Last week another external LaCie hard drive gave up the ghost. It’s the second time I’ve had one of their external drives fail, so naturally I’ve begun to re-think my previous praises for them. To be fair, every hard drive will crash at some point. The sooner you understand that the better off you’ll be. For my part, I wanted to dig a little deeper and see if I could figure out what was going on under the hood.
So it started like this. I got an error message that said something about a disk read/write failure. It turned out that neither of my computers were able to recognize that it was plugged in. I tried USB and Firewire on both computers, and the drive just wouldn’t mount. At that point I disregarded that little sticker that says “Warranty void if seal is broken,” and took a look inside.
Most external hard drives are simply an internal hard drive enclosed in a shell. That’s exactly what I found here. A 500 GB SATA hard drive by Samsung.
“Wait a minute…” I thought as I pulled out my older, dead LaCie drive. “Last time I took apart a LaCie it contained a Western Digital drive. So why now are they using Samsung?” as seen below.
If you ask me, this inconsistency sends the signal that LaCie merely buys their hard drives from the lowest bidder. There doesn’t seem to be any brand loyalty, and that makes me wonder why I should be committed to the LaCie brand? Are they more concerned about their bottom line or providing reliable quality to their customers? This also jogged my memory to the first time my drive crashed. I sent them an email asking if I was still covered under the warranty, but they never bothered to respond. Ouch!
A couple minutes later I noticed this little fan inside. “Ya know, I distinctly remember their quiet, ‘no fan’ design being a big selling point when I got my first one,” I said to myself. “I guess they decided to change that.” It’s not a big deal really, and honestly I never even noticed it had a fan until I took it apart. It’s just one more thing I used to like about LaCie that they decided to change.
Anyway, I took the drive apart and then plugged it directly into my computer as an internal drive. Just as I hoped, it worked like a charm. I made sure all the data was backed up elsewhere, and it showed no signs of failing.
The problem with most external hard drives, from what I hear, is not the hard drive itself but rather the circuit board that works as a translator. The drive plugs into the circuit board; the board essentially converts the internal cables into an external interface (USB, FireWire, eSATA, etc.) In my case, the circuit board called it quits before the drive itself did.
My two LaCie drives worked well for just under three years each. For all intents and purposes, they didn’t complain until they were dead. Nevertheless I will have to weigh the pros and cons next time I’m in the market for an external hard drive.