I’m just a glutton for punishment. Last week, I struggled with getting a USB-attached Drobo to allow a server to boot properly. Yesterday, I unpacked a new Drobo FS. I’d like to tell you about it.
The Drobo packing is not in the Apple league for style and elegance, but it’s darn good. They printed the insides of the main cardboard box black, for no reason other than aesthetics. The Drobo itself comes cradled in the kind of packaging that you saw in disk drives ten years ago, and it’s wrapped in a black cloth bag — seems a shame to throw it out.
There are three sets of start-up instructions: one on a piece of cardboard that you have to remove to get to the Drobo, one in the beginning of the skinny manual, and one further along in the manual. The first two say the same thing: load the Drobo Dashboard on your computer, load the disks into the Drobo, connect he Ethernet cable, and connect the power. The third set of instructions, adds a step at the end: toggle the power switch on the back of the Drobo.
I figured that I’d go with the majority, and didn’t hit the power switch. The Drobo gave me a light show, and then settled down with a green power light. But the Dashboard couldn’t find it. So I hit the power switch and the unit shut down. Hitting it again brought it up, but the Dashboard still couldn’t see it. It finally settled down with the power light blinking green, a signal that was not explained in the manual. (As you can see below, I just caught the box in the middle of a boot.)
I brought up DHCP and determined that the Drobo had been assigned a lease. I pinged it from the computer on which the Dashboard was installed and got answers. That left anti-virus software in the Dashboard computer. I use Norton. I checked the rules, and Norton recognized the Dashboard, and said that it assigned rules to it automatically. Just to make sure, I configured AV software to allow the Dashboard to do whatever it wants. No change.
I went down to look at the Drobo one more time. The lights had changed: now the power light was solid green, and all five drive bay lights were yellow, even though only four drives were installed. The manual said that the yellow lights mean that that the Drobo is running out of disk space. That didn’t seem right.
I went to the web and read all the Knowledge Base articles on the FS without finding anything about how to troubleshoot the failure of the Dashboard to find the Drobo.
I went back and looked at the Drobo. The lights kept changing. It looked like it was going through a boot. I waited. It did it again. Bad news. I straightened a paper clip and performed a reset. Same thing.
Time for tech support. The tech said to pull all the disks and see if it would get off the boot-up rollercoaster. It did, and ended up with the upper most disk light red and the power light green, which the tech said was normal. But the Dashboard still couldn’t see the Drobo. The tech suggested setting the Drobo up with a laptop and not using my Ethernet switch. I told him that I’d have to continue later in the day, since I was out of time. He said call back when I was ready.
When I called back, the first tech was out for the afternoon, but I continued working with the second tech. He asked me what version of the Dashboard I had installed, and I said 1.6.8, which was the latest version on the Drobo web site. He said to uninstall and reinstall with the version on the CD, which was 1.7.0. He didn’t know why the latest version wasn’t on the web site.
After I installed Dashboard 1.7.0, I booted up the Drobo with no disks installed, and the Dashboard found it. The tech then had me upgrade the Drobo firmware from 1.0.0 to 1.0.3 and the Dashboard itself to 1.7.1, both using the Dashboard’s “Check for Updates” button.
There was no change to the symptoms. The tech thought it was a bad drive, told me to swap drives until the Drobo would boot cleanly, wished me good luck, and rang off. I shut down, swapped, and booted for half an hour, finding not one, but two, drives that would, individually and together, send the Drobo into continuous boot mode. I replaced one of them with a spare, and the Drobo booted with three 2 TB drives installed.
The dashboard gave me an interesting message: “Too many hard drives have been removed. Please re-insert the removed hard drives.” I used the Dashboard to reset the Drobo to factory default settings. The Drobo came up indicating the two of the drives were good, but a third was bad. I called tech support again. They looked at the logs, and said that, near as they could tell, they had shipped me three bad drives, and that I should call customer support in the morning.
I found it really hard to believe that three out of five drives were bad, but it doesn’t look like I have much choice. I’ll let you know how it goes with customer support.
All in all, one of the worst OOBE’s I can remember.
