[conspire] Reliable 1.5TB SATA drives?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Jul 25 23:46:15 PDT 2010

Quoting Mark S Bilk (mark at cosmicpenguin.com):

> What is the most reliable brand and model of 1.5TB SATA 
> hard drive available today at a reasonable price?

First, listen to Luke, as he's right.

Second, have you considered that your problem might be less choice of
hard drive make/model than the purchasing and service-handling habits of
the vendors from whom you buy?

It turns out that retail vendors differ significantly in the quality of
their goods, in ways that have nothing to do with brand names.  I
suspect there are a number of reasons for this, and I know only a few.
One thing is, when hard drives are manufactured, they're pooled at
the factory according to estimated quality (call it firsts and seconds
if you like), but everything over minimum quality specs gets shipped.  
Some retail vendors seem to get a higher percentage of marginal pools; I
don't know exactly how that works.  

Also, there are a couple of things I've seen for myself:  One is that
units with factory-determined limitations will get sold into vertical
market-roles where their physical limitations don't matter, but then
will often be grey-market resold back to the general market where those
limitations are a problem again.  This happened to me when I picked up
an IBM SCSI drive that turned out not to support SCSI disconnect, a
feature essential to good performance anywhere you have multiple SCSI
devices on a single chain.  Upon investigation, I discovered that IBM
had originally sold a batch of the drives to Tandem Computer for
inclusion in minicomputers having only a single SCSI drive per chain,
i.e., the drive's limitation didn't matter.  _However_, Tandem later
discovered it had too much inventory, resold drives into the grey
market, and thus I ended up owning a drive that was problematic for
general usage.

The other thing is handling of returns.  You'd be surprised how many
retailers put almost all merchandise returned by customers as defective
right back out onto the shelves.  The temptation understandable:  In
general, customers really suck at diagnosis and return as 'defective' 
a large amount of perfectly fine purchases.  Retailers cannot justify 
spending much staff time, especially that of knowledgeable technical
people, investigating returns.  Last, distributors of merchandise to 
retailers tend to heavily penalise retailers who too frequently return
merchandise that _they_ (the distributors) then determine isn't really 
defective after all.  

Back in the days of LP records, I was initially surprised to find that
many record stores had shrinkwrap machines in the back _specifically_ to
re-seal LPs returned by customers so they could be put right back in the
racks looking still fresh from the factory.

The worst case I know of in the Valley of redeploying returned hard
drives _and_ of selling dodgy hard drives with undisclosed limitations
was the unlamented high-volume discounter NCA Computer Products, now
defunct.  Such prices!  Man!  But all you had to was walk over to the
Service Department and look at the extremely long returns line, and you
started to get an inkling of where the drawbacks lay.

And, to my way of thinking, any retailer that specialises in extreme
discounts and marketing to a mass-market audience of price-sensitive
cheapskates who cannot reliably tell the difference between good
merchandise and bad is one you might worry about being subject to the
same problems.

You mentioned Fry's Electronics.  Might be just me, but somehow it'd
just never occur to me to go shopping for hard drives at Fry's.

> Seagate tech support suggested [...]

As Luke said, why on Earth would you believe what they say over the
telephone about whether a drive is bad or not, especially when
smartmontools will give you actually reliable, good data? 

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