Thursday, August 26, 2010

Buffalo Linkstation Pro 2TB LS-XH2.0TL

I bought my Buffalo Linkstation Pro 2TB LS-XH2.0TL NAS in January 2010, it died Aug 17th. Still under warranty, BUT...

Well, let's start at the beginning. I tend to leave it in sleep mode, and turn it off if the power fails, so the UPS it is connected to can be turned off as well.

This last time when I turned it back on, I was greeted by a flashing red light. 7 flashes and then it repeats. A simple google for that reveals that the HD is likely dead, and possibly the motherboard as well.

But there are things to try, so try them I did. I was able to use the tftp boot mode to restore the firmware to an older version. The Buffalo forums gave a method, and following it was an issue as the software they said to use did not have the screens or options they showed... So I winged it and eventually got it to work - at least now I could get into it with the GUI in EM (Emergency Maintenance) mode.

In EM mode pretty much all you can do is upgrade the software on the drive - and every time I tried it I got the following message :

"Failed to formatting. (ACP_STATE_FAILURE) Updating is aborted."

This is Bad. I never heard a drive start, no noise at all from inside. I emailed Buffalo tech support, they said to return the unit for exchange. I found in several forums that I could expect to get a refurb in exchange, and while it might work perfectly, it would most likely fail again in a few months, perhaps out of warranty by that time.

I am restraining myself in my description because I cannot use polite terms to describe the difficult and arcane methods that are required to simply update the firmware in a working unit. For a non-working unit the process is even more difficult.

So after several days of twiddling with it and hours of research in a vain attempt to save the unit, I determined that I could not fix it.

So should I return it? I chose not to. Why? Several reasons:

1> Unit with a 1 yr warranty fails after 6 months, would likely be replaced with a repaired unit - reliability = poor.

2> I had the backups of ALL of my systems on that HD, as well as my entire music library. I could not access the HD to erase it, and could not verify that the drive was actually dead. Privacy = poor.

3> Curiosity and Optimism - I felt that perhaps I could take it apart and get the HD working as a USB device. Even though taking it apart voided the Buffalo warranty.

So even though it cost me $315 only 6 months ago (ouch), I decided to take it apart. Not easy, but finding the secret releases on the bottom helped. Hint: Feel under the labels for holes, and push a flat-bladed screwdriver through the labels to depress the latch mechanisms. They will likely break, being cheap plastic. Then use a razor to cut the labels along the seam, pry open gently with something hard and flat. I used the screwdriver.

Inside was a WD green 2tb HD - unexpected, as that is one of the most reliable drives out there. Surprise surprise, it is dead as a hammer. It won't even power up or spin at all. So I dissassembled the HD and physically destroyed it. I gave the chassis away to someone that will likely put a new HD in it and use it for years. Oh well.

I looked at options first, such as returning the drive to Western Digital for a warranty exchange - unfortunately the drive itself was no longer under warranty, BUT there was an option to 'trade-up' to another drive, which would have been a newer version of the same drive for about $120 - but then I found this little beauty.

The Western Digital WD Elements 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive. Contains the exact same HD, and is $120. I get an external chassis as well! Better deal than the WD trade up!

So my advice is to avoid the Buffalo devices unless you have carefully researched them and understand all of the recovery methods, tftp booting, EM firmware updates, etc. Personally, I'll not use them again.