Write On Your Hard Drive, Kill The Warranty

Scott warns you to use stickers rather than Sharpies to label your hard drives, because a pen mark is apparently all it takes to invalidate your warranty.

He writes:

For the last week I have been trying to return two SATA drives to Seagate. The serials do not come up in their web based RMA system, so I had to call in. I was told according to their records, they are no longer in warranty. There is a 3 year warranty on the drives. However, as long as my receipt is less than three years old, I am fine.

I spent a week looking around for a small scrap of paper that was the receipt for the now out of business store that I bought these drives from. Seagate’s request was to email in a copy of the receipt, as well as a photo of the drives so they can see the serial.

I had a sticker on the drive as a label, as they went into a RAID. Everyone labels their drives with a sticker, or they just write on the drive. I am told I have voided my warranty by placing writing on the drive. I have seen many repair shops from Best Buy to Apple write a customer name on a drive to make sure they are not mixed up. I have received drives back from Drive Savers, one of the most known data recovery experts in the USA, all of which have written in sharpie on the drive.

I guess this is a warning to all computer users out there. Do not allow anyone to write on your drive, it will apparently void the warranty.

Here is a copy of the email:

Scott [redacted],

Thank you for the pictures. Unfortunately, I am unable to read the serial number for either drive, and the writing on the one drive would void any warranty for that drive. If you can please send more clear pictures, I will do my best to have this issue resolved. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

If you have any additional questions, let me know or call us at 800-732-4283 Monday through Friday 8:00AM – 6:00PM (CST). For your convenience we also have on-line chat assistance.

Does anyone know whether there’s any technical reason for ink scribblings to scuttle a warranty?


Edit Your Comment

  1. spazztastic says:

    No. Sounds like the CSR at Seagate is being a roadblock. Call again, start a new case.

  2. OnePumpChump says:

    I engrave my labels on the drive with a hammer and chisel

    • dg says:

      Flintsones! With the Flintstones! They’re a modern stone age family! With a Dell!

      • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

        It’s actually “Meet”, not “with,” but I’ll excuse you for not watching the Flintstones 4x/day like I did when I was a kid. %]

        • physics2010 says:

          There is a line in there “with the Flintsone, you’ll have a yaba daba do time” or some such, but yes wrong order.

  3. wkm001 says:

    Where was the sticker located. There are holes on the drive with warnings not to cover those holes. Did your sticker cover the hole? It sounds like they are more concerned with your sticker rather than you writing on the drive.

    • Sammich says:

      “…and the writing on the one drive would void any warranty for that drive.”

      Doesn’t sound like the sticker is the problem at all.

  4. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    The special formulation of Sharpie ink will seep through the drive casing and interfere with the drive head to interact with the platters. And you also must avoid touching the tiny unicorn that runs on the platter in order to make it spin.

  5. RogerDucky says:

    Idea is probably to prevent someone from sending in an out-of-warranty drive with the serial number marked out with permanent markers along with a recent receipt. So, the complaint is probably more with the unreadable serial numbers than anything else.

  6. Doubts42 says:

    The only justification I can think of is that if you wrote on the drive you had your computer pen, if you opened your computer you probably broke something. Not our fault, nothing to see here. Of course that is ridiculous, but i can see a CSR claiming it.

    • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

      What? Opening your computer doesn’t void the warranty on the parts inside it. If it was a pre-built system it MIGHT void the overall warranty on the system from the manufacturer, but you’d still have a warranty for the parts from the manufacturers of those parts.

      By your logic, anyone who builds their own computer would void all the component warranties when they performed an upgrade or had a part break down and need service or replacement.

      • Maximus Pectoralis says:

        Actually when you buy a pre-built computer generally the warranty for all parts inside is provided by the computer manufacturer and no separate warranty is provided for the parts. If you built the computer yourself and/or upgraded, then the manufacturer’s warranty on the hard drives would apply.

        This IMO is more a matter of Seagate’s very rapid decline in quality. Not long ago they had the best warranty and the best drives on the market, but now they are notorious for poor quality.

      • coren says:

        They’re saying that CSRs try and bilk customers into accepting that sort of bizarro moron logic.

    • dpeters11 says:

      Who says the computer was opened? I deal with RAID drives, and if one goes bad, you just pop out the drive and slide a new one in. No opening the system, or even shutting it down.

    • ShadowFalls says:

      You know, most people who open their computers aren’t inept, especially those who actually know what RAID is.

