PDA

View Full Version : Cheap Components Used in Expensive Products



glitch
July 7th, 2010, 03:28 PM
Why sacrifice your product's name to save 10 cents a unit?

My external hard drive just failed. It was a MacAlly USB/FireWire/eSATA enclosure with a Seagate Barracuda drive inside. The drive had been replaced once already when it started making funny sounds...Seagate gave me no trouble in sending back a remanufactured unit. Apparently the remanufactured units don't carry the same warranty as new-bought drives, as the replacement (less than a year old) isn't in warranty.

So, I did the only thing one can do with a fried hard drive: I opened it. Cause of failure? Nearly totally frozen bearings. I can't turn the spindle by hand, and it's very difficult with pliers. The heads don't seem to be crashed, nothing is binding the platters to the head rack or anything. Simply frozen bearings, which I think is unacceptable for a $150 drive (at the time of original purchase) that's less than a year old.

Fortunately, the drive was mostly used for the storage of digital media...ripped movies and music that I've got hard copies of elsewhere. It's still annoying, as now I have to regenerate 500 GB of data!

wmmullaney
July 7th, 2010, 04:11 PM
It's really unfortunate how much Seagate's quality has dropped lately, especially in light of the 7200.11 incident. If you are going for a new drive, I would stick to western digital. In my opinion their drives are the quietist and longest lasting.

glitch
July 7th, 2010, 04:22 PM
If you are going for a new drive, I would stick to western digital. In my opinion their drives are the quietist and longest lasting.

Yep, I'll be getting another low-consumption WD Caviar "Green Label"...I've got one of their 1TB disks in my desktop, had it going for over a year now, very quiet, runs cool, and I don't notice any performance problems. Probably put a second drive in RAID1, eventually with a third for RAID 5.

I've got a Seagate Wren II that I use fairly regularly in my IBM PC/XT...it's kind of embarassing that the Wren II runs fine when the modern Barracudas have such problems.

Unknown_K
July 7th, 2010, 04:43 PM
Drives tend to overheat in external enclosures that do not have cooling fans. I think newer drives use a liquid bearing and they can leak/boil off?

As far as old drives go, I have a stack of 80-400MB EIDA drives from the early 90's with 0 bad sectors that still work. I bet millions of drives from the same batches have kicked the bucket over the years, only the strong survive.

Chuck(G)
July 7th, 2010, 04:48 PM
It's funny--the only drives that I've ever had fail were 3.5" IDE drives and a few early 5.25" HH drives. I think every FH 5.25" (MFM/SCSI/ESDI) drive I have just comes right up and some/most of them are more than 20 years old.

Must be a lesson there somewhere.

Unknown_K
July 7th, 2010, 05:32 PM
It's funny--the only drives that I've ever had fail were 3.5" IDE drives and a few early 5.25" HH drives. I think every FH 5.25" (MFM/SCSI/ESDI) drive I have just comes right up and some/most of them are more than 20 years old.

Must be a lesson there somewhere.

Sure there is a lesson there, once the tools to design something get precise enough, you remove engineering slop to save money and products barely last past the warrenty. Having said that I have seen quite a few SCSI 5.25" drives give up the ghost (found in ealy mac II, IIx, IIfx machines). Also compare the prices on the earlier 5.25" drives and the later cheap (IDE was the cheapest interface) 3.5" drives. And just to disprove that 5.25" drives are more reliable, how about Quantum Bigfoots!

Chuck(G)
July 7th, 2010, 06:11 PM
I've still got 3 Quantum Bigfoots --a CY, a TX and a TS and they all still work. I don't think there was anything particularly wrong with the HDA, but the electronics were badly designed, particularly in the way they mated to the HDA. FWIW, I also used to have a couple of CYs that died.

That being said, I still don't understand why Quantum thought there was a market in HH 5.25" drives when the rest of the world was going 3.5" and smaller. it was a very strange marketing decision.

I don't think I've ever had much long-term luck with half-height 5.25" drives. But you're right about prices. I remember being thrilled around 1990 to find a 330MB SCSI CDC Wren for "only" $900. It's still mounted in a 386 tower with 6 floppy drives. Recently I noticed that the CMOS wouldn't keep its settings at found that the NiCd battery on the motherboard was starting to leak. I clipped it out and stuck on a 4 AA cell battery holder removing only a single ISA card to get to the header. Back in business for a few more years.

Chuckster_in_Jax
July 7th, 2010, 06:20 PM
One of the best sources for finding out which hard drives have reliability problems is the customer feedback on sites like Newegg.com. Take a look at the feedback for this Seagate drive:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148337

28% gave it a 1 out of 5 rating. This is what I look at before buying components.

