Major Hard Drive Issues

By ccolligan ·

I have been on message boards for years, I am a firm believer in trying to find your answer to your question first. I have tried that. Google, and various sites have lead me to nothing. I believe it is my inability to form the right question.

I am a soldier deployed to Iraq. I am the communications chief for my unit.
So basically anything that talks or has electricity falls in my job scope. Just to give a little info about myself, I have been playing with automations for about 15 years. And playing is a good description for me. I can take apart and rebuild computers, I can solve most software issues. I have ventured into various realms of IT from webpages to databases. So I am no dummy to computers but I consider myself a jack of all trades and master of none. Like my job in the military I know a little of this and that, depending on what I have been exposed to through out the years.

I have several computers that have crashed hard. I have an external USB cable
so that I can hook up laptop hard drives to extract data off of them.

Some of the hard drives seem to be recognized but the windows explorer seems
to hang when i open it up and i never see these hard drives in the explorer window. On one or two I have used partition magic to check the drives. One or two just say bad.
One or two do not show at all.

I went to knoppix.net and have created a bootable disk. I put the hard drives
in a Laptop and boot and the Linux does not see the hard drive. A couple of
them say filesystem not recognized. These are the ones that I can see in
Partion Magic, but say bad.

So then i rebooted the computer and checked the BIOS, the hard drive is not
recognized at all.

So my questions are...

1. How can i repair the hard drives that are not recognized by the BIOS?

2. If the hard drive is recognized by the BIOS, but not by WINXP what can I
do to recover the data? Or even use the HDD again?

I see talk of MBR and such and wonder if i am even on the right road.

thank you for your time

SFC Chris COlligan

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All Answers

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Ask an easy question and maybe we'll be able to help.

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Major Hard Drive Issues

Unfortunately I've seen NB's in the military treated less than ideally and it's always the HDD which is the first thing to fail. If they are used on Aircraft to check that the systems are OK they tend to be dropped to the ground and kicked to the other side of the aircraft to plug in there to do the necessary checks and for some strange unknown reason the HDD die.

Really if the drive isn't recognised by BIOS you could try changing the Circuit Board on the bottom of the HDD but you'll need a good one from the same Make & Model of Drive and that might work but honestly if you really need the data off these drives it's time to send them to a Data Recovery House and dismantle them in a clean room and read directly off the platters.

This is both expensive and time consuming and because of your position may not be allowed even if the Military has a Authorised Place to perform Data Recovery.

Your best bet would be to order a heap of spare HDD and clone any NB Drives from units that treat their NB less than perfectly and when they manage to kill off a HDD you just fit a Clone of the Drive into the NB and destroy the old drive. C4 is great for doing things like that as the drive has to be totally destroyed as it's possible to recover data off the platers otherwise and I'm assuming that is not wanted where you currently are.

The problem is really how the NB's are treated and jostling them around kills off HDD faster than anything else known. Even an IBM T40 type NB that shuts off the HDD when it senses a rapid change in orientation can still destroy HDD though admittedly they do take longer to kill off. The better Military stuff is all what they call the Rugged type NB which do similar things but even they have a limit as to how much abuse that they can be exposed to. However on the up side they are unlikely to damage the cases so just swapping the HDD over should fix that NB for a while till they manage to kill the next HDD off.

I hope that is of some help if you need any more information feel free to PM me.


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Very true

by ccolligan In reply to Ask an easy question and ...

Hal thanks for the quick response.

LOL you are right military and computers is almost like saying Miltary and intellegence in the same sentence.. 8-)

The current Laptops we use are HP laptops, they are great for in an office but man they suck for field use.

I pushed really hard for the brigade to buy panasonic toughbooks, which are ruggidized and have easliy swappable hard drives.

The newer military is becoming more modernized, days of yesterday where they would toss computers into the back of trucks and hope they make it are over. BUT NOT BY MUCH!!!!

As I have seen the automation change in the army, I have pushed harder and hard for the units I have been in to take care of all of their equipment. Most heed my warnings but there are some who do not. Heck most are even backing up their data. Its the few knuckle heads who do not that cause me the most grief.

So... is there anything special i should worry about when swapping the circuit card on the hdd?

This will be a first for me .. but i am excited to try it out. 8-)



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Well firstly I don't know if it will work

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Very true

But if the drive isn't being seen in BIOS that points to the circuit board. Now the good news these are only held on by a couple of screws and there should be a Ribbon cable that locks into the circuit board for the read write heads and 4 pins for the HDD motor. Should be fairly simple Famous Last Words there.

On the down side they may be held on by special screws which you have to get the correct driver for, Snap On will be able to help out there but I'm betting that the military will not have the correct driver or bits available as that would just make things too easy. But once you get the board unscrewed it's fairly straight forward to change the circuit board over.

There could be one problem though if the HDD Motor has been damaged it's possible that it has drawn too much power through the circuit board and destroyed it and changing the circuit board will not have any effect other than destroying a perfectly good Circuit board. It might be worthwhile testing the old Board on a known good drive before you try a good circuit board on an unknown drive.

I'll not be nasty and ask how much HP paid in bribes to get their junk into Military use as it's hopeless at the best of times and your use is anything but the best of times so I'll just put it down to them being the lowest tenderer for the contract and the stupid bureaucrat who made the decision has no idea of what is involved in military use. Perhaps it's possible to get them in Harms Way with the equipment that they supply to the troops and then tell them to get back to base by following the directions on the nonworking NB.

I've just had a look at a Seagate 2.5 inch HDD and there are 5 Torx screws holding the circuit board onto the main chassis of the HDD they look about number 1 Torx so you'll be pushing things uphill to get a driver or bit quickly through Supply Channels as it's a tool that may be useful to you. But they'll give you something that is totally inappropriate in place of the driver knowing the Military.

But you have one advantage on your side you are not waiting on the UN to resupply you so you at least have some small chance of actually getting what you need. Isn't it terrible to be so cynical? But to be fair back in the days of Rwanda I was attempting to organise Medical Equipment & Supplies into that place and it was like hitting your head against a brick wall it only felt good when you stopped.


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by ccolligan In reply to Well firstly I don't know ...

SUCCESS!!!!! I found another Fijitsu 80GB HDD and swapped the circuit cards and the most important data is being recovered as i type this.

Ohhh happy days.

then i experimented a little and tried a 20GB HDD circuit board on the 80GB HDD
it was not able to be read.. but i am not giving up yet 8-)

thank you so much for the great answer 8-)


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after the wave of relief has passed

by ccolligan In reply to Major Hard Drive Issues

ok now on to the other problem i am having...

If the hard drive is recognized by the BIOS, but not by WINXP what can I
do to recover the data? Or even use the HDD again?

would removing the mbr or something of that nature work?

btw i am falling in love with this site.



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Chris if you need to recover the data

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to after the wave of relief ...

You are certainly in the right place as you can get a copy of On Tracks Data Recovery which will rebuild the Master Boot Records in several minutes. It's not cheap but terribly effective.


If all you need to do is reuse the HDD a format should do the trick but make sure that you run scandisk over the drive just in case there are any physical problems with it and have those areas marked as bad so the system doesn't try to access them.

There are some other programs available that will allow you to recover the data but they are much slower to run and generally speaking will only recover one file type at a time and even then not the actual name just 1.JPG, 2.JPG and so on in all the different file formats. But if you like here is a list of the better ones



Only look at Win Hex if you know HEX inside out if you don't then Davory is the best option here






I haven't used all of these tools but the On Track is the best of the bunch and also the most expensive Davory is easy to use but slow and I've heard great things about the Stella Product though I've never actually used it personally.

Merry Christmas


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