[conspire] Reliable 1.5TB SATA drives?

Luke S Crawford lsc at prgmr.com
Mon Jul 26 01:16:36 PDT 2010

Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> writes:

> 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.  

The obvious bits that i notice are:  (in order of obviousness and severity)

1. shipping.  I've had horrid failure rates on 'bare' drives bought
from newegg.  (Note, I like newegg;  I buy thousands of dollars worth
of ram from them every month, I just don't buy bare drives from them
because they don not pack them compitently.)  

I mean, last time I think I ordered 6 drives, and they were pretty much
loose with the CPU and other parts I bought, in a too-large box with not
enough peanuts.  Each drive was wrapped with bubblewrap, but you could see
that the bubbles had popped where the drives impacted oneanother.  

In an effort to make it the manufacturers problem rather than neweggs
(newegg would have just improperly shipped me another box of disks)  
I ran them, and yeah, they failed sooner than you'd expect.   I returned
them to the manufacutrer and got working drives, well packed.

2. returned products.   
As I mentioned before, I commonly return hard drives that just aren't
performing up to spec.   even if they were returned because the
user was not compitent, you still don't know that the original purchaser
used proper esd precautions.  (I know that 99% of retailers don't.  
hell, half of them assemble servers /on carpet/)  

3.  retailers who don't follow good esd procedures...

e.g. all of them.   most retailers will open a drive and touch it while
selling it to the customer... while standing on carpet, /without/ any
sort of esd protection  (yeah, I'm a little paranoid about that 
sort of thing.)  

Both 2 and 3 are helped some by the way western digital packs their bare
drives;  they use an obviously sealed western digital brand ESD bag.  

Unless you have a supply of the western digital brand ESD bags, it'd
be really difficult to re-seal one of those puppies.  

The seagate bare drives come in these 'seashell' brand plastic
clamshells with no seals... so returns can easily look like brand
new drives, and minimum wage monkeys can touch them.  

My experience has been that buying sealed retail-kit (with the nice
box)  is the safest bet.   as long as the retailer doesn't re-seal without
your knolwedge, you should be pretty good... even if you get it shipped,
as most of the retail boxes can withstand UPS handling.

> 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.

Yup.   Now, it's never happened to me with a sealed retail box, but buying 
bare drives from shady retailers I've ended up with several drives with
no warranties.   (in fact, I've got a 1TB and a 1.5TB baracuda in 
just that condition by my desk;  dead, with no warranty.  Lemme know
if you know of anything useful to do with them.)  

the problem is that you can't buy 'enterprise' drives in a 'retail box'
they usually come in packs of twenty.

> 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.

within the constraints of 'cheap, consumer-grade drives'  I think they
are one of the better retailers, assuming you get a factory sealed
retail box.  

I think fry's is more honest about reselling returns than most retailers 

Of course, I wouldn't buy anything from them that wasn't a factory sealed
retail box, and their prices aren't any good anyhow, once you get away
from the cheap consumer-grade stuff.   Still, I think frys is pretty 
good for what it is.  

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