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Experts warn of drive failures impacting users of Apple’s AirPort Time Capsules

Experts are warning of a potential flaw that could affect Mac users who still rely on Apple Time Capsules for backup. Even though Apple discontinued the Time Capsule in 2018, the product is still in use by many Mac users, and a flaw in the Seagate drive inside could put data at risk.

The news was first reported by the German data recovery company Datenrettung Berlin (via Golem). In the Time Capsules, Apple used Seagate Grenada hard drives. These drives are now suffering from an apparent design flaw that is leading to abnormally high failure rates, according to Datenrettung:

We must assume that this is an error in the design1 of the Seagate Grenada hard drive installed in the Time Capsule (ST3000DM001 / ST2000DM001 2014-2018). The parking ramp of this hard drive consists of two different materials. Sooner or later, the parking ramp will break on this hard drive model, installed in a rather poorly ventilated Time Capsule.

The damage to the parking ramp then causes the write/read unit to be destroyed and severely deformed the next time the read/write unit is parked. When the Time Capsule is now turned on again or wakes up from hibernation, the data disks of the Seagate hard drive are destroyed because the deformed read-write unit drags onto it.

Datenrettung says that this failure in the Seagate drive design is the cause behind nearly every Time Capsule failure it has seen. It says that while data recovery is sometimes possible, it requires “very high effort,” and in some cases, the data is not fully recoverable.

Datenrettung recommends that users with a Time Capsule with 2TB or 3TB of storage look for an alternative backup solution. The folks at iFixit have a detailed guide on how you can swap the hard drive in an AirPort Time Capsule for something more reliable.

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