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Old 05-06-2010, 09:09
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Joe Forster/STA Joe Forster/STA is offline
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(To be) bricked Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard disks

The rumor is true: some Seagate hard disks come with buggy firmware that, under certain circumstances, fail so badly that you shut down your PC and upon the next startup the hard disk won't even be recognized by the BIOS. Although none of the data got lost, getting the hard disk back online is not easy. If it did not happen to you (yet!), see the bottom of this post on checking the possibility of this problem and upgrading the firmware of the hard disk. If it already occurred, the solution is not for the faint of heart: you need to establish an RS-232 serial (not SATA!) connection between a computer (probably not your PC at that moment) and the hard disk. (The two unused jumper pins on the back of the hard disk actually belong to a standard RS-232 serial port) for diagnostic communication.

Among countless others, I found a very simple (Gotdataback.com), a much more descriptive (MSFN.org) and an extremely detailed (Carter in Canada) guide.

I followed the first one as it included an interesting piece of information: that some data cables for mobile phones are actually USB/RS-232 adaptors (transceivers) that can be used very nicely for this purpose. E.g. the widely used Nokia CA-42 data cable (pinout of phone end, the other is a plain USB plug) is one of these. There is an official driver package (for Windows; also included in Nokia PC Suite) but it didn't work for me and got the Prolific PL-2303 driver (for Windows) working instead.

Building the complete cable was incredibly hard for me as I lack the necessary 1) knowledge and experience, 2) parts and tools and 3) dexterity for electronical stuff. After hours of experimenting, I found that stripping one line and most of the remaining plastic from a 3.5" floppy disk drive power plug results in a great serial plug for the back of the hard disk. Also, cutting apart a Nokia CA-42 data cable is a bit too expensive (especially if you want to keep using it in the future) but an RJ-22 phone line connector has its connections at the same distance as the pins of the CA-42 cable. Pressing the two together hard with insulator tape is quite a challenge but not impossible. Now you only have to solder together the floppy power cable and the phone line cable. Below are some pictures (bad quality, made with a mobile phone!) of RS-232 plug top and front, CA-42 and RJ-22 taped together and put besides each other for comparison and complete cable. By using very common parts and without ordering and waiting for days/weeks for adaptors, it can be done within a few hours.

Now you can install the driver for the CA-42 cable, plug it into a USB port of the PC, plug the RS-232 plug into the back of the hard disk, launch a terminal software such as PuTTY (for Windows) and follow the instructions of the guides above on entering the diagnostic commands.

When the hard disk comes back to life - or it worked anyway but you're (rightfully!) worried -, make sure to upgrade its firmware before this problem occurs (again). You can check whether or not your hard disk is affected by the buggy firmware and you can directly download the firmware upgrade software (for Windows or as the ISO of a bootable CD running FreeDOS). Do not hesitate about the upgrade as a bricked hard disk is an extreme nuisance, to put it mildly.

Please, spread the information as it happened to me, it happened to others and it can happen to you, too. Good luck and ALWAYS make backups!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg RS232_top.jpg (87.6 KB, 33 views)
File Type: jpg RS232_front.jpg (157.6 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg CA42-RJ22_1.jpg (99.2 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg CA42-RJ22_2.jpg (87.5 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg CA42-RJ22_3.jpg (141.0 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg Cable.jpg (196.3 KB, 30 views)
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:42
Cowsheep Cowsheep is offline
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I have also an hdd with that problem.
The original Nokia CA-42 cable is 50€ expensive. There are cheaper "clones" but i heard that the clones have different or no colours on the cables inside.

Seagate customer service does not repair hdds, you get a new comparable one (without data.) For data rescue, they charge a few hundred bucks.
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:07
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Joe Forster/STA Joe Forster/STA is offline
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I had that data cable lying around as my sister's phone needs it. But any USB-to-serial adaptor will do. And, yes, our cable is also a clone and (but?) is working perfectly, even for such, khm, non-standard purposes.
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