      Though I don’t ever see the need for writing on a drive, to know where it is in the array? Many easy ways to do that, with different color cables to actual positioning in the case.. It isn’t like it is hard to keep track of serial numbers either.Also, it is common enough that the entire top plate is replaced when the drive is repaired as to ensure there isn’t any issues with that either.

  7. Raekwon says:

    I label my drives with those alphabet refrigerator magnets!

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      How? The outsides of HDDs are usually aluminum. The huge magnets inside the HDD’s will barely stick to them.

  8. jvanbrecht says:

    Look up Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act. You might have to fight with Seagate, but writing on the drive casing will not void your warranty.

    For them to deny you the warranty, they will have to prove that writing on the case caused the failure, and last I checked, sharpies are not exactly acidic enough to eat through metal…..

    So yes, you will have to fight and argue, but you should be able to get the drives replaced.

    • warik says:

      Why not just take some rubbing alcohol on a some cotton and wipe off the sharpie? Sharpie comes right off most surfaces with alcohol.

  9. framitz says:

    The last time I dealt with Seagate they wanted to charge me to replace a drive under warranty. It was the LAST time I dealt with Seagate.
    WD all the way and you won’t have such warranty issues.

  10. Beeker26 says:

    My guess is they’re willing to say anything to prevent having to honor your warranty. It’s a very disturbing trend in tech companies these days.

    My suggestion would be to keep trying until you find a rep that’s not anal about it. If all else fails, do what I did — never buy another Seagate product again. After 3 failures in less than a year I’m staying far away from their products.

  11. JBTX says:

    Nope this is correct for just about all hard drive manufactures. The company I work for has hundreds of thousands hard drives, we RMA hundreds per week at my location alone. So many in fact we have our own reps at a few of the different drive manufactures.

    The reason is simple, drives are refurbished and used as replacements for warrantied drives. if the drive case has any type of permanent marking it can not be sent to other customers. Nothing sinister about it.

    • Bladerunner says:

      But the warranty would have to clearly state that, or the writing would have to have some material reason for causing the failure. The drives have to be able to suit the purpose they’re bought for. If that includes writing on them, it’s not my problem that it inconveniences the manufacturer’s resell of them. (and it only inconveniences…alcohol will remove sharpie if memory serves)

      • farcedude2 says:

        But not if you’re writing on an anodized metal, which I’d bet hd housings are.

        • Bladerunner says:

          Shouldn’t matter if you make a permanent change to an item, anyway. Their ability to resell defective merchandise is not my problem. My ability to get what I paid for is. You can’t say “You own it but you don’t really own it”…it’s perfectly reasonable to write on something you own. It would be like a book with missing pages…I might write my name in it. If the publisher wants to stick those pages back in and resell it, it’s not my problem, I want my complete book that I paid for.

      • JBTX says:

        Not saying you have to like it but it is the reason they give us. I had a tech write bad on some drives a while back and the company refused them. And If we’re buying 100k plus hard drives per year and they wont make an exception for us I doubt they will for any one else.

        Also another thing to consider is the slim margins on these products. One of the reps told me once a hard drive is replaced then they loose money. As in it cost more to replace a drive then they made on it in the first place. So introducing any additional steps into the repair process such as cleaning off markings cost real money.

        As for disclosing it, I’m sure it’s probably covered in the fine print somewhere.

      • Griking says:

        I would guess that the majority of people never even read the full conditions of the warranty that comes with products that they buy

      • bwcbwc says:

        Just because the marking interferes with their refurb process doesn’t mean that they can void the warranty unless they put it in writing as part of the warranty.

    • theirishscion says:

      Aha! I was wondering if it could be something to do with that. Makes a lot of sense, though the idea of a ‘refurbished’ hard drive tech-skeeves me out something rotten.

    • Orv says:

      I’ve RMA’d drives to Western Digital that had Sharpie marks on them (more often then not, the word “BAD”) without a problem. However, I’ve always marked on the paper label, which may be the difference — when they refurbish a drive they always slap a new label over the old one.

  12. Tracer Bullet says:

    It sounds like he wrote over the serial number. Yes, Seagate sucks, especially about removing firmware from their website as soon as a drive is no longer presently being sold, but of course they’re not going to warranty a drive they can’t verify is the one which was purchased.

  13. bigd738778 says:

    If you read the response it sounds more like the issue is with the customer covering over the serial number. It says “If you can please send more clear pictures, I will do my best to have this issue resolved”. So first it sounds like he submitted some poor quality pictures and second the writing on the drive may have been a hinderance to reading the serial? Also they are also say they will do their best to help him out. The worst part about being in business is the customer.

