Data recovery firm sounds Mac hard drive damage alert

'Critical' flaw with China-made HDDs?


Updated Data recovery company Retrodata has challenged Apple to come clean about what it claims is a "critical manufacturing flaw" affecting some hard drives used in MacBook laptops and desktops like the Mac Mini - an issue that could result in data loss.

According to Retrodata, its customers have sent in a much higher number of failed Seagate 2.5in SATA drives made in China and loaded with firmware version 7.01 than of any other current hard drive model.

"We're getting 20-30 times more failed drives of this kind than others," Retrodata chief Duncan Clarke told Register Hardware.

The drives of this kind sent to Retrodata for data recovery exhibited the same damage: the read/write heads have failed mechanically causing them to gouge deep scratches in the delicate data-storing surface of the disk platters. In almost all cases, this renders the drive useless.

And the drives in question all came from Apple machines, Clarke claimed. Retrodata only gets the drives, not the host computers, so Clarke couldn't specify exactly which Macs they came from, but since they're all 2.5in models, that suggests not only laptops like the MacBook and MacBook Pro, but also potentially desktop Macs that use laptop-oriented components, like the Mac Mini.

HDD scratch - image courtesy Retrodata
Damage to the disk surface

Clarke blamed the problem what he described as "poor quality control in Chinese hard drive factories" - an issue he maintained affects other hard drive makers in addition to Seagate. He also warned all hard drive buyers to avoid HDDs manufactured in China.

"We believe that any sizeable manufacturer would by this stage be aware of such a problem and issue a product recall notice, or an offer to have the drive exchanged for a suitable alternative at their own expense," Clarke added.

Users who find they have such a drive, Clarke said, should back up their data and consider replacing it with "an alternative drive, or a retail-version Seagate drive".

Mac OS X's System Profiler utility provides a way to identify the make and type of HDD installed in a Mac, but not directly its place of origin.

Update System Profiler also shows the HDD's firmware: under the Serial ATA section, look up the Revision entry - that's the firmware version.

Apple and Seagate did not respond to our requests for comment.

A discussion thread on Apple's support site highlights a number of MacBook users who have experienced what appear to be hard drive failures. However, only five cases explicitly identify the failed drive as a Seagate model, and of these none can be stated categorically to be the product of Chinese factories.

Some of the failures are attributable - indirectly - to Mac OS X's Safe Sleep feature. This copies the contents of a laptop's memory to the hard drive whenever the computer is put to sleep.

To be fair to Apple, it does warn users not to move the machine until this process is complete - at which point the light on the lid catch begins to pulsate - but it's easy for users to grab their laptops and go as soon as the lid's down.

Unfortunately, at that point, the drive's heads may by busily moving back and forth across the platters, and any movement risks the two physically touching, with the potential of data loss and even disc damage of the kind described by Retrodata. This is true of all hard disks, as proponents of solid-state storage like to point out.

Mac users can disable Safe Sleep by following Mac OS X Hints' procedure here. However, doing so risks losing data from memory should the laptop's power supply be cut.


Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022