Weird Problems with Seagate USB 3.0 5TB Hard Drives and Mac OS X

I’ve been having an odd issue with my Seagate drives and I’ve run out of troubleshooting ideas. I have a 2011 iMac (OS X 10.9) which only has a USB 2.0 ports. However, I have a CalDigit Thunderbolt dock which gives me USB 3.0 capability and very fast USB 3.0 transfer speeds for most of my external disks.

Summary of my problem:
I cannot write to my Seagate 5TB USB 3.0 drives using the USB 3.0 connection on either of my Macs. If I do the file copy stops at 1%, the Finder freezes and I can’t even reboot. However, I can read files fine over USB 3.0. Just not write.

They work fine on my Mac using USB 2.0, I can read and write fine. On my Windows 8.1 PC, the USB 3.0 write and read is fine (if I format the disk to NTFS). The disks are formatted using GUID and Mac OS Ext. (Journaled).


I have a series of Western Digital and other USB 3.0 hard drives which operate at USB 3.0 speeds. I can read and write to and from across these disks, and my iMac’s internal disks, with no problem.

However, I also have four Seagate 5TB USB 3.0 Expansion drives. I purchased these while on sale a while back for the sole purpose of using one as a photo drive and one as a video drive, each with a spare drive to use as a cloned backup. So 2 active drives and 2 backup drives.

Somewhere along the line something stopped working. Maybe it was after I upgraded to OS X 10.9, or after a minor Software Update. Either way, I can no longer correctly write to the Seagate 5TB drives if using a USB 3.0 port. Previously this was not a problem, as my photo drive has over 3TB of data on it currently.

The Seagate 5TB drive is seen by my Mac, I can copy files from the drive quickly, but if I try and copy files to the drive after the copy starts everything freezes and the Finder becomes unresponsive. I can’t cancel the Copy dialog box, it just says “Stopping” and hangs. I can’t even perform a restart, if I do the Mac hangs at a gray screen after trying to log off. Killing the Finder or Force Quitting doesn’t help either. Instead, I must hold down the power button until the Mac turns off.

Now, I thought okay maybe it’s just a bad drive? But all four of them being bad, purchased from two different sources? I doubt it.

So I decided to run some tests with a 1.24 GB .zip file containing photos with my computers. This same file was used across these tests. Note the different results depending on the OS and the USB port used.

Tests using the USB 3.0 port on the computer
Computer OS Seagate 5TB Drive Formatted As Write Results Read Results
2011 iMac OSX 10.9 GUID – Mac OS Ext. (Journaled) Failed* OK
2008 MacBook Pro OSX 10.10 GUID – Mac OS Ext. (Journaled) Failed* OK
Intel i5 Skylake PC Windows 8.1 GUID – NTFS OK OK
2011 iMac OSX 10.9 GUID – NTFS Failed** OK
*Copy window starts at 1%, then the Finder freezes. Can’t cancel the copy. A hard reboot is required, you can’t restart normally.
**Using Seagate’s Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X driver which allows Mac OS X to write to Seagate NTFS hard drives


Tests using the USB 2.0 port on the computer
Computer OS Seagate 5TB Drive Formatted As Write Results Read Results
2011 iMac OSX 10.9 GUID – Mac OS Ext. (Journaled) OK OK
2008 MacBook Pro OSX 10.10 GUID – Mac OS Ext. (Journaled) OK OK
Intel i5 Skylake PC Windows 8.1 GUID – NTFS OK OK
2011 iMac OSX 10.9 GUID – NTFS** OK OK

Note that this problem does not occur if I use the iMac’s built in USB 2.0 port, but of course at reduced USB 2.0 speed. I can’t even format the drive in Disk Utility on my Mac using a USB 3.0 connection, it just hangs after 50% of the way complete.

I do not get this problem on my Windows 8 PC with USB 3.0 ports. If I take a Seagate drive, plug it into Windows and format it as NTFS, I can read and write normally without a problem on Windows 8. But what about my Mac? Well I even tried using the Seagate NTFS driver which (which allows Macs to write to an NTFS drive). Still, I get the same issue. Hanging copy window, can’t even stop it.

Now, one may assume it’s an incompatibility with OS X or the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station I’m using. However, my 2008 MacBook Pro (OS X 10.10) has an ExpressCard slot with a USB 3.0 adapter. I have the same exact issue on my MacBook Pro as I do with my iMac. Sadly, I don’t have any recent Macs with USB 3.0 built-in to test this on. However, my assumption is that there must be something wrong with the USB 3.0 chipset in these Seagate drives, or the formatting – which doesn’t like my iMac… or something!

