Seagate: Good customer service, with a bonus

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 10th, 2006 • 2:49 pm

Back when I first got my G5 Quad machine, I wrote about the problems I had with the extra 500 GB Seagate hard drive that I had bought to add to the machine. It was a Seagate 7200.9 500 GB (model number ST3500641AS), which was supposedly compatible with the G5 Quad.

In a nutshell, the problem was that this family of Seagate hard drives had some feature called “SSC” (Spread Spectrum Clocking) enabled by default, and that this particular feature is incompatible with the G5. (The problem is not limited to Seagate hard drives. Some Western Digital hard drives have the same feature and present the same problem for G5 owners.) When the feature is on, the G5 simply doesn’t see the hard drive at all.

I phoned Seagate’s tech support right away, and the first person I talked to said that they were aware of the issue and were going to send me a firmware update by e-mail that would fix it. I thought that was great.

I wasn’t so impressed when I got the e-mail, however. It turned out that the supposed fix is a PC-only thing that requires you to create two… floppy diskettes, one with Windows 98 and one with the utility. You then need to remove all other hard drives from your PC and boot from the diskettes with the defective Seagate hard drive connected to the CPU.

Apparently, it didn’t cross the mind of this particular tech support person that this might not be appropriate for a problem affecting Power Macintosh G5 Quad owners.

I could in theory have found somebody locally with the appropriate equipment, but I just couldn’t be bothered. This was unacceptable service, and I got back on the phone with Seagate.

The second person that I talked to was quite apologetic and agreed that they had to offer another solution. What he offered to do was to send me a new hard drive with SSC disabled right away, and then arrange for me to send the original hard drive back to Seagate later on.

I thought that was quite decent of them. And the drive did indeed show up within a few days, all the way from the US. I installed it and everything was fine.

Then there was the matter of sending back the original hard drive. I was in no particular hurry, so I waited to see what would happen. About a week later, I suddenly got an automatic e-mail from Seagate “welcoming” me to the Returns service at and providing me with a login name. There was no specific mention of what this was for, but obviously it was for the hard drive that I had to return.

So I went to the site and attempted to log in. Unfortunately, the site asked for both a login name and a password (obviously). But the welcome e-mail that I got from Seagate did not include a password! So I tried to use the “Forgot your password?” feature to get the password sent to me by e-mail.

However, this feature asked me to reply to a “secret question” with my “secret answer.” Needless to say, I had no idea what these might be.

So I went to the “Contact Us” form to send a request for help with this, with an explanation of the situation.

A couple of days later, I got a laconic answer telling me that the secret question was “What is your Pets Name?” (sic) and the secret answer was “segate” (sic again). Why they couldn’t send me a password by e-mail directly, I do not know.

Anyway, I went back to the site and tried this secret answer. It didn’t work. I guessed that the guy who had sent me this e-mail was simply not a very good typist or speller, and typed “seagate” instead of “segate.” It finally worked!

A password was sent to me, and I was finally able to log in. But then there was no indication of what I was supposed to do. I guessed that I had to request a RMA number by submitting the serial number of the original drive, with a explanation of the “failure.” But the problem that I had with this is that I had already been through this exact same process for another (defective) drive earlier in 2005, and I knew that this process would mean that I would have to pay to ship the hard drive back to Seagate.

I thought that wasn’t quite fair, since it wasn’t exactly a case of a hard drive failure under warranty, in which situation I would expect to have to pay for the postage. It was a hard drive that was incompatible from the get-go and was affected by a known issue that Seagate simply hadn’t addressed in time to prevent situations such as mine.

So I submitted another request for more information about this, explaining that I didn’t really expect to have to pay for the postage. Unfortunately, the only answer I got was a generic one about the drive being under warranty and this being the standard procedure. At that point I decided that I wasn’t going to fight endlessly for 10 or 15 dollars of shipping, and I just went ahead, requested the RMA number through the system, and shipped the thing back to Seagate’s Canadian address with a note explaining what the “failure” was.

In the back of my mind, however, I also decided to do this because I thought that maybe, just maybe, Seagate would fail to make the connection with the replacement drive that already had been sent to me, and send me another replacement drive after receiving the defective one. I figured that $10 or $15 for another 500 GB hard drive would be a pretty good deal, and that it was worth a try.

And guess what? That’s exactly what happened. Even though I had specifically described the situation in the information I submitted to Seagate, they still failed to make the connection with the replacement drive that had already been sent to me, and ended up sending me another one, which arrived just the other day.

Of course, the G5 Quad only has two drive bays, but the built-in hard drive that came with the machine was only a 250 GB model (a Western Digital Caviar SE), so I figured I would just replace it with the bigger drive. First I had to make sure that this new replacement drive did have SSC disabled. In order to do this, I removed the other replacement Seagate hard drive (which does not have my startup volume on it) and put this new one instead. It showed up just fine, and I formatted it and transferred all my stuff from the 250 GB drive to it. I also took the opportunity to reinstall Tiger from scratch, which I was going to have to do anyway because I am still part of the AppleSeed program for Tiger updates and the latest build required a clean install anyway. The vast majority of my documents and applications are on separate partitions, including applications for which this is not obvious, such as Adobe Creative Suite applications and GarageBand 3 with all its jam packs. So doing a clean install of Tiger is not such a big deal for me these days.

Within a couple of hours, I was up and running, with a G5 Quad now containing two brand new 500 GB Seagate hard drives… It’s the first time I have 1 terabyte of storage! And I have a spare 250 GB hard drive just in case. Not a bad deal, I figure.

(When it comes to hard drive noise, the Seagate drive is a bit noisier than the Western Digital one when accessing files, but the background noise is not any different, and I don’t mind hearing what the hard drive is doing a bit more clearly anyway.)

So all in all, I would say that my experience with Seagate has been pretty good, in spite of the initial disappointment of the incompatible hard drive. Both drives come with a five-year warranty, so I should be OK for a while! Just don’t tell anyone at Seagate that they sent me an extra hard drive for free! :-) (With the number of drives that they process each day, I am quite sure they will never notice, and it won’t have much of an impact on their bottom line. So I am not going to feel particularly guilty about it either, especially since I dutifully did my part in the process…)

One Response to “Seagate: Good customer service, with a bonus”

  1. Paul Ingraham says:

    Great story, Pierre!

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