I received a call from someone with a two year-old Hewlett Packard Pavilion Slimline who told me the system would no longer boot. I started talking him through some troubleshooting procedures so I could get a better handle on what was going on when he read an error to me that appeared on his screen: “Error- Non-System disk or disk error. Replace and strike any key when ready.”
Wow… It had been a long time since I had seen that error, one that was more common 10 or 15 years ago, when hard drives had less life span and reliability. I told him there was nothing we could do over the phone, that I needed to get his computer, and we made arrangements.
As soon as I got it back to my lair, I determined that BIOS was not seeing a drive any longer. I booted up off a ‘live’ GParted CD-ROM and Gparted reported an error; ATA1: Not responding.
I’ll cut to the chase here: It turns out that his drive is a Seagate ST35000620AS (Part No.: 9BX144-621) and is one of about 21 different Seagate/Maxtor (Seagate owns Maxtor now) models that have faulty firmware that can put the drive into a non-responsive state (read: Brick, Door-stop, etc.).
Seagate is being very quiet about the issue, much to the dismay of it’s loyal customers. Seagate doesn’t list the drives effected, but has setup a system where you can submit your Hard Drive Serial Number and they will tell if a firmware update is available. I’m guessing this system was designed under the close guidance of an attorney.
When I put in my friend’s serial number, it reported there was a firmware update for it. It’s a little late for that though. The firmware update is only effective if applied BEFORE a failure. So I started going through the process of trying to get an RMA, as Seagate has said they will help with any data recovery on drive effected, but Seagate reported to me that this drive was not covered, as it was sold as an OEM part to HP.
So, with high hopes, Unicorns and Butterflies dancing in my head (yeah, ok, I’m lying) , I wrote to HP support. After 3 emails back and forth, Vincent S. reported to me: “…I regret to inform you that the hard drive has gone bad. To resolve this issue, the hard drive needs to be replaced.” Well, duh. After 3 or 4 more emails, I discovered HP would not help with the drive since the computer was out of warranty.
Looks like I was on my own (as well as thousands of other hard-drive owners), so I hit Google and waded through the articles, forum posts, suicide threats, etc., etc. What I found was that people were having success ‘un-bricking’ their drives using one of two methods:
- Using about $30 worth of parts, setting up a TTL/USB connection (requires soldering) to the bricked drive to reset the firmware problem.
- Replacing the PCB board (which contains the firmware ROM) on the drive.
I decided on #2… On the other side of the world now (Malaysia), a small PCB board has begun it’s journey to me, eventually hitting the USPS where I should be able to track it. Should I care to.
UPDATE: The PCB board replacement did not work for me. I put the original board back in and sent the whole drive off to someone who reset the firmware for me. This was the final ‘fix’, and the drive is actually still in use today (12/08/2011).
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