Droboshare for OS X: Broken by design

After I have lost 1.5 TB of personal data and having a terrible time getting a hardware replacement, I did my own investigations on the Droboshare issues.
This is my result and I would like someone from Data Robotics to comment on this.

  1. Droboshare is based on a free embedded Linux system.

  2. It is known for quite some time that Linux systems do not have a reliable HFS+ support (which is the standard file system for OS X and thus also for Drobo’s used with a Mac) . Actually, people who know a lot about these technical details even told me that the HFS+ support is a lot of crap.

  3. For example:
    One of the „not so obvious“, but most dangerous operations you can do with a Drobo (HFS+) & Droboshare is simply to delete files. Under certain circumstances (and I tested this personally!!) it will destroy directory information (so, e.g. files or folders simply disappear) or (as in my case) the whole disk structure gets corrupted and you loose your data.
    Technically, when deleting a file Drobo & Droboshare may not recover the new available space and, in the worst case, can leak free blocks somewhere on the directory structure.

  4. This is obviously the reason why all the time the recommendation is „connect it directly with your computer and run disk repair“ because then Apple’s own correct HFS+ implementation will perhaps repair the damage Droboshare caused to the file system. Or not, like in my case.

==>Can anyone from Drobo please comment when this is going to be fixed?

I am not going to accept that Drobo is selling this device and claims that it works perfectly with OS X and HFS+.


Have you opened a support case? That’s the best (and only) means to get an official response and officially “on the books” so your problem is logged.

If course I have support cases.

  • 2x with the International/US support center
  • 1x with the European support center

Cool, just making sure.

I’m not sure what filesystem the other Mac folks are using as it doesn’t matter until you try to direct-attach the Drobo to the computer. I used NTFS on my Drobo+DroboShare combo and didn’t have any troubles.

I moved away from DroboShare for more speed.

Can you PM me the case numbers?

We officially support HFS+ when connected to a DroboShare.

I am not sure what issues you are referring to, but they are not caused by being formatted HFS+ on a Droboshare.

If you are still having issues I would recommend contacting support for assistance.

1: This is incorrect.

2: This might be the case for formatting HFS+ and directly connecting to a LINUX box but not the case for on a DroboShare.

3: The issue you are describing does sound like data corruption. Which can be caused by a faulty cable (USB, ethernet), faulty port, or the router/switch you connect to or even the NIC card. This is not caused because it’s on the DroboShare.

4: The reason we have you direct connect the drobo to your computer and run repair disk is because repair disk does not work on networked drives. This is the same case as chkdsk on windows. The drobo needs to be directly attached to run those programs.


Have you already reformatted after losing your data? If not you should try getting a copy of Disk Warrior and giving it a try. It can recover a lot of things that the Apple Disk Utility will refuse to fix. It can’t recover scrambled data in files, but it can recover if the disk’s catalog (its directory data) get totally hosed. It actually works by ignoring the volumes catalog data and scanning the drive for files and folders. It then gives you the option of removing the original catalog and putting a rebuild one in place.

@ Shawn Parr:
Yes, I also got the recommendation for Disk Warrior. But it also couldn’t restore my data.


  1. You mean, it is not running on a Linux system?
    So, what does then the following statement mean when you connect to DroboShare via terminal:

Welcome to Embedded Linux
_ _
| |||
| | _ ____ _ _ _ _
| || | _ | | ||\ / /
| || | | | | |
| |/
||||| ||__|_/_/

      A Data Robotics Product.


BusyBox v1.1.2 (2007.06.18-15:03+0000) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter ‘help’ for a list of built-in commands.
Oh. And just found this short statement on your homepage:

“DroboShare supports DroboApps, an entire world of community-created and community-supported applications that can be run on [color=#FF0000]DroboShare’s Linux-based operating system[/color]. What you do with them is up to you. DroboShare is a computing platform that allows you to install the applications you want. Some are simple and lightweight, some are complex and powerful. The world is your server.”


According to your own homepage, Droboshare is, as you stated in (2) “a Linux box”.

So, could you please give me some more details what you exactly meant in your replies (1) and (2)?

Should wait to see exactly what Jennifer says, but I read it to mean it’s not free. Meaning it’s not a distribution that is free for download. DRI maintains the distribution, and it’s only available on DroboShare.

While the “guts” may be free, it’s been customized/configured into hardware that they sell.

I think we’re all quite aware of how something “standard” can be extended beyond standard to make it, well, non-standard. Remember how IE kept adding IE-specific “HTML” tags in the early days of the web? :slight_smile:

Yes exactly. I was pointing out it was not a Free version of Linux.

And question 2, I was referring to HFS+ formatting on an external drive you directly connect to a Linux computer. What you are referencing. Which is not the same as a Drobo formatted HFS+ connecting to a DroboShare connecting to a Mac.

Could you please specify what you exactly mean with “It is our own written version of Linux”?

Do you really mean Data Robotics has rewritten the Linux kernel specifically for Droboshare?

Unfortunately I cannot release details about the Linux on DroboShare, it’s proprietary information.

