Apple Replaces Hundreds Of Dollars In iTunes Purchases After Hard Drive Crashes

Like any responsible computer user, Benny regularly backs up his data. Unfortunately for him, the three Seagate external hard drives he used failed, and he lost about $500 in iTunes purchases. Seagate wanted $1700 to recover the data. Fortunately, Apple saved the day.

Benny writes:

18 months ago I bought 3 hard drives from Seagate. Very quickly, they began to fail under regular usage due to ye olde Clicke of Deathe. This last month, another drive failed with all of my iTunes data that I’d just transferred for safety. I located Seagate’s Data Recovery department and found out that the bill for recovery starts at $1700, even for a home user. I then wrote to Apple’s tech support and told them what had happened and asked if they could re-enable my purchases (which totaled less than $500 over a couple years). This morning I woke up to a great email from an Apple guy who re-enabled almost everything I’d purchased! The only omissions were some episodes of The Office, which isn’t so bad considering the scale of the purchased amount.

Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Mark one up for Apple.

(Photo: Earth2Kim)


Edit Your Comment

  1. boandmichele says:

    i wonder what theyd do if, say, he got a zune for christmas and tried to play all that music on it??

  2. Zombilina says:

    Mein Gott! That’s fantastic, but a real fail for Seagate, in both hardware and customer service departments.

  3. The Click of Death was an IBM Deskstar issue. I haven’t heard of anything like that happening with Seagate drives.

    I’ve been computing and backing up for twenty-odd years, and this sounds so improbable, I’m going to go make sure aliens didn’t just land in the yard.

  4. matt1978 says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: Where have you been, mr. “expert”? Just google apple + seagate, or better yet, check the apple forums. Seagate is crap.

  5. Eilonwynn says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: I’ve had “click of death” style issues with even maxtors. Seems like some batches just suck.

  6. JustEaton says:

    @boandmichele: I wonder why, say, someone would buy a Zune in general. Sorry, couldn’t resist. :)

  7. XTC46 says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: the click of death is a universal issue with hard drives…. segate is typically good in my experience, but no brand is flawless

  8. StevieD says:

    THREE external HD’s failed?

    Yea, right. What was the guy doing, using the external drives as internal drives?

  9. cynu414 says:

    The same thing happened to me a few months ago. I sent an email to iTunes support and they let me download everything again, about 500 various songs and tv shows. I never backed up my stuff before but now I use Apple’s Time Capsule and Time Machine. It all works flawlessly.

  10. spince says:

    I was under the impression that you could do this easily without having to contact tech support to start with.

    You can authorize up to 5 computers to have the music you’ve purchased, so it’s just a matter of deauthorizing the previous harddrive wipe and reauthorizing it with the current installation, if you’re working on the same computer.

  11. kable2 says:

    the real problem was he didn’t download DRM free files from bittorrent.

    I am serious. The last music I bought was from columbia house, about 20 years ago.

    /now that I think of it I don’t listen to music very much anyway.

    //if they want to make money, go on tour

  12. Charles Duffy says:

    @kable2: What does DRM have to do with this? If he’d downloaded his music from BitTorrent, he’d be just as screwed when his hard drives crashed — except moreso, because there wouldn’t be a convenient 3rd party who could give him his music back.

    Also, if you happen to still be living in 2005, you might be interested to hear that you can actually buy DRM-free music. Imagine that!

  13. Xkeeper says:

    “the three Seagate external hard drives he used failed”

    How do three hard drives fail all at once?

    My single backup drive sits on a shelf unplugged until I’m ready to use it again.

  14. evslin says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: Only reason you’re associating the click of death with the IBM Deathstar is because it was the biggest clusterfuck of them all… that phenomenon isn’t specific to any brand whatsoever.

  15. ChuckECheese says:

    This sux. I was within days of buying a Seagate external HD. I have a friend who’s an engineer at Seagate, and he made recommendations what to get. Now I don’t want to.

  16. donkeyjote says:

    Every single HD manufacture has had clicky o’ death drives. The Deathstars where just click en masse.

