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News & Insight

Seagate Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Extremely High Hard Drive Failure Rate

By Kishore Sawh on February 2nd 2016

*See story developments in the addendum at the foot of the article.

If I were to ask you what your fears are in photography, what would they be? Let’s set aside the genre-specific issues for a moment, and if we do so, I would be comfortable putting my money where my mouth is by suggesting a hard drive failure is going to be on that list…maybe right near the top. It’s why we spend so much time and part with hard earned greenbacks on redundancy measures in some form or another. Reliability is king when it comes to storing your images, your bread and butter. So it’s concerning then to find out, as reported by TechSpot, there’s a class action lawsuit being filed against Seagate for rather severe reliability problems.

Seagate is a popular name in the storage game, and many of us have, or still currently use, their products so this could potentially directly affect you. This particular lawsuit is based upon the reliability of the 3TB variants like the Barracuda 3TB HDD, and the Backup Plus 3TB HDD, so if you have those, it would seem wise to take necessary precautions at this time, even if to-date you’ve had no problems. In fact, if you have any Seagate drives, it would seem pertinent to do so.

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So what’s going wrong and to what extent? Well, ‘reliability’ as a term is a little bit vague, but the numbers provided by Backblaze are anything but. The Seagate Barracuda drives were among the very least reliable drives according to their tests and data from a collection of nearly 50,000 drives. We’re talking about an extremely high failure rate here, even higher than 100%, and in some cases above an astonishing 200%.

If those numbers make little sense to you, just consider that it’s an annualized rate of failure, so if a drive fails in under a year that’s 100%, and if its replacement also fails within a year, it’s 200%. One of the problems seems to be, too, that the drives provided to consumers as replacements were indeed failing at no lower rate. With numbers like that, it’s not hard to see why a lawsuit is taking place.

Speaking of ‘place,’ this lawsuit is only for the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, essentially stating the complaint as being the drives “failed at exceptionally high rates, leaving consumers with broken hardware and significant loss of data.” This all seems to point to a sort of encompassing violation of consumer law and Seagate’s warranties. Even though the suit is Cali-based, those who suffered from this plague of Seagate’s creation are being urged by the law firm, Hagens Berman, to contact them to possibly join the suit.

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At this point, the natural reaction is to wonder what drives to get, and what brand to trust. You can find a lot of information within our article archives, but Western Digital, as far as typical off-the-shelf-at-Best-Buy drives go, seem to fare well. But those are sort of basic, and typically very slow. For personal use, and that means small studio use, I favor using Samsung SSD drives like the 850 EVO; we love the G-Tech stuff like the G-RAID 8TB; and Pye and I both adore and move around with the Samsung T1, which is about the best portable solution I’ve ever used.

[REWIND: SAMSUNG T1 EXTERNAL SSD – TINY & BLAZING FAST| REVIEW]

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It’s understood these things are never cheap, but the cost of failure can be, at times, incalculable. You can see the full review of the Samsung T1 here, as well as a sort of inexpensive but useful solution for using internal drives externally with a docking bay. Also, check out the video below.

ADDENDUM:

This kind of news is always sure to get a lot of attention, just given the nature of it, and that kind of attention means it also won’t be immune to scrutiny. Having a conversation with our resident SLRL Technical director just now, the question of reliability came up not just with drives but information, and that sort of lends to how information is interpreted. Tom’s Hardware, a rather established tech resource, has published a post that scrutinizes the legitimacy of the suit, or if not legitimacy, provides food for thought regarding its viability and dare I say, integrity.

According to the post on Tom’s Hardware, it appears a major point of contention is the fact that the, “lawsuit cites the Backblaze reliability reports as proof that the units were faulty (only the 3 TB Barracuda models).” They go into quite a detailed look into the Backblaze practices and how they test, shedding light on some particulars which may prove to bring their own information’s validity as the basis for a lawsuit into question. See the full post here.

 

Sources:  TechSpot, BackBlaze

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Natasha Glenn

    Bought the Backup Plus 5TB HDD over Christmas, as a backup to a backup…hope it holds up

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  2. Warren Antiola

    I’ve used only Buffalo drives. Never let me down yet!

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    • Dave Haynie

      Buffalo is an integrator — they don’t actually make the hard drive, just the external box. I don’t know who’s they use.

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  3. Les Moyle

    My backup server has a bunch of WD blacks running as drive pooling on Windows 10 (mirrored) and if one fails the machine lets me know which drive as failed \. Replaced the dud drive and Windows does its thing and rebuilds the data. Works for me as an inexpensive backup system.

