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Caring for Your LTO, VXA Tape Drive and Media Cartridges
(KB # 57293B69)

VXA, LTO, M2, M1 and older tape drives are operated in a variety of environments that bear little resemblance to the raised-floor rooms enjoyed by their data-storage ancestors. Although our tape drives are designed to withstand potentially rough treatment, you can maximize their performance and reliability by following the simple recommendations in this document.

Choose the Right Media

Reliable data storage requires high-quality, data-grade media. Your tape drive is designed to work with specific types and lengths of tape. If you try to save money by buying audio, video, or inexpensive data-grade media, you will pay later in premature media and head wear, poor backup performance caused by excessive error recovery, and, possibly, tape drive downtime caused by poor cartridge fit. For this reason, we recommend Tandberg Data Data Cartridges for use in all Tandberg Data tape drives. Tandberg Data cartridges are Tandberg Data-certified data-grade tapes designed for maximum reliability and durability in Tandberg Data products.


Store Your Tapes Properly

Proper storage of tapes helps prevent media-related problems. We all know that audio and video cartridges sometimes receive rough treatment -- spending a hot summer afternoon in the car, sitting in a closet without a case for months, or being taken outside on an extremely cold day for the return trip to the video store. Such treatment can cause poor sound or picture quality. However, poor sound and pictures are minor problems compared to the equivalent results in a backup application: loss of critical data.

To protect your cartridges when they are not in use, follow these guidelines:

  • Remove the cartridge from the tape drive and store it as soon as possible after you have finished writing or reading data.
  • Avoid handling the cartridge excessively.
  • Never open the cartridge's door or touch the tape.
  • Label each cartridge.
  • Set the cartridge's write-protect switch to prevent accidental overwriting.
  • Keep each cartridge in its protective case or place the cartridges in a dust-tight container designed for tape storage. If you store the cartridge in its case, be careful not to catch the edges of the cartridge when closing the case.
  • Store cartridges away from copiers and printers to avoid contamination by toner and paper dust.
  • Store cartridges away from objects or devices that emit strong magnetic fields.
  • Store cartridges in an area where the temperature and humidity are comfortable for you and are relatively constant. Check the temperature and humidity recommendations on the cartridge's packaging. If you move cartridges between areas whose temperature or humidity differ greatly, let the cartridges adapt for about 24 hours before you use them in your tape drive.


Replace Your Tapes Periodically

High-quality tapes can tolerate many uses, but will not last forever. Eventually, physical wear occurs, just as it does with your favorite audio or video tape. Rather than static or picture fuzziness, your tape may display an increase in error statistics and in the time required to perform backups.

To prevent media-related failures, plan to discard your tapes before they wear out. Data cartridges are rated for a maximum number of tape passes. However, you shouldn't try to achieve the maximum number of passes on your tapes. Tape pass es are difficult to track (a single backup operation can involve many tape passes), and actual tape life depends on how carefully you store the cartridge and how your application records data (for example, a nightly VXA or 8mm backup tape on which the previous backup is overwritten may incur extremely high use at the beginning of the tape and little use at the end).

To ensure that you are not using an excessively worn tape for important backups, establish a schedule that calls for retirement well before the tape's rated service life. You may want to base your schedule on the number of backups and restores performed or the length of time in use. Or you may want to track error statistics such as rewrites. If the tape drive cannot write a block of data to the tape because of a problem with the media, it rewrites the data at a different location on the tape. Rewrites help ensure that you do not lose data because of problems with the media. Rewrite statistics can help determine when a tape is wearing out. If your backup application tracks rewrites, you may want to monitor the numbers and discard any tape that shows a significant increase.

Whatever schedule you establish, make sure that it is easy to follow. Remember that the cost of replacing a tape before it's worn out is much lower than the cost of losing data.

When to Replace


Replace a cartridge that matches any of the following descriptions:

  • It has been dropped or its shell has been damaged.
  • It has been exposed to extremely harsh environmental conditions.
  • The tape has been pinched because the cartridge door was opened accidentally.
  • It causes your application to report repeated or increased media errors.
  • It meets any other retirement criteria you have established.


Clean Your Tape Drive


LTO, VXA, M2, M1, and older tap e drives require cleaning because circulating air introduces debris into the tape path. In addition, brown stain may develop on the recording heads in certain environments. Brown stain is the buildup of friction polymers on a tape drive's recording heads from organic material in the tape's magnetic coating. The buildup results from friction between the heads and tape when the tape drive is operated in an extremely low-humidity environment (less than about 20%).

When debris and brown stain build up on the recording heads, error rates increase and backups take longer because the tape drive has to rewrite the data in error. To maintain top performance, you must clean your tape drive regularly.

Cleaning 8mm and 4mm Tape


To clean your LTO, VXA, M2, M1 or older tape drive, use only the appropriate cleaning cartridge or a cleaning cartridge approved by Tandberg Data for your model.

For LTO and VXA, the specific cleaning cartridge designed for each respective technology should be used. For the Mammoth family, you must use the Mammoth 8mm Cleaning Cartridge. For all 8mm tape drives except Mammoth family, use the Premium 8mm Cleaning Cartridge. Both of these cartridges are more effective at removing brown stain than previous generation cleaning cartridges.

The wrong type of cleaning cartridge can damage the recording heads and components in the tape path. Never use video cleaning methods for your tape drive. Many video cleaning kits use extremely abrasive material or solvents. Such aggressive approaches will reduce head life. Using the wrong type of cleaning method risks tape drive damage and voids the tape drive's warranty.

Be sure to clean your tape drive at the intervals recommended for the particular model. Depending on the tape drive model and the application software you are running, you may be notified that cleaning is required

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