Is your hard disk drive (Seagate) genuine or counterfeit fake?

This is an eBay experience I would like to share involving a seller sending me counterfeit refurbished drives, advertised as new.

The drives were Seagate 750GB Barracuda (model number ST3750640NS), I purchased 2 in 2 separate auctions, and both received drivers were counterfeit refurbished drives.

More then likely, sellers won’t list actual pictures of the drives, so it is not till you physically receive them that you will be able to tell if you have been gypped.

A counterfeit refurbished drive next to a genuine Seagate drive

Counterfeit refurbished drive next to a genuine Seagate drive

From afar, the most obvious difference is the shape of the labels. The drive on the left has a standard looking rectangle label, while the drive on the right has an interesting shape with curved corners; this is the genuine Seagate drive. With the counterfeit drive, the original label has been removed and replaced by a fake rectangle label. A rectangle label is cheap and easy to make, no curves are required to be cut.

A closer look at the counterfeit drive

Closer look at the counterfeit drive

Upon closer inspection, it can be observed that the label is of very poor quality. The printing is all splotchy and the text unreadable. If you look on the edges of the label, you can also see traces of where the original label was adhered to, this proves the original label was removed. Judging by the scratches on the metal casing, this drive is not new; and most likely refurbished.

A look at the drives details

A look at the drives details

It can be observed the serial number is 3QD0FF2D. All Seagate drives have individual serial numbers that will validate on Seagate’s Warranty Validation page. In this case the counterfeit drive returns ‘Expiration Unknown’, genuine drives will return an Expiration date. All Seagate 750GB drives have 5 years Seagate warranty, even the OEM drives from what I have experienced. Once again there are a lot of scratches on the surface.

The final confirmation

The thing about hard disk drives, is that you can write anything you want on the label, but the drives embedded information (included serial number) will not lie. Seagate offers SeaTools, drive diagnostic software for the Seagate range. The easiest way to get a copy of SeaTools is from the Ultimate Boot CD. SeaTools was run on the counterfeit drive, and a screen captures taken.

Seagate SeaTools showing a counterfeit drive's details

Seagate SeaTools showing a counterfeit drive's details close up

SeaTools confirms the model is indeed a ST3750640NS, however the serial number is actually 5QD18MCE, and the Firmware is actually 3.AEK. This is the hard proof that this drive has had its label removed.


The reasons for a removed label are most likely that the drive is refurbished, when Seagate refurbishes a drive they sometimes replace the label with a new label stating it is a refurbished drive. Note; this is still a genuine Seagate label, the label will still be that interesting shape with curved corners, it will however say refurbished on it. Buyers don’t like refurbished drives, so it may have been the seller replaced the refurbished label so that he could then sell the drives as ‘new’. Refurbished drives are also cheaper for sellers to buy.

In order to minimise being discovered, sellers will most likely sell the counterfeit drives in a cheap hard disk drive enclosures, as it was in my case. Always inspect any drives that arrive in enclosures to confirm you have received what was advertised. Do not simply make sure it works and looks nice.

Sellers may also state that the drive is OEM, as also in my case. Just remember that all Seagate drives can be warranty validated, even if OEM.

The end my story, the seller did send me 2 new drives after I sent the counterfeit drives back at my expense. I am sure he relisted them.

How to disassemble a Seagate FreeAgent Pro

I purchased a 750gb Seagate FreeAgent Pro (from America) with the sole intention of using just the drive as it was actually the same price as the standalone drive (in Australia). To remove the drive is quite a tricky procedure if you don’t have the knowhow.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro

I didn’t complete mangle my FreeAgent Pro, it is still usable (I think), but it isn’t pretty anymore.

There is already information out there but it seems this is an older model (which also looks like it was a lot easier to dismantle).

To start, remove the base. This is the easy part, just keep on removing screws till the base can be removed. You will have to remove the circuit board and also the SATA and SATA power cables from the board. Once the base is removed, you will have something that looks like this.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro with base removed

This is an already gutted FreeAgent Pro. Note the Seagate logo, this is the side that comes apart.

Now, onto the hard part. Also, as a note, I haven’t actually tried this method, but once I had it opened it was easier to assume how it should have been open (got to love hindsight). You will need a stiff, straight piece of wire, a wire coat hanger works perfectly, with the hook bent straight.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro location of main clips.

The locations of the two problematic clips are at the base. Once these are unclipped the ones at the top unclip very easily.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro positioning of wire.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro positioning of wire.

Insert the wire into the gaps at the bottom, the idea is to push the clip that secures the cover. When the wire is inserted and pushing on the clip, gently try to remove the cover. Do not apply too much force because as soon as the clip is deformed it will be impossible to remove (this is from experience). The cover should declip on one side nicely. Repeat this process for the clip on the other side.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro location of four clips.

It can be noted that the two clips, located at the bottom have been broken off, this was the extremely measures that I took to remove cover. Hopefully this post will prevent you from doing the same.