Seagate Doesn't Need Linux

Seagate Technology, the world's largest producer of hard disks, has decided it doesn't need Linux users — or Mac users, for that matter. The realization of this new philosophy comes with the release of Seagate's "Free Agent" series, which are apparently useless on anything but Windows.

According to reports circulating through the blogsphere, the problem seems to be the drives' power management features, which cut the drive off after several minutes of inactivity. When the drive shuts down, it close the USB connection — when it wakes back up, it reconnects as a USB 1.0 connection, causing the Linux/Mac incompatibility.

Seagate technical support is advising Linux and Mac customers who purchased the drives that they're out of luck — the drives simply don't support anything but Windows. Even worse, Seagate is telling customers that while someone out there might find a workaround, they won't find Seagate supporting it.

Read more.

UPDATE: It looks like something got Seagate's attention, because they've gotten in touch with The Inquirer — the source of our post — to issue an official workaround (though, according to The Inquirer, they originally refused to do so). It looks like they were also nice enough to post it for us right here on We love it when there's a happy ending.


Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


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Great fix to a bad idea, but bad idea none the less.

Timothy Tuck's picture

If for no other reason than to vote with my wallet i refuse to buy any of these drives. As a matter of a fact i have already had two customers return theirs who had purchased them for doing data recovery and backing all of the recovered data to them.

My Message to seagate is this. If you can not include Linux in your business plans hopefully your planning on none of the linux users doing business with you. I for one will not be buying any seagate products for quite some time.

BTW, unplugging the drive and plugging it back in did not wake the drive back up either. It was showing up in dmesg output but i was unable to remount it to write data to it. Never thought of using sdparm to modify its settings, funny what you don't think of at 3am.

I also tried many times without success to make a fat32 file system on it, i was able to make a ext3 and ntfs filesystem on it but fat32 failed everytime using both fdisk, mkfs.vfat and qtparted. That alone was enough to make me avoid seagate going forward, even if it was a fluke.

I just purchased a bunch to

Anonymous's picture

I just purchased a bunch to Barracuda drives to build a Linux NAS. I'm assuming these have no issues Is that correct?

You should be fine

Justin Ryan's picture

It's the "Free Agent" series of external drives that has the problem, and as noted below, they've come around and released a fix for Linux systems. I don't personally use Seagate drives, but from what I can tell, Barracuda are internal hard-drives, so they shouldn't be affected by the bug.

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

I just purchased a bunch to

Anonymous's picture

I just purchased a bunch to Barracuda drives to build a Linux NAS. Will this not work??

Seagate and Linux

Seagate Representative's picture

Maxtor and Seagate drives should have no issue reading and writing to the discs with a Linux system. Seagate and Maxtor storage solutions do work with Linux. The Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus and OneTouch 4 Mini actually ship with a Linux boot CD that works in conjunction with Maxtor Safety Drill as a bare metal restore feature that is provided with these drives. The one issue that is being reported is related to the power management of the Seagate FreeAgent drives.

All Seagate and Maxtor branded external storage solutions feature a power management that places the drive into a sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. Linux does have difficulty speaking to this and thus can not spin up the drive once it has gone in to rest to conserve power. In order to read and write to the drive, the drive needs to return to its active state, which can be done by manually disconnecting the USB connector and plugging it back into the system. The Maxtor OneTouch 4 and OneTouch III - from what we've seen in our test labs - do not have any issue with spinning the drives up through Linux after sleep mode.

There is a method to disable power management, so that this will not be an issue. The directions for doing this on a Windows Vista or XP environment and Linux are pasted below.

To disable the function with a Windows system, please use the following:

Seagate FreeAgent Family
*Open the Seagate FreeAgent Tools application. Click Utilities in the Command panel.
*The Utilities window opens. Click Adjust Drive Sleep Interval.
*The Adjust Drive Sleep Interval window opens. Select an interval from the drop-down menu (Never)
*Click Apply to save the Drive Sleep Interval setting.
*The Adjust Drive Sleep Interval window confirms that the power setting for your drive has been changed. Click OK to return to the Utilities window.

Maxtor OneTouch 4 Family
*Double-click the Maxtor Manager icon on your Desktop. The Maxtor Manager Opens.
*Click on the Settings button. The Settings window opens.
*Click Adjust Power Setting Button. The Adjust Power Setting window opens.
*By default, an OneTouch 4 will spin down after 15 minutes of inactivity; An OneTouch 4 Mini will spin down after 5 minutes of inactivity. Click on the time field to select an inactivity period (set it to Never). Click Apply.
*A Window opens notifying you that the power setting has been changed. Click OK to return to the Settings window.

For a fix in your Linux environment, please see the following prescription:

How to disable power management on FreeAgent drives on Linux system.

1 – It is supposed in this example that the drive is attached to device /dev/sdc

2 - Check that the right drive is selected:
$ sudo sdparm -a /dev/sdc
/dev/sde: Seagate FreeAgent Pro 400A
Power condition mode page:
IDLE 0 [cha: n, def: 0, sav: 0]
STANDBY 1 [cha: y, def: 1, sav: 1]
ICT 0 [cha: n, def: 0, sav: 0]
SCT 9000 [cha: y, def:9000, sav:9000]

3 - Force restart the drive ( if the drive was in stanby mode):
$ sudo sdparm --command=start /dev/sdc

4 - Disable power management:
$ sudo sdparm --clear STANDBY -6 /dev/sdc

5 - Check the drive power management has been disabled:
$ sudo sdparm -a /dev/sdc
/dev/sde: Seagate FreeAgent Pro 400A
Power condition mode page:
IDLE 0 [cha: n, def: 0, sav: 0]
STANDBY 0 [cha: n, def: 1, sav: 0]
ICT 0 [cha: n, def: 0, sav: 0]
SCT 0 [cha: n, def:9000, sav: 0]

This is not a fix

loyeyoung's picture

At best, this is a work-around.

A "fix" enables the device to work as advertised. Turning off the feature simply works around the problem so that the device has SOME usefulness.

Power management is a real concern here in Laredo, Texas. Here, we have outdoor temperatures of over 100 degrees (38 degrees for you metric-types) for much of the year, spiking to over 120F (49C) from time-to-time. Because we run air conditioning year-round, we have to multiply the power costs of devices. Every watt of electrical consumption by a device generates heat, which translates into at least another watt or two to cool the room back down.

I know it's hard for the Seagate folks to accept, but even smart engineers from big companies sometimes bungle the design of a project. There's simply no reason for the Seagate drives not to be able to restart correctly after a power management spin down.

Earth to Seagate: Go back to work and FIX the problem.

Happy Trails,

Loye Young

Loye Young
Isaac & Young Computer Company
Laredo, Texas


Justin Ryan's picture

Thanks for this; I'm updating the post.

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.