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  • efeman - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    o.O Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    My reaction was similar, but I seriously respect him for recording his experiences regardless of their success. This helps others. Reply
  • kdebugx86 - Thursday, September 19, 2013 - link

    agree Reply
  • Pbryanw - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the interesting follow-up article Jarred. I know the hard-drive recovery service I've used in the past here in the UK (Retrodata) doesn't charge any fee for diagnosis and if they’re unable to recover your data, you pay nothing at all. I think this should be the standard when dealing with these companies.

    As far as backing up to to the cloud, I think this is the way to go, especially if you have a fast fibre or cable connection. I'd also look into using Crashplan. $59.99 gets you an unlimited service so 200GB of data would be no problem. I've found it to be the best personal online backup service I've used so far.
  • plm2678 - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Crashplan is awesome! Reply
  • bah12 - Thursday, September 19, 2013 - link

    I keep a local backup, but if you don't mind the downgrade in quality just use Google+ Photos with Picasa. If you use Picasa's default scaling, the images don't count toward your size limit. Reply
  • EnerJi - Sunday, September 29, 2013 - link

    +1 for Crashplan. I back up both my PCs with it. Reply
  • robbie77 - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    Amazon Glacier is the best! With Zoolz I'm getting an unlimited account for 3$ a month crashplan can't beat that Reply
  • HeyImHJ - Sunday, January 05, 2014 - link

    After the Megaupload shutdown I lost my hopes with the cloud, I also had plenty of my videos and photos stored there for backup purpose, when HDD broke I couldn't count with it to get some of my stuff back, I guess I had bad luck, from now on I'm getting an extra hdd for backup. Reply
  • The Von Matrices - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I have a feeling that one the donor drive in "Round 1" probably could still work after it had been reassembled but was reassembled incorrectly causing the "click of death." One thing that you may not know is that the screw over the spindle is extremely sensitive to the torque applied. There is a very narrow range of tightness in which the drive will work; over- or under- tightening the screw will result in the "click of death" even if the drive is otherwise perfectly fine. This video gives a good explanation of this

    I think that anyone who has any care about their data needs to consider a serious backup solution. Unfortunately, most people don't even know where their files are located on their hard drive let alone the importance of backups. I keep thinking there have to be a significant number of families who are missing a decade of digital photos, videos, files, and family history because they didn't maje any backups. I have seen it occur and it saddens me that all those memories were lost.

    I have come to realize over the past few years that my data is my most valuable possession. My entire life is stored on hard drives; I can replace any other valuable but not the data stored on my hard drives. My hard drives contain about 10,000 scanned family photos spanning 110 years, digitized family videos spanning 60 years, and of course every document I have ever created. If I lost my data I would have lost most of my life's accomplishments and family history. So my backup plan to I currently have 4 copies of my data - the primary drive, one backed up nightly and inside my computer case, a third backed up monthly and stored outside my computer (so that a virus or electrical surge can't kill it) and a fourth backed up every other month and stored off site in case a disaster destroys my house or the other drives get stolen.
  • The Von Matrices - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Mistake in the first paragraph: I meant the screw on the head stack, not the screw over the spindle. Reply
  • Fujikoma - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Our family photos go back through the late 1800's, so I'm paranoid about the same thing. I'm fortunate that my grandfather took great care with his photos and negatives.
    My mom didn't want to back up anything until she lost a few months of digital photos. She's in her sixties and has a difficult time with computers, but she actually paid attention (for the back-up rehash) and currently backs stuff up (a little excessively, but not a bad thing). She mails me copies every few months and stores copies in a fire file. I keep 6 TB of movies/photos backed up at the house (plus the 6TB originals on my computer) and a duplicate 6 TB at the parents. Photos are the only thing I put on another drive in a fireproof case.
    Most people don't organize things from the beginning, so it makes it more difficult. I had to spend the time and organize most of my mom's stuff. It took her a while, but she eventually got the rest set up correctly (my methodology, with the dates and location as part of the file name in the same format). Now it's easier for her to search for a file, since I showed her how to wild card the searches. I tell people to just start organizing and worry about the older stuff later. Better to get bad habits changed and minimize future problems.
  • friend1300 - Tuesday, January 07, 2014 - link

