Tape Drive Maintenance: Basic Guide to Cleaning Drive

Aug 10, 2023 | Backup and Archive, NEO Series, Storage Management Practices


Tape drives have long been an essential component of data storage and backup solutions, offering reliable and cost-effective ways to preserve valuable information. However, like any technology, tape drives require proper care and maintenance to ensure their longevity and optimal performance.

In this article, we delve into the world of tape drive cleaning, shedding light on key aspects that every user should be aware of.

When to Clean

Tape drives, such as LTO (Linear Tape-Open) drives, are designed to automatically monitor their utilization and performance. When these drives detect an increase in read/write errors or a decline in performance, they trigger an indicator, often in the form of a LED light, signaling the need for cleaning. 

The decision to clean a tape drive should always be guided by these indicators.

Overland-Tandberg autoloaders, tape libraries, and standalone tape drives are equipped with a smart system that evaluates the drive’s condition. When cleaning is necessary, the drive will prompt for it by activating the “Clean Drive” LED on the front panel and displaying a message on the library display.

The Cleaning Process

To clean a tape drive, one must use an Ultrium Universal Cleaning Cartridge, specially designed for this purpose. These cartridges are equipped with an LTO-CM (Cartridge Memory) chip that tracks the number of times the cartridge has been used. An essential point to remember is that the Ultrium Universal Cleaning Cartridge is valid for up to 50 uses. Beyond this limit, the tape drive’s firmware will reject the cleaning cartridge to prevent potential read/write-head issues.

Automatic Cleaning

Overland-Tandberg autoloaders and tape libraries can perform an automated cleaning on drive request. A barcode labeled cleaning cartridge ( starting with CLN) must be inserted in a cartridge slot. 

A Word of Caution

To prevent excessive wear on the drive heads, clean the tape drive only when the
Clean Drive LED is illuminated. Use only Ultrium Universal cleaning cartridges.


Tape drives stands strong in data storage, unmatched in reliability and durability. To sustain their performance, regular cleaning is key. By grasping indicators, following guidelines, and leveraging automation, you prolong their life, safeguarding precious data for years ahead.

To know more, download the NEO S-Series Tape Libraries Administrator’s Guide


NEO Tape Libraries and Autoloaders

Widely used, LTO Tape is recognized as the standard for final data protection processes. Industry leaders believe in LTO Tape because of its definitive reliability, offline security and lowest cost of storage. LTO is the ideal solution for Long Term Data Storage and protection.

LTO Media

Overland-Tandberg LTO Ultrium data cartridges and cleaning cartridges are recommended for use with all Overland-Tandberg LTO tape drives, tape autoloaders and tape libraries.