I have a Quantum LTO-4 HH Original Drive, and recently i'm getting a lot of problems with tapes.

For a long time every 3-5 tapes, the drive asks me for a cleaning tape, but lately the drive needs to be cleaned very often (every 2 tapes, and sometimes only one and it even stops in the middle of a tape). I thought that the problem were the tapes because they have been used a lot of times, then I bought new tapes.

The problem now is that new tapes are unusable, because after 5-6 GB of backup, the drive gets dirty and asks for a cleaning tape. I've tested 4 tapes (Sony and Quantum) of 2 different providers, and all of them fail. After the first "disaster" of new tapes (Sony) I was able to backup one full old tape, but now after the second "disaster" (Quantum tapes), even the old tape fails after 5-6GB.

Shall I replace the unit or can it be solved with a "manual" cleaning?

If the latter, do I need any special product for a manual cleaning?

  • Is the drive under warranty? Have you contacted the vendor? Dec 20, 2014 at 20:14
  • I don't think, is an old drive. I've tried to contact to vendor, but i've not seen any way on my country. :S Dec 20, 2014 at 20:17
  • Had that issue once. The vendor sent a technician, who checked the drive and replaced it as it still had warranty. I'd contact the vendor of your drive.
    – lsmooth
    Dec 20, 2014 at 20:20

4 Answers 4


Use common sense. Replace the unit or leverage the manufacturer/warranty contacts.

The behavior you're experiencing is not common or acceptable. Imagine this were a common kitchen appliance like a microwave or your refrigerator. Would you tolerate a weekly failure of those?


So apply the same logic to your malfunctioning tape drive :)

  • 1
    So much this. If you have data that's worth backing up then surely its worth backing up with a reliable system. Also, I've seen failing tape units that appear to write successfully but the data they were writing could not then be restored reliably or even read at all by other drives. Doing anything other than repair/replace of the drive right now is insane, unless you don't need backups of the data it's supposed to be protecting, in which case why are you trying to back it up at all?
    – Rob Moir
    Dec 20, 2014 at 22:23
  • Finally i'm asking prices for a replace. I hope it is a drive problem, instead a Murphy's law with tapes... Dec 22, 2014 at 15:33

Always stick to one brand of tapes. Different manufacturers use different coatings which can interact and require additional cleaning.

However in this case it sounds like the drive needs to be serviced or replaced.

  • Do you have a reputable source for this contention?
    – MadHatter
    Apr 12, 2016 at 9:36
  • @MadHatter This is video engineer wisdom and unfortunately I can't find a current source as tape has been left behind. I have experienced this first hand though when restoring a collection of hundreds of mixed LTO tapes we had dirty drive issues constantly until we segregated brands on seperate drives.
    – JamesRyan
    Apr 12, 2016 at 9:52

Replacing the tapes was probably a bad idea. Back in the days where I was administrating LTO-4 drives it was entirely normal for brand new tapes to be covered in a tiny amount of debris left over from the manufacturing process.

The dirt entering the drives through these new tapes may have been the final blow to your drives. I have seen that happen hundreds of times.

The first symptom of a drive suffering this fate is a decrease in write speed and tape capacity. Usually I would see the capacity slowly decreasing from 830GB to 780GB and then quickly decrease to around 600GB. The write speed would tend to be 120MB/s in one direction and 60MB/s in the other direction. At that point replacing the drive is recommendable.

As recommended by the vendor I would try a manual cleaning of drives under those circumstances. But the problem would always persist, and I had to replace the drive anyway.

One vendor promised to develop a method for cleaning the tapes before first usage. But I moved on to other work before I saw the results.

  • Finally i've replaced the drive because was failing all the time. The problem started before use the new tapes (i bougth that new tapes because was failing), and finally with the new drive and new tapes is working without problem. Apr 13, 2016 at 9:55
  • @DanielCarrascoMarín Maybe you were lucky enough to get any debris from the new tapes deposited in the old drive. In my experience the best results are achieved with new drives and slightly used tapes.
    – kasperd
    Apr 13, 2016 at 10:01

I know this is an older thread, but still seems pertinent... another thing to consider (although unlikely since the problem was not happening all along) is that the firmware on all of the tape drives should be the same. Levelling the firmware after a drive installation/replacement is a good idea.

  • I've already remplaced the damaged drive but was for another different brand, but anyway thanks for the info. May 20, 2015 at 18:53

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