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Wish Me Luck ~ Hard Drive Surgery Tonight

Discussion in 'Troubleshooting and Repair' started by CocaCola, Sep 21, 2012.

  1. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
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    Apr 7, 2012
    Well I had a hard drive crash awhile back, and although I have most of the data backed up it was my primary OS drive and I HATE reconfiguring and reinstalling all my software all over from scratch again...

    The drive appears to not be able to 'reset/calibrate'' it's home position, aka the read/write head can't determine it's location...

    I attempted the easy route last week by sourcing a like drive and swapping a the like controller board to the bad drive while moving the 'flash' chip off the old board to the new one so that the drive specific information (like bad sectors) was cloned to the new board so it would work with the old drive... Well that didn't work, same symptoms... :(

    As I said since it's primarily the OS drive it's not worth the $100s or $1000s to pay to have the data reclaimed by a pro, so now I'm off on an attempt to do it myself...

    Been building a 'clean box' tonight, basically a positive air pressure charged box with the air being filtered through a HEPA filter and constantly being forced into the box, and thus air constantly being forced out... In theory since all the 'new' air is HEPA filtered if I leave it run for a period of time it should push all the contaminates out of the box and I should have a pretty darn clean work environment to take a hard drive apart...

    I don't need long term reliability out of the repaired drive, as long as I can get it fired up and running for an hour or two I'm golden...

    Now, there is a BUNCH and I mean a BUNCH of people blurting out that it's impossible for anyone without a 10-1000 clean room to open a drive without contaminating and destroying it... But, if you dig past all those sky falling preachers you will find that in fact many people have done it at home on a shoe string... Especially in the modding circles where they replace the cover with a piece of plexiglass so you can see it move... No one claims perfection or no contamination, but many claim the drives have worked trouble free for years... Note, that the people doing this have done it on the kitchen table, to a humid bathroom to a homemade clean box to whatever and have had success... Heck I was remodeling an asset recovery companies 'safe/lock room' shortly after Katrina hit, if I told you what I saw them doing to the skids full of mud encrusted computers and hard drives you would cringe ;) but they where in the business of recovery and obviously knew what they were doing... Hundreds of hard drives caked in mud all over the place, and yes on many of the the seals had failed and they had muddy water inside on the platters...

    My thoughts are if I build a decent 'clean box' and since I have a decent skill set that I'm way ahead of many and as long as there is no physical damage to the platters (scratches) of the drive I should be able to perform a read/write head swap from the good drive to the bad one and get something off it...

    So right now I'm knocking down the dust in the bathroom with a hot shower, going to take the clean box in there and give it a scrub down with lint free rags, distilled water/rubbing alcohol... Last step give it a once over with a tack towel, drop the tools and hard drives in and close it up... Turn on the forced air and let it run for maybe an hour or so...

    After that I'll hold my breath and go off to the races...
     
  2. Harald Kapp

    Harald Kapp Moderator Moderator

    9,134
    1,843
    Nov 17, 2011
    Good luck at your endeavour.

    That's why I keep a weekly backup...
     
  3. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    Yeah, the important data is backed up as that resides off the main drive, just been slacking on backing up the OS exclusive drive... I'll be more diligent from this point on, picked up two 2TB drives this week just for more diligent backups...
     
  4. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,174
    2,689
    Jan 21, 2010
    Corrupt and failing hard drives are a particular nightmare for me.

    All the very best with your endeavour.
     
  5. Ian

    Ian Administrator

    1,476
    427
    Aug 23, 2006
    Good luck! I hope this works :D

    I've seen some HDD's in a real state and data has been salvaged one way or another, so I'm sure that you stand a good chance with your homemade clean-box. The drive should last long enough so that you can get the data off it at least :)

    Please do post some pics if you get a chance, I love seeing projects like this!
     
  6. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    Well the good and bad, being totally green upon opening the drive and it not matching 100% to any of the videos I saw online I ended up damaging the 'new' read/write head... Oh well, time to get another drive and go at it again... On the positive side though I took the 'bad' read/write head and installed in in the known good drive and it's now exhibiting the same exact symptoms of the failed drive, so I'm nearly 100% confident that the drive head is the issue... Too bad I pooched the good one before I got to test... I knew going in that the drive head was stupid fragile and it sure was, one slip is all it took to screw it up... I would be a lot easier if I had the proper 'head comb' to lift the heads off the platter but those things are about $300-$1000 a pop so I was improvising... The heads are mounted on basically a spring foil, I bumped the head the wrong way and it creased the foil... I know better now...
     
  7. KrisBlueNZ

    KrisBlueNZ Sadly passed away in 2015

    8,393
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    Nov 28, 2011
    Cool thread CocaCola!

    I have a crashed drive. I sent it to a professional recovery company; they failed because the drive couldn't even load its firmware. I'm sure with enough knowledge and resourcefulness it would be possible though, so I'm holding onto it.

    Please keep us informed. Good luck!
     
  8. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    Look into getting a replacement board, search Ebay constantly for the same drive so that you can get your donor board... Heck there are companies out there now that are hoarding the boards and selling them just for this purpose... Do some research on your hard drive brand and model and see what boards are compatible, as they seem to upgrade these things about every week in the factories so you generally have to find one made very close to your drives date... Sometimes slightly newer boards or firmware will work though, all depends on your drive make and model, some Googling will reveal what numbers are the important ones for your drive... Also find out what flash chip you will need to swap out from your board to the donor board so that the 'bad' sectors and other drive specific information is transferred to the donor board... Every drive has bad sectors coming out of the factory and the drives firmware simply maps those bad sectors (along with other info) on the flash chip so it knows the drive it's attached to... If you don't swap out the flash chip you will cause all sorts of chaos when doing a board swap...

