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  • dtoub 9:21 am on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 9:21 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , LaCie, , SuperDrive   

    superdrive madness and other hardware glitches 

    I’ve noticed some weirdness with my MacBook Pro’s SuperDrive recently, where burning DVDs as backups would be hit or miss. Mostly miss. I would keep getting error messages about how the laser failed to be calibrated, usually at the beginning of the process, sometimes at the end of a failed burn. At one point this past weekend, a DVD-R would not be ejected after a failed burn, and no matter what I did, the disc would not eject. I tried restarting while holding down my mouse button, running the Unix drutil eject command, and even took some online advice and held the Eject button down while tilting my MBP so that the drive bay door was aimed at the floor. Nothing worked.

    So I went to the Apple Store in King of Prussia, PA, where the service is really good. The Apple Genius was all set to install a new SuperDrive when we tried booting up from a Netboot drive and to both of our surprises, the MBP was able to burn a disc. So the thinking was that it was an OS issue. I did an archive and install of OS X last night, which meant I had to reinstall some drivers and update some apps like iTunes and Safari (I’m running the beta of Safari 4 and really like it), but that was a pretty rapid process. However, the MBP still can’t burn discs, even if I login as the root user, so it is clearly not an OS or Home Directory issue.

    So I’m back to the Apple Store. The drive repair should take an hour and hopefully that will be it. We’ll see how that goes.

    And then there’s my external LaCie hard drive issue. Again. This makes three LaCie drives that have failed in less than a year, usually within 1 day-four months. This last one was a replacement for the replacement of a failed drive. The online support folks at LaCie are sending me a replacement AC adapter on the possibility that it is a power issue, but let’s be real, it’s most likely a disk crash or failed hard drive controller, judging from the sounds I’m hearing when the drive spins up but doesn’t mount. I do have a 1-TB Western Digital drive on order from Buy.com (thank goodness for all the gift certificate points I’ve banked—I think this is costing $12 in the end) and that should cover my backup needs just fine. I do have a Western Digital 500 GB portable drive that has a FireWire 800 interface, and it’s very fast and stable so far. I also have a nearly 1-year old LaCie drive that I’ve called back into service, and am just praying it’s stable for the short term. I just can’t trust LaCie drives, even when they’re provided as replacements by the company itself. Hardware is replaceable, data isn’t.

    Hoping this ends my weird computer hardware karmic storm for now…

    UPDATE: well, it’s not the SuperDrive after all. Or the OS. Might be the logic board…

  • dtoub 7:40 pm on Thursday, December 11, 2008, 7:40 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bad service, LaCie,   

    avoid portable hard drives by LaCie. seriously. 

    All mechanical hard drives will eventually suffer a head crash—it’s just a matter of when. I’ve had external hard drives crash after a year of use, and I’m still in search of a really reliable backup drive. But when all is said and done, LaCie is now the worst of the worst in my opinion. I purchased a 250 GB portable drive back in May; it died on day one of use. I then got a replacement from Amazon, and that has now died after between 6-7 months of intermittent use. Pretty disappointing.

    I did the reasonable thing and e-mailed tech support at LaCie. My message detailed what happened and asked for a refund or a more reliable drive, since I suspect they have a major design flaw in that drive (the 250 GB portable drive designed by Sam Hecht, whoever that is). After two days, I got a response telling me they’re sorry and I should send the drive back for repair.

    Send the drive back for repair? After a head crash? And I’m supposed to feel reasonably comfortable putting my data on a refurbished drive when two new drives failed in less than seven months? Really?

    Sensing that this was going to be a very frustrating situation, I called LaCie and asked to speak with a manager. I was told the manager was on the phone and would call me right back. I made the customer support person read back my phone number, since he didn’t do it automatically, and sure enough, got the digits wrong. But armed with my correct phone number, I assumed the manager would call back in a reasonable period of time. After 2.5 hours, I figured that the reasonable period had expired, so I called and got the same guy who assured me the manager was just getting around to calling me back. 

    Yeah, right.

    Anyway, I spoke with the Tech Support Supervisor, who told me in a very nice way that his only option is for me to send in the drive at my own expense so they could refurbish it. No refund. No new drive (not that I’d trust it anyway). And there’s no one in the entire US, according to him, who is above him. So other than e-mailing their corporate office in France, which I did, I’m either stuck with a dead drive or else will pay to ship the drive back for repair and then have a drive that I wouldn’t trust for all the money in the world.

