Archive for the ‘Hard Disk Repair’ Category

How to fix hard drive by swapping the PCB board?

April 26th, 2015 Comments off

1. First, we should judge the HDD’s problem was caused by PCB or not?

  • HDD can’t spin up. Either no sound or a short, quiet tickling sound can be heard.
  • A burning smell can be sensed coming from the HDD or PCB.
  • Burned components on the PCB.
  • The HDD be connected to wrong power supply.
  • PCB’s interface damaged.

If your HDD has the above symptoms, you can swap PCB to try.

2. Second, we should find the HDD’s donor PCB

For Example: a Seagate Barracuda hard drive

1. The donor PCB should has the same board number as the damaged PCB


From the above photo, we know this PCB’s board number is 100717520. Then we can go to and put the number 100717520 in the search box:

Click on “search

Now, we find the donor board:

3. take off the bad board from HDD.

Most PCB’s screw can be taken off by using the T6/T8 star screw driver. If you don’t have the suited screw driver, you can order one with the PCB on

4. PCB’s BIOS (firmware) transfer

It means to transfer the PCB’s BIOS (firmware) from the bad board to the good donor board.
How to know which chip is BIOS?

All of the 8pins (4 pins on each sides) with 25P05VP、25P10VP、25F512、25F1024、25F1024AN、SST25VF512、SST25VF010, etc. are the BIOS.


Why we need to transfer the PCB’s BIOS?

The BIOS (firmware) includes HDD’s unique configuration data. The HDD needs this unique configuration data to work. In order to have same circuit board firmware, we have to transfer the unique configuration data from the bad board to the good donor board.

How to change the BIOS:


5 Put on the donor board
6 Test the hard drive

Put the repaired hard driver back to your computer

If it works, congratulations! Your hard driver had been fixed. If not, that means the hard drive got problem beyond the PCB. HDD includes 3 parts: PCB, hardware, heads-stack. One of them got problem, the hard driver would not work properly.

Do It Yourself Laptop Repairs

October 1st, 2012 Comments off

As much as I like fast, shiny, new computer hardware, my actual needs are such that I get along fine with gear that is best described as “trailing edge technology.” I’ve been perfectly happy with a couple of older laptops for years now, but recently suffered hardware failures on both machines — one an easy fix, the other much, much harder to resolve. Thankfully, I was able to repair both machines, and, in this post, I’ll walk you through what was involved.

First up is the easy fix.

removingdeadharddrive Removing the dead hard drive

The hard drive on my aging Compaq N610C finally died on me. Fortunately, I have a few spare HDs kicking around, and replacing a drive in this laptop takes less than 5 minutes to accomplish. I simply had to remove a screw, slide out the old drive, swap the replacement and dead drive in the mounting bracket, then pop the “new” drive back in. Fast and easy!

Unfortunately, reinstalling the OS and needed software took far, far longer than the actual replacement of the drive (an hour later, as I type this, it’s still downloading updates).

deaddrivebracket The dead drive and the mounting bracket

The second repair was the non-trivial one, since it involved a failed backlight on my Dell D430. Let’s take a look at how involved this operation turned out to be:

removebezelkeyboard Step one was to remove the bezel and keyboard

To get to the backlight inside the display panel, I didn’t have to completely disassemble the laptop, but it was darned close. The keyboard needed to be removed to give me adequate slack on the cables, then the hinges needed to be unscrewed to free the display panel.

d430disassembled Keyboard and cables freed up, hinges released

Next up, the display panel was disassembled:

bezellcdpanel Next, the bezel on the LCD panel was removed

lcdpanelrevealed The LCD panel revealed

Now, the specific problem with the backlight was that it would flash for about a second when the laptop powered up, but then the light would go dark. Presumably this meant that either the light itself or the inverter board that powered the light was defective and in need of replacement. The lighting element on this laptop is actually a very tiny fluorescent tube, much like the large ones in common use in industrial settings. The inverter board takes care of converting the low-voltage DC current from the laptop batteries into high-voltage AC current to drive the lighting element.

