How do I buy drives?

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nosar77

New Member
Dec 13, 2023
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I’ve recently started my home lab by purchasing a Dell r630 for a variety of uses. The most frustrating part is I cannot find cheap drives that just work. I purchased 2 sets of hard drives from eBay that I must return because the drives cannot be formatted from 520 to 512 due to vender lock or something else. Its frustrating because there’s no way for me to know before purchasing a drive that is either vendor locked or the correct sector size since most sellers either don’t know or the drives are older and have been removed from the original storage where they cannot be used again. I purchased SSDs that work perfectly fine on truenas pool no issues. I then purchased an HBA330 to replace my H730P mini because I thought it would help and I’m tired of purchasing something waiting a week for it to arrive for then the drives not to work.

I purchased my equipment 3 months ago and I still can’t use my homelab because i keep running into stupid issues and now I’m ready to get rid of my home lab stuff please help me find cheap 12g 2.5 sas 1.8 tb drives that I can get 5 of them without spending 200+ dollars. I want to stick with SAS because the ssds I bought are sas already and it’s a sas backplane and want to keep the 12g speeds.

Yes i've tried SG_formatting using the sticky and many other tutorials but it seems all these cheaper drives on ebay are vendor locked and cannot be used. How do I buy used cheaper drives that are not locked and it what I need?
 

itronin

Well-Known Member
Nov 24, 2018
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Denver, Colorado
Its tough. Esp in the 2.5 spinner space. there are just tons and tons (literally) of vsp drives that have been dumped. They're on the bay at very attractive prices. Based on your other post you've likely guessed correctly. return 'em. move on. larger cap 2.5 spinners are tough. you cant use SMR drives, and those will be sata anyway.

which drives to buy? look for dell labeled 2.5" drives, emc i dont know about. IBM labeled - maybe but they rebranded vsp IIRC. i had some luck with hpe labeled drives but cant recall seeing bigger than 1.2. enterprise space moved quickly to large cap ssds so there are just not that many larger cap 2.5 spinners (> 1.2TB). Seageat / hitaschi (risk of vsp for either), Toshibas - cant recall seeing issues with those. Look for sellers whove tested the drives and/or reformatted to 512 or 4096. Look for sellers that pay return shipping. Why? they have an incentive that it will work and maybe even provide support. look for listings that speak directly for the hardware you have. or something very close. They include a dell caddy? doing a quick search on the bay i see 3 listings that meet the criteria above incl one i've bought aboout 10k worth of drives from. a while back and they were great to deal with then. cant say now so i'm not naming them. all the listings can get you 5 at $200 listed price (maybe less OBO) not incl tax. other things: communicate with the seller before you buy, see if they tested and with what and how the drives are already formatted.

Another option: Can you afford to go all ssd? HUSMM16162xx can be had for $100USD a pop or less in lots. I have not seen one that couldnt be made to work. twice and them some for your budget but performance wise you'l be happier... if you need a large cap storage tier then second server for LFF drives?

FWIW i've had bad luck with sellers out of longwood, orlando, and sanford fl. all dumped vsp drives PITA to deal with too. all i'm saying on that.

It also may be that the parting together of servers bit of "the hobby" is not for you - in which case look for prebuilt systems with what you want. heck post here in a wtb thread and see if someone has what you want and they used it!

For some of us - trying to make it work is part of the fun, joy, excitement.
 
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nosar77

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Dec 13, 2023
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do you have any logs, error messages, screenshots etc saved?
I did but not valuable ones. At this point I've researched enough to confirm the drives have Hitachi VSP firmware and are unable to be flashed to regular firmware ( tried this). This makes the drives ready only. You cannot write anything to the drives and it always generated an input/output error tried on gparted, truenas, centos, and windows and nothing would get these drives working. Sg_formated the drives about 4 times over 3 days and didn't work.
 

sam55todd

Active Member
May 11, 2023
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...firmware and are unable to be flashed to regular firmware ( tried this)...
Another risk with e-bay purchases having controllers is about firmware - I've got two larger capacity Micron 3400 off the ebay a while ago, instantly tested and put on a shelf, recently time come to use those - system became unstable with frequent freezes in just 5-10 minutes of operations, whatever slots I was putting those in: PCIe via adapter, M.2, MCIO connector to SFF-8654 adapter - all the same, even configured slots from Gen4 PCIe to Gen3 to reduce workload - still no improvements, next day realized those rapidly getting piping hot, added heatsink, still freezes but only 3 minutes later than in original plug-n-play approach... Until made the decision to flash firmware, once that was done - all problems have magically gone. Since it's very unlikely to be genuine bad factory-side firmware batch - my paranoid internal mini-me got a suspicion these were intentionally silently altered for some sort of extra layer on backdoor compute purposes (e.g crypto, etc.) and sold to various naive customers, getting anything having firmware from e-bay is always a risk..
 

