Do-it-Yourself Cartridge Repairs Anyone?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Brian Kelly

Have you ever watched a TV show featuring some dangerous activity and the warning comes up “Do not attempt this yourself?” It’s usually good advice and reminds me of an experience I had recently.

I had the pleasure of co-presenting at “The Reel Thing,” a part of the Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference in Portland, Oregon with Steve Kochak from Digital Preservations Laboratories. During my part of our presentation I was able to explain to the audience how an LTO cartridge is made and explained in detail each of the different components in a cartridge and what their functions are.

Steve then had a presentation set up to show how one can disassemble a cartridge and reattach a Leader Pin.  The audience was very excited and curious to see the inner workings of a cartridge and the reattachment of the Leader Pin. During the Q&A part of the presentation, after seeing Steve successfully disassemble and reassemble a cartridge and reattach a Leader Pin, the common theme in the questions being asked was, “can I repair my cartridges myself?”

While the answer in some cases is yes, especially with the correct tools, my advice for the audience was that we do not recommend repairing your cartridges yourselves and that we at FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc. accept returns from customers for analysis and repairs. Our technical support team in our U.S.-based factory just outside of Boston handles the cartridges with special care inside of a clean room environment to make sure that no debris comes into contact with the tape, especially in cases where the cartridge has to be opened. With Leader Pin reattachments, we put the cartridge back through the clamping process to make sure it is done properly. We take extra care of customer returns to ensure protection of the cartridges, as well as the customer data that may be saved on the tape. Performing these repairs yourself could lead to further damage and potentially the loss of data, especially if not done carefully or in the right environment.

So “don’t attempt this yourself” and risk losing your data. Leave your repairs to the professionals, we are more than happy to help!

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Used / Recertified / Reconditioned Tape – Is It Worth the Risk?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Ken Kajikawa 

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” I’m not sure who first coined that old adage, but it certainly applies to used data tape regardless of whether it’s called “recertified” or “reconditioned.” Let’s review some of the facts.

Recertified? Is there such a thing as legitimately recertified tape? The answer is no and here’s why. The equipment and procedures to fully certify and control the quality of tape performance are available only to licensed manufacturers. No one else has it–so used tape can’t be “re certified” by third parties.  Fujifilm does not recertify tape.  Fujifilm only provides new/unused product to the marketplace.

Reconditioned? Okay, how about reconditioned tape? A tape cartridge cannot be reconditioned either. Once a tape is scratched, creased,  edge damaged, degraded–it can’t be restored to its original factory-new condition. Additionally, a recertifier’s equipment and practices such as data erasure could damage the tape.

Data Erasure? Do the so-called recertifiers actually erase the data from the previous owner? Not exactly. Typically a table of contents overwrite is all that is performed, if anything. To actually overwrite the data on a common LTO data tape would take hours and degaussing is not a quick fix as it would destroy the servo tracks and render the tape useless. A few years back, Fujifilm had acquired 50 “recertified” LTO data tapes from recertified tape resellers. It was determined through expert analysis that 48 out of 50 tapes still contained original user data including highly confidential customer data.

So my advice here is: don’t be a buyer or seller of used tape!

Still considering used tape? Read on for more details about some of the potential hazards! 

  • Storage Environment: Tape must be properly stored and cared for in controlled environments (preferably cool, dry conditions for archive storage 16°C to 25°C and 20% to 50% relative humidity). Used tapes may have been stored for extended periods under poor environmental controls. Tape media degradation and damage are all possibilities that will not be readily apparent to the end user.
  • Care and Handling: Tape must be properly handled. Poor transportation and handling practices, (dropped tapes) could result in internal damage, poor tape pack alignment, and/or tape edge damage.
  • Proper Tape Operating Environment During Prior Usage: Airborne contaminants or dust can get wound into the tape-pack and damage the tape. In addition, excessive heat at the tape head interface can damage tape. This can be a result of drives that were running above maximum operating temperature specification due to integration of inside units lacking sufficient ventilation. Or, a combination of ambient room temperature being too hot and the drive being inside a unit or rack with marginal allowance for thermal transfer (not enough cooling capability under higher ambient temperature conditions).
  • Drive Maintenance: A previous user’s improperly maintained or malfunctioning tape drive could have damaged the tape, or the mechanical functionality of the cartridge.
  • Risk of Damage to Existing Drives and Tapes: Many tapes share the same drives in a typical usage environment. Debris left behind by used tape that is scratched or otherwise physically damaged will certainly contaminate good tapes that follow on those same drives.

Fujifilm always recommends against used/recertified media because the customer can never be assured of the quality, performance, and reliability in several key areas as discussed above.

If you are taking the time and resources to back up your data, why risk your data to a cartridge with unknown history?

Fujifilm high capacity data cartridges are consistently manufactured to the highest specifications and standards and fully supported and backed by a Lifetime Warranty against manufactures defects.


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