Think twice before buying a Hitachi hard drive

By | May 7, 2010

I recently rebuilt my workhorse PC at home after a contractor fried my old one by plugging a sheetrock saw into my UPS.  One of the new components I bought was a Hitachi Deskstar 1TB hard drive.  The drive comes with a three-year warranty.

Less than six months later, the drive began to fail, and my computer told me to back up and replace the drive immediately.

The first sign that getting Hitachi to replace the drive under warranty was not going to be entirely straightforward was when I entered the drive’s serial number into Hitachi’s “Is My Drive in Warranty?” form and got back “Invalid serial”.  Um… no. [I later learned that this was because the serial number returned by SMART has extra characters at the beginning that aren’t in the serial number printed on the drive label, and the web app doesn’t know what to do with those extra characters.  Stupid!]

Fortunately, Hitachi provides an actual email address for contacting their technical support department, so I emailed and asked how I was supposed to open an RMA if their Web site was rejecting my serial number.  I specifically said in my email that this was the primary drive on my computer and I needed them to send me a replacement drive first, so that I could transfer my data onto it, and then I would send back the defective drive.

They responded quickly, explained how to open an RMA, and ended with, “Please Note : For our RMA procedure we do not have a crosshipment process. We need first to receive the defective drive before we can ship the replacement drive.”  Um… no.

I sent back a nasty email in which I explained, again, that this was the primary drive for my computer and that I did not have any other drive large enough to hold all the data on it.  I also explained that my computer is the firewall, router, DNS server, DHCP server, and email server for my house.  In short, if they didn’t send me a replacement first, I would lose data and no one in my house would be able to use the internet for weeks.  My message read in part, “I’ve never heard of a hard-drive company being unwilling to cross-ship a replacement drive.  What the f*ck do you expect people to do with their data?”  I also threatened to bash them all over the Internet if they didn’t cross-ship me a replacement.  Yeah, I was a little pissed.

Note: Seagate and Western Digital both cross-ship replacements for drives under warranty.  Seagate does it for free; I believe WD charges a small fee.

A day later, they responded, “Hitachi GST grants an exception to your case for an advanced replacement based on current stock availability and the warranty terms of your drive and purpose for which it is used.”  I contacted them to arrange the replacement, and it arrived two days later.

Let’s review:

Good:

  • Fast response times from warranty support department.
  • Real email address for contacting support.
  • Replacement drive arrived quickly.
  • Company relented and cross-shipped replacement when I raised a stink and threatened to badmouth them.

Bad:

  • Drive failed less than six months after purchase.
  • Broken RMA web app doesn’t accept valid drive serial number.
  • Denied cross-shipped replacement despite the fact that I explicitly asked for it.
  • Company cross-shipped replacement only when I raised a stink and threatened to badmouth them.

Cross-shipping warranty replacements when requested is the minimum level of acceptable customer service for a hard-drive vendor.  There’s no legitimate reason not to do it, since the customer provides a credit-card number to guarantee that the defective drive will be returned.  The fact that Hitachi apparently has a policy of denying requests for cross-shipped replacements unless the customer is pushy about it is completely unacceptable, and I therefore encourage you to avoid Hitachi when buying hard drives.

A couple final notes:

  • I’m not the first person to document Hitachi’s policy, so I don’t think what happened to me was an aberration.
  • After Hitachi told me they wouldn’t cross-ship a replacement, I called Micro Center (where I bought the drive) and ask them what to do.  They told me buy a new drive from Micro Center, copy all of my data onto it, send back the defective Hitachi drive, wait for the replacement, copy all of my data onto the replacement drive, and then return the new drive to Micro Center for a refund.  “Doesn’t that screw Micro Center because of Hitachi’s replacement policy?” I asked the Micro Center associate on the phone.  “Yeah, I guess so,” she replied, “but there’s not really anything else you can do.”  Kudos to Micro Center for trying to do the right thing even when it would cost them some money.
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15 thoughts on “Think twice before buying a Hitachi hard drive

  1. Peter G Russell

    Beware of this company drive failed within 10 months ,trying to get a RMA Dead loss ,works along the lines ,it seems
    got your money bye bye