Given the behavior of the display, I suspected the inverter board to be a problem. If the fluorescent tube were a problem, the display would likely have failed over time, appearing reddish and dim when the machine was first powered up. Since the display flashed brightly and briefly, I was pretty sure it was not the tube at fault.

In preparation for this repair job, I’d actually purchased a replacement inverter board. To confirm that this was the problem, I swapped out the cables between the old and new inverter and powered-up the D430. Surprisingly, the backlight displayed the exact same behavior with the new inverter! Given that, I sadly concluded that the problem lay with the lighting element itself, and I was faced with a much more complicated repair.

thebacklight The backlight itself

Removal of the lighting element from the panel was the trickiest part of all. The tube is about 2mm in diameter and is incredibly fragile. I was lucky to get it loose without breaking.

During disassembly of the tube, one of the power cables dropped free. These are soldered onto the ends of the tube — or should I say that they are supposed to be soldered onto the ends of the tube. Assuming that I had not pulled the cable loose, it seemed that I had found the problem. Apparently the solder join had failed over time, leaving just enough of a connection for the start-up current to flicker the backlight, but not enough for the light to function under normal operating current.

backlight The backlight completely stripped down

I carefully cleaned and resoldered the power cable, then reassembled the system enough to test:

lettherebelight Let there be light!

Thankfully, the backlight worked!

Having solved that problem, it was time to reassemble the thing.

tubeback Tube back in display panel, electrical tape applied

Before I completely closed up the laptop, I tested the display again. It really sucks to have to backtrack in this sort of repair.

displaypanel Another test of the display panel

And finally….

success Success!

So, an hour or so later, I had the D430 back in action.

In retrospect, I’m not sure I would have undertaken the backlight repair if I’d known it was going to be this involved. I’m glad to have resurrected the laptop, rather than consigning it to some sketchy recycling program or paying someone else a hundred bucks or more to fix it; however, I honestly don’t enjoy this kind of thing as much as I used to.

So, no, I really will not fix your computer for you.

Can a Regular Person Repair a Damaged Hard Drive?

August 13th, 2012 Comments off

This story was written to detail the options a user has when a hard drive with important data dies unexpectedly. Many of you have left comments advocating the freezer trick, stating that used as a Hail Mary, you’ve had good results. I do not dispute that the freezer trick *can* work. If you have a hard drive you don’t really care about, and you’re curious to see if you can get the data, by all means, freeze it.

If you do need your data back to the point that you’re considering paying someone to retrieve it, do not freeze the drive, even as a Hail Mary. You may very well make the problem worse and end up costing yourself money.

On June 22, 2012, my primary hard drive, a Samsung HD103SI, quietly passed away. There was no warning — no grinding, no clicks, clacks, or sudden bang. One moment, I was working on a story, the next, I wasn’t.

It quickly became clear that something more serious than a simple system lock had happened. Post-reboot, the HDD would spin up smoothly, beep 12 times, and then spin down. The drive was never recognized in BIOS, which nixed any chance of using disk recovery software to extract data.

This is a story of my efforts to repair the drive myself, my research into the question of whether or not users can repair modern hard drives, and the results of my efforts. If your drive is still detected in BIOS, you may be able to use software tools to retrieve your data. Here, we’re going to focus exclusively on hardware-related failures, and what your options are.

Part of the reason for writing this story is that data recovery is difficult to accurately research unless you’re fairly versed in it to start with. There are dozens of data recovery firms, all promising clean rooms, the latest tools, and highly trained professional staff. Many firms refuse to publish their prices online, which makes comparisons difficult, and it’s apparently common for small companies to farm tough jobs out to larger ones.

Step 1: Broadly identify the type of problem

There are two broad categories of problems that can nuke a drive: PCB issues and internal component failures. If the problem is inside the drive, skip down to Step 3. If the problem is on the PCB, there is a glimmer of hope.


The best kind of PCB problem to have is a blown Transient Voltage Supressor (TVS) diode, as shown above. According to Seagate’s FAQ, a TVS diode “protects a sensitive circuit by diverting damaging overvoltages and spikes away from the load.” When a spike occurs, the diode blows. Because the diode is no longer functional, the drive won’t power up. Snip the diode off, and the drive will function normally, albeit in an unprotected fashion. Copy your data over to a functional unit, toss the old one, and count yourself lucky.

