Seagate hard drives suffering mass data loss

Any seasoned IT professional knows that hard drives are prone to failure — it’s essentially just a matter of when not if they’re going to fail. What do you do though with a hard drive that forgets what’s actually on the drive but is otherwise healthy? That’s the status of a number of models of Seagate hard drives based around the Barracuda platform which contain a firmware error that effectively renders the drives non-functional.

The first sign you’ll get that your drive is faulty? When you power it on the drive reports that there’s no data on the drive. We’d call that panic time but your experience may vary.

Seagate goes to some pains on its official support page to point out that the faulty drives don’t actually delete any data per se; they’re just unable to see that data that’s actually there. Or to quote them directly in the only communication they’re entering into on the matter:

“There is no data loss associated with this issue and the data still resides on the drive.  But if you are unable to access your data due to this issue Seagate will provide free data recovery services.  Seagate will work with you to expedite a remedy to minimize any disruption to you or your business.”

The problem potentially affects the following drives according to Seagate:

Barracuda 7200.11 Drives with Serials: ST31000340AS ST3750330AS ST3640330AS ST3500320AS ST31500341AS ST31000333AS ST3640323AS ST3640623AS ST3320613AS ST3320813AS ST3160813AS

Barracuda ES.2 SATA Drives with Serials: ST31000340NS ST3750330NS ST3500320NS ST3250310NS

DiamondMax 22 Drives with Serials: STM31000340AS STM3750330AS STM3500320AS STM31000334AS STM3320614AS STM3160813AS

Windows users can download an executable to identify all their Seagate drives for them while Mac OS X and Linux users will have to tinker a little more to find the pertinent details.

Seagate’s offering firmware downloads for affected drives although we noticed two potential problems when checking through a few sample firmware pages. Firstly they note that “The software and information in this article could be data destructive and/or render your hard drive inoperable if not followed carefully. It is always recommended to keep a backup of critical data.”

Quite how you backup data on a drive that can’t see its own data isn’t addressed.

There’s a larger problem however as every single firmware upgrade listed in Seagate’s technical support document is (a the time of writing) currently unavailable as they’re “in validation”. Presumably for firmware errors that might render your data invisible and inaccessible but we’re just guessing there.