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    • Les Moyle

      I should also mention that all of my images are also stored in a cloud based server. (offsite) No point having lots of backups on the same location .

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    • Vipin Kumar R

      Hello Les…I was trying to create a Drive Pool on my Win-10 System, but while I was adding an External hard drive (with data already in it) to a Storage space, it warns me that all data will be erased from the disk… Whoa!!! Do the drives I am adding to the Storage Space need to be clean of any data? Or am I doing something wrong?

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    • Les Moyle

      Yes, my backup system is configured with multiple drives configured in a mirrored array so if one fails I dont have to download the data from the cloud to rebuild it. All I have to do is remove the dud drive and plug in a new one for automatic rebuild. Any drives being added should be clean of data as it will be wiped. For backup to external drives there is useful app called freefilesync that I also use to sync a couple of folders between my laptop and desktop. Hope this helps and if anyone knowsany better please chime in.

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  4. Les Moyle

    I guess I’m kinda happy only using WD blacks. Haven’t had I hd failure yet although I’m paranoid about backups.

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  5. robert s

    seagate sucks shet. wd isnt any better. shame hitachi left the consumer market. fujitsu sucked ass as well.

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  6. Stephen Glass

    Yikes! I’ve been making a point of buying Seagate! TX!!!

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  7. Joseph Wu

    Consumer drives have always been hit or miss. The early batches of the 3TB Seagate DM001 has its fair share of problems. Combined with Seagates method of not doing aggressive sleep times like the WD Green based drives, and the high temperatures of the enclosures meant drive failures went up.

    That said, I have a couple of the DM001 variant 3TB drives and I have not seen a failure yet, even a drive that was shucked, and ran nearly 24/7 for 2 years has 0 issues as well.

    In fact if you look at back blaze’s reports on the new 5 & 6TB drives, the seagate variants actually exceed the WD’s in reliability!

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  8. Peter Nord

    One wonders what failure mode? Hard head crash, controller board etc?

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    • Joseph Wu

      I have a strong belief the failures on those drives were due to an immature firmware causing issues with head parking and premature wear.

      The temperatures in the enclosures were also very high as well contributing to early deaths of the drives.

      Unlike WD, seagate use 7200 RPM drives in its external versions, and don’t do an aggressive sleep timeout like WD.

      Which means great performance, but unfortunately some batches of the 3TB drives were… well… weak.

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  9. Sterling Steves

    I use Backblaze for my last two+ years and have at least 2 copies of every file additionally. I’m above 40 terabytes total on this computer at the moment. Drives fail. But 5TB drives are cheap and with USB 3, easy to add on. Far less expensive than losing a clients files. While having an SSD is great for a system/current work drive, its a very expensive choice for storage and backup. G-Technology 8TB G-RAID is $599 which I could buy almost 25 terabytes of 5GB ext drives (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152425) and the g-raid is a Level 0 stripe meaning that if one of the two drives in it fails, the data is lost off both drives.

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  10. Chris Lynch

    No, no, the victims will receive just compensation for the incalculable loss of data….a coupon towards their next Seagate product/purchase.

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  11. Barry Chapman

    I have old Seagate 500GB and 750GB, a pair of 4TB and a 5TB Seagate external hard drives, as well as a couple of WD’s. Thankfully I’ve yet to have a problem with any of them.

    It seems like this 3TB drive is going to cost them dearly, and as is the way with most class action lawsuits the only people who’ll make much out of it will be the lawyers.

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  12. Bill Bentley

    I’ve got a 1TB Seagate brick sitting on my shelf. I lost about 6 months worth of images due to that failure and a CrashPlan snafu that was my fault.

    They used to be my brand of choice since the mid-90’s. Not anymore. I’ve got Samsung SSD’s for main drives and WD’s as external backups now.

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  13. Scott Mosley

    This issue only affects the 3TB variants though (right?). To date I have not had any of our dozen or so 4-5TB drives demonstrate any problems and we use them on a number of machines continuously. We still have backups, of course, but the primary drives we use have been very reliable… so far

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  14. Albert Evangelista

    not good, I own several of them. These HDs are a Costco special every Black Friday….

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    • Trent Larson

      My 1.5TB seagate from Costco just failed. It was just over 1 year old. Costco refunded my money but I lost all my data. I’ll never buy seagate again. Now I’m using a WD passport 4TB. I will start backing things up to BD R optical media again. That will learn me. Wanted to buy Samsung SSD drives but still very expensive and low capacity 1 TB costs over 300 bucks. :(

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