Hard Drive Repair
Repairing damaged hard drives is something we do every single day. When dealing with hard drives that require physical recovery, you want to use a company that is dedicated to this type of work full-time. You don’t want some computer repair shop experimenting with your drive.
Our engineers have every tool needed for almost every type of hard drive failure imaginable. But tools are bought with money, and anyone can technically buy some of the same equipment we use…however…knowledge and experience cannot be purchased. Data recovery on physically failed hard drives is something that requires an extensive amount of skill and experience. You not only have to know how to make necessary repairs…but you also have to know what repairs are needed.
By far the most common failure a hard drive sustains physically is due to failed heads. The heads are the components that read and write data to the platter surface. When they crash, most hard drives begin clicking. In modern hard disk drives you can have anywhere from 1 to 8 or more heads. If you were to compare a hard drive to an old record player, the platters would be the record, and the heads would be the needle.
Swapping heads on a hard drive requires skilled hands and extensive knowledge about what replacement heads will and will not work. Just because you have two 1TB hard drives that are the same model, does not necessarily mean the heads are interchangeable. Even if the heads look identical, they may not share compatible head maps, or they may not work with the firmware revision that the drive is using.
Once you have the right replacement heads (and you’re sure that the heads need to be replaced), then the most delicate part of the procedure is off loading the old heads and reloading the replacement heads without damaging the platter surface or damaging the heads. This is where and extremely steady hand comes into play. Almost every data recovery company has their own unique tools for loading heads. It’s not as difficult with one or two heads, but when you get into 3 or more, you quickly run out of options without having some specialized tools to help you. Of course this is all meaningless without first having at least a certified class-100 clean room environment to do the work in.
We can perform head swaps on ANY brand/model hard drive that’s ever been made. Our data recovery technicians have decades of experience working with every hard drive manufacturer, and they know the nuances associated with some of the drives that are out there.
If you think head swaps are difficult, you can take that and multiply by a factor of 10 when it comes to swapping platters. We commonly swap out platters on Seagate hard drives. The reason why it’s such a common procedure for us is that Seagate drives have inherently weak spindle axle bearings, that are easily damaged due to the slightest bump. Most of the drives that we get in where the hard disk has been dropped, we find that the spindle motor is seized.
The platters are affixed to the hub of the spindle axle. Here’s where it gets tricky. Platters have to maintain their original horizontal and vertical rotational alignment. If this is off…even by microns…the data will be permanently lost. So if you’re ever thinking you can just pull the heads out, and take the platters from one drive and move them to another without addressing their alignment, you are 100% wrong in that assumption and you’re data will be lost.
When we do platter swaps, not only are we having to move the platters, but we are also swapping the heads. So the job is substantially more difficult.
Hard Disk Electronics Repair
While not nearly as technically challenging as head swaps and platter swaps, repairing the electronics of a failed hard drive can be just as time consuming. On most modern hard drives the electronics, or PCB as it is commonly referred to, contain unique information for that specific hard disk. So swapping out a PCB from one hard drive to another hard drive, even if they are the same model and were manufactured on the same day, will almost always fail. The drive may spin up, it may not even click, but the data will be inaccessible.
We will typically work to either repair the damaged PCB, or program a replacement PCB with adaptives that match up with the failed drive. Since most drives keep multiple copies of the adaptives that are needed, we can manipulate the drive in a manner that lets us gain access to the region of the platter that contains that data. Then it’s a matter of downloading it, and then uploading it to a new controller.
When that option is not available, then we have a wide array of equipment that allows us to work at the component level to troubleshoot the electronics. We keep multiple infrared stations to allow us to remove and replace complex BGA chips.
So not only does hard drive repair require you to have the equipment needed to perform the tasks, but you also need the knowledge skills and experience to perform them correctly. This is well beyond the scope of what any computer repair company offers. So if your data is important, you need to trust a legitimately qualified data recovery company to help you get it back. To find out how the process works, click HERE.