Ok. Then I will use GAM (Google Assisted Memory) to explain the details:

On Droboshare there is a Linux version (gcc version 3.4.4) or later installed. This might be specially configured for Droboshare, but it is definitively NOT written or rewritten by Data Robotics.

Also, Droboshare uses BusyBox v1.1.2 (2007.06.18-15:03+0000) is installed. Can be seen on my posting above as it greets me when I log in. For details about BusyBox go to: http://busybox.net

Back to the Linux version: The kernel (core) itself it definitively not written or changed by DRI. This would be more than a miracle.

And coming back to my initial problem with the HFS+ support for Mac, it comes down to the following statement I’ve found in some discussion groups:

It’s a linux HFS+ bug, the fs doesn’t like when an open file is deleted and leaks free blocks.
The best answer would be to fix the kernel…

And this is all non proprietary information.

We just not seeing this as an issue here. Quite a few customers use Droboshare formatted to HFS+ on Macs and Windows machines with no issues.

Jennifer, that simply isn’t true.

In my case, Droboshare corrupted my Drobo volume beyond repair, so much that I had to recreate it from scratch. I also strongly suspect HFS+ support in Linux to be the culprit. Drobo support should be aware of this, as I’ve been sending extensive information and a support case was opened for me.

I believe you should tell people that moving a Drobo between a DroboShare and a Mac is UNSUPPORTED and may cause data loss.

So, at the very least please don’t say “we’re just not seeing this as an issue here”. You’re in the business of providing reliable data storage. Anytime a customer loses his data because of your hardware and software, you should definitely be “seeing this as an issue”.

As to claims to your rewritten version of Linux, since the kernel (more specifically, the HFS+ code) is under the GPL license version 2, I would like to request the source code to the version that you distribute with Droboshare. I would appreciate a link to the source code.

I do apologize, I misspoke last week.

We did not write our own version of Linux for the DroboShare.

I do know the Linux is not free. I cannot release details about the Linux on DroboShare, it’s proprietary information.

The comment I made “we’re just not seeing this as an issue here” was not meant to mean we were taking your data loss lightly. I meant that it was not a trending issue we are seeing with the DroboShare. Honestly, it is very rare someone contacts support with data corruption/loss with a DroboShare with HFS+ formatting without the common occurrences of improper disconnects or power outages.

If you have experienced data corruption/loss on a DroboShare (with HFS+ formatting) without improper disconnects or power outages PLEASE open a support case. Support cases are the only way we can see a trend!


I did have a support case, but yes, there were “improper disconnects” in the device’s history. I believe you’re assigning all blame to those instead of looking into the real issue. In my case the device was NEVER disconnected or powered down during writes. The only disconnects happened because your software (Drobo Dashboard) crashed and I was unable to revive the device, and that was after having waited for at least 10 minutes. You don’t get filesystem corruption that way.

As to your Linux-related response, I checked and there is only one proprietary module in use on my droboshare, called ufsd.ko. A quick check shows that it does not include HFS+ functionality, it seems to be the underlying Drobo block layer. This is fine.

But all the rest of the Linux kernel code, including your HFS+ modifications, if you made any, is under the GPL license, version 2. I would like to repeat my request to provide the source code to the kernel as it exists on the Droboshare. Please check with your legal department as to the validity of this request, I assure you it is quite valid.

I have been using a share for about a year. Two days ago I took the droboshare off line and plugged the drobo into a mini.

Today one of my 1.5tb drives has ‘failed’ even though its fine when not in the drobo.

Drobo is starting to smell off to me. Time to move on I think.

As I mentioned, same case here.

Drobo sitting next to my MacMini and everything was fine. THEN I decided to switch over to Droboshare and the problems started. After several months suddenly most of my personal and private data was gone.

And no, I never disconnected it nor powered it unexpectedly down (not even the shortest power failure). And yes, Jennifer, I have support tickets. To be precise, I have 3 (!) of them. But all of the answers did not really satisfy me (if I got an answer at all)

That’s why I started my investigation and found the whole issue here.

Would be interesting to see whether Data Robotics did change anything. To be honest: I don’t believe it.
I’ve found a HFS+ for Linux kernel development site but the project is abandoned since mid 2008. And while doing the search, there is no doubt any more that there is a Linux HFS+ issue.

But we will see. As Jan correctly highlights, the Linux kernel with the HFS+ modifications is under the GPL license.

This is all very disturbing. I bought a Drobo/Droboshare combination for several reasons, most of which are rapidly being eroded. I had every intention to load it up with FireFly and use a second volume for backups. It seems that Firefly is possibly dead as a development and that HFS+ is only really an answer if you connect the Drobo directly to a Mac. I had intented this to be the perfect answer to media and storage - so much so that I was going to buy a second unit to have off-site as a mirrored backup.Now I’m not so sure that it is a ‘professional’ storage solution.

I came across the HFS+ issue when looking to install ‘Backup My Fruit’ - the developer mentions the deleted file problem and suggests formatting in EXT3, but this would mean never being able to ‘fix the disk’ by attaching it to my mac.

Has this issue been acknowledged by DR yet? Any wise words (apart from buy something else) before I start loading up my drives with data?