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Data Recovery: Going Nuclear on a dead hard drive

By robo_dev ·
A co-worker gave me her desktop PC to work on, which has a Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATA drive that's dead (70 GB of photographs, with no backup). Of course I mentioned that there are data recovery services, but these are not in her budget, so this is a 'best effort' exercise.

The drive fails both short DST and long DST tests and is making mostly thumping noises, but not scratching, meaning it cannot read sectors, but possibly has not had a total head crash. The most effective tool I've been using is the (paid) version of the Easeus data recovery app. I tried to use some other tools e.g. UBCD, Hirens Boot CD, DD, and lots of other various extraction/recovery tools, but many apps seem to simply fail or freeze when the disk is having trouble reading or timing out.

One interesting thing is that there was some fairly severe fretting corrosion where the drive circuit board meets the disk drive motor. I was hopeful that this was part of the problem, but it was not. On a hard drive the connections from the circuit board to the heads and motor are not soldered, but simply made by the board being screwed tight to the drive frame. The connections to the heads was clean, but the motor connection was nearly worn through the traces on the circuit board. I was tempted to give them a coating of solder, but did not.

I have been able to recover about a gigabyte after freezing the drive, and the next step is to attempt a head-swap. Apparently Seagate has had a problem with a platter coating that flakes off and coats the heads. In some cases simply cleaning the heads can work, other times the heads need to be swapped.

More about common Seagate failures:

So far I have inspected the platters (don't try this at home), and the next step is (seriously) to attempt to clean the disk heads. I've rebuilt a drive before, so with some luck maybe I can get more data....

Call me crazy.....

Note to self: do complete backup of my Seagate Barracuda hard-drive.....

Stay Tuned for Further Updates

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call you crazy?

by Jaqui In reply to Data Recovery: Going Nucl ...

or a masochist?

maybe just a geek with a challenge in front of them

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Truth be told, I am glad it's not my data, but am doing my best

by robo_dev In reply to call you crazy?
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Sounds reasonable so far

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Data Recovery: Going Nucl ...

So I'm supposing that the platters are unscratched so provided that there was nothing dramatic electronically you should be able to get the data off the drive but I would check the Loops of Fine Wire that are the Heads and make sure that they are not bent out of shape.

I don't know if this will help but I once covered a failing drive with Dry Ice after freezing it to allow it to stay cold enough till I got the Data off it. While it did work long enough to save the stuff it's never worked again and it goes without saying you have to be very careful when working in the vicinity of Dry Ice.

Enjoy the Experience I'm sure it's a lot of fun.

I hope she makes it worth your while going to all this trouble. I however believe that she will not. :^0


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Slightly easier

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Sounds reasonable so far

Put the drive in a 'Zip Lock' baggie, along with a couple of silica gel desiccant pouches. Seal the bag and put it in the freezer for several hours. Install the drive and try it; stop at the first sign of trouble. You may have to repeat the process to get all the data off.

The desiccants are -very- important; don't try this without them. They absorb moisture that otherwise would condense inside the drive. This moisture would then freeze, expanding as it does so and causing further damage. It's safer than dry ice, and you've probably got a couple of them already in the way.

I've got about a 50% success rate with this.

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Now that's entertainment!

by seanferd In reply to Data Recovery: Going Nucl ...

Have fun storming the castle!

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