    hi. I can understand. Reply
  • Freakie - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Great to hear back about your adventures with the drives! Every once in a while I would wonder what progress you've made. Like I commented before on your original article way back when, I've had success transplanting platters the one time I tried it before. It just seemed like an easier process to me than doing the drive heads because of how fragile I know they are. Maybe you could give it one more go with replacing the platters? Yes it means greater risk to losing the data, but this way you can usually ensure you don't mess up any working parts in the donor drive. The problem I had when choosing what part to swap was that I knew I could easily kill both drives by trying to transplant the heads, but by just doing the platters I at least knew that the donor drive would stay working. Where as you can't know for sure that the drive heads will stay intact and good between drives so there just seems more room for failure to me. Platters are of course tedious in a different way and that is ensuring they are incredibly clean when you put them back in, but compressed air cans takes care of most of that. Ideally I would have like just an air compressor so that I don't run the risk of blowing chemicals from the can, but we make do with what we have, right? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I can't see transplanting the platters (in this case) as being any safer, as to get to the platters I have to pretty much remove everything else anyway. There's always the chance that the problem is in the spindle or motor on the original drive, sure, but I did actually try to do the platter transplant -- most likely after already killing the heads, unfortunately. Reply
  • LauRoman - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    The only repairs i had to make is exchage a capacitor for four smaller ones on a toshiba laptop that would just shutdown/reboot when plugged in, use superglue gel to stick some tiny nuts back in the holes they used to be embedded in a laptopcase that wouldn't close properly or exchange a controller board on a hdd. Else i had someone else fix the issue, or just threw away the widget. Reply
  • ShieTar - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    "I don’t need a guarantee of success, but there’s no way I’d pay $1000 or even $100 for a failure."

    So, you expect those recovery companies to gamble instead of billing their work? Because they will do the same work either way, use the same installations and tools, and spend the same amount of time.

    If you expect them to only bill success, they need to figure out the probability of success, and then they bill you for a successful attempt the work it took on your HD, also the work it took on the 1 or 2 drives they failed on, and a nice bonus in order to generate a financial cover for those statistical occurrences where they fail several times in a row and need to continue working without cash influx.

    Its not a stable business model. Medical facilities don't work like that, they bill the work and the medicine cost even if the patient does not recover. Construction people don't work like that either, if you half-built house gets hit by a meteor, they still get paid for the work they did.
  • Egg - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    "If you expect them to only bill success, they need to figure out the probability of success, and then they bill you for a successful attempt the work it took on your HD, also the work it took on the 1 or 2 drives they failed on, and a nice bonus in order to generate a financial cover for those statistical occurrences where they fail several times in a row and need to continue working without cash influx."

    Yes. We expect them to do that.

    With regards to healthcare, there's been a growing movement towards outcomes based healthcare. With regards to construction, if they screw up and their house falls apart, you do not have to pay them anymore (and probably can sue to recover anything you've already paid.)
  • sheh - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Agreed. Reply
  • codylee - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    With regard to construction, general contractors carry Builders risk insurance" for meteors etc.
    I think the original example of the lawyer worked best for this scenario.
  • MichalT - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    As soon as I saw the platter exposed to the air I knew he was never going to get the data off the drive. The tricks mentioned (fridge, tapping, dropping, etc.) work for particular kinds of drive failures; if your drive doesn't have that particular failure they won't work. If its really a crashed/broken head, the platters are extremely sensitive to dust and you need to have a clean room to replace the heads or put the platters in a working drive assembly in order to have any reasonable chance for the drive to function again. Or you can just cowboy it in your living room and almost certainly lose all the data. After all, all those manufacturers and the tends of millions they spend on clean rooms is just wasted cash. :-/ Reply
  • uhuznaa - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Not that I ever had to try it, but: Clean your bathroom (it's usually the room with the smallest amount of dust anyway), run hot water for a while to create a bit of steam and then wait and let the steam condense. This should get most of the dust out of the air. Still no "clean room" but probably as close at you'll ever get in a normal house. Reply
  • 2kfire - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Great article!
    I really enjoy reading how-to's (or how-not-to's in this case!). You get some interesting ideas!
    Thanks Jarred!
  • RonanH - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I used to work for Seagate assembling HDDs. The biggest cause of hdd failure during assembly was of all things ESD. The heads are EXTREMELY sensitive to ESD, we used to wear two shoe straps in addition to a wrist strap, all of which were tested before entering the line.

