Seagate Rosewood Drive

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Seagate Rosewood

Seagate Rosewood – Small, thin, light, and unreliable?

Overview

In early 2016 Seagate released an ultra-thin, light, high density hard disk drive  targeting the mobile or portable data market. The hard drive was marketed as the lightest, fastest, and most power efficient ultra-thin drive available.  This hard drives’ comparative flimsy construction however leaves it  susceptible to failure and data loss.

Weighing in at only 3.17oz and 7mm thick this drive really is a featherweight in the hard drive space and the more common drives come in either a 1TB (ST1000LM035) or 2TB (ST2000LM007) variant but can include the following:

  • ST1000LM037 – Seagate Secure
  • ST1000LM038 – Seagate Secure FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard)
  • ST2000LM010 – Seagate Secure FIPS
  • ST2000LM009 – Seagate Secure

These ‘Rosewood’ hard drives can be purchased separately but are generally bundled as the internal drive component of many popular OEM portable external hard drive and laptop products including:

Lacie – Rugged Mini LAC301558/LAC9000298, Porche design USB C including Thunderbolt
Latest Seagate expansion – STEF1000401, STEA1000400, STEF2000401, STEA2000400
Latest backup Plus – STDS1000900 & STDS2000900
Maxtor – HX-M101TCB/GMR & HX-M201TCB/GM
Laptops – Many, many new laptops contain these drivesThe larger capacity drive also boasts impressive 1TB SMR platters running at 5400 RPM with both drives offering a very nice 128MB cache accessible through a SATA 6Gb/s interface port.
Below are a few other stats taken from the Seagate spec sheet:

Performance – 140MB/s with a spindle speed of 5400RPM
Reliability – 600,000 load/unload cycles, Ramp loading head rest method and a 2-year warranty
Power Management – 50W (2TB) or 45W (1TB) idle
Physical – 7.0mm height, 69.85mm width, 100mm depth and a 90g weightAll this sounds great right? Well on paper yes, but these drives have been an epidemic in the data recovery world since they were launched. We at Datlabs has seen hundreds of these devices through our doors and unlike other new drive the R&D learning curve has been steep.

A Look and the drive physically

Data Recovery options and Problems

To get a quick idea, we performed a report on our internal database which we use to track all cases we receive. Our report detailed we have received 122 Rosewood drives this year so far – approximately 20 drives each month. This is an increase on 2017 but last year also was a very busy year for this model of drive. Thankfully our recovery rates for Rosewood drives has increased, but this was not always the case as any honest data recovery company will admit, from the very beginning these drives challenged even the best data recovery technician from the locked diagnostic port to the lack of internal space making a HSA (head stack assembly) exchange very difficult using typical tools and techniques. Below we go into a little more detail as to why these drives are difficult for the data recovery industry and why you should maybe avoid trusting these drives exclusively with your critical data.

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Diagnostic Port Locked

Really Seagate?!?! Yes, they went and did it, they locked the diagnostic port. To explain to those who are not in the industry, the serial diagnostic port is a special port located near the SATA interface on the hard drive, this is used by recovery specialists with recovery equipment such as PC3000 or MRT to talk to the drive. Talking to the drive through this specialist port allows data recovery professionals to issue commands to fix the drive, gain valuable information and to read and manipulate parts of the hard drives service area.

Remember the Seagate .11 firmware issues a few years ago, using this port is how the data recovery specialists repaired and accessed customers data. Without access to this port we have VERY limited functionality and are unable diagnose or even fix some of the most common firmware issues Seagate drives are notorious for. Typically, Seagate drives suffer translator issues, and these can only be solved through this port. Anyone in the industry will know the importance of reading in the following SA modules and the importance of being able to access the SA through the diagnostic port.

  • 3,035,0 – Non-Resident G-List
  • 3,028,0 – Translator
  • 3,01B,0 – P-List
  • 3,093,0 – Saved Mode Pages (HDD ID edit)
  • 3,346,0 – Media Cache
  • 3,348,0 – Media Cache Rosewood Drives

Thankfully due to the work of leading equipment manufacturers in the industry, access to this port has been found, but this wasn’t always the case. Data recovery specialists can now gain access by patching/manipulating the ROM which is stored on the drives PCB. Modifying this will allow access to the SA but this is only a small victory, once over this hurdle we are presented with a range of issues including translator corruption, media cache issues, media degradation and HSA issues.

