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IBM GXP Problems: The Truth Exposed and Possible Fixes

For months now users of IBM manufactured hard disk drives based on the Deskstar 60GXP and 75GXP models have been experiencing substantial frequent fail rates and data loss - Cameron "Mr.Tweak" Wilmot recently fell victim himself and suggsts what the problem may be, and possible solutions!

| Editorials in Storage | Posted: Feb 12, 2002 5:00 am

 

Introduction

 

For months now users of IBM manufactured hard disk drives based on the Deskstar 60GXP and 75GXP models (and possible even older models) have been experiencing substantial frequent fail rates and data loss of that compared to competitor hard disk drives - I recently fell victim myself. This has lead to a lot of headaches and RMA returns, and neither happy nor satisfied customers. Something needs to be done, people need to know what is happening; it's their right to be informed, wouldn't you agree?

 

Ask yourself this... Who has the time or money to pay for expensive data recovery companies to fix your hard disk drive? It is an option that is out of reach for the majority of PC users.

 

Read on as this non-technical article will explain the problems being experienced and I suggest possible reasons and solutions for this - I'd like to emphasis that these are only beliefs of mine and we do not have the industrial equipment available to confirm any of this.

 

What's the Problem?

 

UK based website HEXUS speculates the problem has something to do with IBM's "Giant Magneto Resistive" (GMR) method; I tend to believe this alone is not the only problem after the research I conducted for this article, you'll find more about my beliefs on the following page. AnandTech has an FAQ that also suggests a similar cause for the problem in a way that can't be explained any better;

 

"The GMR Head technology that gives the 75GXP its stunning performance is also its major Achilles heel. As data gets packed more densely, there is less room for error. During normal operation, drives will heat up due to the friction of the platters moving through the air. While the platter is very smooth, anything running at 7200RPM will produce heat. In addition, there will heat generated by the motors and various chips used to control the drive. As we all learned in school, heat will cause metal to expand. The platters on drives are no exception. Drive manufactures know this and have chips that account for the expansion of platters. The drive head will adjust itself accordingly to ensure it is reading and writing to the right place.

 

In the case of the 75GXP, this does not always happen. Variables such as uneven warming of the platters can confuse the drive. Every so often, data will be recorded in one place but not where the drive was expecting. Consequently, when the drive goes back to look for the data, it is not there. A loud clicking noise, not unlike the infamous Iomega Click of Death, will come from the drive. This is due to the read head resetting itself and making another attempt to find the data."

 

To sum it up, GMR technology packs more data per platter thus reducing the room for error because of its high level of density. For a practical analogy, it's like trying to fit as many houses into a new housing estate as physically possible. This way there is a greater return for the housing developer, in the case of IBM, they can fit more data per platter, which makes things ultimately cheaper and efficient.

 

Glass vs. Aluminum Platters

 

 

Hard Drives store all the data on what are called "Platters", most hard drives contain several platters depending on their size, speed and make. Platters look a lot like metallic CD's as they are generally made up of aluminum making them much more sturdy unlike that of normal CD's.

 

The platters are coated with a magnetic medium consisting mainly of iron oxide, which allows the data to be stored.

 

Today hard drives may be made from a glass-ceramic composite which has several advantages over aluminium. First of all, the platters are even "stiffer" making them able to operate much faster without error because they are more susceptible to heat compared to that of aluminium platters. Moreover, the platters can also be much thinner and are far more resistant to heat as glass won't expand or bend under extreme heat like aluminium. It is certain that glass will replace aluminium in time to come!

 

I believe IBM is already using this glass platter technology in some of their drives, in 10,000 RPM hard disk drives to be exact. Our research also suggests the 20GB Deskstar GXP has one glass platter, the 40GB Deskstar GXP has two glass platters and the 60GB Deskstar GXP has three glass platters for 3 times the friction and heat. Maybe IBM will confirm this for us.

 

Something needs to be done!

 

I urge IBM to stand up and take notice and not continue to deny the obvious problem experienced by many (The Tech Report justifies this with a news post and user replies back in August of last year) as they have in the past according to quotes from other articles - It just may lead to the demise of your great company, the "Big Blue" itself.

 

The jigsaw puzzle is coming together now. When I was in the discussion with the CEO of our current hosting company, after I asked IBM drives to be used in our servers, he strongly suggested against the idea. Jason Detar, CEO of Elite Internet Communications, told me they'd had problems in the past with newer IBM drives and heard of other hosting companies experiencing similar problems thus why opting out against IBM solutions - Turns out it could possibly be the wisest decision I've ever made.

 

Further Reading: Read and find more Storage content at our Storage reviews, guides and articles index page.

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