My hard drive unfortunately didn’t die this way. There was no visible damage to the PCB but when I removed the board and flipped it over I found a burned-out contact point.

Step 2: Understand your options

From here, you’ve got two choices. You can opt for a replacement PCB, or you can buy an entire donor drive. It’s important to secure as close a match as possible between the original HDD and the donor drive/board. In my case, that meant finding an HD103SI PCB that matched my drive’s make/model number, PCB number, board revision, and drive family (Trinity, in this case).


The drive controller model number and PCB codes are outlined in red.


Understand this: Simply replacing the PCB almost certainly won’t fix a dead drive. If it does, you’ve gotten lucky. Each drive ROM contains parameters and data unique to that particular device — if the parameters for your dead drive are different from those contained on the donor PCB, it won’t function.

In my case, I opted for just a PCB. In retrospect, a full drive might have been the better option, but the purchase only set me back $22 and ~14 days while my part took the slowboat from China. Swapping out the PCB eliminated the 12 beeps, but accomplished nothing else. Beep-less, my drive sat mute — spinning, but unrecognized in BIOS.

Your options at this point depend on what sort of HDD you have. Some hard drives have an externally mounted ROM/NVRAM chip that can be removed and soldered on to a new PCB. Other drives, like mine, incorporate the ROM into the controller. The only way to find out is to go digging for information online, and you’ve got to apply a strong sort filter to estimate the value of what you’ll find. A number of dubious websites advertise a “PC3000 PCI” card, for example, but this is almost always a Chinese clone of the original product, and is far too old to handle modern drives in any case. The real PC3000 UDMA test kit runs over $4000 — far more than the typical cost of a data recovery.

After my simple PCB swap didn’t work, I decided to try to repair the burned contacts on the original board. Here, your options are to either buy a conductive ink pen or to use something a bit more humble. I took the humble option, trotted over to an auto parts store, and picked up a rear window defroster repair kit. I taped off the damaged contact, applied the conductive ink, gave it 12 hours of drying time, fired up the drive…


My repaired PCB. The burned contact is at the far lower right of the group

And nothing had changed. The drive still spun up, emitted twelve beeps, and spun back down.

That was my second major disappointment and it leads directly to the next step…

Step 3: Resist the urge to do something stupid

Surf the internet for more than two minutes, and you’ll find people who recommend you do one of the following things:

  • Stick your hard drive in the freezer
  • Pop your hard drive into the oven
  • Give it a few taps with a hammer or rubber mallet

People will swear by these options and promise you that they’ve revived 15 drives just this way. Don’t listen. I’m not claiming that no person ever brought a disk back to life by jamming in amongst the frozen peas, but this strategy is far more likely to cause irreparable damage than it is to miraculously affect repairs. Keeping the drive in a ziplock bag while in the freezer won’t help; condensation will form on the drive when you remove it from the bag prior to firing it up again.


This is what happens when you take a drive out of a freezer — whether you bagged it or not

Leaving the drive in the bag until it’s returned to ambient air temperature might prevent condensation from forming on the platters or heads, but the point of the freezer trick is to run the drive at a lower temperature.

Every repair attempt you make should be balanced against the chance of doing additional damage. To that end, never open the enclosure. If putting your hard drive in the freezer is a bad idea, opening it is infinitely worse. You are not qualified to adjust the alignment of heads or platters that normally spin at 75 mph and are aligned to tolerances measured in micrometers.

Step 4: Hire a professional

This is where I ended up. I talked to a number of data retrieval companies, including Datacent and Secure Data Recovery Services. Datacent quoted me a $750 rate for drive head replacement; Secure Data Recovery was less certain of the cause, but believed repair would likely run between $1,200-$1,500. As of this writing, I haven’t decided what to do. Even after extensive research, my objective visibility on Datacent (or any other data recovery firm) is just about nil. If I opt for repair, I’ll certainly report back on my experience, but ultimately I have no way of knowing how difficult it will be for a properly equipped facility to recover my files, how long it will take, or what constitutes a fair market rate.

With all of that said, here’s a few tips on what to look for (and what to avoid).

