The other day, I bought 6 TB of storage for under $300. This statement alone is startling to folks like me who have been following the storage and hard disk drive industry, but there is another fact that is more difficult to swallow: It will take days to copy data to these huge 3 TB drives, since the USB interface on each Seagate GoFlex Desk drive is good for just 30 MB/s on Apple Macintosh computers. Searching for a faster alternative led me to crack open the case and experiment with the drive inside.
Introducing the GoFlex Desk
You should read Lemons Into Lemonade: Seagate Repackages SATA As GoFlex before you continue…
I purchased two 3 TB Seagate GoFlex Desk drives from a local retailer for just $139 each. This is an amazingly cheap way to get 6 TB of storage!
My goal is to back up all of my Tech Field Day video to the two drives, using rsync to ensure that each contains a full exact copy of the video data folders. I’ll then store one off-site in a fireproof box for extra protection.
I selected the Seagate GoFlex Desk based on my good experience with their portable line of GoFlex drives. I liked the idea that the drives can be connected to a faster interface (FireWire 800, for example) for filling and then use a slower, cheaper one (USB 2.0) to read the data later or in another location.
The capacity of these drives is simply astonishing, but I question the design. The drive sits in a sealed plastic box with little ventilation, and it got hot to the touch during active use. The interchangeable docks are great, but I was disappointed that the FireWire dock has just a single port – I couldn’t daisy-chain FireWire off my iMac for data transfer, so I was stuck with USB 2.0.
Opening The Case
You might also want to read How To Add An eSATA Port To An Intel iMac
I decided to try connecting the drive to another interface for the copy operation. I had an eSATA dock handy, and my iMac has a DIY eSATA port, but this required removing the drive from its plastic container. Here’s how I accomplished that task.
Note that this likely voids the warranty on the drive, and I found that it did not function properly anyway. More on that later, though.
Step 1: Crack the Case
First, we must crack open the plastic case. The case splits in half along the seams, as one might assume. To locate the top, place the drive flat on a table with the GoFlex (SATA) port on the bottom. We will be removing the top of the case from this perspective.
Using a broad, flat spudger or putty knife, press firmly at the top of the seam in the case to release the clips inside. You have to press very firmly, but the clips will give way one by one.
The clips are more visible in the image above. Repeat the process on the other side, and pry apart the ends.
Remove the Drive
Now that we have the plastic case open, we can remove the hard disk drive itself from the inner steel case.
Although the drive appears to be easy to remove, it is bolted into a three-sided steel case. Pull it free from the plastic case and we can begin to extract it.
Pry off the rubber bumpers or feet you see and you will discover a screw beneath each one. Unscrew all four and you can extract the hard disk drive itself.
Seagate Barracuda ST3000DM001
Turns out this was one of Seagate’s new Barracuda drives! See No More Green Drives from Seagate for more info!
Inside my 3 TB GoFlex Desk I found a Seagate Barracuda drive, presumably a 7200 rpm Barracuda XT. But the disk, model ST3000DM001, is not listed on Seagate’s web site. I presume it’s a special OEM drive not intended for consumer use apart from the GoFlex system.
Surprisingly, this apparently is not an Advanced Format (4K sector) drive. It reported 512 KB sectors. More interestingly, although I reformatted it with GPT, the drive itself appeared to be have MBR format, something that shouldn’t work with a 3 TB drive. Seagate is doing some special mojo here.
This meant that the drive did not function correctly when directly connected with SATA. Though I probably could have reformatted it fresh, it would probably not work with the GoFlex dock then. It also did not function with the portable GoFlex adapter, and just attempting this required a complex cabling setup between that adapter and the drive since it requires more power than USB can deliver.
Buying 3 TB of storage for less than $150 is a modern miracle, and I’m happy with these drives as purchased. But cracking them open isn’t all that worthwhile, since the format requires the GoFlex Dock adapter. I could wipe them entirely, of course, but that defeats my intended use. So I repacked the drive in its plastic box and will rely on the official connectivity method.