    The PC board swap is painless as it's outside the drive and only requires a few screws to swap, presto you have new firmware and controller hardware...

    I'll try to get some pics up when the new donor drive arrives... This is nothing fancy as it was designed to be a single use item so I didn't invest a lot of time making it pretty :) Lots of duct tape and quick work of a rubbermaid type storage container, a shop vac HEPA filter and just because a new fresh shop vac that wasn't full of dust :)

    Hepa filter was about $25
    Shop Vac (just the head unit, as it drops on a standard 5 gallon bucket) $27
    Plastic Bin on sale for $5
    Roll of black duct tape, exterior grade $8 or something like that...
    Rubber gloves $1

    I simply made a little glove box clean room, one thing to note on my design is I wanted dexterity in my fingers so I took dish gloves and cut the hand part off just using the sleeves and mounted them to the box, and I put on thin latex gloves before I go to work and simply slide into the dish gloves sleeves... Not perfect as the latex gloves are not 'clean' but good enough for me in this case, as I see a bunch of 'pros' using bare hands in clean hoods doing this, so gloves are a bonus...
     
  9. KrisBlueNZ

    KrisBlueNZ Sadly passed away in 2015

    8,393
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    Nov 28, 2011
    Thanks for the advice!

    Swapping the Flash ROM sounds do-able, but I understood that some of the drive firmware was on the drive itself. That didn't make much sense to me, but I heard this from the guy at the recovery company. Perhaps he was just making excuses, or trying to convince me that I couldn't fix it myself...

    OTOH I don't expect there's anything wrong with the board... It didn't land hard enough to damage the board; just head(s) and/or platter(s).

    Do you think it's possible that the drive needs to load some code and/or parameters from a critical area of the disk, which is now damaged, so "heroic measures" would be needed to get ANY data off it?

    It's a Samsung HD203WI (2TB SATA). When it first crashed, the root directory was readable but none of the subdirectories were; according to the recovery company, it has now deteriorated and doesn't come up ready any longer.
     
  10. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    May I suggest hitting up Google for your specific drive and gather some info about your specific symptoms... Scan youtube as well.. One word of caution that I came across is that recovery companies like to put the SCARE in people and make it appear that they are the only ones in the world capable of doing any kind of recovery... Also if you see some guy saying 'you can't' skip right over his comment and dig in deeper before you take his word as the truth... They will tell you all day you can't do this or you can't do that yourself... But, if you dig deeper you will find that yes you can in many instances... Not saying that they don't have an edge on recovery, there are tools and equipment they have that you can't afford and they have a lot more hands on experience but that doesn't mean you can't do anything at all yourself...

    The recovery place should have been able to tell you if there was any physical damage to the platters or head that is if they even opened it up... They might have just tried some recovery software that failed and called it a day not worth their time...

    Is it spinning up? Does it make a click click sound and spin down? Is it clicking like a rattle? Is it recognized by the bios when booting?
     
  11. KrisBlueNZ

    KrisBlueNZ Sadly passed away in 2015

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    Nov 28, 2011
    I haven't tried it since it came back from the recovery place. Before I sent it, it was spinning up, but clicking constantly. I don't remember seeing it give up and spin down. It was in an external USB enclosure. Sometimes (but not on every power-up) it would be recognised, but then, only the root directory was readable. Now, if the recovery guy is right, it shouldn't even be recognised.

    He told me there was physical damage, but I'm not sure whether it was platters or heads, or perhaps he wasn't sure. He said they did open it up.

    I'm at my gf's at the moment. I'll try it again in a few days and let you know how it behaves now.

    Thanks :)
     
  12. KrisBlueNZ

    KrisBlueNZ Sadly passed away in 2015

    8,393
    1,266
    Nov 28, 2011
    Hi CocaCola,

    I've got back onto my Samsung HD203WI 2TB hard drive that I dropped.

    The recovery company that I sent it to returned it to me with one airtightness label completely removed, and another partly lifted. I didn't notice this until after I had fired it up in my room (which is not a dust free environment, not by a long shot!) So I guess I may have damaged the platters more than they were originally.

    When I power it up, it spins up normally, then makes repeated loud "chirp" sounds. I don't know whether these are caused by dust caught between the platter and the heads, or by the heads vibrating very quickly. It could be either, to my ears.

    Before I sent the drive to the recovery company, it would just make clicking sounds, about a second apart.

    I've attached an MP3 of the sounds it makes, including the spin-up, and pics of the seals that the recovery company didn't replace before they returned it to me.

    Obviously, the drive doesn't appear on my computer. (It's in an external enclosure with a USB connection to the PC.)

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    I should be in bed, but I have been up with a sick baby (and I'm sick myself) so I will listen to the MP3 when I get up, but as for the sticker i wouldn't worry that much about it just yet... The drives are designed to toss minimal dust off the platter when they spin up, many drives actually have air holes and even filters in them for this reason...

    More later as I'm really beyond tired right now...
     
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