  17. crazylady says:

    @spince: Reauthorization has nothing to do with redownloading purchases.

    For what it’s worth, this “redownload all your purchased iTunes stuff” is fairly standard Apple procedure. However, if I remember correctly, they’ll only do this like once ever per account, so you really need to be desperate….and learn some ways to back up all your stuff (it ends up being cheaper in the long run, really..especially given expensive data recovery costs (which doesn’t matter if you’re home user or pro)).

    [] go to Purchase(s) – missing > My hard drive crashed…

  18. crazylady says:

    Oh, on a sidenote, Benny seems to have backed up to some faulty and not redundant hard drives. Maybe Benny needs to invest in a storage (a la amazon s3)..?

  19. grayskyz says:

    I too have done this with apple. I had about 200 in purchases, maybe a bit more. Anyway, I sugget you use 3 DIFFERENT drives as opposed to 3 same drives. And your experience is exactly why I do this.


  20. crazylady says:

    @grayskyz: three different drives is a start, but hardly a solution. three different drives+some redundancy..then you’re talking :D

  21. AT203 says:

    :shrug: I’m glad they “reauthorized your purchases”, but honestly why don’t they have a business model where they just keep track of what you purchased, and allow you to re-download whenever you need to? Blown up hard-drive, ran-over iPod problem solved.

  22. crazylady says:

    @AT203: i can only assume it’s a licensing issue, even with drm. :(

  23. Gaambit says:

    Here’s a fun fact I found out when this happened to me: I only had a few albums worth of songs I had downloaded from iTunes, so I wasn’t really going to make a case about getting them again. However, all of those songs were still on my iPod. When I plugged the iPod into the new hard drive with what remained of my library, it said it detected I had songs on my iPod downloaded from iTunes that were not on my computer, and would I like to transfer them over.

    Done and done.

  24. weave says:

    I’ve had the click of death on hard drives before and every time I’ve been able to “fix” it by slapping the hard drive as hard as I can against a desk.

    Now understand this should be your absolute last resort before throwing it out and if it starts working, start uttering prayers of thanks and get your data off asap.

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    Yay, Apple. It’s always nice to hear stories of companies doing good. :)

  26. jesusita says:

    Hmmm…I couldn’t get Apple to refund or re-enable TWO songs I was downloading when the laptop hard drive crashed–DURING the download. Their response? “It’s our policy to never refund or re-enable due to hard drive failure. If we do it for you, we have to do it for others as well.” I didn’t even want the entire music directly I’d downloaded over the course of the year or so I’d had my iPod at that time, just two songs that I hadn’t even completely downloaded yet.

    I was in the middle of one download and the other was waiting. Interesting. I haven’t used iTunes since and was finally able to get all my music off my iPod and backed up in a couple places. I’m not impressed.

  27. ironchef says:

    well if he merged 3 drives to act as one via a software RAID application, it’s possible to lose one drive and affect the other two. Merged drives (not as a RAID but via the RAID software) can crap out for sure.

  28. Zelucifer says:

    Can someone clarify for me, what is the difference between authorizing and redownloading?

    Does Itunes DRM require you to copy/send your music directly, as opposed to downloading it from itunes again?

  29. bigbadbyte says:

    Go WD. Seagate hd’s aren’t worth it.

  30. ShariC says:

    Perhaps this is going to sound ungrateful of me, but this doesn’t seem “above and beyond”. It seems more like “reasonable”. Apple must do this for customers who have purchased through iTunes or they will start to refuse to buy through them as a technical failure along with Apple’s DRM restrictions would mean a complete loss of one’s library.

  31. seamer says:

    It’s great to see a story I submitted be posted!

    I’d just like to say that these drives were all internal kits bought from Seagate, not external harddrives like someone assumed.