    While you may scoff at the need for a clean room, the heads of the drive actually float over the platter when it's spinning. I can't remember the height but it was a fraction the thickness of a human hair, so even a small amount of dust will cause damage to the heads in operation.

    While it's possible to DIY a transplant the chances of success are probably pretty low.
  • tuxfool - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Seconding this. AFAIK the heads float over the platters at single digit nanometer heights so most household dust can ruin the Heads. Looking at the pictures in the article, I can see loads of dust. Unless this is cleaned before turning on the drives, you're seriously ruining your chances. Reply
  • rchan016 - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Not sure about in America, but here in Canada, Seagate does data recovery. I think the one where they do all the fancy taking apart the drive and such is about $1200; if it succeeds, you get your data on a new drive. If it doesn't, you don't get charged anything. Reply
  • gaborb - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    "get the data off of either drive" is prison talk, correct English is "get the data off the drive". Reply
  • ShieTar - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    There is sufficient discussion about data recovery happening in English prisons to justify the creation of new terminology? Reply
  • psuedonymous - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    It's hard to tell form the single image, but was the platter-stack of the first drive a single fixed unit, or several platters placed on top of each other and held together by the friction of the top platter being bolted down onto the spindle? Because as soon as those platters are shifted relative to each other by the tiniest amount, the drive is essentially unrecoverable. If the tracking data written to the platters no longer aligns for each head, then it's no longer possible for the heads to track correctly.
    If you had a few hundred thousand pounds to hand for building custom equipment and a detailed knowledge of how that specific model of drive stores alignment data, you might[ be able to create a franken-drive by bypassing the drive controller entirely and just processing the raw head data yourself, and re-aligning the platters in software, but I've never even once heard of someone actually attempting this, let alone succeeding.
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Hell of a funny read, Jarred. Not quite sure how you came up with the silly idea of attempting this but thumbs up for courage and documentation. I tried this myself 10 or so years ago as an experiment but screwed up badly just disassembling the drive (a Maxtor IIRC). Just a note: You really want to do this only in a sufficiently dust free environment, every second of exposure to room air will make the platters pull in dust and if that manages to disturb the flying head later you'll have your next headcrash faster than you can say shit... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    As noted in the Maxtor section, I took the working drive drive apart, got everything ready to remove, then put it back together and it still worked for at least 10 minutes and the reading/writing of 5GB or so of data to the drive. So any dust didn't immediately kill the drive. Long-term, sure, it's a time bomb, but we're dealing with trying to resurrect a dead drive anyway. :-) Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I've never even heard of a drive transplant but it seems genius! I can't believe this thought has never even crossed my mind. It's not for the faint of heart but there is no shortage of people eager to tinker and if the drive's already dead you don't have much to lose. Thank you for posting this. Reply
  • The Von Matrices - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    No, you have a lot to lose, as in all the data that is on the drive. This is not a CPU or motherboard where if you can't fix it you just replace it and have an identical system to what you started with. Reply
  • willis936 - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    The sentence you replied to ended with "if the drive's already dead" for a reason. Who in their right mind is going to spend $1.2k on data recovery? This is a hack, through and through. You do it because there is no other reasonable option besides accepting the loss and moving on. Reply
  • sheh - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Scary stuff. :) I've never attempted any of this. There is one drive I'd want to recover: an old Micropolis SCSI drive that died right after its 5 years warranty. So much for "professional storage" being more reliable... Reply
  • - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I agree with the "no data no charges" policy, in fact this is what we do here. It's sad to spend 40 hours on a drive and not getting a penny for it but at the same time, we call ourselves a "data recovery" company so if we don't recover anything, we didn't really offer the services we're selling. It's our way to guarantee to we'll do all we can to recover the data. This being said, I wouldn't like to receive more and more disks that has been tampered with. There are certainly people savvy enough to fix things by themselves or trying to recover data that isn't worth the price but really, what I see from other companies and ourselves isn't a scary tactic. We're not saying you can't succeed. What we say is that if it's really important, you need to know that the more you try to recover your data by your own means (hardware but also software), the higher the risks even people with the correct tools won't be able to recover it later. Fine, rip these read/write heads off on your dad's pictures drive but please, if your data really matter, keep your greasy fingers out of that casing ;-) Reply
  • obiwanjerkobi - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I literally have a stack of five dead WD2000JB--00DUA3 laying on my desk next to my Blue Yeti. I attempted a platter transfer on my first one and failed miserably (rest in peace Talking Heads discography from my dad's collection before he moved to London and sold all his CDs). The rest are all split between click of death and flat no-spin-up. Reply
  • psuedonymous - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    For those looking to do some HDD recovery of their own, Scott Moulton's "">" is an excellent resource. He's got plenty of freely available videos of talks he's given about data recovery techniques, programs to use, tips & tricks, etc. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I didn't spend much time looking, but for those that want a working link:
  • bobbozzo - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Yeah, he did a nice presentation, at DefCon iirc, on recovering drives from a dead RAID controller using software only (in case a replacement controller with the same firmware cannot be found). Reply
  • Maltz - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    It sounds like your experience actually confirms the "industry rumors" that you shouldn't go mucking around inside your drive if you care about the data. All you've done is destroyed these people's data when the pros probably would have had a very high chance of success, even if it was expensive. How much is all your data worth, anyway? If I lost everything I had, I'd bite the bullet and pay $2k in a heartbeat to get it all back.

