Troubleshooting ATA Drives..

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at
Thu Mar 10 11:28:20 CST 2005

On Thu, 10 Mar 2005 15:30:59 +0000 (GMT), lee davison
<leeedavison at> wrote:
> > It would be nice to know for historical purposes exactly which
> > vendors and when they started putting the firmware on the platter.
> I don't think it goes quite that far, most drives only store the
> geometry and block maps on tracks that are normally inaccessible to
> the user. All the firmware is usually in the memory on the controller.

The firmware-on-the-drive design is at least a Maxtor thing, not sure about
Western Digital, Seagate, or IBM , et al.  Specifically, from what I've been
able to discover while researching my own dead drive is that it started with
Maxtor drives that were based on particular DSP chips... I'm guessing it
was a cost-savings measure to not have to put a large FLASH ROM on
the board, but to use the wads and wads of storage that could be accessible
from a program on a smaller FLASH ROM or even a masked-programmed ROM
(not positive about either one).

The loss of the ability of the DSP to read this area is the most common cause
of Maxtor drives coming up with 0/0/0 geometry (and is not what I was suggesting
was the cause of the initial poster's problem).
> Seagate and Westarn Digital have had common electronics over different
> capacities from about the 1GB drive size. On Seagates the mechanism
> was interchangeable between ATA and SCSI controllers, something I used
> to exploit to transfer large ammounts of data between my Amiga and PC.

"Back in the day" of 1GB drives, which are nearly on topic by themselves, I
am pretty certain they were using more traditional techniques to design hard
drive boards.  I'd have to say that these tricks will probably work through the
era of 6.3GB disks... I _think_ things started changing around the 10-20GB era.

I haven't personally had a board swap work since the days of the ST-251,
but I know it did work for a long time for IDE drives.  I just wanted to point
out that in in some cases, it doesn't work the way one might expect anymore.


More information about the cctalk mailing list