  • No data, no fee: Avoid companies that insist on charging you for the privilege of failing to provide a useful service.
  • Low-cost evaluation + return fee: Many firms offer a free diagnosis but will charge relatively high postage to send the drive back. $25-$30 for an evaluation+postage seems fairly reasonable, we’d be cautious of companies charging $50 or more for the two services combined.
  • Avoid broad estimates: No firm can completely diagnose a hard drive by remote, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get an idea for what’s wrong. Beware of companies that offer estimates broad enough to buy a car with. At the very least, ask for estimates that fit the typical cost of specific problems
  • Check the price of parts: The quotes we received typically included the cost of replacement parts. Most companies also note, however, that difficult-to-find hardware may still add additional cost. It doesn’t hurt to see if you can self-source the part, particularly when the cost of a donor drive or PCB is a very small fraction of the total recovery fee.

Step 5: Get a (better) backup solution

I’ve learned two important lessons from this failure. The first is that different models of hard drive are more and less user-friendly; careful selection on my part when I bought the drive four years ago would’ve made it much easier to recover my data. The second is that a better backup strategy would’ve made the first point moot. Because I had a basic, episodic backup solution, much of my older data is safe. The only data I lost… was all the data related to ongoing projects that hadn’t been published yet.

That stung. The difficulty of recovering my information in the intervening month only made the situation that much more frustrating.

If you don’t have a backup solution and you actually care about your data, get one. There’s no guaranteed solution once the drive has failed and, unless you get lucky with a TVS burnout, no easy fixes. A burned out drive is your ticket to a whole lot of website surfing, information sifting, and one enormous headache from trying to separate “My cousin’s uncle’s friend’s neighbor’s dog knew a dude who threw his hard drive in a pool and it worked great” from real, reliable, data.

The forums and information at HDDGuru are a good place to start checking for information, but don’t be surprised if you have to check other places just to get an idea of what the problem might be. These waters are largely uncharted, and dragons lurk in the deep.

PS. Don’t do the freezer thing. Really.

Article By Joel Hruska.

How to resolve NTFS Partitions Problems

June 18th, 2012 Comments off

ntfs-partitions The first sector of NTFS partitions is used as the partition boot sector. It contains the information which allows the OS to read the partition. Without it, the partition cannot be accessed.

NTFS has a backup copy of the boot sector on the last sector of the partition which can allow recovery programs to restore it. The FAT also has the boot sector, and resides on the first sector of this partition. The difference is that FAT does not have a backup copy of this information; Recovery is much more difficult than NTFS.

The first file stored on an NTFS partition is called the Master File Table (MFT) which is essentially a listing of the names, properties and locations of all the other files in this partition. This is referenced by the operating system to access individual files.

NTFS stores a backup copy of this file. Data restoration software can access or restore a copy of the MFT in order to access files on the partition.

FAT partitions with something similar, called predictably enough the File Allocation Table (FAT). The FAT is also backed up on the disk, and can be restored by software. The major disadvantage of the FAT as compared to the MFT is that it needs to be located on a specific area of the partition to function, so if that area of the disk is damaged, recovery will become more difficult.

When a file is deleted (removed from the recycle bin within Windows), both file systems simply mark the file as deleted. The data is not actually removed from the hard drive, but rather the space it takes up on the disk is now considered to be free. Consequently, if you delete a file accidentally, you have an excellent chance of being able to restore it provided you do not write more information to the disk.

For example, If you two NTFS partitions on the effected disk. When you ran FDISK, it wrote garbage information over certain areas of this disk, including areas of both partitions. As a result, the first partition (the one with your article on it) had lost its partition boot sector, meaning it could not be accessed normally by an operating system. The second partition had merely had crucial system files overwritten, and was unbootable, but still can accessible once you transferred the disk to another computer.

There is a way to fix all of this, and get the data back

One rule to remember when you have lost data, please don’t write anything more to the affected hard drive!