    Of the 3 purchased, only 2 failed – one almost as soon as it was installed, and the second 18 months later. They weren’t trashed, overheated, or otherwise mishandled. They were all used in the ‘proper’ way an internal harddrive should be used. The drives were each in separate computer systems in a range of configurations (intel, amd). There was no reason for the drives to fail so easily, and Seagate doesn’t exactly tell you why a drive failed after you RMA it in.

    I was mightily impressed with Apple’s compliance in re-allowing the purchases to be obtained again, as the money saved from that act will encourage me to buy from them again in the future. :)

  32. Tijil says:

    While it may not seem “above and beyond” for Apple to do something like this, compare it to the upcoming removal-from-service of the Microsoft DRM servers, essentially “taking back” the music the “sold” to their customers since it won’t even survive an OS updzte after that.

    Kudos to Apple on this.

  33. roycifer says:

    thats great of apple and all, but its not like it costs them to reproduce digital copies of the music. they’d best offer digital replacements like they did.

  34. Concerned_Citizen says:

    If this isn’t expect behavior of a paid download service, why are you paying for such a service? You clearly get nothing out of it. The ability to redownload in case of lost music is probably the one feature online music services can offer. Otherwise your paying for less than what you get for free with “illegal” downloads.

  35. Draconianspark says:

    Since when is seagate in the data recovery business, they’re probably offsourcing to either datasavers or ontrack.

    Next time you get a hard drive, do a level 4 spinrite ( best 90 bucks you will ever conceive of spending ) on it before trusting data to it.

  36. fredmertz says:

    People should use an online backup service in addition to any on-site backup. On-site backups protect you for disk failure, but most things that will destroy a computer will also destroy a nearby external backup (fire, flood, electrical surges, etc.). I use Mozy — $5 a month or $50 a year is a bargain and it backs everything up in the background. The first backup is usually a doozy, but it really is a great service.

  37. btdown says:

    If he would have bought his music through a retailer and ripped it to his pc (without DRM), he would have had a backup—the original. I don’t know why people buy itunes restrictive music. I have never bought 1 thing from itunes and I dont ever plan to.

  38. Falconfire says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: Seagates SUCK. I constantly am pulling them out of our systems and swapping them for WD drives. They fail on average 1 every month, maybe 2-3.

  39. traviswalden says:

    The reason they didn’t re-enable your The Office downloads is because they no longer have a contract with NBC Universal. NBC wanted iTunes to charge $5 and episode and Apple said no. You can no longer get any NBC or Universal TV Shows or Movies.

  40. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Uhhh…how about a DVD burner and a ‘physical’ backup that way?
    I’ve got 5 or 6 backup DVDs backing up my external backup HDD.

  41. Juliekins says:

    I just took advantage of this “feature” this week. I’m not sure I’ve even spent $100 on iTunes songs yet, but I lost them all when my backup hard drive crashed. I was in the middle of a system rebuild. I e-mailed Apple, and within 24 hours I had all my stuff re-downloaded. I got a very nice e-mail that had been clearly read and written by a human, too.

    I learned my lesson from that HD failure. My husband and I are standing up D-link NAS, and my plan is to make periodic DVD backups of my iTunes library as well as my other docs. I lost everything in that crash. Not catastrophic, but a real pain in the ass.

  42. Rando says:

    LOL @ paying for music. That $500 could have been invested but instead it now sits in Apple and music exec pockets. Good one, ^5.

  43. unravel says:

    @Rando: Inorite? The fact that he spends money, over the course of a few years, on things that he enjoys is just hilaaarious. Money that’s invested never ends up in the pocket of an executive fat cat, and it’s not like there’s any chance of loss there! With the soaring value of the dollar, and the responsible folks running corporations, well, I can’t imagine why anyone would hesitate to pour money into the stock market, and if not the stock market, maybe real estate. And, given the context of his post, we have more than enough information to assume he _needs_ to invest. ^5, indeed.

  44. unravel says:

    Also, I wish data recovery costs would come down, or there was hard drive insurance offered by manufacturers. I understand why it’s so high, but I would gladly pay more upfront if it meant I might be able to get some data back at a reasonable price if the drive failed during the course of the warranty, at least

  45. dakotad555 says:

    Solid state FTW.

