Seagate Early Success, Ultimate Fail

Hard Drive Graphic Seagate’s been in the news for even more hard drive problems but I was finally able to download the BIOS update from Seagate and apply it to the drives. With all their problems Seagate finally made the BIOS downloads available publicly, rather than having to get a link from their tech support. Even better, the download was an image of a bootable CD that could be used for the BIOS upgrade.

The BIOS upgrade itself went fairly well after some false starts. I interpreted the “model expected” error message to mean it was finding the wrong drive, rather than no drive. So I swapped out the SATA DVD reader for an IDE one and retried. Same error. Finally I went into the BIOS and switched the SATA controller to IDE mode and was then able to apply to BIOS update. All seemed to go well.

I put the drive in the new Windows Home Server I’m building. The drive seemed to be running just fine but I was yet to actually use it for files. Once the file copy moved onto that drive it almost immediately error’d out and the WHS software said it went missing. Reseat the drive and it returns but when I repeat the copy the error repeats. Now, everything in this rig is new so I’m figuring it’s a cable or the new hardware, probably a bad connector. But nothing changed after checking cables and connections. I eventually freed up a Western Digital 1TB drive and slapped it in the same drive bay. No problems since and the drive now has 808GB successfully copied to it.

I realize Seagate is a top hard drive maker and any drive maker can have a problem. But based on my problems with this Seagate drive, combined with the problems Seagate is having in general and the lack of problems with my 13 Western Digital 1TB drives I’ll be avoiding Seagate drives for awhile. As it happens I just ordered a Hitachi 1TB to try since they were ten bucks cheaper than the Western Digitals. I should also point out that another Seagate 1.5 TB drive is running fine in my old WHS. In this case it was factory flashed with a recent, unaffected BIOS. In any event, no Seagate drives are in my immediate future.

So I guess next up will be do download Seagate’s diag utility and hope it finds an error with the hard drive so I can return it under warranty for a replacement. It’s not one of my higher priorities as the effort is quickly outweighing the benefit of the extra space.

Seagate 1.5 TB Windows Home Server Problems

As I mentioned previously, I added a Seagate 1.5 TB drive to my Windows Home Server just under two months ago. Things were fine until this week when my WHS began acting up. Problems were sporadic, it would either just stop communicating for a couple of minutes or in one case, until rebooted. Disk access was also excruciatingly slow at times. There were some disk time-outs logged in the event log but they didn’t specify the physical disk affected. There was even one case of apparent file corruption. I say “apparent” because any attempt to access the files or view their properties (or delete them) resulted in the server access problem. No error, just a complete lack of response. I eventually resolved that by deleting the directory that contained the files and restoring the known good files from backup.

I was eventually able to trace down that the problems occurred when the 1.5 TB drive was being used.

Now, it’s not that the drive has been dormant for these two months. What changed this week is that the Windows Home Server has been in almost constant use copying files back and forth along with streaming videos. Based on what’s currently on the drive this also seems to be the first week where most of the video I’ve been streaming is located on that drive. It’s the drive currently catching most new files and it’s the new files I’ve been streaming.

A Google search quickly turned up a problem with the Seagate 1.5 TB drives. Sure enough, my drive has the affected model number and firmware. So, as I sit here writing this post the WHS drive wizard is removing the drive. Hopefully it will run to completion. I’ll replace the drive with a spare Western Digital 1 TB drive while I figure out how to update the Seagate’s firmware. Apparently the firmware needs to be burned to CD, then the CD needs to be booted on a computer where the drive to be updated is the only one connected. Simple, if you have a desktop handy, but I’m not about to crack open my iMac to do it so it’ll take some time to find the desktop. I’m hoping I can create a bootable USB with the firmware and then use my WHS with the Seagate as the only connected HDD.

Some additional information on the problem:

Seagate announcement of the problem and instructions for getting the firmware are here.

That announcement is part of a long forum thread that starts here.

Here’s another forum post with a way to test for the problem. (I haven’t downloaded the utility or done the test. I may try it if I find a PC to hook the drive up to.)

Drobo has temporarily decertified the drives for their Drobo hardware which they announced here.

The announcement of the firmware update was made in early November so I’d be concerned that drives with the buggy firmware are still in stores. Seagate will verify model and firmware versions before giving you the firmware, but affected drives seem to be part numbers 9JU138-300, 336 with firmware revisions SD15, SD17, or SD18.