Hardware Can anyone help in aiding to fixing one of my hard drives?

BitMasterPlus

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Since this place has helped me out in the past, I'm hoping it can help out with my biggest challenge yet. One of my hard drives failed a while ago, and I do know the problem. It's clicking, and I found out the read/write actuator arm/heads are damaged and need replacing. Yes, replacing, since I cannot afford any type of professional data recovery at this time. I know replacing them is not a permanent fix, but that's not what I'm looking for, I just need it to work long enough so I can quickly get the data myself and that's it. I don't have the equipment or tools to do so myself right now, so I need a professional who does and can do this. Problem is I cannot find anyone to do this. I can pay for a donor drive and their services and everything, just minus the few hundred dollar recovery service. It's been aggravating me for quite a while now and I'm just about sick of it and at my wits end.

Please do not tell me it's not possible to do this, because I am sick of hearing that and might explode if I hear it one more time, because it is possible. I know it will work if this one part is fixed. No comments telling me otherwise please, and excuse my rudeness.

And if nobody here knows, could someone point me to a website/forum/company/person that knows or can do this? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

FAST6191

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How are you sure it is the heads? If you took it apart to see then did you do it in a cleanroom or are the people doing the eventual repair potentially going to have to deal with that as well?
Please say you did not remove any platters for if they are misaligned then... maybe my scanning electron microscope might do something but even then.
Are you sure it is not the bearings or motor? Lack of power can see a clicking noise as well (sometimes a bit of corrosion on the drive PCB and contacts underneath it, other times the grease has gone and may benefit from a bit more juice to spin it up a bit faster). Such a thing may also be able to be achieved by a debug setup and fancy drive reader -- there are recovery stations that will know what goes here and read around errors or not throw up their hands where a basic caddy or motherboard connection will not necessarily know what to do.

If it truly is magnetic heads then it is possible but the gear to do it is considerable as well.

You want a donor drive, but it will probably want to be one of the ones from the same batch if you can or at very least the same sub type/manufacturing timeframe. If they changed up something but called it a model then it may not work. Hard drive companies often make the same drive for many years but with various revisions. Depending upon the age it can be easier said than done.

You will want a clean room to do it in. You can make one of these (whether or negative pressure might vary with what you have) but it is not necessarily that cheap or easy.

Most of the time you will want a "comb" (usually wants to be custom made, not such a problem in this world of 3d printers available to mortals but still something, something you may not be able to measure on the new drive or dead drive without breaking them so hopefully someone has come before or you get to buy a third donor drive) to hold the drive read heads apart. They stick to each other (being magnets they tend to) and... find another set for even if you manage to pry them apart they probably broke something.

Depending upon what goes you might also want to read and write the chip on the drive for sector remapping/allocation/bad sector noting, sometimes this also gets overwritten when a drive is on the way out.

What data is being recovered? I can reconstruct partial files of known formats or stitch them together if pulling raw sectors off a drive. Other things are far harder and maybe useless as well (around here a corrupt save is usually near useless, and a corrupt game not all that much better.
 

BitMasterPlus

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I opened the hard drive myself to see what was the problem in a room with no dust, and that's how I found out. And I almost got it to work, it was loading like it was almost there, but it didn't so the heads or arm entirely needs to be replaced. Of course I did not share this information since even just asking for replacements everyone was giving me a hard time and won't do it, even if I pay them, but I know it'll work again if it's replaced.


I know I can find the exact same drive to use for parts by looking around. I just haven't done enough looking yet to find one now, but I can. And I would get the tools myself, but like I said, that would also cost quite a bit so I'd rather someone else who has the tools and knowledge to do it.


Aside from the heads, the hard drive itself is clean and all the parts work. The disc is clean and all. I want to go in my OS and grab some files in my File Explorer and maybe open up my browser on it to grab some tabs to transfer to my other computer. I know fixing the heads is not a permanent fix, but I just need it temporarily to quickly grab the stuff and get out ASAP, if possible.

I do have an external hard drive which is all ready to copy my data so this doesn't happen again.
 

TheRedfox

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just consider the data lost.

I know you do not want to hear this, accept it. But even if you manage to replace the heads yourself they'll likely crash just within a few seconds. There's a reason why it broke in the first place, if the head crashed because of a particle in the air, or because of a miniscule scratch then the next head will just crash too and spray some magic magnetic dust in the air.

If you cannot afford a professional(you opened the drive yourself already so most will charge another few hunderd of bucks because they have to completely inspect and clean the drive now) then just pretend the drive went up in flames and it is now a pile of ash on your desk. The data is gone, start the mourning proces(denial->anger whatever) and think of a good backup strategy if your data is worth anything for in the future(just a copy on a external drive is a bad one. Some point your external drive dies and you suddenly realize there are no original copies of the data left anymore anywhere else)
 

FAST6191

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It sounds like you are into the realm of big boy recovery. There is no "I don't care if it takes 60 hours of my time/leaving a computer on for 2 weeks" or "I'll do it manually/code it myself" option really like there is for other things. Hardcore tools and hardcore skills is the next step, and even then it is not guaranteed.

