Josh Lange’s personal blog

Dead Drives, What should I do?

Since July, I’ve had two drives fail in my computers (both are Western Digital). Drive failures happen, tough luck.

Fortunately, these drives were both in RAID arrays at the time of failure, so nothing lost. Both of the drives are relitavely modern, and both of them are/were in their warranty period. The first drive that failed generated a bunch of seek errors, but I was able to successfully wipe the whole thing, so I sent it in for replacement. Unfortunately, the drive that died last week is a total loss. I can’t get it to wipe itself at all. I’m seeing hundreds of thousands of seek errors, and no sectors are being successfully written with random data. So my delima is, I want to get a replacement back from warranty, I believe I deserve one, but at the same time, I want to maintain the security I have over my data.

I can’t seem to find a solution that gets me the security I want and my rightful replacement. Western Digital’s policy is that they will only replace drives that are fully in tact, or opened by a specialized data recovery shop. But, thats not only WD: this seems to be the policy all across the board, all drive manufactures, and all the service contract policies that I have seen. Why is this? To me, it seems that *most* hard drives that fail would probably contain proprietary/confidential information. When these drives are returned, what happens to them? If companies like Western Digital operate like other electronics manufacturers, the drives are probably sold wholesale to scavengers. In the wrong hands this can be a disaster.

In a world where I get active attacks on every open port on my computer, I am weary giving anyone access to any of digital information, especially a hard drive that may contain my social security number, passwords to boxes on my network and where I work, or even sites like paypal.

Hard Drive companies really need to get their act together. I would be more than happy to mail the cover of my hard drive in. That would be a great compromise, I would get to keep all my personal data safe, and Western Digital could know that I’m not conning them into sending a replacement Hard Drive. It would be a win-win situation. Now, why can’t I seem to get Western Digital to agree with me on that?

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Frogger December 25th, 2007 11:57 pm

    You need to decide between (a) getting a replacement drive under warranty, and (b) maintaining control over the precious data on the failed drive.

    You can partially mitigate the problem of (a) by doing full-disk encryption, so if your drive dies, you send it away, and it is repaired, the drive contains only encrypted data.

    Manufacturers expect to receive failed drives so they can refurbish them and re-sell them cheaply. Certain failure modes can be corrected by, say, replacing one disk platter and its corresponding R/W heads. The manufacturer takes the risk on whether the returned drive can or cannot be repaired.

    I’ve been lucky enough to not have any drive failures for several years, even though I have over 10 drives in constant use. If a drive fails, it’s likely that the capacity of the drive is so low by today’s standards that I wouldn’t bother replacing it. If it’s a non-encrypted drive, I won’t replace it anyway.

    My drives are mostly in a RAID-1 configuration so I just have to buy a replacement quickly and re-sync the array. If the new drive is significantly larger than the old drive, I’d probably buy 2 of them and “retire” one old (still working) drive.

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