Western Digital FAIL (part 1)

I’m never using Western Digital again. Please read this post FULLY and then ask yourself Is Western Digital a company you can trust with YOUR data? My advice: IT ISN’T.

UPDATE: See end of the post for additional failure data from Cloud Back-up company BackBlaze, showing Western Digital as having the worst failure rate…


In 2013 I bought a Network Attached Storage device (NAS). This box of hard drives plugs into your home network router, and you chuck all your files onto it. All your files are then accessible by everyone on your network. Movies, music, editing. Easy peasy.

This device was a ReadyNAS 4-bay storage system which allowed for mirroring and protection of data (redundancy and back-up). With 4 identical hard drives inside the system, all the space would be consolidated together and look like one big drive AND be protected in such a way that should one entire hard drive fail, all the data would still be there. And by simply switching out the faulty drive with a new one, the back-up RAID configuration would automatically re-build a new back-up drive and overnight you’re back to normal.


All without losing any data,. Or access to the files. At any time. NAS is good.

My choice of hard drive at the time was the Western Digital RED.

WD-Red-3TBThey’re allegedly designed to run 24/7 in such NAS systems. So back in 2013 I bought 4 identical 3TB hard drives and built the system… (all 12 TERABYTES of it…)

Within the first week, one of the drives failed. As mentioned above, one drive failure in this redundancy system is perfectly acceptable (although NOT acceptable as a failure in a brand new hard drive with less than 7 days usage). All the data on the NAS was still there in a  protected way. However, if a SECOND drive failed then the whole lot would be lost…


So it’s 2013. In my blind panic I immediately contacted Western Digital, as the drives were all brand new and obviously still within their 3 year warranty period. Their advice to me was this; Buy a replacement drive directly from them, and send the faulty one back using an RMA number generated by them. When they receive the RMA return they’ll re-emburse me. I get a new drive, no payment needed. They also suggested I contact the original retailer, CCLOnline, and get advice from them.

It seemed ridiculous to have this 4-bay system, and have no hard drives ready to switch in should another one fail. So I did what Western Digital suggested and bought a drive over the phone. This is all documented and logged.

However. CCLOnline were brilliant. Within an hour of receiving an email from me about the faulty drive and the impending loss of data across the entire system, they too sent me an RMA Return address and shipped me a brand new drive free of charge. I sent the faulty drive back to them… a direct swap for the faulty drive. Problem solved.


So now we’re back to 4 drives, one of which was replaced by CCLOnline. And now there’s a 5th drive coming as “spare”.

Spin forward to 2016. All 4 of those drives (plus the spare) are on the verge of warranty expiration. Low and behold, another drive fails. But no problem, as I have the brand new drive bought directly from Western Digital ready to put in as the replacement.

The broken drive, according to the WD website, is within warranty by only a few weeks. Their online RMA system worked a treat and the faulty drive was replaced.


This next part is where my HUGE issue comes up. The 5th drive I had set aside as the spare, i.e. the one bought directly from Western Digital, immediately fails. I’m left with only 3 working drives out of 5. If another one goes, I lose EVERYTHING.

12 TERABYTES, REMEMBER? Customer data, client footage, financial back-ups.

But no problem, right? The 5th drive was brand new, bought over the phone, less than 3 years ago. Therefore it has full warranty. NOT SO. According to Western Digital, because this 5th drive was meant to be an RMA replacement for the very first failure back in 2013, on their system it only has warranty for as long as the original product. This means the drive is OUT OF WARRANTY. But only on their system. In ‘real life’, the drive was simply purchased (and overly priced too, I should add).

A dozen email correspondence flies back and forth over a period of a few weeks.

Can I supply an invoice for the purchase? Yes! What they sent me… Scan of invoice sent.

WD receipt 2013_sanitised

Can I supply evidence of a purchase? Yes! Bank statement sent.


Back and forth. Back and forth.

The final straw was this morning. After showing receipts, invoices, photos of the drives and bank statements, all of which show that this 5th drive was a direct purchase and in the end was NOT an RMA replacement as discussed and agreed with their Customer Services, they disagreed.


The Customer Services at Western Digital of 2016 are nowhere near as good as it was in 2013. Every correspondence asked for more evidence that I bought the drive. Not content with me showing them my entire bank statements, with all their reference numbers on it, along with a scan of their own invoice showing I paid for the drive, their OWN email correspondence from 20143, and my hand written notes from 2013 explaining to my future self what had happened…

Western Digital will not replace this IN WARRANTY drive, and have categorically stated they will not change their system to reflect the fact that the RMA Warranty is incorrect.

So here’s my plan.

