Seagate discovers hard drives and ice don't mix

After 100 days buried in an ice rink the company's YouTube experiment comes to an end

If you live in a part of the world that remains frozen all winter long here's a data storage tip: don't freeze your hard drive in an ice rink.

Seagate tried just such an experiment over the winter that ended with the perhaps inevitable result. The stunt started in early December when Pete Steege, global segment manager at the drive maker, posted the first of what would be a series of YouTube posts chronicling the drive's long winter.

"It's December in Minnesota, which can only mean one thing: It's time to make some ice," Steege says to the camera in a dimly-lit video that started off the drive's long winter. "Just to do something different this winter I decided to freeze a FreeAgent Go 320GB hard drive into my ice rink this winter."

The drive, which contained about 8 years worth of Steege's personal data, photos and videos, was encased in a plastic bag and buried about 3 centimeters deep in ice.

The winter turned out to be one of the coldest for several years and on one morning in mid-January the outside air temperature dropped to -28 degrees Celsius, according to one of the videos.

Despite the cold he remained hopeful that the drive would survive its treatment.

"This has been a lot colder than I expected but I actually think it's going to be OK," he said.

Before starting the experiment Steege noted that he did have another copy of the personal data stored on the drive.

Good thing.

After 101 days of being frozen in the ice Steege cut the drive from the ice with a chain saw and set about thawing it out.

It was then he discovered his first problem: his chain saw snagged part of the protective plastic bag in which the drive was stored causing it to get wet while it melted. But Steege said it didn't appear to have damaged the drive

With three months worth of anticipation building he plugged the drive into its cradle, as shown in the final video. Things started out well with his PC detecting that new hardware had been connected but went downhill from there.

"It says unknown device, that's probably not a good thing. And I don't see lights on the front," he said.

The video cuts to a few minutes later and Steege trying to resurrect the drive.

"It's making noise. Doesn't sound great, it's trying," he said before a final "Oh no, c'mon drive."

But it wasn't to be.

"Well guys, it's a bad sign. It's making limping noises as if it is trying to turn but I'm not sure it's going to work ... it did not work," he concluded.

Seagate didn't detail what caused the drive to fail. While many disk drives are rated to handle sub-zero temperatures that typically doesn't include being buried in ice.

"I think being buried in ice with lots of pressure on it for 100 days probably contributed greatly," said a company spokesman.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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