MacInTouch Reader Reports

Hard Drives: Power Issues

Feb. 13, 2009
Feb. 14, 2009
Feb. 16, 2009
Feb. 17, 2009
Dec. 1, 2009
Apr. 25, 2011
Apr. 27, 2011
Sep. 13, 2012
Feb. 13, 2009

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Bill Planey

OWC has been using Sunfone power supplies and I just lost access to my 1TB Mercury Elite Pro drive because this crappy power supply failed (after emitting a loud hissing sound for a couple days). OWC has changed to Jentec Electronics as a provider. What's really sad is that such a critical component is ever entrusted to whichever company comes in with the lowest bid [...].

Given the sheer multiplicity of power requirements that these power bricks are designed to serve, how likely is it that I could find an alternative provider (perhaps a non-Chinese, non-Taiwanese manufacturer) of a "universal" power supply that has a multi-year warranty? I would certainly be willing to pay extra for something that I would be confident would last many years and not fail at an inopportune moment. I would even be willing to pull out my soldering iron and piece together my own custom solution from reliable parts...

Feb. 14, 2009

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Jay Morgan

I'll second the note on the Sunfone power supplies on OWC drives. My enclosure had the same kind of failure as Bill. Unfortunately, mine wasn't under warranty, as my enclosure was over 1 year old.

item.87146

MacInTouch Reader

I third the Sunfone power supply being replaced with Jentec. I had one of two units, bought a year apart, fail and even though I didn't know which Sunfone unit had failed, OWC replaced it with my only cost shipping it back.

I did NOT lose any data.

I am concerned that my remaining Sunfone runs pretty warm--verging on hot.

And when we speak of trusting something as vital as power to lowest bidder, what parts in any of our gear are not made by lowest bidder? Why do you think stuff is made in Thailand or China?

No need to go into things like the U.S. economy maybe being better off if we still built stuff here...

Feb. 16, 2009

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Richard Avery

I had major power supplies issues with LaCie drives. Some clicking and quitting, others just dying... I had to buy new power supplies for four LaCie drives, twice for one or two of these drives. And I still believe that I will have to buy new power supplies during tne next year, or the year after.
Is this normal? Are these problems unique to the four drives that I bought? Or is it linked to my own destiny?

item.87179

Pal Takeuchi

I, too, have had problems with Sunfone power adapters supplied by OWC with their external firewire drives. Over the last two years, I've had 3 die on me, 1 within warranty, 2 after a year, 1 of those a replacement. I've also had other power adapters from Firmtek die on me. I wonder if this is possibly related to the bad capacitors that appeared several years ago?

At any rate, if you want a reliable backup system, you should seriously consider the durability of your power supply. While not as bad as a hard drive failure, a dead power supply can interrupt your backup/restore schedule, making you very vulnerable to data loss.

Feb. 17, 2009

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Derek Fong

Richard Avery asked whether it's normal that power supplies on LaCie products need to be replaced regularly. I can say that unfortunately this has been my experience with at least three different LaCie units I've had under my care over the last two years. LaCie shipped us new power supplies for our under-warranty drives that ended up failing within months, and out of the three drives we originally bought, all are now on the shelf and unusable without a transplant to new cases.

Because of this, I no longer recommend LaCie products to anyone (in fact, I recommend *against* them), even though you often find them on sale at great prices at major Canadian retailers like Best Buy and Futureshop. (I won't even comment as to why I think they're always on sale...)

I hate to generalize, but many other of my friends and colleagues have had similar experiences with their own LaCie external hard drives.

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Robin Lake

Richard Avery wrote:

I had major power supplies issues with LaCie drives. Some clicking and quitting, others just dying... I had to buy new power supplies for four LaCie drives, twice for one or two of these drives. And I still believe that I will have to buy new power supplies during tne next year, or the year after.
Is this normal? Are these problems unique to the four drives that I bought? Or is it linked to my own destiny?

Power supplies going bad are a fact of life with LaCie drives over the past 3 years or so. They seem to be good for a bit more than the one year warrantee. I have seven external LaCie drives at the moment and about the same number of failed supplies. I buy the replacement supplies in sets of three, just in case. LaCie has, I've been told, recently switched their Chinese vendor. I plan, as time permits, to pry open one of the bad supplies just find out what's going wrong: bad capacitors or a bad regulator chip or a bad transformer.

