NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, September 2006
Hard Drive Class Action Settlement and HP Recalls
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director; columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont TX;
radio & talk show host

(click to email author)

WEBSITES: http://www.wdc.com/settlement

According to a recent press release, about one million users of Western Digital hard drives, both internal and external, may be the beneficiaries of a class action settlement. Apparently, according to the settlement, Western Digital did not include an adequate disclaimer on its packages that it uses a different method of measuring hard drive capacity than some of its competitors and industry standards. The method used by Western Digital yielded about seven percent less usable storage capacity than what many users expected.

Many software companies, such as Apple and Microsoft, measure capacity in binary terms, meaning that a gigabyte is 1.07 billion bytes. Western Digital, as well as some other hard drive companies, uses a decimal system, such that a gigabyte is exactly one billion bytes, a difference of seven percent. Because of the difference in nomenclature and identification, a Western Digital hard drive (as well as some other brands) installed on a Windows computer, will appear to have less capacity than listed on the hard drive box.

This seven percent shortfall can be significant in terms of amount of data that can be stored, as explained in the lawsuit. In the lawsuit an 80GB Western Digital hard drive referenced had an actual capacity of 74.4 GB, as measured by Windows. This shortfall on that particular drive was enough to store about 80 hours of digital music, or 5600 typical digital photos.

Another issue was the wording on the hard drive package, which did not clearly indicate that the listed storage capacity of the hard drive might not be fully accessible. It is a fact that partitioning and formatting a hard drive consumes some of its capacity, and this was not made adequately clear to purchasers of Western Digital hard drives. As a part of the settlement, Western Digital will be required to start including this as a disclaimer on future hard drives.

Hard drives included in this settlement were purchased from March 22, 2001 to February 15, 2006. Owners of these hard drives upon confirmation of eligibility will receive a free download of a full featured hard drive backup and restore utility, capable of full and incremental backups, as well as other features. It is projected this software will have a retail value of about $30. The deadline for applying for the settlement is July 15, 2006.

Full details of the settlement, along with a link to claim the software, are online at http://www.wdc.com/settlement. If the serial number of the hard drive is known, or can be easily determined, the claim can be filed online at http://www.wdc.com/settlement/verify.asphttp://www.wdc.com/settlement/docs/claimform.pdf can be printed and mailed, but must be received by July 15.

In another area, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently recalled over 15,000 HP and Compaq Notebook Computer Batteries. These batteries were installed in HP Pavilion, HP-Compaq, and Compaq Presario computers, or sold as aftermarket and replacement batteries, and have a prefix of “L3” on the serial number of the battery. This is the second recall on HP computer batteries. A full list of the computer models affected that may have the recalled batteries from both recalls is online at bpr.hpordercenter.com/ebpr/landingpage.aspx. The batteries will be replaced at no charge by calling HP at (888) 202-4320.

In still another recall involving HP branded products, the CPSC and HP recently recalled 679,000 HP Photosmart R707 Digital Cameras sold between August 2004, and April 2006. According to the CPSC, “The digital camera can cause certain non-rechargeable batteries, such as the Duracell CP-1, to overheat when the camera is connected to an AC adapter or docking station, posing a fire hazard. … HP has received one report of a camera catching fire, damaging the camera and its docking station, and causing minor smoke damage to the room. No injuries have been reported.” HP has information available on the recalled cameras at http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/recall_r707.html, or by calling HP toll-free at (866) 304-7117. The fix for this problem is a software update for the camera, which can be downloaded for free from HP. The CPSC and HP asks that consumers not use single-use, non-rechargeable batteries until the software in the camera has been updated.

There have been other HP branded products recalled, and information on those items is online at http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/recalls.html.

The CPSC has a variety of services available on its website at http://www.cpsc.gov which consumers should periodically reference. One useful item is a mailing list where recall notices are sent via email as soon as they are announced. The CPSC also has a search utility online to quickly and easily locate any recalled consumer items, including computers and cameras, at http://www.cpsc.gov/cgi-bin/recalldb/prod.asp.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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