    Which is why you should never skimp on backup hardware and routines.

    Anecdotally, I've had the freezer trick work on about half of the dozen or so drives I've tried to recover over the years. But whatever you do, if you suspect a hardware failure, do NOT try a software tool to fix it! It will just mangle the data even further, making data recovery much, much harder if it should come to sending it off to a data recovery shop.
  • ruiner5000 - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Earlier this year, I posted a short story and video of my attempt at – and success – repairing a Gateway notebook that was suffering a Code 43 GPU error. The “fix” seemed almost too good to be true: dismantle the notebook and blast the GPU with a hairdryer for a couple minutes in order to reflow the solder.

    Don't be stupid, and use a hair dryer to do this. Have your laptop properly reflowed by a technician. I reflow several motherboards a day for PS3s, Xbox 360s, and laptops as well. Don't be fooled by this story. The only things I can't usually fix, or have the hardest time doing is they guy who watched some video on youtube.
  • anneoneamouse - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Jared -

    Can you estimate how long you spent trying to fix the drive, and the cost of all the hardware bought?

    I bet that if you ballpark your time at $40 / hour, the $1000-2000 cost of professional recovery is probably cheap.


  • Impulses - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I think he mentions spending 10hrs on two drives... You'd think a pro would be equipped to do it in half the time tho so maybe 2-3 hours per drive? Even at $50/hour and factoring in some other costs that should make it <$500, guess that's why having to pay thousands seems a bit much. I'd drop $500 into recovery, maybe even without a grantee, but over a grand with no grantees seems excessive. Some things you can't put a price on tho and I'm sure those offering said services are aware. Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Wow, that sounds like an unpleasant experience. Thanks for sharing though! Reply
  • cbf - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    People --

    I don't know if there's any rule against commercial endorsements here, but I've used this company:

    for data recovery in the past (although not for some years now).

    They're *much* cheaper than the better known companies that do this work.

    They will give you a free estimate online, prior to your sending them the drive (based on the parameters of the drive -- bigger drives cost more.)

    They don't charge you if they can't recover any data.

    Assuming they're still as reasonable as they were a few years ago, I highly recommend them, and I think they'd meet Jarred's requirements. Hell, Jarred should probably just have Anandtech pay for this so he can do a follow-up article on data recovery services.

    Of course, as Jarred points out -- it's much better to make sure our friends and family are doing proper backups than help them recover after the fact.
  • name99 - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    If your concern is with a failing hard drive (rather than with the house burning down or ninjas stealing your computer or whatever) why is it so important to use an online backup service?

