External SATA Enclosure for drive with "Free Fall Sensor"?

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Disk Drives (Floppy, USB, HDD, CD/DVD/BD) discussion

External SATA Enclosure for drive with "Free Fall Sensor"?

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Hi all, spinning off a new thread, as I think I narrowed down my E6400 issue.  The issue seems more generic than just E6400 XFR, so I'll ask more generally...

Anyhow, it seems like the internal hard drive with "Free Fall Sensor" technology requires that the interface it's hooked up to has support for the Free Fall Sensor.  And the only place I can find that is in the *internal* drive slot of my E6400 (incidentally, in both the ruggedized XFR model and in my standard corporate E6400 non-ruggedized model).

SO, I'd like to figure out a way to use these disks *outside* of the *internal* slot, via an external enclosure, or even in the CD/DVD slot.  The 3rd part CD/DVD disk adapter I have doesn't support it.  I wonder if the interface in the CD/DVD slot even supports it at all, and if it does, do I need a special adapter? 

OR, is there some kind of external enclosure that supports this?  Any Dell support folks here?  This has to be something that has been noticed before.  I need a way to "clone" one E6400 XFR to another.  And, to do that, one of the disks will have to be mounted outside of its normal slot...

All Replies
  • Hi buckyswider,

    Let me ask around.

  • The sensor is part of the Drive not the laptop.

    Momentus® 7200.2 SATA Product Manual:


    The ATA Set Features command defines a value of 41H to "Enable the Free Fall Protection feature".

    See "Table 8: Set Features command values" on page 30 (page 36 of the PDF.

    Section 4.3.1 details the meanings of each bit in the 512-byte block (=256 words) returned by the drive in response to an ATA Identify Device command.

    Bit 5 of word 119 indicates whether the drive supports Free Fall Protection.

    Bit 5 of word 120 indicates whether Free Fall Protection is enabled or disabled.

    In a Windows environment you can view the Identify Device data block using smartmontools:



    You can retrieve these 512 bytes in debug mode, eg:

    smartctl -a -r ioctl,2 -d usbjmicron scsi10

    The above example generates the following log file for my AMD K6-2 Win98SE box using a generic

    Microsoft USB mass storage driver, with a Seagate 320GB drive in an external USB enclosure, behind a JMicron USB-ATA bridge chip:



    You can run Set Features commands to PATA IDE drives in DOS mode using DOS's Debug.exe.

    I suspect you could do the same with a SATA drive if it were to be configured for legacy mode in the BIOS setup.

    Report Unresolved Customer Service Issues here
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    The forum is primarily user to user, with Dell employees moderating
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  • Thanks Osprey, yes, I'm still trying to figure this out.

    Thanks SpeedStep.  But Dell is saying differently:

  • This diagnostic tool (HD Sentinel) may save a lot of grief:


    The latest release is capable of "detecting and displaying new disk features (free-fall control, NV cache size, etc)."

    BTW, the ATA/ATAPI-8 spec states that ...

    "The Enable/Disable Free-fall Control subcommands shall be non-volatile. After the feature is enabled, the device shall keep this feature enabled until changed by the Enable/Disable Free-fall Control subcommands."

    This means that the protection setting should persist after power cycling.

    Report Unresolved Customer Service Issues here
    I do not work for Dell. I too am a user.
    The forum is primarily user to user, with Dell employees moderating
    Contact USA Technical Support

    Get Support on Twitter @DellCaresPro

  • Hello all, and bump.  Now my *other* E6400 XFR has succumbed to a hard drive failure.  I do *not* want to go through all the pain that I endured last time to get the drive restored.  I need to find a way to attach a free-fall sensor drive externally to the *working* E6400 XFR so I can clone that working drive to the new drive.

    Is there any kind of method to reach level-2 or level-3 support within Dell- someone who might know something about this??  Last time the support person had never even heard of "free fall sensor".  I need to figure out a workable solution here...


  • I am having a similar issue.  I have a HDD from an E6400 and I want to take an image off of it, however i cannot power the drive externally.  Everything that I am reading says that it requires the Laptop to be powered because of the Free Fall Sensor.  There has to be a way to bypass that capability so that I can power the drive with an external source and not need the original laptop.

    Is there an external piece of hardware that can be used to mimic the sensor, or let the HDD know that everything is ok?


  • Hi Joneezie,  unfortunately I  don't think so.  I opened a Dell support case and they pointed me to some Amazon.com links and said "ask the manufacturer if their enclosure support the Free Fall Sensor".  :(  How helpful. 

    So, I'm about done with Dell.  They dropped the ball royally on this one.  I even tried emailing the engineer in that youtube video with no luck.  So, in the short term, I'm replacing both my "FFS" drive with 3rd party SSD drives; in the longer term, I'm going to replace these two notebooks with Toshiba Toughbooks.  We've got three (soon to be four) notebooks running on our fire apparatus.  The one Toshiba pre-dates both Dells by about a year; no problems with that one yet.  However, both Dell "Free Fall Sensor" drives have failed, despite the technology which is supposed to prevent the drive from failing. 

    If you can find someone with an E6400 to loan you (doesn't have to be the ruggedized XFR) you can put your drive in the internal slot, boot off of a CD, and create the image that way somehow.  If it's non-confidential data you have, and you get stuck, send me a PM- you can ship me the drive and an USB drive (or just the bare drive as I have plenty of USB dongles) and I will try to get an image copied for you.  However I can make no guarantees, and probably will take me a week or two to carve out the time to do it...

  • That is ridiculous that dell is not/cannot provide support for their own product.  What good is that feature if it creates a single point of failure.  If i am a user, and my HDD malfunctions, there is no way to recover any of my data because it doenst detect the free fall sensor?  That does not make sense.  Anyway, thank you for responding.  If i am able to find a workaround, i will let you know!

  • So i wound up taking the HDD apart and found out that there is another smaller HDD inside with SATA ports on it.  I was able to get my computer to recognize it.  Try taking yours apart and see if there is a smaller internal HDD.  If so, it will bypass the Free Fall Sensor.  Let me know what happens!