Dying Drobo


My old Drobo, a second generation, 4 drive unit that I bought new in 2008 has been a faithful servant. It spent a lot of its time as the time machine backup and deep storage for music, photos, and videos. A couple of failed drives (easily replaced) and not a single byte of lost data in the 9 years that I have had this tethered to my Mac(s), it is hard for me to point out a fault.

The trusty Drobo array

Lately, it has been idle a lot, as I moved to Arq for backups, and haven’t accessed my deep storage that often. Still, every time I plugged it in, there were my files. It was not the fastest array, since it is for long term storage and backup, I filled it with Western Digital “Green” drives, quieter, optimized for DVR’s, not the speediest drives, but they have a reputation for being really reliable. And they have been.

That said, with a recent migration from Lightroom 6 to Lightroom CC, I plugged in the drive and after importing my photos, moved them to the Drobo. That was when things got hinkey.

Weirdness, the drive would sometimes not mount properly, or, data transfer was really slow, and it seemed to refuse to be un-mounted. I even left it on overnight to un-mount, in case it was just doing housekeeping, but alas, it never un-mounted.

Thinking it might be the Firewire interface (or the firewire to thunderbolt dongle) I plugged in the Drobo via the USB connection. No dice.

I even tried another computer, a trusty Macbook Air. Same results.

My conclusion is that the hardware is getting flaky, and it is on the trajectory to full failure. I guess 9 years is a pretty good run, but it is time for a replacement.

Fortunately, the drives can be migrated to a new unit, as long as I buy a new Drobo. Looking hard at a 5Dt (Thunderbolt 2.0, 5 drive bays, with a mSATA port for a caching SSD). I will probably then upgrade to faster drives too.


9 years is a pretty good run, I should be happy that it has served faithfully. There are other options, but from a long history of having cobbled together external storage solutions, the Drobo option is not the fastest, nor is it the cheapest, but it has been extremely reliable.

About the author


Product Manager in Tech. Guitar player. Bicycle Rider. Dog rescuer. Techie.

By gander


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October 2017

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