Seagate drives with locked firmware
Why do Seagate lock their hard drives?
Some years ago, around 2009, there was a major firmware problem that made caused the drives to stop working. It was discovered in the Seagate® 7200.11 range of drives, The issue was so big that thousands of users ended up with bad drives and the Seagate support forums became inundated with complaints.
Meanwhile, somebody developed and made freely available a firmware (FW) fix that could repair most of the issues with the drive, it only needed some basic hardware to make the fix (a cheap TTL adapter) to access the FW, and he provided the factory codes to send the commands to the drive to resolve the problem. These commands cleared the SMART logs, G-list and regenerated the translator.
This worked fine on the 7200.11 drives that had the issues, but on other drives, the codes did more harm than good. When users applied the fix to incorrect models, like the 7200.12 and later, they ended up making the issue worse because the new firmware was different from the older 7200.11 series. Because of the different firmware, the translator mechanism had been altered by activating then Non-Reallocated Grown Defects list, or NRG. Applying the old command to a new model moves the entries into another list, completely blocking access to the drive at the first NRG entry.
Seagate decided to block access to the firmware area on their newer models, and access is now either, limited or completely blocked. Using a terminal application, the drive returns messages like “Command not recognized” or “Terminal Access Blocked.” In some cases, the command doesn’t provide any feedback, and is not executed.
One of our GDRA engineers started looking at how this lock algorithm worked and developed a method of circumventing the lock temporarily, until the next time the drive was power cycled. This gave enough access to be able to repair bad system modules and build a head map of the drive before cloning.
At MJM, we took it a step further and developed a new method that patches the firmware and allows permanent unlocking of the drive, so it can be power cycled. This gives us better control over the cloning process, for example, where we need to run scripts if we hit an error, we can now do this without having to go through the whole unlock process repeatedly. On completion of cloning, the firmware patch is removed so the drive returns to its locked state.
We now have a complete solution for Seagate drives with firmware issues where the system area is locked or restricted. We can get data back from all Seagate Grenada drives, including SES drives with locked terminal access and Seagate Lombard drives with restricted terminal, as well as most of the newer models.
Furthermore, we can now access the firmware on some of the most modern Seagate drives, including the latest Iron Wolf, M11, and Rosewood 8C and 8F hybrid drives. We have also ported the solution to several SAS drive models with locked firmware.
A list of current drives that we can unlock and recover from is listed below.