  14. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I had a sticker on the drive as a label, as they went into a RAID. Everyone labels their drives with a sticker, or they just write on the drive. I am told I have voided my warranty by placing writing on the drive.

    Did the OP place stickers or writing on the drive(s)? Where was the writing? Can WE see pictures of the drive , w/the serial number blurred out(just in case) so as to make a better assessment as to why Seagate wants better pictures so they can resolve the matter?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Also, was any of the writing on any of the “void” stickers? I could see them seeing this as a way to cover up someone messing with the drive and disguising the marks on the security stickers with a marker.

      I also understand the problems with the online RMA systems. They usually work from the date the serial number was entered/when the drive was made and start there, even if no one buys the drive for a year.

  15. MDSasquatch says:

    Sounds like a job for PHOTOSHOP CS4

  16. Talisman says:

    Just take a DRY Erase Marker… mark over the Sharpie and wipe clean. This trick worked on my wife’s monitor that the kids wrote on.

    • teamplur says:

      That would only work on surfaces that dry erase will come off of. If he wrote on the actual seagate label, there’s no way to get sharpie off it.

      • Talisman says:

        Did he write on the label or the metal case?

      • FrugalFreak says:

        fingernail polish remover WILL remove permanent ink. Youd have to be surgical about using as little as possible to avoid smell so it can be wiped down with soapy water or something.

      • dru_zod says:

        Rubbing alcohol removes Sharpie ink pretty well if you’re careful with it. I’ve used it to remove sharpie marks on re-writable CDs before (after some moron wrote a label on the CD KNOWING I was going to erase it and use it again).

  17. dkev says:

    That’s what you get for buying a Seagate. :P

  18. techknight says:

    I’ve RMA’d to both Seagate and WD with sharpie-marked drives. Standard procedure here is to write “BAD” in a clear area on the drive’s top label to make sure that it never gets mixed up before shipping.

  19. Jfielder says:

    um…. crazy thought… but I’ll go out on a limb here…alcohol swab the writing off?

  20. MrEvil says:

    Sounds to me like the computer shop you bought the drives from went out of business for a reason. If the serial Number won’t come up in Seagate’s RMA utility that means the drive was grey market…as in it was originally sold to a big name OEM then eventually resold to the store who sold it to you. In which case warranty support is VERY dodgy at best considering that Seagate relies on the manufacturer to provide a warranty on that drive.

    It’s one of those cases where the merchant ripped you off, is now out of business, and the manufacturer can’t help you because the drives weren’t supposed to be sold to you. Them’s the breaks.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Not necessarily. Since they said they would take it with a receipt, what happened was the warranty started from date of manufacture, not date of sale. It was past the three years as of date of manufacture, so the RMA system won’t work because it can’t be auto RMAed.

  21. bkdlays says:

    I make my own hard driver

  22. dg says:

    Bullshit. So long as you haven’t covered the pressure holes, some mfr date code or a bar code, or the PC board – what’s the diff? Just ask for a supervisor. They’re trying to weasel out.

  23. farcedude2 says:

    If you write on the metal housing, and it is anodized (quite likely), they won’t be able to remove the ink and thus won’t be able to sell it as a refurbished product.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      not our resposibility to allow them to sell as refurbished. Our warranty covers our use, nothing further.

  24. pitawg says:

    Not knowing what their reason is, one could still argue heat as a concern. The drives are needing more and more release for the heat, and any layers of chemicals added to the case will diminish this.

  25. harvey wallbanger says:

    I call BS.

    It’s not your responsibility to preserve it in resaleable condition in order to have a warranty honored by the manufacturer, provided that nothing you did caused the malfunction.

    I can engrave my name on all my electronics if I want, and you’d better believe they’ll still be warranted by the manufacturer.

  26. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    Seagate is broken. after 7 replacement ext. 2gb drives (on 2 different computers) I finally gave up and they sent me a 1.5 gb drive which only needs to be rebooted twice a week. NEVER EVER again.

    • Griking says:

      You may have had bad experiences with Seagate but the competition really isn’t any better. Google “Western Digital Sucks” to see that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Every company has their vocal angry ex customers that want to make them look like the worst company ever.

      • ShadowFalls says:

        Samsung and Hitachi have been doing pretty well lately though. Seagate has seemed to have gone downhill after the acquisition of Maxtor.

  27. XStylus says:

    This guy is a moron. This isn’t an issue about writing on the drives, but rather the legibility of the serial number.

    If you’re stupid enough to scribble all over the drive to the point of obfuscating the serial number (or the serial barcode), then of course they’re going to reject the drive.

