Seagate got their act together and released new firmware for their drives. They even replied to my email. I applied it to both my 500GB drives. Both went OK but the original fault in one of my drives remains – bad blocks, chattering sounds even when its idle.
I ran SpinRite on level 5 (reclaim lost sectors) over it for a few hours. Then I restarted SpinRite to test how it had gone… the bad sectors were still there. So the drive is toast and worse still, its S.M.A.R.T reports the drive is imminent to fail.
I don’t know if I’ll bother returning it. I dont really want another Seagate! As for the other drive, I’m going to be testing it regularly and watching it very carefully.
[EDIT April 2009].
I’ve been following the Seagate forum discussion on my ST500320AS drives. One of mine is still working and the other is useless with bad sectors. Kind of given up on it being resolved by newer firmware but I might get around to returning the drive, hopefully at a time in the future when they’ll find it easier to replace it with an SSD 🙂 (wishful thinking).