The supplies don't quit putting out voltage. The output just isn't sufficient to keep a drive going.

item.87214

Gene Nocon

I have a couple of 2-3 year old LaCie external hard drives that I thought had died. Just a case of bad luck I thought. Being a stickler for brand loyalty I bought a 1TB LaCie Big Disk Extreme from my local *Apple* Store. Three months of use I start hearing clicking sounds coming from the hard drive, followed by the hard drive shutting down. Fidgeting with the on/suto/off switch I got it going again. But after several of these happenings I emailed LaCie and got a prompt reply: possible power supply. They sent a replacement and I promptly put that on the 1TB LaCie. It worked for about two weeks, then the dreaded clicking sound followed by shutting down, etc. Under warranty LaCie is replacing the hard drive. Before complete failure I was able to move a lifetime of photographic images onto other drives so no anguish or gnashing of teeth. The interesting thing is I took the two power supply units that had been for the 1 TB Lacie and tried them on the "dead" hard drives - they work! I checked the original power supply that came with these two drives. Although the indicator light is on (the power unit) the hard drive indicator light is off and of course the hard drive itself. Not enough power in the power supply units?

item.87222

David Lawson

Add me to the list of victims of troublesome OWC power supplies... 2 OWC enclosures, 3 dead power supplies in a couple of years. And the most recent one (a 4.2A supply for a dual-drive enclosure) is on backorder.

From what I hear from others, though, it's not just OWC that has these problems, but every enclosure vendor.

It's really too bad, because the OWC enclosures themselves are well-built and have performed flawlessly (as have the Seagate and Samsung drives inside).

[For what it's worth, I've used OWC enclosures (and drives) for years and haven't seen power supply problems. It looks like these power supplies are from Jentec. -Ric Ford]

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Bill Planey

One interesting conclusion I've drawn from this experience is that the warranty of the external power supply is apparently tied to the warranty of the drive. OWC warranted my drive for three years, so that's why they replaced the power supply when it failed. They also sell other drives using the same enclosure and ostensibly with the same power supply that have only a one-year warranty. So the same power supply is given two different warranties, depending on the context in which you bought it. It would probably help us as consumers to know what kind of warranty they would give the power supply separately - if less than the drive, that would be a clear indication of their opinion of the power supply's veracity.

But in addition to the one they supplied under warranty, I have also purchased a second one, so I am covered if this happens again.

I would nonetheless be interested to know how I could "build my own" with long-lasting parts...

Dec. 1, 2009

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Samuel Herschbein

A bit off-topic:

Recently I fixed a Chinese-made power supply for a portable phone whose case broke when stepped on. They had used acid-flux solder, the amount of corrosion on all the solder joints was appalling. I resoldered some, but this supply's days are numbered. It makes me wonder if a bunch of the supplies I've trashed weren't made using acid-flux solder.

I won't get up on the soapbox...

Apr. 25, 2011

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David Kilbridge

In August 2007 a friend of mine purchased a G-Drive Q 500GB external for backups. It shipped with a Jentec JTA0512 3A power supply. Liking the drive, I purchased the same model in December 2007. In the interim, the bean counters had gotten loose, and I received the pin-compatible Jentec JTA0202Y 2A power supply. Or maybe my friend just got lucky during a temporary shortage of the 2A supplies ;-)

By March 2011 my unit was out of warranty, and the 12V output had dropped to 10.5V under no load -- not enough to spin up the drive. G-Technology's Accessories web page lists a "G-DRIVE/G-DRIVE Q - 12V/5V, 2A" replacement supply for $19.99 and a "G-RAID/G-SATA - 12V/5V , 3A" supply for $24.99. The connectors looked the same in the photos, so judging that the extra power margin was worth $5 more, I took a compatibility risk and ordered the G-RAID/G-SATA supply.

The next day (way to go, Avnet!) the supply arrived, and, fortunately, it proved to be the same Jentec JTA0512 3A model my friend has. But repeated attempts over the previous month to elicit this simple fact from G-Technology's tech support and thus eliminate the compatibility risk had proved fruitless.

Apr. 27, 2011

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James Wages

In response to David Kilbridge, it sounds similar to what I reported here on MacInTouch in October 2010.

I bought the replacement power supply from OWC for use with my LaCie external drive and the new supply has served me well over the past 6 months.

Sep. 13, 2012

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MacInTouch Reader

Had same exact issues with LaCie. When my 2nd ext. drive failed, and later I learned it was all to be blamed on their Sun-Fone made AC adapter, and LaCie refused to budge, I bought an Iomega ext. drive in August 2010.

...Well, it worked well for 2 years. Then it started failing, not loading on my desktop, clicking, and behaving like wishing to die. I decided that a drive should not be failing after 2 years, and started asking around.

A friend of mine suggested I replace the power supply with another drive I have, and voila, the Iomega was working fine... When I checked again the manufacturer of the Iomega adapter I was shocked to see the same SunFone logo on it (yes, I should have checked when I got my Iomega drive).... So Iomega was selling the same crappy adapter in 2010, even though they must have known it to be crappy?..... Hmmm....

I called Iomega today. The product is out of warranty, so I'm on my own.

I am heading to Radio Shack, see what I can get there to replace my crappy adapter. But I know I won't be purchasing LaCie, nor Iomega products in the future.


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