    I’m told that Western Digital drives are reliable and will probably get one next week. But that’s not the point. What’s up with companies that don’t stand by their products and that don’t work to at least meet their customers halfway? Unlike Kensington, which replaced a defective and potentially dangerous laptop case (due to very sharp edges) with a better model for free, LaCie’s support is bad. And I wouldn’t trust my data on their portable drives. So my advice—be very careful buying portable hard drives, and avoid LaCie’s models like the plague. 

    I should mention that I do have an external 320 GB LaCie drive purchased at the same time as I bought the portable lemon, and that is still working okay. I think it’s a time bomb, but it does work. But it is an external drive and has a fan. The portable drive doesn’t, and maybe that’s part of the problem. I’d like to think that LaCie’s tech folks would be interested in investigating whether there might be a design flaw in their Sam Hecht portable drive, but I’m not optimistic.

    OK, rant over.

    • kraig Grady 8:17 pm on Thursday, December 11, 2008, 8:17 pm Permalink

      I have heard of people having trouble with these . In fact i had problems with the first 3 Macs i got. But both my mac and lacie (same model of your satan) have held up now for maybe 4 years. I try and keep everything on both though! but now i am scared!!

    • david 10:26 pm on Thursday, December 11, 2008, 10:26 pm Permalink

      Sorry to scare you, kraig. Like I said, the 320 GB external LaCie drive so far is ok. I like the design of the Sam Hecht drive (who is he, anyway?). Having a retractable USB cable is a great idea. But I think that there are two overt design flaws: no fan, no shutoff buton. Disconnecting the drive to turn it off seems to me to create some stress on the disk itself. I’m not an engineer by any means, but one or both of these are different from all the other, longer-lived drives I’ve owned. My advice—keep your drive, but get another backup to be safe.

    • Kirk McElhearn 4:09 am on Friday, December 12, 2008, 4:09 am Permalink

      Well, I’m not defending LaCie, but you should know that they don’t make drives. They package drives manufactured by other companies. So you are going to buy a WD drive, thinking it’s reliable, but your LaCie may actually have a WD drive in it. You should open the case and see which brand of drive it contains.

      As for the customer support rant, that I agree with. That type of customer support sucks.

    • Richard Friedman 12:23 am on Thursday, December 18, 2008, 12:23 am Permalink

      David: The most reliable place to buy internal and/or external drives is Other World Computing:


      They take the best internal drives made by Hitachi/IBM and put them in enclosures for you. And they will stand behind everything they sell.

      I have found that ONLY Hitachi/IBM drives are reliable.

      General rule: Buy new drives every three years before they crash.

      Welcome to the world of digital media.

      And when the time comes and we’re all using flash drives, just hope that some big electromagnetic pulse doesn’t wipe out the world’s data.

      Actually, that sounds like a very intriguing idea. Imagine a world without data.


    • dtoub 2:02 am on Thursday, December 18, 2008, 2:02 am Permalink

      Thanks, Richard. What I ended up doing over the weekend was going to the Apple Store in King of Prussia, PA and buying a 500 GB Western Digital ”My Passport Studio“ portable drive that has a FW 800 port and cable. It’s amazingly fast—Time Machine backed up my entire 250 GB hard drive in just a few hours, whereas I would have had this running all night to do the same thing over USB 2.0. The big difference is that it has a fan and shuts down when you unmount it; I can’t prove it, but I think that it probably makes some difference in terms of longevity. I don’t know who actually makes the drive itself, but the engineers in my company swear by Western Digital, and I’d rather folks swear by a hard drive than swear at it 😉

      I usually replace drives after 1-2 years, since I’ve yet to see any external drives last longer than that. A world without data? That would be really retro.

    • Fabrizio 5:12 am on Friday, February 13, 2009, 5:12 am Permalink

      Hello. I buyed a Lacie Sam Hecht 2.5 320Gb USB HD and I wish to swap it with my laptop internal 250 Gb HD.
      Has someone opened that Lacie Drive Case ? It has no screws and I need to reuse the case so I can’t risk to damage it…


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