October 26, 2014

How To Open a Seagate GoFlex Desk Hard Disk Drive Case

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 3 TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive STAC3000101

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.

Stephen’s Stance

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.

 

  • Hehe

    Dude are you fo real? do you know anything about drives? Just so i dont make you out to be so dumb throw an old sata drive into the case & boot it via USB… Guess what… TAAAADAAAAAA!  It will still work

    Sorry i made you out to be so dumb but formatting your drive will not make it work as you say :(

  • whm

    So does it work in normal DIY PC if the disk is wiped clean?

  • aaadictedone

    YES! 

    It works best if laid down with the SATA port on the bottom facing out to the right and you start on the corner to pop around to the top and around the other side.

    Plug in the hard drive to any OS via SATA and format the hard drive.

    Thanks for your post.  Gave me a better idea of where to start.

    GoFlex Desk 2TB UBS 3.0

  • Soft

    DUDE! You got one of the new 3 platter 3TB drives!!

  • sbus

    1. This is NOT some new OEM drive – it’s the replacement for the Barracuda XT line. 6GB/s SATA, 64M cache, 7200 rpm – but FEWER PLATTERS. It’s the new 1TB/platter density drives.

    2. Guess what – there is a 4TB version out!!!

    3, If you use the Seagate DiscWizard utility, this drive will format just fine and can be used at full capacity on machines with OR without the new UEFS bios.

  • Michael

    FYI I noted an error in your report. On the Firewire Dock (available separately) there are in fact two FW800 ports. One is on the rear and one is on the side. Daisy chaining is no problem – I do it all the time with mine. Amazon sells them for a great price as well (less than half of retail).

    Additionally my experience with 6 of the 3TB drives has been great, and the only time I ever note any heat build-up is when initially loading them or backing them up. The other piece of advice I would give applies only to those who are backing up files over 20mb. In my case I am using many of these for movies, and in the process of moving them around between drives that are 2/3rds or more full they become highly fragmented, which results in significantly slower write times (very annoying) and slightly slower read times (albeit not critical). I have tried 3rd party defragmentization software but found it significantly lacking – as the time for it to defragment  2.5TB of a 3TB drive is crazy – as in a minimum of 3-4 times as long as making a backup copy to another 3TB drive. Since heat is a factor during continual use I am leery of the long term performance of these drives using defragmentization. Instead I make a backup using synchronization software, which defragments as it copies files, then use that drive as the backup of another, and so on.

  • sbus

    YES. I purchased four externals – two had the new Barracuda ST3000DM001 and two had the old  ST33000651AS Barracuda XT.

    I also have the manual for the ST3000DM001 – it has 3 platters, 6 heads, sports lower power consumptions, lower weight, and a slightly faster internal data rate than the XT. But the specs are IDENTICAL in terms of geometry. It has 4096 sectoring, but it maps each 4K sector to 8 512’s so it appears to be identical to the XT as far as the computer is concerned.

  • sbus

    One more tidbit. Seagate is shipping a 4TB disk in an external enclosure – the ST4000DM001. I saw it at Frys… They can do this because they have 1TB/platter density now. But… The 3TB Barracuda XT is… wait for it… 5 platters. So they are sure to announce a 5TB disk before Hitachi does… The 4TB is already shipping…

  • sbus
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shota-Rustavel/100000722506415 Shota Rustavel

    Thanks! I had two external GoFlexes that were both wiped out by a surge (despite my protector!) and weren’t being recognized by either Windows or Linux.

    I simply removed the drives from their enclosures, per your instructions, and got all my data back.

  • Shalac Tan

    Hey Shota Rustavel, are you sure this will work, my Goflex’s symptom is that it’s completely undetectable (not running suddenly). I think it’s also a power surge problem, would you recommend me to open it? (will void warranty)

  • James Wood

    Hi ,

    After opening Goflex 2TB drive I am not able to see the files. The size shows it is used, but some reason files may be hidden. My view hidden folder option is enable to see hidden files. Please help me.

    Regards,
    JWood

  • HDD Fail

    Hi,n I have the same HDD but it wound up dying on me, make a repeated beeping noise and won’t allow me to get to any files. My question is, is it possible to replace the drive with another, 3rd party, and still have the dock with it work? Or am I better off just getting a whole new drive?