Buyer Beware - An HDD Story

The Internet has brought us many amazing new opportunities and tools that make our lives easier. Probably top of the list with our team is online shopping! Being able to buy almost anything with the click of a button and have it arrive the next day, or even within hours can save so much time.

Along with convenience, another big selling point for buying online is price. You can pick up some real bargains if you find the right sites. However, like the real world, sometimes those offers that appear ‘too good to be true’ are exactly that. 

We recently received a call from a client who was experiencing difficulties with a portable hard disk he’d bought online. He’d got it for a great price and it was working fine when he tested it. He decided to copy a large archive of family photos to the disk to free up space on his computer. The files were copying over fine for some time, but he then started receiving some errors. The disk finally stopped responding and he could no longer access his data.

On receiving the disk, we set about exploring the cause of the problem only to discover something very strange. The disk came in a product box and looked brand new. Opening the caddy revealed a Western Digital 2TB disk, as our client had stated (the black marks in the photo had come from the case it was wrapped in). But something wasn’t right, the disk connector was IDE and not SATA. Now, for anyone remembering the good old days of IDE, you may also remember that they had a size limit far lower than 2TB!

Looking a little closer at the label, we could see some ghosting behind it. We peeled back the label to revealed the original label of a Toshiba 40GB disk! Yes, someone had gone to the trouble of creating authentic looking labels for the disks, even though the disk would be glued into a caddy.

To further the con, the disk partition table had been altered to appear as a 2TB disk. This meant anyone checking the disk would see a functional 2TB volume, just like our client did. Files could be copied to the disk and you would only encounter a problem when the data size grew past 40GB (the actual capacity). At that point the disk and the data would be in real trouble.

So we urge you to please be careful when purchasing hardware, especially disks. The site our client had purchased the disk from was well known, but its sellers have been associated with questionable practices. As ever, our advice is to hold multiple copies of your data, ideally at multiple locations. Wherever you buy your disks, allow a period of testing to ensure they are stable. Several extensive studies have revealed disks are most likely to fail within the early months. 


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