Data recovery from a 3.5 SATA HD

By SKFee ·
Consider a hard drive that you are almost certain the platters, pointer and motor are physically OK but you suspect the chip set\firmware on the external part of the board is defective. In this case you can tell the drive wont spin up and a chip gets very hot. I suppose the drive could be locked up but for the sake of this question consider that its not.
Has anyone had any experience with replacing the external electronics on the drive with an identical board? If the firmware and everything was exact is there something else like the calibration of the pointer to track 0 or other consideration that would keep it from working? Thanks for your thoughts.

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news but

by robo_dev In reply to Data recovery from a 3.5 ...

When the drives are built in the factory, the firmware in the controller is 'married' to the physical characteristics of the media.

Therefore, unless you're really lucky, the replacement PCB (printed circuit board) will not match the mechanical characteristics of the drive itself.

One way that people try to 'cheat' is to try to buy a controller board in the same production run as the drive they have...they try to get a serial number as close as possible, so hopefully whatever manufacturing tolerances will be close. Therefore on ebay, listings for drive controllers typically have the serial number listed. (search on SATA drive PCB)

Of course, one option is to replace the components. As long as it's a standard part, that's not all that difficult for someone who can work with surface mount devices. Personally I've done a lot of repair of surface-mount electronics.

Personally, I've tried swapping the controller board in a fairly recent drive, hoping to 'get lucky'. Unfortunately, all that happened was the drive made some really horrible grinding/sqawking noises when spinning up, and did not work.

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Well some obvious things here

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to Data recovery from a 3.5 ...

IC's do not get Hot unless there is a Short Circuit Somewhere and those that do are generally used to control Motors where the motor has gone Open Circuit and is a Direct Short Circuit.

In a case like that even if you could get a replacement Circuit Board or buy another drive of the same model all you are likely to achieve is destroying another Circuit Board.

If the data on this drive is Important your only real option is to send it to a Data Recovery Company who can work with Dead Drives.

On Track is the best that i have run across for this type of work but it's going to be expensive and if your user is looking at the cost of HDD's as Expensive they will not come at the cost of a Recovery which is considerably more if just for a Quote to recover the Data.


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most likely the motor is just stuck

by robo_dev In reply to Well some obvious things ...

so by shaking the drive a bit, sometimes you can break it free. You shake it in a twisting motion, as you're trying to get the platters to move using intertia.

Most likely there's an IC that's trying to start a motor, and the motor is stuck.

I might also mention that putting the drive into the freezer, in a ziplock bag, for about eight hours can sometimes make it work. I've tried the 'freezer trick' over the years, and it's worked for 3 out of 5 failed drives I tried it on.

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I've also had success with the Freezer Trick

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to most likely the motor is ...

Several times now but I must add it all depends on what is wrong with the drive originally.

I however find that most times with the larger drives freezing doesn't keep the drive cold enough to work long enough to get the data off it. Well in my experience so I've used Dry Ice on drives. Works a treat when it works and you can continue to add more as required but you have to be careful and Never Touch the ice or drive when it's cold.

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Of course, for dodgy components on the PCB

by robo_dev In reply to I've also had success wit ...

the 'freeze spray' circuit cooler works well, as does simply inverting a can of computer-duster spray, as the resulting spray will be around -60 F or so.

Cooling things to -65 F does seem to work in some cases.

For the hard drives, the extreme cold is thought to:

- change the properties of the liquid filled bearings.

- change the overall tolerances of the drive, as the aluminum platters will be very slightly thinner

- potentially fix, albeit temporarily, any cracked solder connections or traces by thermal contraction.

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by SKFee In reply to Well some obvious things ...

Thanks for your reply. FYI: I made some calls On Track with the best history of service IMHO (as you suggested) final cost $6-800. Customer has existing account with Dell a service called Gilwear could cost $2-300. Discount for a Dell affected system. Client may do this. They home school. What a shame. So hard to get someone to backup until this has happened. Even I procrastinate but I have monthly off site and auto daily to a networked system. Thanks again. Merry Christmas. Kevin

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Well I see things like this as a Learning Experience

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to Rates

But as some Cynical People say there are only two types of Computer User

Those who have lost all of their Data


Those who are going to loose all of their Data.

While it seems unfortunate it's not until the first happens that most people see the need to Backup anything.


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by SKFee In reply to Data recovery from a 3.5 ...

Thanks to all of you some really great input. The reason I think the motor and platters could be OK is the system is a vic of lightning\power surge. I am hoping the damage is limited to the PCB. I should have told you why I hope for limited damage. (yes it still could be locked up. I use a single smack from a rubber handled nut driver with some success sometime. Older drives had the spindle exposed under a tab and you could spin them up with a pencil eraser.
I think the drive being married to the board is what I was trying to say with the pointer reference on the allocation table matching.
Temperature changing is great for trouble shooting and I have too had success from using canned air upside down to a freezer in my lab, powering the drive up with excessive long ribbon and power cables passing through a access port cut in the door to reduce temps (over 18- 24" is out of spec and causes trouble) and **** dryers and heat lamps to raise temps. Its not practical but the freezer trick is fun for overclocking. I have played with the entire CPU box in the freezer. In this case the data value is not worth sending it off but if I ever do will consider the company mentioned. Thanks again for your help. Not a single condescending comment. Merry Christmas to you all, you are evermore my colleagues!

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You should not only fix the HDD but recover the lost data too!

by alizide In reply to Data recovery from a 3.5 ...

After you fix HDD hardware - don't forget that it's important to recover the lost info. Some time ago I had a problem with HDD and needed to reformat the disk. All data was lost but <a href="http://data-retrieval-software.com/">data recovery software</a> site (http://data-retrieval-software.com/) helped me to find the programs that undelete info even from the formated disk. I recovered near 70% of lost files on my Mac and it worked just fine.

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