Voiding a warranty on an external hard drive

After a recent hard drive failure, I realized I need to start doing some proper backups (Duh, right?)  Anyway, while shopping for hard drives to build a backup NAS (for which I need some internal drives, not external USB drives) I discovered a trend where a lot of external hard drives are cheaper than internal drives at the same capacity. How does this make sense?

I ended up purchasing these 3TB hard drives for about $140 each at Office Depot.  It’s a crap shoot on which hard drive will be inside, but it will normally be made by the same manufacturer, and be of that capacity. (You would be surprised to find out this isn’t _always_ the case).

Being a 3TB Seagate, a quick search over at Newegg shows this drive which sells for $229.  That’s a $90 dollar difference.  WOW!  So doing this instead of buying internal drives is a bargain so far.

Lets see what’s in the box.

The drive in its enclosure.

A Mini USB Cable.

And a 12v 1.5A wall wart.


SCORE!  So far we’ve gotten a free wall wart and mini USB cable that we can use on other projects!  This enclosure would be nice for another project if we can save it, and whatever other electronics are inside might be cool, too.


OK, great, now let’s rip the hard drive out of the enclosure, right?  Well, not so fast.  Once we open this we will void our warranty. (Now you can put on your cool-guy “I void warranties” shirt.)  We should check it out first before messing with it.

 Hard drives are flaky, they randomly die, and if anyone could accurately tell you a drive was bad they probably wouldn’t have sent that one to you, right?  So, what can we do?  First thing is obvious: plug it in and make sure it works and shows up and doesn’t make any strange clicking noises.




 Check the properties, make sure the capacity is all there.





 Do a long slow format. (Make sure your ‘Quick Format’ box is NOT checked.)





Copy some files to it, delete some files…  OK, what next?

Well, there isn’t much else we can do at this point.  We can download a program to sniff out the S.M.A.R.T. data and maybe run some benchmarks on it.  I recommend HDDScan and, yes, I’m just assuming you’re using Windows.  If you were using a Mac you would most likely have just bought the right drive, and if you’re using Linux you can format with badblocks options and fsck the crap out of it.

Without going into a huge tutorial on using HDDScan, just select the right drive, and some read/write tests and check the S.M.A.R.T. data looking for anything odd.  If you don’t notice anything standing out, well, this is the best you can do as any real hard drive failure will be while you’re actually using it and have your sensitive data on it.



Now be a good USB user and right click on your drive and ‘Safely Remove’ and wait for Windows to tell you it’s OK.  Pull the power/USB cords and wait for it to power down.  Now we’ll just unscrew this box and take the hard drive out.

If you’re a frequent warranty voider you know the usual suspects of where the screws hide: Under labels.  On this drive that’s not a screw it’s just a plastic manufacturing stub.





The screws must be under the rubber feet, that’s where the screws hide.  Shot down again.  No screws.






Unfortunately the retail market is always about making manufacturing cheaper, and a cheaper trend is to make these plastic enclosures just ‘snap together’.  After fiddling with the case a little bit and trying not to cut your hand open with a flat head screw driver, you can kind of feel where the plastic mates together and gently peel apart the plastic snaps.  Remember, we are *trying* to save the enclosure.

Keep on working the split gently all the way across the seam, don’t worry if you hear some cracking noises as this is hardly avoidable.

You should eventually get the top off and see whats inside.





Uh oh, we broke some of those plastic ‘hooks’ that snap this thing together.  So much for saving the case unless we get real creative and put some screws on (or juse use half of it with some panel mount knobs or something, you never know).





Four more screws with some rubber shock absorbers, some aluminum tape…







Our SATA drive is FREE!  Oh, and we picked up a pre-wired 3mm green LED, with a USB-to-SATA adapter!







We got our drive out!  Turns out mine is not the one I found on Newegg, but a ST33000651AS I found at Amazon for $257.25 (Even more of a price difference!)  They didn’t carry it at Newegg.  We got a free mini USB cable, a 12v 1.5a wall adapter, possibly part of an enclosure, and without stripping parts off of the USB-to-SATA adapter, we have a USB-to-SATA adapter we can use to temporarily hook up an external hard drive (assuming this isn’t firmware locked or anything).

Not a bad score and at a discount…



I think the big difference in price is because external HDD retailers have contracts with the manufacturers so they get the HDDs for a fixed price for a long time. After the Thailand flood, HDDs became more expensive but retailers still got their HDDs rather cheap.


But the biggest problem when doing this is that you ‘void’ the warranty. Its like buying a new hard drive with no warranty. Hard drives go bad frequently, and its always good to have a 3 – 5 years of warranty.


I believe these only had a 1 year warranty. Also, have you ever cashed in on your warranty? For me if the drive lasts 30 days, it usually lasts a year, and if it dies after that, i never try to find my receipt and cash in on RMA so its no big deal. I at least took the precaution of checking the drive with some synthetic tests before decasing. But yeah warranty void. Its a disclaimer in the title…


I could really use some extra storage space and considered doing the same thing recently, but I also decided not to because of the lack of a warranty. In my experience when a drive fails under warranty, it’s usually pretty simple to get an RMA and almost never requires a receipt. I’ve RMAed more drives than I can count in my lifetime (just yesterday, I sent back a Seagate 400GB 7200rpm drive that failed after 4.5 years), so IMO a warranty-less drive has to be REALLY cheap to be considered much of a deal.


I did this with my external anout a year ago, i had alot of data on it and the seagate built in ‘sleep’ feature really annoyed me, only now its making funny noises, if i try to RMA just the HDD ex enclosure – can they tell?


@Jake it all depends on what type of sleuthing they do, some companies just take a RMA, throw it in a pile, and send you one from another pile… Some will crack open and investigate the item.

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