Unknown_K
July 7th, 2010, 07:03 PM
What do you think of this sites history lesson good drives?

http://www.redhill.net.au/id.html

I have one system currently with a Quantum Bigfoot, it is an OEM drive in a Compaq P166 of some kind (flared front with a bunch of buttons on top for a multimedia system).

sombunall
July 7th, 2010, 08:16 PM
I had a Vantec enclosure go bad on me after about 2-3 years. Replaced with an Antec MX-1 which has a 80mm low profile fan in it.

The way the Vantec went bad was really terrible. In Ubuntu it would cause intermittent kernel panic and system halt. In debian I would just get USB disconnect messages. It took me 2 days to troubleshoot it since I would have to do a copy and wait for it to fail every time using the process of elimination. Would take an hour to fail sometimes and I needed to change 1 variable at a time to be absolutely sure.

Chuck(G)
July 7th, 2010, 08:48 PM
What do you think of this sites history lesson good drives?

http://www.redhill.net.au/id.html

My problem with it is that it cuts off too late. It really needs to cover the 80's drives better. There were some awesome great lunking hunks of metal back then, particularly in the 300+ MB category.

sombunall
July 7th, 2010, 09:20 PM
I wish there was a site like that with writeups and good pictures on 8-9" and 14-15" drives. I have a lust for the hulking spinning beasts and their insane power requirements and dangerous capacitors.

Chuck(G)
July 7th, 2010, 10:23 PM
I wish there was a site like that with writeups and good pictures on 8-9" and 14-15" drives. I have a lust for the hulking spinning beasts and their insane power requirements and dangerous capacitors.

Or, 30" drives. My first HD for my IBM PC was an SA-1002 (8" 4MB) with a homemade ISA-to-WD1001 controller interface. I've still got a SA4008 14" 40MB drive on one of my CP/M systems. Bitsavers has a lot of information on these old beasts. I never thought the capacitors to be particuarly dangerous, however.

NeXT
July 7th, 2010, 10:40 PM
It's called margin expanding and cost cutting. Apple is a great example of this.
Stuff that runs forever generally means customers do not return as often to buy more which means less profit. With a bit of risk you can sell your product for more and use cheaper quality parts and should it ever fail, you hope they return to buy more or get it serviced.

mark66j
July 8th, 2010, 03:27 AM
Sure there is a lesson there, once the tools to design something get precise enough, you remove engineering slop to save money and products barely last past the warrenty. Having said that I have seen quite a few SCSI 5.25" drives give up the ghost (found in ealy mac II, IIx, IIfx machines). Also compare the prices on the earlier 5.25" drives and the later cheap (IDE was the cheapest interface) 3.5" drives. And just to disprove that 5.25" drives are more reliable, how about Quantum Bigfoots!

I also remember Micropolis. One of their problems was drives that ran way too hot. I got a 9GB full-height SCSI drive cheap as they were going under (a massive amount of storage when I got it). But it was so hot that I had to put it at the top of the case, and leave the case top open, or the machine would not run. Not just a drive, it's also a hotplate!

I also second the comments about external drive enclosures -- some of them are really bad at ventilation and will cook the drive.

sombunall
July 8th, 2010, 09:52 AM
Or, 30" drives. My first HD for my IBM PC was an SA-1002 (8" 4MB) with a homemade ISA-to-WD1001 controller interface. I've still got a SA4008 14" 40MB drive on one of my CP/M systems. Bitsavers has a lot of information on these old beasts. I never thought the capacitors to be particuarly dangerous, however.

I'm still waiting for you to showcase these! I don't think they were made with "cheap components". :D

Chuck(G)
July 8th, 2010, 10:00 AM
I'm still waiting for you to showcase these! I don't think they were made with "cheap components". :D

It's mostly a matter of unearthing. The 14" unit is the size of a Samsonite 3-suiter and is heavy, but I'll get to it one of these days. Since I've picked up an ISA GPIB controller, it might be fun to get this working on a PC.

Raven
July 19th, 2010, 11:16 PM
Next to those drives that fill entire rooms, and the ones that have three-foot-wide platters, what is the biggest hard drive (physically) that was made? I'd not heard of a 14" - I figured my full-height 5.25" was the biggest. I need me one of these beasts. And.. did you say 30" drive? That's roughly a two-foot-wide platter, no?

akator
July 20th, 2010, 09:25 AM
It's called margin expanding and cost cutting. Apple is a great example of this.
Stuff that runs forever generally means customers do not return as often to buy more which means less profit. With a bit of risk you can sell your product for more and use cheaper quality parts and should it ever fail, you hope they return to buy more or get it serviced.

Minus a few years in the mid-to-late 90s, all of my Apple products were insanely reliable. That is, up until the switch to Intel. We had 3 Intel iMacs in 3 years with them "in the shop" for repairs for 1/4 of the time. Not good.

