Hard disks dying, IBM/Hitachi's packaging guidelines

Now the third hard disk died in the first three weeks of 2006. I hope this doesn't continue throughout the rest of the year. Luckily all important data is mirrored and backed up. Still it is a pity to loose some 200GB of the nice documentaries I recorded from arte using the Linux DVB stack and vdr.

It's been some time since I last RMA'd a IBM/Hitachi hard drive. They still have the same annoying packaging policies, where they only allow rubber foam packaging material and nothing else. Interestingly, all hard drives that I purchase new from one of Europes largest hardware distributros are _never_ packaged like Hitachi Global Storage wants to have them pacakged for RMA.

This means that even if you keep your original packaging, it won't help. Also, for more than five years, the HGST (formerly IBM) web site tells you that ordering packaging material that complies with their packaging instructions will be ``Coming soon''. I wonder what definition of 'soon' they have, considering that their IDE/SATA drives only have three years of warranty ;)

Also, I recently went through my collection of old retired hard drives, most of them too small (<60GB) to do anything useful these days. I found out, that almost all the IBM drives wouldn't spin anymore, even though they were perfectly working when they were taken offline. Since they are dead, I opened them, only to find out that the heads hadn't been parked at all.

For those who don't know: Heads are usually parked when a drive powers down. The idea of this is that you have a special 'rough' surface area where the heads can't stick to the platter (due to cohesion). When I saw my unparked broken drives, I remember reading an article some time ago that IBM allegedly had firmware bugs causing heads not to park accordingly... I would have updated the firmware, if there was any publicly available firmware updates.

Anyways, I still keep the broken drives, just in case I once hit a time where I don't know what else to do and want to learn more about 'contemporary hard drive signal processing'. Unlikely to happen, but you gotta keep your options ;)