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A Seagate Barracuda 500GB hard drive has recently (a few weeks ago) undergone a firmware upgrade. (from CC38 to CC49 firmware version) There were also lightning storms in the area during the last week (including several power outages) The harddrive performance degraded drastically two days ago - continuous reads are being performed at ~800KB/s throughput. I've tried changing the SATA port, booting up a different OS and currently am using a different PC to back-up the hard drive's data. It seems to read out the data correctly, albeit unbelievably slow. SMART tools report the tests passing:

smartctl 5.43 2012-06-30 r3573 [x86_64-linux-3.8.0-rc3] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-12 by Bruce Allen, http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net

=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:     Seagate Barracuda 7200.12
Device Model:     ST3500418AS
Serial Number:    9VMN4Z6D
LU WWN Device Id: 5 000c50 027447858
Firmware Version: CC49
User Capacity:    500,107,862,016 bytes [500 GB]
Sector Size:      512 bytes logical/physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   8
ATA Standard is:  ATA-8-ACS revision 4
Local Time is:    Sun Jan 13 23:32:57 2013 IST
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x82) Offline data collection activity
                                        was completed without error.
                                        Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status:      (   0) The previous self-test routine completed
                                        without error or no self-test has ever 
                                        been run.
Total time to complete Offline 
data collection:                (  600) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities:                    (0x7b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
                                        Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
                                        Suspend Offline collection upon new
                                        command.
                                        Offline surface scan supported.
                                        Self-test supported.
                                        Conveyance Self-test supported.
                                        Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
                                        power-saving mode.
                                        Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01) Error logging supported.
                                        General Purpose Logging supported.
Short self-test routine 
recommended polling time:        (   1) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (  84) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (   2) minutes.
SCT capabilities:              (0x103f) SCT Status supported.
                                        SCT Error Recovery Control supported.
                                        SCT Feature Control supported.
                                        SCT Data Table supported.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 10
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG     VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000f   109   099   006    Pre-fail  Always       -       22542089
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0003   098   097   000    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   097   097   020    Old_age   Always       -       3565
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   051   051   036    Pre-fail  Always       -       2013
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000f   081   060   030    Pre-fail  Always       -       165327293
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   090   090   000    Old_age   Always       -       8967
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0013   100   100   097    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   099   099   020    Old_age   Always       -       1760
183 Runtime_Bad_Block       0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
184 End-to-End_Error        0x0032   100   100   099    Old_age   Always       -       0
187 Reported_Uncorrect      0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
188 Command_Timeout         0x0032   100   099   000    Old_age   Always       -       8590065677
189 High_Fly_Writes         0x003a   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
190 Airflow_Temperature_Cel 0x0022   061   051   045    Old_age   Always       -       39 (Min/Max 29/41)
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   039   049   000    Old_age   Always       -       39 (0 17 0 0 0)
195 Hardware_ECC_Recovered  0x001a   040   023   000    Old_age   Always       -       22542089
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0010   100   100   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x003e   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
240 Head_Flying_Hours       0x0000   100   253   000    Old_age   Offline      -       13232794252195
241 Total_LBAs_Written      0x0000   100   253   000    Old_age   Offline      -       1062670152
242 Total_LBAs_Read         0x0000   100   253   000    Old_age   Offline      -       2187342803

SMART Error Log Version: 1
No Errors Logged

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
# 1  Short offline       Aborted by host               90%      8934         -
# 2  Conveyance offline  Aborted by host               90%      8891         -
# 3  Short offline       Aborted by host               90%      8891         -
# 4  Short offline       Aborted by host               90%      8892         -
# 5  Short offline       Aborted by host               90%      8891         -
# 6  Short offline       Interrupted (host reset)      30%      8874         -
# 7  Extended offline    Aborted by host               90%      8873         -

SMART Selective self-test log data structure revision number 1
 SPAN  MIN_LBA  MAX_LBA  CURRENT_TEST_STATUS
    1        0        0  Not_testing
    2        0        0  Not_testing
    3        0        0  Not_testing
    4        0        0  Not_testing
    5        0        0  Not_testing
Selective self-test flags (0x0):
  After scanning selected spans, do NOT read-scan remainder of disk.
If Selective self-test is pending on power-up, resume after 0 minute delay.

The drive seems to require a replacement however I am curious what kind of damage can cause such symptoms? And why is this damage not reported by SMART? Any guesses and suggestions are welcome.

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Don't forget to keep your PC on a surge protector! –  Bigbio2002 Jan 17 '13 at 14:20
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2 Answers

The only thing I can think of is that the sudden power outages (thus, possible voltage spikes) caused problems on some electronic components of the drive. Sometimes, unpredicted failures like this one can not be detected by SMART.

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I had 'HD' issues on a motherboard where the reading of the HD would lock up intermittently. The problem lay in a damaged capacitor on a USB3 pci-Express card which I'd added on the single 4x PCi Express bus socket. You've plugged the drive into another PC to backup the data and the rate is throttled the same? The other thing that can lead to this is block-mode being off in the BIOS - though I could be referring to something that only applies to the ATA bus 0_o

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What do you mean by block mode? DMA transfer mode? Windows reported Ultra DMA Mode 5 for the drive. Also it was transferred to a different PC, this time with Fedora Linux with the same performance symptoms. –  EFraim Jan 17 '13 at 20:50
    
"Multiple sector mode aka Block Mode, enables the transfer of multiple sectors per I/O interrupt"... but that may be going too many HD generations back and no longer something optional in current BIOS settings :) In this case it is no longer something that needs taking into account, as the HD is still under-performing when connected to a different PC. –  offchaos Jan 17 '13 at 21:12
    
Haven't seen any setting like that since at least 386-based motherboards. So I guess we can safely assume this mode is not disabled. –  EFraim Jan 18 '13 at 14:42
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