I’m never using Western Digital again. I advise you not to either. Over the coming weeks I’m going to buy drives from their competitors and one by one will replace every single Western Digital hard drive (including external ones I used to edit with) with a competitors drive.

At last count that’s 12 drives. And that’s not including the office…

All of these drives are going to be destroyed. Publicly. In a variety of rather destructive ways. And in slow motion.

Western Digital. You have become a shameful company. Your company name is no longer fit to use as professional in any manor, nor one I can ever recommend again.

I hope you enjoy seeing the viral video, and hope that it brings you the luck that you deserve.

UPDATE: Someone sent me a link on twitter to a Cloud Back-up company called BackBlaze. They offer online back-up solutions for $5 per month. These guys go through THOUSANDS of hard drives, all with similar redundancy to the above.

They posted this image:

2015-drive-failures-barchartThe BackBlaze statistics show that out of all the different hard drive products they use for their back-up company, Western Digital has the highest failure rate at 7%.

Overall Seagate comes out best. As much as the above diagram may show HGST as being better (ironically, HGST is a subsidiary of Western Digital anyway), other factors such as power usage, cost and availability also came into play. As such, Seagate come out on top.

Terminal Shooting Schedule Obsession

Yes, I know. I’ve probably whittled on about it far too much, but I can’t help it. I am intrinsically connected to the movie Terminator 2 whether I like it or not. I could probably give you T-1000 reasons why (see what I did there?), but I won’t. And my continual search for information which would lead to editing the movie into the order the scenes were actually shot in (rather than storyline edit) continues unabated*.

I want to do this purely for an exercise in Production. Which scenes were shot when?

To see what I’ve managed to put together so far, click the following link. You can scroll left and right along the timeline, and click on individual “events” to open them up for more photos and details:

My (unofficial) Terminator 2 Shooting Schedule Timeline

*UPDATE: As a movie memorabilia collector, I ended up finding an original production-used Shooting Schedule for Terminator 2. I have updated the timeline with a bit more information that I know to be accurate and correct!

When Cinema Succeeds

I’m a fan of photography, of DSLR in cinematography, of time-lapse and slow motion. Having seen a trailer for a documentary which used all these techniques I ended up booking tickets and heading into the heart of Central London to the Institute Of Contemporary Arts, one of only two places in London showing the feature. The Chasing Ice documentary follows the progression of the Extreme Ice Surveyors over a period of years. And what it shows is spectacular:

Their pioneering work of constructing a way to photograph icebergs and landscapes over a period of years is something the world hasn’t seen before. What they achieve is a way of showing that our world doesn’t follow the pattern we expect throughout our four seasons. The icebergs and poles don’t “grow, shrink, grow, shrink” as you’d expect. It’s more “shrink, shrink, shrink, shrink“. This documentary clearly shows it. And just for reference, that rock of ice that breaks and churns in the opening of the trailer is about half the size of Manhattan.

However, this blog isn’t a piece for or against the argument of “climate change”. What I actually wanted to write about is something far more basic, and less of a political storm. A few days ago I wrote on the failures of the local Odeon Cinema to reach the basic standard I expected from such a chain, citing poor upkeep and baffling design to their screening rooms. In order to accommodate more screens (and in turn take more money) it appears they’re sacrificing the real cinema experience for profit. I still await their reply. Less “Fanatical About Film“, more “Fanatical About Profit, Less So On The Customer“. But that’d probably be too long for their billboards.

But the Institute Of Contemporary Arts succeeded where Odeon Cinema clearly failed. The ICA has only two screens, they have old fashioned movie theatre chairs (in sensible solid rows), their prices were good, their employees were great, the screen was clear and bright, the sound was perfect and it was packed to the rafters (literally).

So take note, Odeon! Some people like the idea of running their own pub or hotel. I might just run my own cinema just to be your competition…

The Newsroom: A real life tale

Having just watched the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s  The Newsroom, I had an overwhelming feeling of attachment to it. As a television program it stands on its own. But it also has a clear amount of truthfulness about it to anyone who has ever worked in that environment. I’m one of those people.

Here is a real life tale of working in a newsroom…

June 25th 2009. I was working as a Vision Mixer at Sky News in London. A regular amount of headlines passed by that week. Farah Fawcett had died, Clinton Cards were closing 136 stores affecting over 750 jobs and steel maker Corus was cutting 2’000 jobs in the UK.