If you own Macs, I would highly recommend investing in the extended Apple Care. It saved us from having to pay for those repairs out-of-pocket, which would have been over double the purchase price of the computers.

I had the chance to look inside my last iMac as it was being repaired, and was shocked at the cheap crap Apple was using. The computer was pretty on the outside, but most of the components were the same as a low-end notebook.

When the last iMac died last year, I swore off Apple. I built my own quad core machine with much higher quality components, a 24" screen, backlit keyboard, video digitizer card, TBs of storage, and switched to Ubuntu. With everything purchased new and longer warranties than Apple offers, I paid $920... barely more than half of what Apple was charging for a "comparable" 24" iMac.

I haven't regretted the decision once. I haven't had a single failed component in over a year of ownership, which is better than I had with any of my iMacs. Even if something does fail, I can buy a new one and replace it myself for less than 1/3 of what Apple charges.

I still have fun using my remaining old Macs, though. The 23-year-old Mac Plus, 12-year-old CRT iMac, and 7-year-old G4 iMac all run as reliably as the day they were purchased.

Chuck(G)
July 20th, 2010, 09:52 AM
Isn't just about everything that Apple sells nowadays made by Foxconn (which, BTW, has revenues that dwarf Apple's)?

It makes more sense to buy in Intel-made-by-Foxconn motherboard and go from there for a desktop system. You're getting the same workmanship.

And yet, when Apple brought out its Intel-based systems, it made a big point of how the quality was so much better.

Dave Farquhar
July 21st, 2010, 09:12 AM
OK, I'll pile on. Is the modern stuff made a lot more cheaply, or do we just expect more from it?

I've been trying to help my sister and brother in law with their DSL issues. When their modem isn't acting flaky, their router is. They already bought a new router, and now the modem acts stupid, so now I'm suggesting to them that they return the router and buy one of the D-Link combo modem/router units, which I'm hoping will last them for at least a couple of years. I went through the same routine about a year ago and one of those D-Link units solved most of my issues. (It also turned out my phone line was crossed with a neighbor's, so AT&T had to fix that.)

In the bad old days of dialup, I used to buy and recommend US Robotics modems. They were more expensive than other brands but they worked well and I never threw one out because it stopped working. Were they that much better than DSL modems, or was it that I was buying a new one every 3 years because something newer and faster was out? I did the jump from 9600 to 14.4 to 28.8 to 56K before I got DSL. I've had DSL since early 2000 and I'm on my fourth modem.

It sure seems like Quantum hard drives (with the exception of the infamous Bigfoots) were a whole lot more reliable than anything out there now. I have a Quantum drive in the PC in my basement. I bought the drive sometime in 2000, and it's in its second or third system now. Yeah, it's really slow by today's standards but it's run almost nonstop now for 10 years. I got sick of Seagate and Western Digital drives breaking so I put an SSD in my main system, hoping that lack of a motor to fail and heads to crash will give me better reliability. So far, so good on that. It's quiet and reliable and fast, though its 32GB capacity leaves me feeling cramped sometimes.

Operating systems are a lot better today than they used to be, but I question the underlying hardware. Any time I stray from the combination of Asus motherboards, Crucial or Kingston memory and Seasonic power supplies, it seems like I'm lucky if the system lasts any longer than 3 years.

Chuck(G)
July 21st, 2010, 09:41 AM
I use an Actiontec Verizon-branded FIOS modem as a router and wireless access point. I got it for nothing, since it was inoperative. I popped it open and saw several capacitors bulging and replaced them and the thing sat up and started working. Lately, the wireless has been on the fritz--I see now that the capacitors that I didn't replace are now failing. Another round with the soldering iron and the thing is good to go.

I pick up my LCD display monitors as junk--almost all suffer from capacitor problems and occasionally have a blown inverter transistor.

Offhand, I'd say that things are more cheaply made today, more so than they were 20 years ago.

channelmaniac
July 22nd, 2010, 06:42 AM
Is it that they are made cheaply or is it because of RoHS standards? (Reduction of Hazardous Substances)

I have to wonder with all the lead free solder and other changes for RoHS if parts just aren't lasting as long! The US Military does NOT want to use RoHS components in much of their custom built items because of failure rates.

Chuck(G)
July 22nd, 2010, 08:01 AM
RoHS can be a real problem if the applicatoin is subject to temperature variations and vibration. My Volvo is testament to that--if there's a failure anywhere in the electrical system, half the time it's because of a failed solder joint somewhere.

But in normal desktop applications, I don't think it's too much of a problem. Far worse is the low quality of the passive components, coupled with the move toward ever high densities and the resulting heat issues.