Adventures in Hard Drive Recovery 1

Keeping it short, I’ve been given 2 drives.  One of which took a hit from a power spike and the other just stopped and started making noise one day.



Drive1 – Power spike death.


  • Doesn’t matter about saving data as it’s blank.
  • Price range is within reason.  e.g. $50 is fine, but no more.

Now What?

First things first, we should fire it up and see what it does.  So I plugged it into my lab power supply and it’s not looking good.



That 090 you can see in red there should really read something like 200 when the drive powers up.  So at this point, we’re only drawing enough current to power the caddy it’s in.  Time to check out the PCB, so I flip it over and we play “Guess which part got zapped?”

friedPCBIf you pop open that thumbnail, it’s fairly obvious that those fuses in the top right took a hit.  Since they’re just fuses, we can just bypass those by removing and bridging the circuit with some steady soldering.  So I went ahead and did that, then hooked it up to my USB to TTL adaptor (see below) to see if we can talk to the firmware.



Fired up a terminal and then the drive to see if it wanted to talk.  No dice.  The PCB got more of a hit than we’d hoped.  So the options here are to try to find what else fried or just buy a replacement.  Since we’re not looking to save data here, we don’t need to worry about a perfect match.  For $34 I found a replacement PCB on eBay and when I consider my time is worth more than $34 for the hour I might spend looking further, I went with the replacement PCB.

Currently waiting for that to arrive but will update further when that arrives….



Drive2 – Decided to stop and play us the song of its people


  • Must save data!
  • Price range is about $150 at most.

Now What?

So the first thing I do is fire the thing up to confirm the clicking noise of a head crash.  It didn’t quite sound right, so I powered it down and held it up to my ear.  If you just turn the hard drive slightly and listen carefully, you can actually just hear the head dragging across the platter.  Back on the shelf you go while I find a head replacement.

Replacement heads for this mean matching components on the donor drive.  I won’t go into detail here as it’s covered all over the web.  Unfortunately this drive appears to be pretty unique and the data recovery guys online know it.  A donor drive was up to about $350!  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a guy in Israel on eBay who had one he’d removed from a server and didn’t seem to know what he had.  $100 for the drive and $30 to get it here to Australia.

Unfortunately the customer here wasn’t replying to me to confirm good to purchase, so I took a leap of faith.  Worst case scenario, I’d just re-sell the drive for $300 if the customer didn’t approve of the spend.  In the end he got back to me and it was a good gamble.

Now we wait for that to arrive and I’ll update this when that happens…

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