David X Messer says
Ah, you’ve just hit the nail on the head. Many thanks for your post.
I’ve recently (today) bought a DroboFS but like you I went to the website for the latest version of the dashboard software. Annoyingly I’ve left the DroboFS CD at work so I’m going to have to wait until tomorrow to get the thing working.
Also, one other thing I noticed. I’m upgrading from a Drobo to the DroboFS and when I ripped the disks out of the Drobo and put them in the FS the thing refused to start up. I managed to find another SATA drive that hadn’t been anywhere near a Drobo. After a lot of swapping disks in and out I managed to convince it to re-use the old Drobo disks. Highly annoying that this isn’t documented anywhere.
Jim Sherhart says
Jim – Very sorry to hear about your experience. As you found out, Drobo FS requires Drobo Dashboard 1.7.x to be discovered. Right now 1.7.x is only for Drobo FS and we are about a week away from releasing a 1.7.x version for all products. Had you used the installation CD, you would have been upgraded to 1.7.0 which would have then auto-updated to 1.7.1.
Regarding the bad drives, that is very surprising and unfortunate. We have had great success with our drive suppliers, so this sounds like an isolated incident possibly related to a bad batch of drives. Please make sure to work with support so that we can get you taken care of and get to a root cause that we can correct.
David – Unfortunately the Drobo FS uses a unique formatting, so a drive pack from another Drobo cannot be transferred with data intact to a Drobo FS.
We care about our customers and appreciate all feedback, positive or negative. While it’s always difficult to hear about a bad customer experience, the good news is that this info gets directly to product management and – if necessary – engineering.
I wish the information about 1.7.0 and 1.7.1 compatibility were available on the web site. Because of the lack of Active Directory support (more on that in a later post), I have to run the FS off a Dashboard that’s running on a server that’s also got a USB-attached Drobo. It sound like you’re saying that’s a no-no, although it appears to be running OK for now.
If I’d have known about the lack of a universal Dashboard, I would have delayed installing the FS.
I talked to a salesperson today, who said that, although the usual policy is to have a customer with a bad drive go directly to WD, he would have the distributor contact me to arrange a swap. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hoping it will in the next day or so. I have also ordered some more WD Caviar Green drives from another source so I can repopulate my spares inventory and replace the failed drive in the FS if it takes a while to do the swap with the distributor.
Thanks for following this blog. I get more traffic from search terms containing “Drobo” than from any other source, and I (and, by extension, my readers) have gotten information from Drobo here that I’ve not seen any other place.
I just bought a drobo FS and new drives a few days ago and today I just had a similar experience as discussed here with my drobo FS which was populated with 5 2TB WD Caviar Green drives. I’m using 1.7.2 Drobo Dashboard and 1.0.4 Drobo Firmware.
I don’t really use the Public share so I tried to unmount the share from the drobo dashboard and the drobo seemed to get stuck trying to disconnect the share. When I tried to connect to other shares the drobo was unresponsive and the dashboard software had hung.
As I couldn’t issue a restart from the dashboard, I followed the instructions for shutting the drobo down safely without the dashboard. I unplugged the network and then unplugged the power, then reconnected the network and reconnected the power, but the drobo seemed to hang on boot with every light on (blue, green/yellow drive lights, and the other green lights). I left it in that state for a good 10 minutes, but nothing happened so I rebooted my iMac and tried to get the dashboard to reconnect but it couldn’t find the drobo. I went through the manual shutdown process again, same result, and again, same result but with all drive lights yellow, then on the next try the drobo finally booted and was again visible in the dashboard, but one of the drive lights was flashing red.
I removed the “failed” drive and connected it to a PC. The drive appears to be fine when attached directly to a computer, so I’m wondering if it got corrupted by the drobo boot problems somehow… when I plug the drive back into the drobo the drive indicator stays off indicating that it isn’t recognising the drive.
The drobo is in recovery mode at the moment (which appears like it is going to take well over 14 hours to complete) so I can’t shut it down. I’m not sure if the drobo will see a drive if it’s added while it’s still switched on (hot swap)? Is there any way to get the drobo to re-try using a failed drive? How does the drobo keep track of failed drives?