    Pay the damn $100 to get a 2TB drive and use it for backup. Heck, do what any sane person does, buy two such drives, and alternate backups between them.
  • dac7nco - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Good lord. Taking a drive apart platter by platter?! This should be called "Trek of the moron". For shame... Anand wouldn't try shite like this. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Well, if you fail, you can always fashion the dead drive cases into crude shanks. Or lash them to your fists for a pair of non-brass knuckles. Reply
  • ct760ster - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    Hello, and Thank You for your brave attempt at DIY jury rig fixing of mechanical storage. I have a first generation 750 GB Seagate hard drive (the first one that made the switch to vertical write pattern), it's failed to show on the mainboard starup due to accumulated S.M.A.R.T. error logs that showed up thermal warnings and reallocated blocks. It also displayed the boot up click of dead, even without the SATA cable attached. What I stumble with luck was my tinkering with an scavenged CCTV digital video recorder that have a 500 GB hard drive by the same maker but newer manufacturing process and totally different PCB and maybe internals. At first I suspected the reason why they throw out that unit was due to hard drive failure so the prospect of having a replacement hard drive out of it was dim. But as I always said nothing ventured, nothing gain. So I proceeded to test the working condition of the DVR. It was in apparent perfect working order, next I swapped the hard drives between my PC and the DVR and formatted the 500 GB one with the hard drive diagnostic MHDD that came bundle with the LiveDVD of Gentoo Linux, just a quick format, out of curiosity I formatted the dead one with the DVR system menu which seemed fine booting up and reading the patient unit. For some reason it put it back into working order, so I re-transplanted the patient drive back to my computer because is of bigger capacity, all the data from previously is gone by this point because the way the DVR format the hard drive is not by a readable partition table but an unknown proprietary format, curiously the FAT32e first partition that was put on the 500 GB one when it was read by the DVR it was indifferent to it ( it could start recording right away without reformatting) but when you try to look for the recorded video hooking it back to the PC it don't have any apparent file recorded on it. So my conclusion it that what repaired my failed 750 GB drive was an apparent low level PCB S.M.A.R.T. warning reset, because after re-scanning it with MHDD it showed the same amount of warnings of potential errors leading to an impending failure, but have remained in working condition without a glitch up to today, almost a year after. It should be noted that I run it doing bit torrent file transfer almost 24/7, so is a stressful working condition. By the way the DVR I pass it to a friend who needed it and it worked for a month or so until it started making a clicking noise, probably due to the hard drive, so the 500 GB hard drive was probably had a mechanical fault wich was the primary reason the original owner throw it to the recycle bin. Hope you find my story amusing and contributed to your knowledge of how a hard drive work. ;) Reply
  • SharpieTM - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    Loved the article.

    Maybe it's because I was in the same boat as you. A friend of mine had his HDD go (the notorious Seagate 500GB drive that dropped like flies). He also made no backups (what's that?) and since I build the computer for him naturally it was my duty/responsibility to fix that. *sigh*. Anyways, I rely on backups to keep information save. As far as I am concerned, once a drive is dead (or dying) the information on it is as good as gone. Granted I had at least a couple HDD's that worked long enough to get the information off them with the freezer trick.

    But anyways, long story short, I tried everything you did. First freezer trick. Then I swapped the PCB with a donor drive and had to swap the IC too that held the factory settings for those platters.
    Nothing worked, and my friend gave me the go ahead to open the drive up and see if I could swap the insides to make it work. I told him that the chances of me making that work were small, if not impossible.
    I am not sure what all I did wrong (I am sure it was plenty) but I certainly was unsuccessful. But I still remember my nerves being shot after a couple of hours trying to pry apart the drive as carefully as possible. And also the sunken feeling in my belly when I plugged it all back in and it was "deader" than before.

    Moral of the story: When information is saved in perpendicular oriented fashion in nanometer width, my fat, oily fingers won't get it back.
  • Kougar - Sunday, September 15, 2013 - link

    That was a great read, thanks for sharing your experiences! I never realized read heads were so fragile that even having them touch would ruin them.

    For offsite data security, instead of paying a fortune for Terabyte+ online backups why not just buy a multi-terabyte drive, backup the data to it, and then stick it in a bank safety deposit box? That'd run $15 a year and capacity is only limited by the size of the drive or size of the box.

    Combine that with a simple home NAS using RAID 5 or RAID 6 and that should provide plenty of redundancy for data protection. Banks exist on every corner, and dropping by every 3-6 months to update the data via laptop (or switching out drives) shouldn't be much of an inconvenience.
  • jubjubbinks - Sunday, September 15, 2013 - link

    What a timely article. I've been battling with a failing an external USB Seagate Freeagent 750GB drive.
    After several different attempts, I successfully recovered 4000 photos off the drive....and have now backed them up twice physically and via online storage.