MediaCache

This technology is very similar that used in a SSHD excluding the use of NAND. Designed to speed up the most commonly used data on the drive the media cache is an area on the drive usually the outer edge of the platter and the inner area. This area is faster than other areas of the hard drive and is therefore used to store the media cache. Seagate hard drives including the Rosewood drives use this media cache as part of the Multi-Tier Caching technology implemented in modern drives as a temporary non-user accessible storage located on the magnetic platters to buffer incoming and outgoing data.
So what problems will the media cache cause for a data recovery technician? Well quiet a large one, having this area of the platter reserved for the media cache can make certain serial port commands very dangerous to use. It is recommended that the standard G-List clear, SMART reset and translator commands are not issues to Rosewood drive because they could potentially result in serious data loss, something data recovery technicians are obviously keen to avoid. I fear many unsuspecting technicians have issued commands common with the older generation of Seagate drives only to clear the media cache and destroy all hope of recovering the customers data, experience at Datlabs has taught us that any new drive should be subject to R&D before we work on a customer drive.

Stiction – Common Occurrence

Just like the Samsung M8E and M9T hard drives pictured below Datlabs has identified that the Seagate Rosewood drive is very prone to the occurrence of stiction. Stiction occurs when one or more of the read write heads stick to the platter surface. When this problem occurs, the heads prevent the low toque motor from spinning which usually omits a beeping noise if held close to the ear. Stiction is very common amongst portable hard drives especially the 2.5” variant and it typically caused by a knock or drop or by removing the USB cable in haste. However, at Datlabs we believe the ultra-light and thin attributes of this drive are a catalyst for this failure. Below you can see a close up of a Rosewood drive that has suffered from such as problem:

To recover from this problem the drive will need to be taken into a clean room environment to remove the heads from the platter surface and re-seat them safely onto the parking ramp. This procedure should only be performed by experienced recovery professionals and if your data is important we would always recommend you do not open your drive and attempt DIY recovery. However, unlike the Samsung drives which we see daily with this failure we have identified that the drives usually have further issues associated with them post stiction removal. Firstly, the heads appear to be more prone to failure, as a recovery company we say 8/10 times a Samsung M8E/M9T will be recoverable without the need for a HSA replacement after stiction removal with a varying degree of media damage or speed, however Rosewood drives this is dramatically reduced and are much more prone to SA damage and or head failure. Thankfully we have a very good recovery rate with the Rosewood family of drives, but it certainly is much more of a fight than with previous generations of drives.

Complex head change

Whilst head changes on a Seagate Rosewood hard drive are conducted in the same manner as any other, the space in which you must complete the task has been drastically reduced. Chassis’ of other Seagate drives would allow you to take the heads off the parking ramp and safely remove. However, on the Seagate Rosewood drives this just isn’t possible without drastically increasing the chance of damaging the read/write heads.
This resulted in several companies who create head change combs creating a method to ensure heads can be extracted safely from the chassis. This procedure involves the technician inserting the combs then moving the heads over the platter surface allowing access to the parking ramp. This parking ramp can then be removed thus allowing room for the heads to be extracted safely from the drive, this process is reversed to complete the head change procedure. This may sound easy on paper, but it really is one of the harder drives on which to perform such a procedure – they really like to make data recovery technicians work with the Rosewood family.

Head crashes

A head crash can occur in any hard drive and is very common on drives that have been knocked or dropped whilst in operation. A head crash occurs when the read/write heads contact the platter surface and at 5400RPM can cause irreparable damage. Since the first Seagate Rosewood drive arrived at the Datlabs recovery lab we have seen many such drives with severe platter damage. Obviously, some will have been caused by mistreatment but the Datlabs technicians believe the thin lid design could contribute to such failures, whist no research has been conducted having just a thin sheet of metal protecting critical data from the outside world is never going to be a good idea.

Seagate Rosewood with a Head Crash