This is not so much a review but a cautionary tale. Let me begin by saying I’ve been a longtime supporter (and purchaser) of Maxtor drives. They’ve had a few bumps in the road but I stick with them.

Just after Christmas the Maxtor Maxline Pro 500 GB drives were going on sale online. It makes sense that Seagate would be clearing them out and they’re the only drive really left available in Maxtor’s high end line that wasn’t SCSI. I’m building a new server to test out the beta of Microsoft Data Protection Manager v2 and needed some drives for a RAID array; these were a real bargain so I ordered four.

I set up the server with an AMCC 3ware 9550SX RAID controller and the four Maxlines connected in RAID 5. 3ware cards like you to initialize an array before use; basically it does a full scan and diagnostic to make sure everything is working optimally. I upgraded the card’s firmware to the latest level and installed it’s drivers in my clean install of Windows Server 2003 R2.

After setting up the RAID 5 array I watched the initialization for about twenty minutes and went out; to fully initialize 1.5 TB will take many hours. I returned a short time later to see the drive on port three had failed and the RAID array had degraded. I shut everything down and checked the cabling and connections but no problems. I deleted and recreated the array, but after a while of initialization I had the same issue on port three. I swapped the drive to port five and repeated the process. This time it failed but told me the drive had a SMART (ECC) FAIL. I pulled the drive and set it aside.

Figuring something was up I created the array with three drives instead of four. Initialization failed shortly thereafter with a DEVICE ERROR on port four. Rinse and repeat, same thing.

Somewhere between exhaustion and blind rage I pulled all four drives out and hooked them up individually to scan with Maxtor’s PowerMax diagnostics utility. Started with the SMART error drive; the HP I had it hooked to let me know drive failure was imminent but I ran the diagnostics anyway and found it was dying. Next drive tested was the DEVICE ERROR; PowerMax came to the same conclusion. The last two tested fine.

Final score: two of four brand new drives purchased are in need of replacement. My four drives were all manufactured 12SEP2006 so avoid that batch if you’re buying. Maxtor’s RMA is now part of Seagate but they have an exchange program so I’ll get my replacements in a few days.