    - Drive spins up, no clicking
    - Windows sees NTFS partition as RAW
    - After about 2-3 minutes drive disappears from Disk Manager in Win7
    - Window of time is too short to use Recuva, Testdisk, PhotoRec
    - Tried freezer trick, which worked for me once - Failed this time
    - Removed drive from Seagate Fort Knox enclosure and connected SATA via external port on another system
    - Same result
    - Ordered exact PCB from online store that had identical part# and firmware -
    - PCB board was swapped and drive was staying alive for roughly 10 minutes. However still RAW and not readable for long enough to execute recovery apps.
    - Windows also ran chkdsk which showed a motherload of unreadable sectors
    - Linux message was less dire, and basically said this drive was going to fail soon.
    - Try Ubuntu Live CD and now I can see my folders!...hell yes!
    - I plug in a 32GB thumb drive and beging coping folder by folder onto thumb and verify pics are readable
    - In some cases there were several hundred photo's in some of the folders. When the drive would hang, I would cold pull the SATA power and plug it back in right away. Amazingly the copy would resume in most cases. I had to analyze each root folder as in some cases the half or some of the files showed zero bytes. I just recopied those particular ones and all was good.


    - Bonehead didn't back up his wifes photos to another location
    - Linux is more tolerant of a dodgy drive
    - PCB replacment board gave a longer window to recover files

    Hope this helps someone else.
  • boris81 - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    I got a story of improvised hard drive repair, granted much more low-tech than replacing the heads and platters.
    My friend back in college was working an IT job and brought one day a customer's hard drive to do something on it at home. Five of us were standing around chatting about something as the guy began flipping the hard drive casually in the air. Not a lot of imagination is required to guess what happened next - another friend reached to snatch the hard drive in mid air and it slipped and hit the pavement. Sheer panic follows but soon we determined that the only visible damage is that one of the pins on the IDE connector is bent. Maybe if we are VERY lucky the heads haven't crashed. Somebody produces a set of pliers and proceeds to bend the pin back in place. The pin then breaks of and the panic rushes back, this time accompanied of course by a series of jokes directed at my IT friend.
    I examined the IDE connector and determined if we could possibly run a wire in place of the I/O pin. The IDE connector was through hole soldered on the hard drive board so it looked like it could actually work. I unfolded a paperclip, placed one end in the IDE connector and pressed it against the solder joint on the board. We had an open computer handy so I plugged it in to see if it will get recognized. "Oh my God, it works!!!" shouts my friend and proceeds to copy files. I go "Look, I'm just holding a paper clip to it, let's go have it soldered in place and you can do your thing then." To which he shouts "DON'T F***ING BREATHE!!! OK, breathe but DON'T move!!!"
    I did not move for 17min which was enough for him to copy the data. I paid with a small skin rash on my finger where I pressed the paper clip as hard as I could the entire time but I gained a ton of street cred for fixing a hard drive with a paper clip and saving the day.
  • frenchy_2001 - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    I've dealt with data recovery once, about 10 years ago. The most expensive calendar I ever paid for... ;)
    I had 2 computers and a degree of redundancy in my data between the 2 of them.
    The first one had an IBM Deskstar ("DeathStar") 30GB, reputed for failing. One late evening, I read that IBM had a firmware out to fix the failure issue. It was late, I pushed updating till the next day, saying it had been working for over a year, what's one more night? By morning, the drive was gone.
    As most of my data existed on the 2nd computer (with better hardware to boot), no big loss.
    However, I postponed replacing the IBM drive and about 3 weeks later, the Maxtor in my main computer died too. I was distressed as all of my data so far (years of email, contacts, pictures...) was lost. I searched data recovery services and found one that would recover my data for ~$500, with me supplying the new drive. I bought a new drive and sent both to the recovery service. A week later, they announced they had recovered 98%+ and sent it back to me.

    Since then, I've stored my data on RAID volumes and I've added online backup more recently.
    My data exists in no less than 3 places (main, backup, online backup), sometimes more.
    I've been using Crashplan for online backup, taking advantage of their Black Friday Sale (~$2 for a family plan), also enabling some friends and family to backup on my server through Crashplan (free for them. I have a RAID 1 3TB available for backup purpose).
    So, once bitten, twice shy.

