reads and all writes you have to wait until the Maxtor Pokeymatic gets done. A little bit of attention at buying time can alleviate a lot of that, but still, it's out there.

  • by Metasquares ( 555685 ) <slashdot@metasquared. c o m> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:33AM (#26496703) Homepage
    The drive would randomly "park", occasionally made loud clicking noises, and would sometimes fail to perform I/O operations. All of these things happened more or less at random; it was never very consistent (but then, neither was the output of my supply).
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:45AM (#26496787)

    I actually have two 3-way RAID1 with 3 different drive brands for high reliability. And, yes, one notebook drive keeps dropping out of one of the arrays every few months. The other two are fine. There are differences between HDDs and for redundancy it is best to mix, because one drive will be better than the others. And one will be the worst. In a bacth from the same manufacturer, possibly made on the same day by the same people, the drives will be a lot more similar and multiple failures are much more likely.

    Hiwever, one thing people also do wrong is moniroting. Run complete SMART surface scans every 14 days. Monitor tempereatures. And when something seems not right, investigate. I once had to help a coworker recover data from a RAID1 were one drive had failed 3 monts ago and the seciond one was in the process of dying. Turns out he made two mistakes: 1) RAID1 without status monitoring, disk checks or working problem notification and 2) Maxtors without adequate cooling. No surprise really. However the good thing about these Maxtors was that thay dies slowly and I was able to get all the important data off the one remaining HDD, despite about 1500 reallocated sectors.

  • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:14PM (#26497387)
    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

    Seagate recently had the same problem with some of their drives. Spontaneously dropping out of RAID arrays is often a symptom of the drive experiencing occasional read/write errors and taking too long on the retry, which prompts the controller to kick it from the array. This can manifest itself on a single-drive system as a temporary lockup while the drive figures out what to go do with itself. The "RAID-edition" drives shorten the retry cycle substantially, which keeps the RAID controller happy.
  • by ericnils ( 1424615 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:32PM (#26497551)
    For Desktops using a variety of hard drives may reduce the likelihood of concurrent failures, but with servers which utilize RAID using a variety of disks is rarely an option. Most RAID sets either require or benefit greatly from having identical disks. For example: In a simple RAID 1 set having different geometries often means that even though data may not be lost the server will be unable to boot if the primary disk fails.
  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <.plugwash. .at.> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @11:31PM (#26502903) Homepage

    here is a link explaining what TLER is and why it should only be used in raid setups. []

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.