Sunday, December 7


There are two types of computer users - those who have lost data and those that will. I've become convinced lately that if you're inclined to put all your faith in Western Digital hard drives, you're headed for door #1.

1. I first started to believe that WD products were a bit dodgy after I noticed other users that were toting around WD "My Passport" bus-powered portable drives. These small drives started dropping like flies - clicking and whirring, but doing little else that would make you believe that was a useful mechanism of any kind inside the sleek little plastic box. I wrote off the Passport drives as under-engineered and vowed never to buy one.

2. Then, always the optimist, I installed a WD "MyBook" 1 terabyte drive as part of a networked backup solution here at the Rabbit Hutch. It was attached, via gigabit ethernet, to one of my old G4 Macintoshes in a far corner of the basement. 

Twice a day, my G5 and the Boss Rabbit's iMac G5 connected to the server using Econ Technologies' ChronoSync utility and backed up both systems incrementally. Once every couple of weeks, I'd bring home my MacBook Pro and let it back itself up. It was about this time that the Boss Rabbit's G5 iMac's hard drive finally failed. Her faith in the house IT guy was about to be tested.

Smug, I was. My files were being backed up every day and all was right with the world. Then, I started getting error logs from Chrono Sync telling me that no files were being written. The MyBook, when mounted, often disconnected without warning. I suspected a network issue, so I pulled the drive and brought it upstairs to do a direct-connect backup while I tried to trace the issue.

Not so fast, baldy. The drive wouldn't mount at all. Disk utilities couldn't see it. It didn't exist. So I did what any self-respecting geek would do - I took it apart to see if it was a disk issue or if the controllers had failed. If you're still reading this, you probably realize that most external hard drives are just garden-variety SATA drives in a box with a data port and a power supply. The 1T WD drive was a pair of 500GB SATA drives, and once pulled from the enclosure, should have spun up and mounted like any other drive.

Please note: By this time I have already given up on getting my data back from this drive, and I had absolutely nothing to lose by cracking open this box. The Boss Rabbit's stuff is all gone, thank you very much. Door #1, again.

"But, what about the warranty, you goofy lagomorph?" you ask. 

"Who cares"", said the rabbit. 

Warranties for hard drives mean that if you jump through the appropriate hoops to send your hard drive back to the manufacturer, they'll repair that one or send you a new one. You will not get your data back, and you'll get back a drive just like your old one. To me this means you'll get back a fail-prone new copy of your old drive, minus your files. If you want to retrieve your files, prepare to spend one official shitload of cash to get them written off, one hard drive platter at a time, provided the data hasn't been scrambled or over-written.

Long story short, neither of the 500G drives would mount, and one wouldn't even spin up, so I mashed them both with a 4-pound floggin' maul and tossed them in the trash.

3. My G5 started acting erratically - loud, whistling noises, unmounting drives at random, causing applications to go into permanent "beachball" (PC users, substitute "hourglass") mode. I looked up the specs and saw that both my boot drive and second internal drive were both 250GB Western Digital Caviar SE drives.

I had bought a pair of Hitachi Deskstar 500GB drives almost six months ago, anticipating a later need for larger internal drives. This was the time.

I partitioned one Deskstar and using Mike Bombich's Carbon  Copy Cloner, cloned the second internal drive onto one partition and left a second, smaller partition as a Photoshop scratch disk. Then I cloned the boot drive onto another Deskstar and swapped out both drives. 

As I write this, everything is percolating smoothly. My old backup system downstairs has been replaced by a LaCie NAS drive solution. The G4s are both listed on eBay, and the old WD drives are locked away until we reach the point of no return for the new drives. (Any minute now.) All of the Western Digital trouble may be coincidental. I may be the locus for some kind of MTBF anomoly, or the subject of an alien experiment that cooks electronics. All I know is that I'm now WD-free, and plan to stay that way.

My experience at the J.O.B. leads me to be much more optimistic about the life-expectancy of the Deskstar drives. However, I do wish they would come up with a better name. Every time I say the word "Deskstar,it comes out sounding a lot like "Death Star".
"Now witness the power of this fully-armed and operational hard drive!"

Thus spake the rabbit.

1 comment:

Applecart T. said...

: (
sorry, rabbit, trix are for kids.

or PC-users.

no, i'm not punny, i know.