In the live studio gallery, the usual buzz was palpable with the ever-approaching Sky News At Ten. Different people work different hours, and on the approach to Sky News At Ten we’d all been working together as a team for four or five hours already with no changeovers. We were relaxed and working well. The Director was briefing the Graphics department with what still photos and sequences would be required alongside any animated maps that might be useful, the Directors Assistant was liaising with Transmission Control with respect to commercial break durations and when we’d need to hit them, and the Text Producer was prepping to remove old and update information on the news ticker. The Vision Mixer… me… well, I was ready to repeat another hour of near-enough the same news we’d already been doing with the added pressure of knowing a larger audience watches at 10pm. No sweat.

Somewhere through the 9pm hour rumours began to surface that Michael Jackson had been taken to hospital by ambulance, and that there was a possibility he had died. Lines started to drop on the wires. They were yellow, meaning minimal information and nothing confirmed. Information was only coming from the TMZ website which, unsurprisingly, had crashed. Whenever the Presenter (Stephen Dixon) was ‘out of vision’ (i.e., not giving the news, but during a news report) he was being given updates in his ear and writing down any snippet of information available. Back in vision and on-air it was never mentioned or broken to the public. News must be confirmed and backed-up with sources before it’s aired. Two minutes before 10pm a new Executive Producer takes over for the show they have been prepping all day. This time round it was one minute to 10pm. That might not seem like much, but it means a lot when there is breaking news on the cards and everyone needs to know what they’re doing. Confirmation still wasn’t coming. By now the TMZ website had pictures of an ambulance leaving the Jackson property. No other news channel on the planet was going with the story, I imagine partly out of fear of it being wrong. Believe it or not, stories are broken all the time of celebrity deaths. Occasionally news outlets go with it, without checking.

For us, the opening animation that starts the shows at the top of the hour was already rolling when the EP appeared. Up till now we were still going with the pre-written rundown. Everything was going smoothly and we were only seconds in to the show, literally. The top-of-the-hour headlines were being read and everything seemed fine. But on the last headline the EP made the statement we were all waiting for:

“Drop everything. We’re going with it”.

At this point, we were at the opening wide shot where the announcer says “This is Sky News. With Samantha Simmonds” and shows off the big video wall. I turned to the EP and said “are you sure we’re going with it? Do you want Breaking News in the wall?” to which he solidly answered “yes”. So on the wide shot move I slowly mixed in an animated text loop that said BREAKING NEWS. Something new was happening, there and then. And now everybody knew about it.

The wires started turning red, and dropping more regularly. The people who write and distribute that ‘wire’ information began quoting Sky News as the source of the story. Then CNN broke it. Then Fox News. Then the BBC.

Behind the scenes it was a frantic scramble to rewrite scripts and get information to the right people. With a CTRL-ALT-DEL scenario in place, nothing on the TV screen seemed out of the ordinary to the viewers. The Presenter was calm and giving the information that we knew had been circling, giving reference to the sources we were using. Off-screen, it was an absolute whirlwind.

From that moment on, everything was a blur. The rundown was out the window. The pre-planned one-hour show that had been meticulously put together throughout the day with live interviews, news packages, guests on set, etc, was no longer valid. Instead we were putting websites to air quoting officials who’d given lines to the press. We aired helicopter shots of Los Angeles with crowds gathering at various spots. We called every possible relevant guest and booked them to come on-air before other stations. It was a full-on code-red scramble.

And at this point there was still no confirmation at all that the ‘story’ was even true.

I distinctly remember a comment in the gallery directed at the Executive Producer along the lines of “If you’re wrong, it was nice knowing you”. In that sort of scenario, it was true. But he was right.

My job as Vision Mixer became rather fluid. Everything on-screen was being put there by me. I was mixing live shots into boxes alongside guests whilst taking location straps on and off, resizing websites on the fly and using them as backgrounds all whilst planning the next move. It was one thing after another, after another, after another. It was like playing 3D chess (which is why I love it).

My shift finished at 1am, and I was completely shattered. It wasn’t till I was in my own comfort zone, sat in my car, that it hit me on what we had actually just broke to the world. Every radio station I tuned in to were playing Michael Jackson songs.

And I admit, I had a little cry whilst driving home.

As I mentioned before, news must be checked before channels go with it. Other celebrity names pop up during the breaking news of a celebrity death. Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks. Another such name was Jeff Goldblum. A new Zealand news channel went with it, saying he had fallen 60 feet off a cliff during filming and had died too. It was completely untrue. In comedy style Jeff Goldblum later paid tribute to himself on the news of his own passing on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.

If you like Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, you need to watch Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. It’s the story of the behind-the-scenes cast and crew who work on a comedy sketch show in Hollywood. It’s brilliantly written and acted with fantastically weaved story lines, and deserved more than one season on our screens. Not to mention it has Matthew Perry in it.

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