“… concerned about the heating of external drives …”

“I’m concerned about the heating of external drives because many of these little enclosures provide no active air flow across the drive.”, opines Steve Gibson.

And in the field of hard disk maintenance, he would have to be the expert.  SpinRite is the result of his knowledge in the field.

freeagent_goMy Seagate FreeAgent Classic drive is an example of this heating issue.

The case was getting far too hot for my comfort, so I drilled holes in it.

But I haven’t done this for my other two external drives, as they run cooler.

“Why do they?”, you ask.

Two likely reasons:

  1. The drives turn themselves off when not being used.  This is known as an Idle Sleep.  All three of my external drives do that.
  2. I suspect the drives have heat detection built-in, and they slow themselves down as they get hotter.
    This would explain why my WD Passport drive slows down during heavy prolonged use.

2. isn’t so bad. But 1., the drive shutting itself down, can play havoc with instant-on applications.  Such as satellite TV recording.  The work-around is to find drives which don’t shutdown, such as the LaCie range of external drives.

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The Western Digital “My Passport” External Drive

My Passport - 500GB drive

Update: Thinking of buying one?  Don’t, they suck.

The Western Digital “My Digital” External Hard Drive pictured right, is my latest IT purchase.

The reason I went for a WD drive, instead of a trusty Seagate?  Price.  The WD was 20% cheaper.  Oh, and I wanted to see how it compared to the Seagate.

In summary:
Good Fast Cheap - WD External Hard Drive

CHEAP gets a tick as, well, it was 20% cheaper than it’s competitor.

FAST.  It is notably faster than the Seagate 249GB External drive.  Truecrypt users might be interested that it took 10+ hours to format the drive.  The average write speed dropped to 9.5 MB/s.

GOOD.  Fails this.  It’s made to a price and it shows.  Want to use it with a USB1 equipped computer?  You’ll pay extra for that cable.  The case scratches easily.
No, I would not recommend buying one.

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“Can you tell me whether the drive inside this newer FreeAgent Go is SATA or IDE?”

That will be yes, which is what I answered in the comments.

In particular, my FreeAgent Go drives have the following SATA drives in them:

Model SATA Drive Name Drive Part Number
FreeAgent Go Seagate Momentus 5400.5 ST9320320AS
FreeAgent Go Classic Seagate Momentus 5400.5 ST9160310AS

Looking at the product pages for both drives, I noticed this comment:

1000 Gs of non-operating shock make the drive ideal for notebook PCs and industrial applications.

Non-operating means when they are not connected to your computer.  Such as when they are being carried around in a backpack or bumbag.

No wonder they are a rugged & reliable drive.

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“Don’t drop it on the floor.”

On Friday, I blogged about opening the Seagate FreeAgent external drive.

The reason I had to open the drive up, was that I dropped it on the floor, and it had been behaving strangely since.
Not “broken”, just slow.  That might indicate some drive damage.

So, there is only one thing to do in a case like this, and that is SpinRite.

SpinRite is the industry standard system for hard and floppy disk care, maintenance, and data recovery.  SpinRite utilizes deep analysis technology to recover loss and unreadable data to locate and lock unsafe areas from use, to move endangered data to safety, and to repair areas of the drive which have become damaged or bad through use.  SpinRite should be reused periodically to aid in the prevention of hard disk loss.

I’ve been using SpinRite to repair hard drives, since before the Internet.

Now if you take your faulty hard drive to a good PC repair shop, they’ll use SpinRite.  So $89US is cheap, compared to a PC shop doing the same thing, and charging you hundreds of dollars.

When SpinRite is running, it looks like this:
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How to open the Seagate FreeAgent Go External Drive.

(very carefully)

Step 0
– read all these instructions before trying this yourself.
In particular, you can probably get away with removing the top cover only.

Step 1
– using a BLUNT object, such as a thin screwdriver, slide it along the gap between the “metal” top and white case “filler”.

(the observant amongst you lot will have noticed the bottom is already removed.  With the benefit of hindsight, I probably didn’t need to do that.)

Step 2
– Pry the case apart.

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