If you are not willing to pay for someone to do the service then tooling up is probably as costly, if not vastly more so, as one shot of the recovery services. They are also not the sorts of things you can sell on that easily or turn into a business (if I am telling you all this you have a long way to go before I would consider setting myself up here -- come back when you can tell me at length what SaaS, RAID, what MTBF actually means in the real world, SAN and the main server level file systems might be, not necessarily to full bore storage bod level but enough to have a chat with one) to recoup things.

Generally such things run
1) Boot in a standalone case or motherboard in Windows and Linux (depending upon the drive and factors I have had each work where the other failed) to see what can be grabbed with standard OS file managers, disk scanners and with tools like photorec/testdisk https://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/Main_Page recuva and the like. If you want real fun you can also get into sector level reading and file reconstructions (hopefully your drive was not too fragmented, or RAID 0)
2) Boot one of the recovery tools the vendors offer, and are often included in tools like UBCD, hirens and whatever else.
2a) Maybe consider something like spinrite. It could work, instances of that are few and far between but it could.
3) (may happen sooner) Check the board for obvious signs of bad components and connections. Repair as necessary. You are unlikely to have schematics for this one either so I hope you are good with electronics, might be able to source a matching working drive
4) A basic USB caddy will do 95% of the work but there are specialist ones that will skip over unreadable sectors, approach from the back of sectors rather than reading raw files, handle corrupt file allocation tables, do repeated reads and other stuff that bumps the rate up a bit more than either a caddy or motherboard or hard drive card with stock commands only available.
5) It is often the grease in bearings that goes so some combo of heat, cool (see drive freezing, remember to chuck a silica gel packet in there to soak up the condensation) can do the trick, and you might be able to tickle the motor with a slightly higher voltage (possibly having isolated it from the board so as to not backfeed the PCB and blow that up, and if you can't tell or would not know to look for some kind of resistance testing in that then... you have even more learning to do). I don't know that I have heard of a stuck head in many years that a little love tap sorted (and if you do it you might actually screw up the head as the little bond wires are not the strongest things around) but there is that too.
6) I have had drives have so many bad sectors that they overwrite the good parts of the firmware and die accordingly. This can be somewhat solved with a board swap (though while technically easy that is not a path without its own perils) or reflash, though there is no standard method of reflashing so hope you are up for building a JTAG connector or i2c setup or one a thousand other such communications protocols and possibly figuring out what a vendor has for this sort of thing.
7) Now we are in the really big leagues (though buy in for a recovery level dock is usually several hundred). Here the combs, clean room cabinets and knowledge of what to do (again don't misalign the platters) are the order of the day. Oh and be prepared for much of this to become useless as we increasingly shift to SSD over the coming years (indeed it is already happening), SSDs have upsides and downsides here.
You will also be faced with having to source a suitable donor drive. It might well come down to having to find one of the same batch. Quite possible for some types of servers and workstations but if you have a meh model from a fly by night brand (which is a lot of consumer computers) that has not been sold in 10 years and barely sold anything before then you are potentially in for a nice uphill struggle. Drive recovery firms will also take note of the most popular drives in general and in laptops and vendor machines and often have them in a library or contacts enough to find such a thing (also if they charge regardless they don't care if they ultimately fail).

Oh and while the risk is usually small 1) through 6) can also make the lives of someone doing 7 that much harder, or necessitate going right to 7 where one of the other levels might have worked. While very much in the "more art than science" side of things (drive recovery in general already has this in spades) there are things you can look at and questions you can ask that would get you to skip one or more of those.

As was mentioned if you opened the drive up then you might be at 7, or indeed a super advanced version of it (couple of goes in an ultrasonic, which will want to be in your cleanroom as well, might not do this one), by virtue of that alone.

8) Usually reserved for massive international companies, universities, super specialist firms and intelligence (think NSA) level government players. Here you can try to play with things like scanning electron microscopes to recover a few kilobytes a day -- great if you have recovered a toasted drive from a hut somewhere and that few pixels of photo or lines from a document (that the bad guy somehow did not encrypt) is enough to send in the boys or win a court case worth billions, if you just want to recover your treasured holiday snaps then eh (even if said snaps contain people no longer in your life that you would like to have pictures of).

In my general day to day then 1, 2, 3 and 5 are the only things I generally offer to people, anything beyond that and "it is dead, mate. This is why we have backups" and then we get to figure out if something is still on another drive, got emailed around, online somewhere, able to be remade from whatever I can recover, able to be scanned in, able to be restored from paper records...
If it is going to be a real pain ("lost my accounts, now I will be fined out of existence" being about the level) then I might offer higher if a search of all the usual suspects and my list of computer vendors yields a decent possibility of a donor drive.
 

The Real Jdbye

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You could try putting it in the freezer 30 min in an airtight container. I've heard that allows it to work for a bit but you'll have to keep doing it to get all the data off.
Edit: Alternatively you could sandwich it between 2 ice packs and plug it in and that might allow it to work for longer.
 

Captain_N

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If it is the heads that are the problem then you will have to buy another drive and carefully remove the head assembly and place them in the bad drive. this what the data recovery centers do for head crashes and the like. There is no fixing the drive either. Its a temp measure just to get the data off. Do not move the platters at all. if its multi platters you could fuck up the alignment and then your are shit out of luck. If the heads are good it also might be the voice coil.

Words of advice use a different media like blue ray to make backup of the data so it dont happen again. Good luck trying to recover the data
 
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