I’m really not sure if the drive is actually faulty so I don’t know if I can return it to the supplier/manufacturer for replacement.
I just got my DroboFS today. Installed the 1.7.0 that came on the CD – No connection to my DroboFS. Upgrades to 1.7.3 from the website – still no connection.
Furthermore, the powersupply is masking a squeely highpitch noise, making it unbareable to have in my apartment. Opened a support ticket for each of my issues and is now eagerly awaiting response..
(I’m on Windows 7 btw).
I just made an interesting discovery. On the drobo website, they list 1.7.3 as the newest DashBoard, but on the ftp-server (ftp.drobo.com) it’s 1.7.2. The installer from the website installs version 1.7.3 [1.7.30095].
Trying to downgrade to 1.7.2 and see if that changes anything.
My problem has been resolved (sort of). I enabled logging in the internal firewall in Windows 7 and discovered, that requests from the NAS back to my Windows 7 workstation were being blocked. (The requests were sent to port 5000+).
Allowing all incoming traffic from the IP of the Drobo solved it, but it shouldn’t really have been necessary to do this manually as accept-rules for DroboShare were added automatically during the install..
Drobo is sending me a new PSU as well. Apart from that, I am happy with the unit so far.
Thanks for making me check the firewall! In my case the dashboard was added as a rule, but allowed only on public networks instead of the home networks. After checking the correct settings it connected to the drobo.
Having the same problems as the OP and rené, all the way down to the squeaky PSU. Very frustrating. Going to try a few more things, then I’ll be on the phone with Tech Support, I guess.
I’m having the same issues. The dashboard shows ‘Ready for connection’. My Drobo FS has never stored any data as I can’t get a connection via gigabit ethernet. What’s more after 4 hours on the power pack failed. After around 10 days waiting for a new one, I’m back to square 1. Having just spoken to support they’re now sending me a replacement…
Another element about Drobos you may wish to consider in your product purchase plans or if you are thinking of upgrading your drives for larger capacity ones? That was one of the main selling point when I got mine, the “you can upgrade your drive sizes as you need to or as the technology and larger size drives become available”, thinking .. But what you cant do is use those ‘old’ drives again, anywhere else other than to hold open a door!!
So, I have 4 x 160 gig and 4 x 1tb drives that are not recognised as being drives by XP, Vista or windows 7. Thats 4.64Tb of storage I cannot use in any other computer and now I’ve put 1.5tb into my drobos, yes I bought 2 of them, I wont be able to use them again either! Nice one! Needles to say, Once bitten twice shy, I have run out of doors that need holding open. I will not be buying anything else with a Drobo label.
Ian, I tried unsuccessfully to reproduce your problem . I took a 1 TB WD Green drive out of an old Drobo array containing three additional similar drives. I put the drive in a SATA-to-USB adapter on a computer running Windows 7. I ran the Disk Management mmc snap in from Administrative Tools> Computer Management. It saw the disk. I created a new simple volume and did a quick format. Windows recognized it as a disk and offered to open up the drive in Windows Explorer. I was then able to write data to the disk and read it back.
Jack Prindle says
My Drobo FS just quit. All the lights are making a very brief flash at the same time but nothing happens. I noticed the Green LED on the Power Brick dims when all the lights flash. Emailed Drobo for help only to be told the device is no longer under warranty and they no longer support it, something I already knew since I have used the device without fail since I bought it in 2011. But that does not help me 1) see if the device can be fixed, or 2) is there a way to get my data back! Thinking maybe I should have went with Synology or G-Tech instead of Drobo.
Any help would be appreciated. Please email me!
Jack, I can understand Drobo not warrantying a 4 year old device. However, declaring a 4 year old device to be too old to support seems to be Draconian. On the other hand, it is not completely outside the realm of other things I’ve seen Drobo do. But my experiences are very old. I haven’t used a Drobo device for at least three years.
Do you remember a movie called “The Graduate”? If so, do you remember a man coming up to Dustin Hoffman’s character and giving him the following career advice:
I’ve got just one word for you: Synology.