HP Storageworks Autoloader Emergency Tape Extraction
How to recover tapes from a broken HP LTO autoloader without voiding warranty.
No hardware is infallible, which is demonstrated each and every day of most of our lives. Even the very expensive hardware. If you are in the unfortunate position of having an HP Storageworks Ultrium 460 autoloader unit break down on you, you will certainly be interested in recovering the tapes which undoubtedly have your precious data on them.
While the hardware replacement warranty on these units is good, HP have a policy of not returning tapes that are trapped inside the bowels of the beast. Fortunately there is a lot you can do to rectify this situation, in fact HP will gladly advise you of the fact that you can remove the casing and retrieve tapes located in the autoloader carriages. However they will advise you that any tape in the drive itself cannot be removed. This is not exactly the case.
Firstly, acquaint yourself with HP document AA926-90901, the manual. It has a fairly well written section on removing tapes from a faulty unit. Preparation for this will include making sure you have a good set of torx screwdrivers on hand. Remove all of the exterior screws around the edge of the upper casing. There will be three on each side and five along the back.
Once you have gently removed the upper casing you will see all of the carriers that hold the tapes outside of the actual drive. These can be fairly easily lifted slightly at one side and rotated counter-clockwise to allow you to remove the tape from the rear end of the carriage. You will need to release the catch on one side of the carriage to permit the tape to slide out of the carriage. Any carriages that cannot be moved in this way (e.g. the one directly in front of the drive) will require you to slowly rotate the carousel by hand in a counter-clockwise direction until the carriage is accessible. It is best if you do this by pushing on two carriages on opposing sides of the carousel.
Removing the tape from the drive requires a little more effort. Remove the screws from the fan bracket directly behind the drive. Then remove the power plug, SCSI connector and control connector plug from the rear of the drive. You will need an ATX or AT computer power supply with a power connector long enough to plug into the drive itself. Once you have plugged the power connector in and switched on the power supply, the drive should show signs of life by flashing a green light near the front of the drive. It may be hard to see as it will be blocked by the large pieces of plastic in front of the drive. If you cannot see any flashing lights, there is a possibility the drive is faulty as well and cannot be used to retrieve the tape.
If the drive seems to be operational, you need to activate the eject mechanism. There is a very small hole on the right hand side of the front of the drive (as viewed from the front) into which a paperclip can usually be inserted, however it is very hard to do so with the plastic moulding of the carousel in the way. The alternate method I used was to unclip the right side of plastic front panel of the drive, by pushing down on the clip on the top of the drive. It will only open up by a couple of millimeters, but that is enough to slide a small screwdriver or other tool in to press the eject button inside. You will need to find out where that button is exactly with a torch or other bright light source as it is very small. I also recommend using a piece of plastic or other non-conductive tool to press the button to avoid any chance of damaging the drive.
After pressing the eject button for a few seconds, the drive should rewind the tape and eject the tape. You will need to open the gripper jaws sufficiently to allow the tape to pass into the carriage in front of the drive. Then, as before you will need to rotate the carousel to allow access to that carriage from which you can retrieve the tape. Reclip the front panel of the drive, return the carousel to its original position, remove the power connector from the drive and plug the original connectors back into their positions and then reattach the tape drive fan bracket behind the drive. Once you are sure everything is back in its original position you can slide the autoloader casing back on and seal the unit up with the torx screws. If you were careful enough you will not have voided the warranty but have retrieved your tapes, saving several hundred dollars and priceless backup data.
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