LTO tape drive repair

LTO tape drive repair

What is LTO tape?

Linear Tape-Open (or LTO) is a magnetic tape information depot technology originally developed in the late 1990s as an open standards option to the patented magnetic tape formats that were available at the time. Seagate, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM originated the LTO Consortium, which masterminds evolution and manages licensing and certification of media and mechanism manufacturers. The standard form-factor of LTO technology goes by the name Ultrium, the original edition of which was published in 2000 and could hold 100 GB of data in a single cartridge. The most recent version was released in 2007 and can hold 800 GB in the same size cartridge. Since 2002, LTO has been the best selling “super tape” format and is widely used with small and large computer systems, particularly for backup. Its fame can be assigned to both the innovative technology acquired as well as the attractive pricing.

Types of LTO Tape Drives

LTO-1 Tape

  • Originally designed to come in 4 lengths of tape: 10, 30, 50, and 100 GB.
  • Tape encoding is RLL 1,7
  • First commercially available in September 2000.

LTO-2 Tape

  • Doubled capacity and transfer speed
  • Switched to PRML encoding
  • First mechanisms approved in February 2003.[8] First media approved in March 2003.

LTO-3 Tape

  • Doubled capacity and transfer speed again
  • Introduced WORM feature
  • Doubled number of write elements in head
  • First media approved in November 2004.

At the full native data rate (80 MB/s), LTO-3 drives can write data faster than most hard disk drives can read. Even the minimum streaming data rate (~30–40 MB/s) is faster than many hard disk drives.

LTO-4 Tape

  • Doubled capacity again to 800 GB.
  • Added 256-bit AES-GCM drive level encryption.
  • Increase data transfer rate by 50% to 120 MB/s.
  • First mechanisms approved in April 2007. First media approved in May 2007.

LTO-5 Tape

The current draft has the following specifications:

  • Capacity of 1.6 TB (1600 GB)
  • Uncompressed data transfer rate of 180 MB/s

How to repair LTO Tape Drive Cartridges?

A trouble with a LTO tape drive may happen for any number of reasons. The most usual problems takes place when a magnetic tape is not inserted in correctly. A stumble in the procedure, the drive goes through while testing to load the tape can also occur. Repairing a problem is not as difficult as it sounds. However, you must be persevering, so as to not cause further damage. Read on to learn how to fix a LTO drive.

  • Step 1. Open the drive or carefully remove it from the changer. Be prepared to take anything else apart that may get in your way. Be sure to lay the removed parts out neatly and label them to reduce confusion when replacing them.
  • Step 2. Take the clear housing and spool apart. Be sure to remember which way is up.
  • Step 3. Examine the leader carefully. The end of the leader thins to a slim, 1/2 inch or so part, then it flares into a flat knob at the end. If one of these flares on the end are missing, or the entire end is severed off, you have a very serious problem.
  • Step 4. Thread the leader back through the rollers and feeder if the leader was not damaged. This act is best done with the spool out. Behind the spool there is a piece of plastic that needs to come off. Once you remove this piece of plastic, try spooling it again. It will only fit one way so once you get the hang of it, this step is relatively simple.
  • Step 5. Get the leader past the roller. Where the tape usually goes, there will be a small mechanism. The job of this mechanism is to stab the tape leader with the drive leader, then get out of the way so the drive can start spooling. This process is done by holding the drive leader on a little hook on its underside. This hook goes through a hole an inch or two away from the end of the leader.
  • Step 6. Replace any of the items you had to remove during this process.
  • Step 7. Power it up and see what happens.
  • Step 8. Put an old tape in and see if it loads. If it does, you have successfully fixed the problem. If it does not, you may need to see a trained professional about the problem.

How to clean LTO tape drives?

Although keeping a tape drive clean is important, normal cleaning cartridges are abrasive and frequent use will shorten the drive’s lifespan. HP LTO Gen.1 drives have a cleaning strategy that will prevent the drive from actually using the cleaning tape if it is not needed. There is an internal mechanism that also handles cleaning tasks based on error rate criteria and time. The internal tape head cleaner is also activated when the cleaning cartridge is loaded. HP LTO Gen 2,3,4 using a Universal Cleaning Cartridge will always clean when a cleaning cartridge is inserted, irrespective of whether the drive requires cleaning or not.