Terry Kennedy

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Jun 25, 2015
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New York City
www.glaver.org
I’ve recently started my home lab by purchasing a Dell r630 for a variety of uses. The most frustrating part is I cannot find cheap drives that just work. I purchased 2 sets of hard drives from eBay that I must return because the drives cannot be formatted from 520 to 512 due to vender lock or something else. Its frustrating because there’s no way for me to know before purchasing a drive that is either vendor locked or the correct sector size since most sellers either don’t know or the drives are older and have been removed from the original storage where they cannot be used again. I purchased SSDs that work perfectly fine on truenas pool no issues. I then purchased an HBA330 to replace my H730P mini because I thought it would help and I’m tired of purchasing something waiting a week for it to arrive for then the drives not to work.
When I build Dell PowerEdge servers (I have over a dozen running, doing various things for home and work), I buy Dell-branded disk drives. It saves a lot of hassle, as well as avoiding any "You're using non-certified drives!" warnings from PERC controllers. Lately (last 6 servers, mix of R630 and R730) I've been using PX04SMB040 drives (400GB SSD) with Dell part number GM5R3. These can be found with the drive trays on eBay for $100-ish. I make sure to check "US only" when searching to make sure I don't have to deal with long shipping delays. If you're outside the US, change as needed.

One thing is that sellers often shuffle drives between trays, or obtain empty trays to put drives in, so the labels may be missing or incorrect. I make my own labels via a procedure I documented here. Here's a sample of the result:


In general, OEM drives will need to be in a system and controller from the same OEM in order to update the firmware. That's assuming firmware updates are freely available from download, which leaves out HP (as one of the worst offenders) and others.

The 520-byte drives are from (IMHO) ignorant / lazy sellers. If the seller tried converting just one drive to 512, they could easily provide a printed instruction sheet or link to an online one that says "download this live CD and issue these commands exactly as shown". Or they could do the work themselves and charge more for the drives. And then there are the sellers that knowingly peddle drives that have no working conversion method.

NICs seem to "just work", regardless of the branding (this applies to 10GbE and slower cards; my experience with faster ones is limited). Fiber (as opposed to copper) NICs can sometimes demand matching-brand optics. But places like fs.com can sell you inexpensive optics with whatever branding "magic footprints" you need. Don't buy "bypass" adapters unless you know you can get the specialized drivers needed for whatever operating system you're running.

Storage controllers can be iffy. Most LSI adapters can be cross-flashed using the excellent guides provided by other STH members here. Minor features (for most people) like link status indicators on external SAS adapter cards may not work properly if the card is an OEM design (some older Dell controllers). Most normal PCIe-slot controllers are "badge engineered" versions of LSI cards and run generic firmware with no problems. Dedicated-slot storage controllers (mostly RAID ones) are a whole different kettle of eels. There is some cross-flashing info here.

External gizmos like network switches are generally limited to running the OEM firmware they came with. Cross-flashes (some documented here on STH) are rare and sometimes have limitations like the port LEDs not working. I have a mix of Cisco Catalyst switches (mainly 4948E and 4500X at this point) and a few Dell PowerConnect 8024/8024F switches here at home.

Don't let your initial bad experiences deter you - once you're "up to speed" on this stuff you'll have a lot of fun and also have skills you can use in a full-time job or doing consulting work. Just don't get sucked into being "That computer person", doing free work for friends and family.
 

CyklonDX

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Nov 8, 2022
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You should upgrade bios, idrac, and firmware on the raid controllers... dell for some time already allows non-branded disks in poweredge systems like r620, r630, and r640, r650. (to get sed working you need to have dell certified disks on r620-r630) (and if you are doing pass-through, dell doesn't care even more.)