Seagate moves to fix disk drive flaws

Last week, Seagate Technology LLC tried to appease users who for the past two months have swarmed its online support forum to complain that desktop hard drives have been freezing up during data transfers or failing altogether.

Seagate late last week released the second of two fixes for the firmware bug that caused the problem, and it offered affected users free data recovery services from its i365 business unit.

The company first tried to fix the bug on Jan. 16, but new firmware it released that day had flaws of its own.

Seagate said the firmware bug affected its flagship high-capacity Barracuda 7200.11 hard drive and its Barracuda ES.2 and DiamondMax 22 Serial ATA drives.

According to users on Seagate's online support forum, the faulty drives were freezing for about 30 seconds during I/O transfers of streaming video or when reading or writing files at low speeds.

A Seagate spokesman said the company doesn't know how many of the drives are failing. "The best information we have right now is that it's a pretty small population of our drives," he said.

Duncan Clarke, managing director at Retrodata, a Lymington, England-based data recovery firm, said he and some colleagues in the data recovery industry believe that failure rates on Seagate's Barracuda 7200.11 drive are upwards of 30%.

"We've been aware of this problem since November," said Clarke, noting that the number of Barracuda drives he has been asked to fix has exceeded the number of other models sent in for repairs by a factor of 30.

Jeff Pederson, manager of operations at Kroll Ontrack Inc., a provider of data recovery services in Minneapolis, said 100 Barracuda 7200.11 drives have been sent to his firm for service, including 50 in the past two weeks.

The Barracuda 7200.11 is the eleventh generation of Seagate's flagship drive for desktop PCs. It can store 160GB to 1.5TB of data.

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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