It's hard to believe there are disk drives out there (not counting an occasional broken one) that write trash over random areas as they power down. Disk drives I have seen have a special circuit to disconnect and park the head the moment voltage begins to drop. It has to park the head because you can't let the head land on good recording surface, and it has to cut off the write current because otherwise it's dragging a writing head all the way across the disk, pretty much guaranteeing the disk will never come back. I believe it's a simple circuit that doesn't involve any controller intelligence.
There is a related failure mode where the drive's client loses power and in its death throes ends up instructing the drive to trash itself while the drive still has enough power to operate normally. I've heard that's not unusual, and it's the best argument I know for a UPS that powers a system long enough for it to shut down cleanly.
One of these happened to me. $DEITY as my witness, I will never run an important system without an UPS again.
Bonus: The drive was a Maxtor. Serves me right.
Double bonus: That still wasn't traumatic enough to compel me to make backups.
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