I have no problems using my Toshiba and Western Digital USB 3.0 drives. They work fine, and at full USB 3.0 speed. The only incompatibility I’ve ever had with my CalDigit Thunderbolt Station USB port was while using a Sabrent brand (USB-DSC8) SATA to USB 3.0 adapter. That simply didn’t work on a USB 3.0 port (didn’t even show up under Apple System Profiler), but worked on the built-in USB 2.0 port. However in this case, the Seagate drives show up and appear to work fine… unless you try to write to them.

The models of the Seagate 5TB USB 3.0 external hard drives I have are:

  • Two Seagate “Expansion Desktop Drives”, Model: SRD0NF2, Part Number: 1TFAP3-500 5 TB
  • Two Seagate “Expansion +”, Model: SRD0NF2, Part Number: 1V9AP5-5oo 5 TB

Does anyone currently own a Seagate USB 3.0 external hard drives and have a Mac with a USB 3.0 port?

If so I’d be greatly interested in hearing if you are experiencing any issues. 🙂

With thanks,


External Hard Drives and Backing Up

Hard Drives are great, sure they may crash or die if you get the bad egg in the batch, but our computers rely on them in one form or another. Without a hard drive you’d have no place but floppy disks to store your data. Be it solid-state flash drives or the older spinny type Hard Drives are a staple of the computer itself. It’s surprising how much data we accumulate these days. Of course with the internet it’s crazy how much information you end up storing, sharing, and creating. Years and years ago I remember being perfectly happy with a 10GB internal hard drive in my iBook laptop. Eventually that required me to get an 80GB external drive due to me starting to play with digital video cameras. Now my MacBook laptop has a 320GB internal drive and an external at least that big to use as a backup.

These days it’s all about Terabytes! (That’s 1,000GB) You can easily get a 1TB hard drive for under $90. That’s a lot of storage space, even for me, the man who has too many external drives to count.

So why all this space? Well we simply consume a lot of data and if you’d want to save anything you’ll need some space. Let’s break it down a bit to compare some sizes. 1MB is a little less then the space a Floppy Disk can hold, they can hold 1.4MB – most digital cameras take photos that are about 1-2MB per photo! 700MB is the maximum amount of data a CD can hold. 4.7GB or 4,700MB is the maximum size a DVD can hold. 1,000GB is 1TB, which is a lot of space for just about anything!

Now you have a hard drive in your computer right now, and you may think of getting another. Maybe it’s to backup your files, store huge videos, or just move your music collection to a place where it can grow. Now unless you have a desktop tower you probably don’t have a spot to add another hard drive. Sure you can upgrade your existing drive, but storage is so cheap it pays to hang onto the old one.

External hard drives are cheap as well, although you can save money often if you buy the drive and enclosure separate, unless you find a good deal. How does this work? Well hard drives are created with connectors, these are made to be connected internally to your computer. However external enclosures convert these connectors to the type found on the outside of your computer, such as USB, FireWire, or even eSATA.

For example you can buy a Western Digital Green 1TB drive for about $90 (bare internal drive with no case), then buy an external USB 2.0 SATA case for about $30. Making the once internal-only drive to a portable external storage vault. Bringing the total to about $120 for an external hard drive solution. However… if you browse to’s refurbished section you’ll find a 1TB USB 2.0 MyBook external drive ready to go for under $125. It’s your choice, but if you’re all about connectivity and speed it may be best to make your own external solution, unless you like to pay an arm and a leg for FireWire support.

Most of the hard drive enclosures out there offer USB 2.0 as a standard. If you’re like me you’d want a FireWire 400 port (at least). Unfortunately  most cases don’t include FireWire, you can purchase a FireWire/USB/eSATA combo enclosure for about $38. If you’re picky about your inputs then it’s well worth it. After all FireWire is much faster then USB, especially when moving loads of data, and FireWire 800? Well that’s even quicker.

External Hard Drives  are quicker then USB flash drives, much quicker, and can hold a lot more storage. They’re better for backups since they’re quicker and can even be used to boot up a copy of your operating system… unless you’re running Windows.

So what’s the point of this post? Nothing really.

Maybe it’s to remind you that storage is cheap and that you should backup your precious files and documents. Once your photos or videos disappear to a hardware failure it’s already too late… ALL HARD DRIVES EVENTUALLY DIE. I can’t stress that enough. I once bought a 200GB hard drive, less then 6 months later it died, along with all my “backup” data. Apple’s Macs all have an excellent built-in backup feature called Time Machine. As long as you have Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” or later you’re covered, just plug in a blank external drive and all the work is done for you!

But you don’t even need software to do it for you, sure it’s easier and convenient, but even backing up an important folder of documents to a flash drive is a good idea. Don’t forget CD or DVD burners! You can easily store 700MB to 4.4GB to a disc for safe keeping. That’s an easy way to backup all those family photos you can’t replace. Send copies to friends and relatives while you’re at it.

Or it might be to inform you that you’re not bounded to the size of your disk that’s inside of your computer. After all expanding your storage options is best done externally – the sky is the limit. As long as you have long enough cables.