  46. backbroken says:

    I’m confused. So, was he using all 3 Seagate hard drives at the same time and they all simultaneously crashed? Or did he continue to purchase Seagate drives even after they had been failing on him.

    If it’s the first scenario, then I smell a rat. If it’s the second scenario, I smell a dunce.

  47. ionerox says:


    Authorizing is allowing a computer to play an iTunes purchased song from a different account or machine. For example, if I download a song and my boyfriend wants a copy to, I can pop it on a flash drive, transfer it to his PC and then authorize his iTunes to use that song.

    Re-downloading is just that. In this case, he had the songs and lost them… and Apple is allowing him to download them again.

  48. ionerox says:

    @dakotad555: Yeah, and SOOOOOO cost effective right now. Over $1k for 64 GB of storage? No thanks. You can buy a whole lot of 1 TB externals at that price.

  49. Geoff says:

    I had two external drives in less than a week. One Seagate and one Western Digital. These things just happen. They were both in CompUSA brand enclosures which had ZERO ventilation, so I imagine that’s what did it for me.

  50. Falconfire says:

    @Rando: You know, while people on this site seem to have this mantra of “invest ALL your money.” even investment houses will tell you that you should save SOME money for yourself to make yourself happy.

    500 over the course of 2-3 years is not bad for something he loves.

    You have any games on that computer of yours you are using? Same can be said toward you, unless your stealing them in which case you have a whole nother set of issues that we need to address here.

  51. Juliekins says:

    @dakotad555: Good thing solid state drives have such a low failure rate.

    Oh, wait.

  52. RvLeshrac says:

    As some other posters, I don’t see how this is a “story.” Apple did what they should be doing for everyone, nothing special.

    Perhaps an article highlighting the fact that they only allow you to do this once a year, and don’t *have* to allow you to do it AT ALL per the ITMS EULA/service contract is in order.

    It is one thing to tell people that they need to back up their files, and I don’t have much sympathy for those who don’t back up needed data, but this is the one reason I don’t use ITMS.

    It doesn’t help that Apple acts like THEIR hardware never fails on its own.

  53. unklegwar says:


    This whole downloadable music crap has got to make this kind of “service” normal, if they aren’t going to let you have some sort of non-volatile copy.

    IF someone purchased a download, that has to be permanently allotted to that person. Period. You should be able to go back and re-download it at any time.

    Otherwise, it’s BS.

  54. revmatty says:

    We were using Gateways with Seagates here a few years back, and about 6 months after we all got our new computers they started failing. It was pretty amusing in a way that each day someone further down the row of cubes had their drive die. I won’t touch Seagates anymore.

    Also: Click of death was a common problem with Iomega for awhile (Zip drives, not hd’s, but same name).

  55. highmodulus says:

    Nice job by Apple. This isn’t a one time thing either, I believe they have a quiet policy regarding this.

    Still, there is a way to back-up to DVD for the ultimate non-electronic back-up copy. Given how cheap DVD-R’s are now, it would be a prudent move for you iTunes users (like me).

  56. tande says:

    @unklegwar: Yeah and if someone buys a cd they should be able to walk into any store and pick up a new one if they lose the CD…wait a minute…

  57. Dawnrazor says:

    I don’t really have anything to add regarding the Segate HDs but cannot help chiming in to simply comment that this scenario is yet another reason (the Consumerist story about MS screwing with DRM-infected downloads from the Music Service is another) to make music purchases on good ol’ CD format. It IS a royal PITA to re-rip everything after a HD crash, but at least nothing is “lost”.

  58. seamer says:


    The drives were purchased at the same time, not individually as time went by. 500gb drives were about the biggest available, except maybe for the 750gb range that was around near the time.

    Up until that point in my 12+ years as being a Seagate user, no Seagate hard drive had failed on me.

