The famous ST31000528AS is no more.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Detosx, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. Detosx, Apr 1, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011

    Detosx macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    Last week the ST31000528AS was on special offer everywhere in high volumes but now... good luck finding one from a mainstream UK vendor; it's possible the few that are still out there are rag-tag customer returns. The drive, apparently discontinued on Friday 25th March, which has been through twelve revisions, appears to be no more ("1TB Seagate ST31000528AS NOW EOL - Replacement is LN37556" - I drew a blank on the latter but) and is apparently replaced by the SATA 6 compatible version, which itself has been reduced in price.

    The drive's claim to fame according to Tom's Hardware stats and others is it ran cooler than the immediate competition, used less power and was, when working to spec, quieter too, unless you went for a slower running 'green' drive. Ideal for an iMac.

    Why am I lamenting it's passing, here? One possible workaround for a very noisy Seagate was to buy an identical drive. Buying an identical drive wouldn't work in and of itself because Apple flash those Seagate drives with their own firmware to deliver the correct temperature information to the 2010 iMac's mainboard; without an Apple-firmware-flashed hard drive circuit board the fans in the 2010 iMac gradually runs up to full speed - even with the correct manufacturer-specific temperature cable in place that unaware Mac hard drive vendors said would work. A possible workaround, though, I think, if you confirm the hard drive revisions are otherwise identical, would be to remove the logic board from the Appled-Seagate and put it on a replacement ST31000528AS; if the noise was purely a mechanical fault that's one workaround (an earlier revision Seagate had a firmware update to quieten the drive but Apple-d drives could not be flashed with this). I haven't tried it, at work I usually to fit Samsung and Western Digital drives to PCs, but I have had friends give me their old non working Maxtor drives, for instance, to try and rescue data. If the mechanics are still sound, I order an identical revision of that drive and switch the circuit boards around.

    Worth a try? Absolutely not. Obviously return your iMac if still under warranty with a print out of the reams and reams of forum posts on this contentious hard drive and the faulty ones that make your iMac sound like a popcorn maker throwing small rubber balls around. My illness is that I am a tech, I don't like others hurriedly poking around inside my computers; I would make an exception with the iMac but that I don't have a car and there is no Apple store in my city. Still, my patronizing two cents is I wouldn't advise anyone to open their iMac. Anything expensive that is still in warranty and with ribbon cables inside it is best left alone. Also, even assuming the replacement ST31000528AS you order is the same revision as the one in your iMac, even assuming it works, if you send your iMac in for a service the tech is going to be greeted with a hard drive that doesn't have the Apple sticker on it. I can't speak for the iMac but the few other Macs I have worked on, the hard drives had non-cleanly removable Apple stickers on them.

    I have noticed that there are a lot of 1tb Seagate external drives on special offer at the moment. Quite likely it contains the famous ST31000528AS. Perhaps someone can confirm this. The more recent Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1 TB Desktop might be worth a gamble. You could still end up with a noisy sample but, all being well, and you're a crazed gambling DIY sort, you would have a spare USB 2 hard drive enclosure that can also take a hot swappable USB 3 or Firewire 800 conversion kit.

    The non April Fools joke, as always with dear and desirable iMacs, is that if you wanted a computer that you could user service and upgrade, you should have saved a little bit/lottle bit longer and bought a Mac Pro.
  2. Detosx, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011

    Detosx thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    Something useful from Seagate and replying to my own post. Though I have rescued data from a few dead Maxtor drives by swapping over logic boards on identical models where there wasn't a mechanical fault, those rescued drives weren't used after the rescue; the logic boards were returned to the new drives.

    I found this over at Seagate which essentially voids my suggestion above, and that of others on the Apple discussion board:-

    Re: need a logic board for Barracuda ST31000528AS Firmware C34


    04-30-2010 02:55 PM

    The ROMs are drive specific, not model specific. This is because no two heads are physically identical. HD manufacturers try to fit as much data as possible onto each platter. To do this, they take advantage of any head that performs better than the average.

    For example, some heads will have a better frequency response than others, which means that you can cram more bits on each track. This technique is called Variable Bits Per Inch (VBPI).

