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1.5TB Barracuda users complain of random freezes

Cyril Kowaliski
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Seagate’s 1.5TB Barracuda 7200.11 hard drive didn’t particularly enthrall us when we reviewed it last month, but we didn’t run into show-stopping problems on our Windows XP-powered test rig. Judging by several forum threads—including an eight-page discussion on Seagate’s own support forums—users of Linux, Mac OS X, and even Windows Vista aren’t so lucky.

The starter of the Seagate forum thread, who identified himself as Nick, said his Ubuntu 8.04 PC started suffering intermittent 30-second freezes after he upgraded his mirrored RAID setup with two 1.5TB Barracudas. "Each time it freezes the kernel log indicates an error ‘ata frozen’, ‘resetting’ and the command looks to be a flush-cache-to-disk command," he explained. A good number of other users replied complaining of similar problems, and by sound of it, the freezes typically occur when streaming recorded TV shows or movies and transferring data to or from the Internet at slow speeds (70-100KB/s). One responder’s log suggests RAID controllers mark freezing drives as faulty and disable them, too. Nick claimed he was able to work around the issue by turning off write caching, but unsurprisingly, someone else reported a significant performance drop after trying that solution.

This problem doesn’t seem to affect only RAID configs in Linux, either. Mac OS X and Windows Vista users have complained of similar problems in the same thread, as have others who tried 1.5TB ‘cudas on Serial ATA controllers without RAID support. And getting in touch with Seagate technical support didn’t help. Alleged quotations from the company’s support staff include, "Unfortunately, we do not support Linux," and, "Again, these drives are not meant to be used in a RAID environment so we are not going to be working towards a solution for this environment"—a puzzling reply, considering Seagate’s own product page for the 1.5TB 7200.11 mentions desktop RAID as a "best-fit" application.

One user got somewhat luckier. He says a Seagate support person told him, "This is an issue we are currently working on. I know it’s a hassle for now, but we’re working on it as quickly as we can. As soon as we have more information we’ll let you know." That was over a week ago, though.

Since we’ve also spotted complaints on the MacRumors forums, Slashdot, and Newegg, it seems like something is up indeed. We asked Seagate for its official take earlier today, and company spokesman Mike Hall told us, "I’m looking into this and will get back to you once I know more." Stay tuned.

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