Fujitsu Siemens Computers is playing down the data loss issues arising from the failure of 300,000 faulty hard disk drives, made by sister company Fujitsu between September 2000 and 2001.
The fault, which is supposedly brought on by heat and prolonged usage, lies in faulty controller chips used in the HDDs and is found in 2-3 per cent of the 10 million units made by Fujitsu between the two dates, according to Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai.
Fujitsu Siemens Computers, a customer of the HDDs, confirms these figures, unlike UK system builders who report huge failure rates for 20GB Fujitsu drives - of the order of 30-50 per cent, and sometimes even higher.
Some of the dud HDDs have made their way into the Fujitsu Siemens' line of business-oriented Scenic PCs. But the PC maker says that this will not inconvenience enterprise users unduly, because the majority back up their data. It is working with customers to replace affected MPG 3xxx Ax series drives.
The idea that users religiously back up data will come as a surprise to numerous sys admins. Many companies use PCs, as opposed to network computer, precisely because of the convenience of saving Word documents, spreadsheets and the like on local machines after all
Judith Raddatz, of Fujitsu Siemens Computers, acknowledged we had a point on this and admitted that users, even if a company has a well-enforced back up policy, have a right to expect that their HDDs should not fail.
However she said that the failure rate due to the problem on Scenic PCs of 2.5 per cent is only slightly above industry norms of 1-1.5 per cent.
For this reason Fujitsu Siemens Computers believes a product recall is inappropriate. However, the vendor is going out to large customer accounts and replacing drives prior to failure, as a precaution.
Smaller customer accounts are being offered an extension of their warranty to three years.
For customers the issue of lost data looms large. What of the confidential data that these dud drives could contain?
Proving that its an ill wind, data recovery firm Ultratec is offering Reg readers a discount for recovering data from faulty Fujitsu disk drives.
Dan Goodwin, a Senior Engineer in Ultratec's Data Recovery Lab, promises a fixed price for recovery (the usual rate is £850) for any size drive - no fix, no fee. Ultratec boasts a 90 per cent success rate with the MPG range of disk drives.
Alternatively, if you feel more adventurous, you may want to try out (at your own risk) a suggestion from a reader at an NHS Trust.
He writes: "We found out last week, that if you place them [faulty HDDs] in the fridge overnight, (not the freezer, although we haven't tried that). They will work to a fashion to enable you to get that all important data that you didn't back up.
"Although this doesn't fix the problem as the disks still need replacing," our correspondent tells us, adding he has dealt with four faulty HDDs a week for the past five months with his supplier exchanging units without any problem.
Here's Fujitsu Siemens Computers statement on the issue, which bears repeating in full.
Fujitsu Siemens Computers is fully aware of a potential issue with Fujitsu hard drives installed in SCENIC PCs. In total a very small number of these PCs, when subjected to high heat and humidity and prolonged usage, may experience problems with their internal and date code specific hard disk drives.
This can lead to error messages appearing on the users screen and in the very worst case, loss of access to data on the hard drive. As this fault occurs mainly in professional products, which in the majority of cases are connected to company networks, the data is usually stored on the company network and therefore the company is not inconvenienced by a disruption in access to data.
As soon as Fujitsu Siemens Computers became aware of this Fujitsu HDD issue we provided technical information and the necessary support processes to our country service organizations to ensure their full understanding of this matter and to enable their fast response to any customer concern. In the small number of cases where this failure has occurred, the company has immediately replaced the affected drive to our customers' satisfaction.