  28. JBTX says:

    Not saying you have to like it but it is the reason they give us. I had a tech write bad on some drives a while back and the company refused them. And If we’re buying 100k plus hard drives per year and they wont make an exception for us I doubt they will for any one else.

    Also another thing to consider is the slim margins on these products. One of the reps told me once a hard drive is replaced then they loose money. As in it cost more to replace a drive then they made on it in the first place. So introducing any additional steps into the repair process such as cleaning off markings cost real money.

    As for disclosing it, I’m sure it’s probably covered in the fine print somewhere.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      If they built them not to fail, then they won’t have to worry about them failing.

      Them loosing money? Cry me a river.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      You are sure? Of course you are sure, companies never screw up, and CSRs are always scrupulously honest.

  29. Andrea says:

    I remember a similar story years back where someone managed to void the warranty on their Apple Powerbook because a friend jokingly placed a Chiquita Banana sticker on it.

    I believe eventually Apple did service the computer though, after the story hit the internet.

    • Chaosium says:

      I find that pretty hard to believe considering the number of apples covered in stickers, unless they covered a vent.

  30. s0s has a chewy nougat center says:

    If it really is the Sharpie, just take a little bit of rubbing alcohol to it using a cotton swab. Sharpies are alcohol-based and should dissolve right off, and the stronger the alcohol, the faster it’ll go. Just be careful not to get the stuff all over everything else or into the drive itself. Then, open a new case and see what they say. If they find another problem, well, you’ll know that they really are full of shit.

    I personally stopped buying Seagate drives–and will replace any Seagate drive that comes stock in a computer–years ago, because of how short a life-span they seem to have… not to mention the ridiculous excuse for customer service that the company provides.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      If it’s on the label, it would remove the stuff underneath it as well, and could also set off a moisture disk. Bad idea.

  31. jumpycore says:

    this wouldnt be the first time ive heard bad things about Seagate. a year or so ago i heard that their hotline listed on their website, and their online help, were unavailable. so they were pretty much impossible to get ahold of

  32. crazydavythe1st says:

    The last time I bought a Seagate they were the best in the business. They even had five year warranties standard. It is shocking to see how low they’ve become.

  33. sopmodm14 says:

    if the serial numbers match the type of product, that should be all thats required to have them honor a warranty

    i don’t really see how a sharpie writing could drastically alter the product enough for it to be voided (unless they know something, we general public don’t know()

    the sharpie shouldn’t damage it, and i’m assuming it doesn’t obscure the serial number, confirming authencity of the code

  34. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Thank you very much for likely jinxing the two Seagate drives in my desktop computer right now. Still under warranty, thankfully, but it’s a bigger pain to get new ones than get the data off the old ones! Thank you for reminding me to back up.

  35. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    My question: does Samsung still make mechanical hard drives? I’ve never had any problems with their drives. Ever. In fact, I still have a couple of them, and they still work, though I have no way of hooking them up unless I take the WD out of my external drive (which has both IDE and SATA interfaces) to plug one of them in. I’ve yet to see a Samsung mechanical drive with a SATA interface. Boo.

  36. LastError says:

    The reason they don’t like Sharpie is because a marked up drive is harder to resell after the fact.

    Yes, they sell the scrap drives. Sometimes they end up on eBay after the surplus junk buyer refurbs them. They don’t want to take those drives in. Too much effort to clean them up.

    That you can’t find your drives in the system might mean they are fakes. Who knows.

    Seagate has totally gone downhill recently anyway. The products are a fraction as good as they used to be and the support is imaginary.

  37. Datruth says:

    In my experience, isopropyl alcohol easily removes Sharpie ink from surfaces.

  38. Elsydeon says:

    Just buy Western Digital if Seagate screws with you on things.

  39. CorvetteJoe says:

    I write BAD on all my drives I send in, with a sharpie. I just do it in the big silver areas around the labels, or the big white blank spots on the labels. I’ve never had one questioned and every last one has always been replaced and never questioned.

    I just last week sent in a batch of 7200.11 drives to Seagate that still worked (part of that bad batch a year or so ago). They replaced them all with no questions asked and I had all of them marked up with sharpie.

    Seagate = Win. Sounds like the CSR was confused on the labeling, or it covered something important.

  40. evilpete says:

    photoshop time

  41. Razor512 says:

    When it comes to warranty, stick with Hitachi (they don’t even ask questions, if it is under warranty they will take it back as long as you have the serial number for the drive (no proof of purchase needed)

    western digital is a little more difficult but they will replace your drives also.