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Ongoing Barracuda Failures Bite Seagate Users: Avoid The Brick

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 2/5/2009

The announcement of the 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda hard drive seemed like a boon to a company that has seen its reputation fall flat against more aggressive competitors. Instead, the drive's firmware problems set off a chain reaction of drive failures.

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    The Beginning: Seagate's 1.5TB Barracuda

    There was a fair amount of excitement surrounding the release of the 1.5TB Barracuda hard drive. Although Seagate drives have not had the performance to compare to Western Digital drives in recent years, Seagate has stayed competitive due to strong mid-range offerings and a aura of greater reliability This is a hold-over from the days when Seagate was the only hard drive maker to give all customers a 5 year warranty. The 1.5TB Barracuda was also the largest single drive available, and in fact remains so, although Seagate has recently mentioned a new product with 2TB of space.

    Unfortuantly for Seagate, the excitement was marred by reports of random glitches which were causing Vista-based systems to hang when using the 1.5TB Barracuda drive. This news spread like wild-fire, drawing a response from Seagate after about two weeks. Seagate's fix was a firmware upgrade, which was available upon contacting customer service. However, that upgrade was also reported to negatively impact performance.

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    The Other Shoe Drops

    All of this might have been forgotten if other issues had not come to pass. After all, problems do occur with new products, and Seagate's response at least provided customers with a solution. Unfortunately, a chain reaction of events began to occur when its customers began to complain that the 1TB Barracuda drives were suffering from firmware issues of their own . Namely, they were "disappearing" from operating systems and boot screens. A firmware bug of some sort was rendering them inoperable.

    In response, Seagate issued another firmware update. This update was made available not just for the 1TB Barracuda drives, but for virtually all drives in the Barracuda line-up. But Seagate couldn't catch a break. The firmware update, intended to resolve issues across all drives once and for all, has actually caused "bricking" of 500GB Barracuda drives. (Bricking means turning the product into an inactive hunk of material.) Most reports indicate that this is not a random issue; all drives known to have upgraded to the new firmware have been ruined. Seagate pulled the update, but the damage was done.

    In response, another firmware update has been released . So far, no problems have arisen from using this firmware, and it is probably a good idea to make the upgrade if you're currently in possession of a Seagate Barracuda drive.

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    Seagate Barracuda Drive Failures: What Can I Do?Seagate's Barracuda drive failures have been a massive problem for its consumers. A bad firmware update has left many with drives full of data which can no longer accessed. Some consumers fear that the Barracuda drive failures mean that all data has been lost from the failed hard drives, since Seagate has yet announce free data-recovery services for damaged drives across the board. However, there are some steps that you can take in order to minimize your chance of losing data permanently, or getting it back if your Seagate Barracuda has already failed.Seagate Barracuda, Seagate Barracuda Drive Failures, Hard Drives
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    How Can I Avoid An Issue?

    To avoid any problem, you should download the latest firmware update provided by Seagate. This may not seem the best maneuver, given Seagate's track record so far, but it appears the newest firmware is without faults. In any case, if you haven't backed up your data before, this would be a good time to do so. You should always have a back-up, but the uncertainty around Seagate at this moment reinforces the need to actively protect your data.

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    What If My Drive Is Bricked?

    If your drive is already dead, then your best bet is to call Seagate customer service. Seagate has been dealing with this issue extensively, as you might imagine, and they are providing measures for customers to get compensation for the failed hard drives. It is known at this time that the majority of the dead drives do not have any data corruption, as the problem is with the firmware, and the firmware only.

    That said, it isn't clear if Seagate is officially providing free data recovery across the board. Many members of the Seagate forums have reported that their drive has been replaced, but not all members have been able to have Seagate recover their data for them. Because Seagate hasn't made it clear what its policy is in regards to compensating customers, your best bet is simply to call Seagate's customer service and press the matter as far as you can.

    However, if you feel like taking a risk, there is another way to regain the use of the bricked drives . This method involves using various adapters and software to gain access to the drive's firmware and modify it in order to correct the problem. Depending on how your drive is bricked, this method may even require you to disassemble and re-assemble your drive while it is powered. This is not much of a personal safety risk, but it can certainly fry your drive. Going to Seagate first is the perferable option, but if your experience with Seagate goes poorly, then the do-it-yourself method is an option.

    Besides those two methods, there is very little than can be done. There will not be any easy fix for bricked drives, because the problem is at the firmware level on the drive itself. Since the drive cannot be detected even in BIOS, it is not possible to change the firmware from any operating system.