Travan tape drive draws tape completely off take-up reel

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I've been using a Seagate 20000A (20 GB) Travan tape drive, with Veritas
Backup Exec 4.5a software for 4 years.  Recently, the tape drive has
malfunctioned.  I have put perfectly good tape cartridges into the drive,
only to have the tape rewound so far that the tape has been drawn COMPLETELY
away from the take-up reel and onto the supply reel.  There are 5 pairs of
little holes in the leader of the tape, which I believe tell the tape drive
where to stop, when rewinding.  It is as if the drive is blind to these

I opened one tape cartridge, three times, re inserting the tape leader into
the take-up reel.  I wound the tape manually, far beyond the fifth hole
pair.  Each time I put the tape into the drive, the drive merely repeats its
errant way, rewinding the tape until there is no more tape left to rewind.
Before one such exercise, I used a Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol to clean
a clear plastic item, inside the drive, which I suspected has some sort of
optical significance...for recognizing holes in the tape.  It didn't help.

Has anyone else recognized this problem?  Better yet, does anyone know what
to clean/fix etc?  The only thing I might have done to precipitate this
problem was to use a vacuum cleaner to suck dirt out of the tape drive's
front opening, a task I have done occasionally, over the years.

I see Travan drives for sale, and I suspect I will be buying a new unit.

TIA for any help.

Re: Travan tape drive draws tape completely off take-up reel

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They talk about the end of spool sensors getting dirty or being
damaged, maybe even getting out of alignment in some drives I guess.
The Ditto tape drive I had eons ago was famous for this problem. They
were considered one of the worst drives ever.  Lots of problems
including tapes despooling constantly after a while. People tried to
clean them the sensors and the tape cases but it was claimed that you
needed to change a resistor which supposedly cured the problem on some

Ive read of some tapes having some cleaning cartridge you might want
to look around if there is such a thing. Or try to clean the sensor
yourself if there is no alternative.  I think there was a light that
was supposed to show through the hole and hit a sensor to let it know
it was the end of the tape. The Ditto cartridge had these little
mirrors in the casing of the tape to direct the light beam.

Re: Travan tape drive draws tape completely off take-up reel

Your recollections are helpful.  Now I realize that each tape cartridge
contains a right-angular mirror.  I used a high-intensity desk lamp and
clearly saw the ability of the tape cartridge to turn the light 90 degrees.
This was apparent in the cartridge that had its tape medium fully withdrawn,
so no tape was blocking the path of the light.

Looking inside the tape drive, I then saw clear plastic in the exact
position to exploit the cartridge's mirror.  No visible light is apparent.
I have cleaned the plastic surfaces.  I am wondering if the light is
supposed to be visible.  I have a friend who has an identical drive, at his
workplace, and I'll ask him to peer inside his drive.

So I just repaired the tape cartridge again, and inserted it in the drive.
It promptly failed, unwinding the tape again.

I suppose the light emitter is dead.  Seems implausible, considering the
330K hour MTBF least for current models.  But your advice that
these drives are notorious is worthwhile.  It served me well for 4 years.
My friend's is probably 6 years old by now.

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Re: Travan tape drive draws tape completely off take-up reel

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My friend reports no visible light inside his tape drive, which is known to
be good.
In both our cases, the amber indicator light, for the bezel, still operates.
It's irrelevant.  I get my amber indicator to turn on by sliding a blunt
instrument into the tape drive opening, so as to gently depress tiny nylon
buttons on the far left.
Incidentally, I have a Certance cleaning tape, and it did not help this

Re: Travan tape drive draws tape completely off take-up reel

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Thats interesting if you are saying the light itself is irrelevant.  
See heres a description of the a typical tape sensor

Tape Despools

If tapes you use in your tape drive frequently despool, the
end-of-tape sensor in your tape drive may be dirty or damaged. The
end-of-tape sensor detects the end of a tape by projecting light
through a series of holes near the end of the tape. If the bulb used
to project this light is dirty or is damaged, the light may not be
strong enough to project through the holes. This prevents the drive
from accurately determining when the end of the tape has been reached.

Many drive manufacturers recommend cleaning the end-of-tape sensor
after every eight hours of drive operation, when excessive dust or
other debris accumulates on the sensor, or when a tape used in the
drive becomes despooled. For information about cleaning the
end-of-tape sensor in your tape drive, refer to the documentation that
came with the drive, or contact the drive manufacturer.

I suppose an Ebay used tape drive just to get the data from your tape
would be a way to go and then switch over to something else. I spent
4-5 hundred bucks on tapes on sale and was dreaming of a cheaper
knock off of the Zip Disks which were coming out at the time but when
I saw the CD burners that were new then I knew that was the way to go.
Of course now Id use a DVD burner for smaller amounts of data and an
external HD for big backups.

Re: Travan tape drive draws tape completely off take-up reel

I am devoted to the tape method.  I bought a brand-new 10/20 GB Certance
Travan tape drive for $160, including shipping and tax; from
Thus I have 3 years of warranty (2 mfg + 1 VISA card).  I even got Yosemite
software, which I have yet to implement, and a 10/20 GB Certance tape, to
It works great.
Someday, I'll peer into that old tape drive and try to figure out how to fix
it!  (not likely)  I've never been able to fix a tape drive.  They are
replacement items, in my book.
Thanks for your replies.
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