    Reply
  2. harddisk corps cheat

    Hitachi has been sold to wd, hence there are now 2 major hd corps, wd & seagate, and 2 minor ones Samsung & Toshiba. I got stung many times and have found out that they are equally bad and their products are commonly unreliable. Howeve, in my opinion what is even worse is that they never warrant the data inside. if your hd fails, they would replace it with a blank refurbed one if it is still under warranty, but what about the data inside? It is still in the platters but they would refer you to a 3rd party data recovery service, who would charge you more than 2K (!!) for “a chance to get some back”. Your years of works and lifetime memory can be wiped out just by one hd mishap. It’s time for all consumers to unite against these harddisk corps, at least for them to provide more reliable hd’s and a more reasonable way to recover the data inside.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      It’s not the HD manufacturer’s job to warrant your data.

      If you want your data to be protected, back it up.

      There are cheap, easy-to-use backup services. I personally like and use CrashPlan.

      Reply
  3. Jo Blow

    Bought 2 1TB drives. One failed a few months after. RMA’ed without issue. Got a refurbished drive that started failing a few months after(Drive getting bad sectors in and around the MFT causing file loss).

    I tend to buy WD and never had drive failure from them(10+ drives) but my first 2 hitachi’s seem to have problems.

    Reply
  4. stufff

    I confirm everything here. In my case, the drive failure started 3 days after I installed it. Web app rejected the serial, and I couldn’t get them to offer cross-shipping. Total nightmare, I just have just paid more for the WD.

    Reply
  5. Mohammad

    I received an “Invalid Serial Number” error message when trying to check the warranty on an internal HD.

    Turns out there are a lot of extra numbers even on the label itself. This is what I did:

    There is the main label with all the data on it. Then there are two labels on the back of the drive (the side opposite the connections) the left of the two labels has a long barcode followed by PCE / 400 (/ indicating the next line) so I realized those numbers were in the serial and cut the serial from there. I just used the numbers following “PCE400” and those turned out to be all that was needed. Hope this helps.

    Reply
  6. Charles

    Grr …

    I’ve had 4 DOA warranty replacements for an Hitachi SimpleDrive Mini. Rather than RMA the last I asked Hitachi for a solution. That was on 3 September 2011. We exchanged mails and I ran tests at their request. Have been waiting for a reply after sendig the test report since 18 December 2011 despite sending three reminders and complaining to compliance@hitachigst.com a week ago.

    More grr …

    Reply
  7. Victor

    I wish I’d read a bit more about Hitachi’s hard drives before purchasing one, a XL 1000 1TB external drive. This one just failed after 13 months,no jostling or anything happened to it, not even heavy use. Unfortunately, I was in the process of backing things up but still lost all of the pictures from our daughter’s first year. I came home one day and heard a whining noise from the hard drive, turned it off and when I turned it back on again it just clicks every couple seconds. I know I’m going to have to send it in to a clean room place to change the head and recover the data which sucks. I doubt Best Buy will be any help.

    Reply
  8. IC

    Anyone who doesn’t have a spare drive or 2, or at least some solid dvd or bluray backups of all their data these days is pretty much their own problem, and someday you will lose it all.

    Hitachi drives do suck tho, make no mistake about that..

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I’ve got everything backed up. And if my drive had failed completely, then yeah, I would have had to deal with restoring from backup, a painful and time-consuming process. But in this case, when my drive hadn’t yet failed completely and therefore I could transition to a new drive with a simple filesystem copy, expecting the drive vendor to cross-ship a replacement was perfectly reasonable.

      Reply
  9. Tamisoft

    For me the serial reported by smartcl is MN1220F3083SAD and I had to remove the MN1220 from the beginning to make the Hitachi site accept it.
    Hope it’ll still help someone in the future. 🙂

    L.

    Reply
  10. pol098

    “… it would have been a bit more helpful if you’d actually provided info about what the unnecessary entries are in the s/n provided.”

    (I’m not associated with original poster). A typical Hitachi serial number, from a Hitachi HDT 721010SLA360 for which an RMA was issued, is MH0AFL8B (I’ve changed a couple of characters from my actual number).

    Reply
  11. N

    The serial number obfuscation sucks, but it would have been a bit more helpful if you’d actually provided info about what the unnecessary entries are in the s/n provided. It wouldve helped others avoid getting into the same frustrating sequence of events you got into. Still not too late. You remember which portion of the huge list of digits in the listed s/n the actual s/n is?

    Reply

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