How to get a stuck DLT tape out of the backup drive?
February 27, 2007 8:38 AM   Subscribe

We have been doing tape backups of our server at work for about 4 years. Now one of the backup tapes is stuck in the drive and I can't for the life of me figure out how to get it out again!

We are using a Dell Powervault 110T DLT VS80 drive and 40GB DLT tapes. The drive keeps trying to eject the tape/cartridge currently in there, but it only makes a grinding noise without getting anywhere. I removed the drive from the case, hoping that there was some sort of release mechanism for the tape, but there is nothing that seems to fulfil that purpose.

The tape won't eject using any of the methods that Dell support suggested, or that I have been able to find online. Things I have tried include power cycling the drive, resetting the drive by holding down the eject button for 6 seconds and then trying to eject, using the backup software to eject the tape, removing the drive from the case and turning the gears on the drive, and ripping out the actual magnetic tape from the tape cartridge in order to clear out any obstructions.

Dell said that if none of their suggestions worked, I should just buy a new drive. At my small non-profit workplace, however, the $700-$1000 for a new drive isn't in the budget right now (except as a last resort).

Any suggestions anyone can offer in getting the tape out of the drive would be much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by gemmy to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Sounds like a mechanical failure in the eject mechanism -- grinding sounds inside computer components are *never* good.
posted by SpecialK at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2007

We had this problem with a DLT drive not long ago, and the eventual solution was to replace the drive - nothing else was able to save it. The tape was a writeoff.

I'd say that even if you get the tape out of the drive, you should replace the drive ASAP - it's only going to get worse, and the next drive breakdown may be when you're doing a restore.
posted by pocams at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2007

There's a phillips head screw accessible through the bottom of the drive (centered under the tape cartridge) that can be used to wind the tape back into the cartridge. After that, carefully unhook the end of the tape from the mechanism, wind that last bit in, then manually actuate the solenoid on the right side of the drive and pull the release lever to release the tape.

That saves your tape -- but your drive is still probably dead.

Replacement 40/80 DLT are still pretty expensive on ebay, but 35/70 are dirt cheap ($50) and can use the same tapes if you can deal with the slightly reduced capacity. Of course you won't be able to read your old backups, but you can reuse the tapes to make new backups at 35/70.

If you buy a used drive, be sure to start over by testing restores, etc, before you trust it - and certainly don't overwrite all your old tapes before you do that!
posted by putril at 9:29 AM on February 27, 2007

I've had luck pressing gently on the top of the tape as it's trying to eject. Of course I haven't done any network administration since 2001 so take with a grain of salt. Of course if your tape drive is 4 yrs old, then it's only a few years beyond my era.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2007

Thanks for trying, guys. I couldn't find anything that matched what you said, putril, nothing to help save the tape by rewinding it, nor to get it out. There is a solenoid but no lever.

I guess we'll just have to bite the bullet and get a new drive...
posted by gemmy at 8:11 PM on February 27, 2007

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