    To come back to the opening sentence, added in my package when I received the recovered drive was a nice calendar for the year, the only added value compared to my starting situation. Most expensive calendar ever...
  • JlHADJOE - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    What I learned here is to leave data recovery to the experts, lol.

    Not only does the average person not have the correct tools, he also does not have a sufficiently clean room. And if you have the tools and the room, you're probably an expert or close to one anyway.
  • lyeoh - Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - link

    If you haven't ruined the drive too much with your attempts perhaps you could try one of those data recovery companies that don't charge if they can't recover data. It would be an interesting experiment/test to see which of these "no recover, no charge" companies succeed in recovering the data. An expensive test/review maybe but one more worthy of Anandtech than failing to recover data yourself and then claiming the data recovery bunch are spreading FUD. Car analogy - many people can repair their own cars, but it's not necessarily FUD if car mechanics discourage amateurs from trying to fix their own cars but make things worse in the process. Esp mechanics with a "no fix = no charge" policy. Reply
  • hot120 - Saturday, September 21, 2013 - link

    Great article! Reply
  • coyote2 - Sunday, September 22, 2013 - link

    Putting dead drives in the freezer has worked for me 5 of the last 6 times. Reply
  • HeyImHJ - Sunday, January 05, 2014 - link

    I do have the same HDD as you (WD 250GB black), from your description mine have exact the same problem as your, it died about a year ago and since then I kept it until I -hopefully, some day- could win the lottery so I can afford the service to recover the info lol, I have at least 70GB of important data in it (included all my photos from childhood and videos), today to be exact I was looking for an homemade alternative to fix it, I'm getting impatient to get these info back, I also thought on opening it and replacing the platters as you did. But glad I read your experience, thank you! I guess I'm gonna calm myself down, and leave it to luck. ;) Reply
  • PandaBear - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    The heads are controlled by servo marks written on the platter actively, you will not be able to pull the head off when the drive is spinning because you will be fighting with the controller trying to keep it on a track.

    The platter is coated with a very fragile layer and when the head is not working because of previous crashes (most likely cause of dead head), your platter are likely already damaged more than the head and transplant would likely not fix it.

    Other than the rom boot loader on the PCB, most of the firmware and calibration data is on the platter written in low density. If your drive is not recognized with the right model and capacity, chances are the head / platter is so damaged that it cannot boot, and chances are you won't be able to read back the user data written in the even higher density area.

    Most hard drive head these days are parked on a ramp when spin down and do not land back on to the platter until it is spinning fast enough to fly. So freezing trick (to dislodge a stuck head on the platter) or knocking the drive sideway (same theory) doesn't really work anymore.
  • GreenXemas - Friday, June 12, 2015 - link

    Good luck on getting your drive to work. I've got a WD10TMVW that the arms arent moving to the pallet when it spins, so I'm not entirely sure what's wrong, but I am optimistic about fixing this drive, ima buy the tools first though. Reply
  • Waffa - Monday, August 03, 2015 - link

    Respect for that post man, this is well written and helps people to prepare mentally for these kind of thing, saving a ton of time and drives top of that. Reply
  • joneyahamed - Saturday, December 03, 2016 - link

    you can use hirean for test your hdd what is the health condition. <a href="">more information</a> Reply
  • Plethorius - Sunday, June 04, 2017 - link

    This is interesting, thank you for documenting it. I've been gearing up to give it a try myself on a drive a friend gave me, by taking apart old failed drives I don't care about. Basically making sure I know exactly how each piece comes out and goes back in with the least potential for damage. From my research, the drive I actually want to repair uses only a single side of one platter (10gb Seagate) so theoretically it will be a cake walk if I can find a donor to pull a head assembly out of. My friend doesn't care that much about the data, but it'd be great to successfully do this at least once in a "real" scenario.

    As for backups, I completely agree. I keep all my most important stuff from the desktop backed up on at least one other drive now and each of my laptops has it's own full backup for easy restoration. I can say with some confidence that I haven't lost any important data since the Great Hard Drive Failure of 2008 when I learned that it can happen to anyone, at any time. All of (my) drives I'd dealt with at that point had gradually failed, and being somewhat tech savvy I was able to catch them in time and transfer everything. I guess I assumed that would always be the case, but one day when I plugged in that drive it just gave the the click of death with no prior warning.

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