    Giant magnetorestive (GMR) heads use a separate head for writing and another for reading. The separation between these two components varies from head to head. Once again manufacturers optimise data density by implementing Variable Tracks Per Inch (VTPI).

    Each HD therefore needs to be calibrated to account for VBPI and VTPI, otherwise the drive doesn't know where to find the tracks, or the data within the track. When a drive powers up, it needs to retrieve its firmware from a reserved area on the platters. If it can't read these data, then it clicks. This is what usually happens after you swap a board without transferring the calibration information.

    This article explains it in detail.

    HDD from inside: Tracks and Zones. How hard it can be?


    So... the options for those living a long way from an Apple store and without a car... might be to buy Apple Care and have a service agent come out to you, providing in the preliminary discussion said deem it an issue; the drive, in this instance, passes Seagate's own diagnostis and Techtool's so isn't, technically, faulty. It's just extremely loud; most iMacs I have tried since in basic day-to-day are barely audible except, obviously, when encoding/playing games, etc.

    Or, if you aren't risk averse/are somewhat insane, you could upgrade the drive to something that runs at a similar temperature to the cool-running ST31000528AS and short the temperature sensor so the fan spins at a constant 1100rpm (i.e Tom's Hardware comparative chart shows large capacity so-called 'green' drives run at low temps; please check to confirm before buying) or, if you can find one on sale anywhere, just use a replacement non-Appled ST31000528AS. This isn't my advice, personally, but is based on OWC's blog, an entry by Torstein on February 17, 2011 who made some observations about temperature where he tried to stress the ST31000528AS in various iMacs:-

    "However, on the next day, after the iMac had sat on top of the radiator the entire night, I tried again, and this time the temperature reached 58 degrees, which triggered the hard drive fan. The fan went from 1100 rpm to 1300 rpm. I couldn’t get the temperature higher than that, even after several hours, and when I ended the Handbrake conversion, the hard drive fan went back to 1100 rpm, with the file duplication still going strong."

    Curiously he went with a Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 3tb. This time, not on top of a radiator, his hard drive temp reached 63 degrees. I don't know what the upper temperature of that Hitachi drive is but conventional wisdom has it that anything much above 50 degrees isn't recommended; the upper temperature sometimes being 55 - 60 degrees, the higher the temperature the greater the risk to data integrity and longevity of the hard drive.

    "My conclusion," he says, "is that for light and moderate use of your iMac, you can safely buy and install any hard drive. Short the temp wire, you’re not gonna need it. For really heavy use it’s safest to go with disks that is not hotter than the stock Seagate Barracuda 7200.12. At the temperature this disk generates, and below, the fan never spins up anyway."

    He then goes on to say, and I disagree with this part because, though iMacs are clearly designed to run relatively hot, conventional wisdom has is that you don't want to constantly run anything at its upper tolerance levels for too long if you care about long term reliability.

    "But if you want a hotter disk, you can argue that even if you shorten the disk’s life a bit when you constantly run it hot, the speed you gain make this tradeoff rational. You can always use an external Time Machine backup disk, then you’re safe, no matter what."

    The full blog can be found in the link below; though it starts out as an article about propitiatory hard drive cables in the late 2009 model it moves onto being a thread about temperature/fan problems where replacing the drive with another in 2009/2010 models.
  3. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030


    Jan 11, 2007
    Seagate drives were my top choice until my experience(s) with the ST series. Had several failures - all of them due to the "data protection" feature. None were due to physical failure of the heads / platter.
  4. Detosx, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011

    Detosx thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    Keeping an eye on ebuyer and kikatek (UK dealers). The former have the drives back in and in huge quantity, at discount, about 20 at Kitek. I will place an order for a few today, if only because the drive is cool running and more batches than not are usually quite quiet. I will use the temperature lead short technique (if a staple and insulating tape can be called an actual 'technique') and fan control when crunching video. Ultimately I am looking for a way to fool Seagate's firmware updater so that it backs up the Apple firmware from my existing drive so that I can flash the new one, or rather I am looking for someone who has successfully tried this. Similarly a download for the Apple AP25 firmware is beyond Google's magic, at the moment. Unless someone out there has found different?

    I am champing to place an order for Intel's new 80GB 320 SSD, provided like the X25 it is able to sleep/hibernate properly (though hibernation could use up a precious 8GB or so.)

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