  59. AdmiralApathy says:


    I view it another way. Let’s go back to the ’90s.
    I broke a cd…wahhhh can you give me a new one to replace the one that I already purchased.

    I know that it is a digital file but there are still costs involved with downloading $500 worth of digital files.

    Way to go Apple. Now only if you could send me a new macbook pro battery instead of having apple care tell me to drive an hour each way to the closest apple store we would be cool.

  60. goodywitch says:

    @doctor_cos: That’s what I was thinking. I have music on my ipod, external, and burned CDs. I also have online back-up. This occurred because I lost a semester’s worth of work due to all if it being on an external drive that I dropped. It takes one mistake to make you become obsessive.

  61. JohnnyE says:

    Of course, Apple didn’t ‘replace’ anything (since buying from iTunes gives you no physical media to be a ‘thing’). What Apple did was allow you to re-download for “free” music for which you had previously purchased a license.

    Let see: $500 means 500 songs, and assuming 3MB average size for a song, that’s about 1500MB, or 1.5GB, or two data CD’s, or 1/3 of a data DVD’s worth of download/bandwidth they “gave” you.

    I wonder what the incremental cost of allowing this extra “service” is to Apple? A few pennies? Maybe nickels? At any rate, it’s likely extremely trivial compared to the $500 revenue they generated without having to provide a physical product or a brick and mortal store in which to sell it (and considering they charged full price for a product 1)which isn’t lossless quality, 2)has artificial playback limitations).

    Seriously, free retrieval of songs should be a basic service.

    And, out of a batch of drives, 1 hard drive failing early in life and 1 dieing 18 months later is not bad. Hard drives should be stress tested for a few days before trusting data to them, and any data stored on a single drive should be somehow protected from failure (RAID 1, RAID 5, backup, etc.)

  62. JohnnyE says:

    To add, if you had followed good data handling procedures (i.e. burn-in test for the 1st drive that immediately failed, and redundancy/backups to protect against failure in the 2nd drive 18 months later, Seagate would have “given” you a free replacement drive through their on-line RMA process (and because their 3 year and 5 year warranties are the best in the business.

  63. Trai_Dep says:

    @ShariC: Perhaps this is going to sound ungrateful of me, but this doesn’t seem “above and beyond”. It seems more like “reasonable”.
    Ask owners of any Microsoft-created DRM that question, and I’d bet you’ll get a different answer. Intermixed with much cursing and gnashing of teeth.

  64. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    Seems like everything has been covered, but three thoughts:
    Use online backup. It’s cheap enough these days (though more expensive and slower than disks) that it’s really the best way to go., is good.
    Apple really should be doing this when its customers ask. It’s no incremental cost for them and they can win huge kudos. They should automate it somehow.
    Not sure the DRM argument means anything here. Afterall, if the person had illegally downloaded all the music, no one would have a record of what needed to be restored.
    Isn’t there a way to grab things off an iPod? Maybe he didn’t have one (I don’t use iTunes, so I don’t know).

  65. seamer says:

    Never expected a gesture of good will from Apple to generate such a wide array of responses. And it _is_ a gesture of good will, no matter how you look at it.

    Apple and other DRM-based file sellers ought to be exploring some sort of perpetual download license. This story tells us the technology is there and is just waiting on some market or legal guru to make it happen.

  66. warf0x0r says:

    Don’t buy Seagate! I lost two identical 250GB drives within days of each other.

  67. trujunglist says:


    What? You’ve been computing for 20 years and have NEVER heard a hard drive get the click of death? I’ve been computing for nearly as long and have heard it dozens and dozens of times as other peoples HDs failed, my own failed (including about 10 zip disks, 10 135 ez flyers, 2 1gb ez flyers and their readers), and even my freakin’ iPod got the click. In fact, one of my hds was doing it just the other day, so I’m definitely gonna have to dump the data off if it isn’t already too late.

  68. Kishi says:

    @seamer: The person who assumed you had external drives fail is the person who posted the article…

  69. seamer says:

    @Kishi: I know, but I wasn’t going to specifically mention that :P