If you have deleted a partition by accident, do not create another partition, just leave it blank.
If you have deleted files from the recycling bin that you realize you need, do notsave anything to the drive. The reason is that hard drives do not actually erase anything, not data or partitions. When you erase a file from the operating system, it is just marked on the drive as having been deleted. When the system needs to store more data on the drive, it will consider files on the drive marked ‘deleted’ as being empty space, and cheerfully copy over them. If that happens then you’re in big trouble.

Another rule applies twice over for partitions; since partition information just presents the operating system with a way of addressing the space available on the drive. If you wipe out a partition everything from it will seem to be gone.

If there is no partition information, no data can be read by the operating system. This does not mean that your data it is not there however, only that means you can’t see it. Data-recovery programs have no such handicap.

What you need to do was to allow FDISK to test the integrity of the drive, which it does by writing a pattern of data to certain areas. Of course, in the case, many of these areas contained partition information and critical system files. The result was one missing partition, due to a destroyed boot sector, and one unbootable (but still readable) XP installation.

First and best thing to do in a data-loss situation is to make sure no more data is written to the drive. Obviously, if you have just the one partition and it’s fried, you can’t boot normally to the operating system. The best option in this situation is to transfer the drive to another computer, preferably one using the same file-system as your damaged partition (such as, the same operating system, or a newer version). See the PCSTATS Beginners Guides sectionfor information on how to move your hard drive to another computer.

Transferring the HDD to another computer has the dual benefit of preventing the drive from being written to accidentally, and potentially allowing you to retrieve information from the disk just by using Windows Explorer to look through file structures.

If you have damaged or erased essential operating system files, but the partition information is still intact Windows will not boot. The HDD can still be read from a different operating system which is one way out of the doom and gloom.

All the processes described from here on are strictly for resolving software issues with your data, like accidentally deleting partitions or files. If your hard drive has a physical problem, if it is making strange noises, shaking, rattling or smoking, nothing here will apply. Turn off your computer, unplug the drive and call a data recovery service if your data are vital.

How To Fix Disk Alignment In Advanced Format Hard Drives

November 25th, 2011 Comments off

Advanced Format Hard DrivesAdvanced Format hard drives is a new technology which can be attributed as a milestone in the class of hard drives. The older format hard drives used to have a 512-bytes physical sector size and this has been the case since the invent of the hard drives in 1956. Advanced Format changes the physical sector size from 512-byte to a larger chunk of 4096-bytes while the logical sector size remains 512-bytes. This is attributed as a milestone as it will tremendously increase the performance of the hard drive for larger files while smaller files will perform slower than normal.

So how does this Advanced Format more efficient than the legacy 512-byte one? Let’s take a birds eye view at how this format works. When sectors of the hard drive are read, they are read sequentially by the head of the hard drive and the head reads after every 512-bytes of data. While Advanced Format hard drive head will read after every 4096-bytes of data combining eight 512-byte chunks into one sector which increases the speed of the head as it has to read less no. of time (8 times less theoretically).

This Advanced Format (AF) is still very new and is not supported by all the Operating Systems. If we take a look at Windows Operating System, only Windows Vista and Windows 7 support this Advanced Format. There are software and drivers for other Operating Systems like Windows XP for Advanced Format to work.

With the performance advantage, Advanced Format hard drives have some issues with the the mismatch of physical and logical sectors. I have already told you that the AF hard drives have the physical sector size of 4096-bytes and logical sector size of 512-bytes. The problem comes when you partition the hard drive and the logical partitions don’t align with the physical sector sizes. This is not a big problem but still can have some effect on the performance of the hard drive.

If you have an Advanced Format hard drive and are facing performance issues, you can test the alignment of the partitions of your hard drive by using a free tool called Disk Alignment Test. You only need to download the tool and run it. It will automatically detect and scan the AF hard drives installed in the system. The software comes in both command line and graphical user interface. You can select whatever you are comfortable with. If you are using the graphical tool, the partition with red color is the one which is not properly aligned. If you see a red partition in your hard drive, you should go to the next step otherwise relax because you are not a victim of alignment problem which this new technology causes.

If you see the red partition, then you have to identify the manufacturer of your hard drive. Most manufacturers who manufacture AF hard drives have tools to fix this problem. You can search their respective websites for the fix for this problem. Otherwise you can use a universal fix tool called Paragon Alignment tool which will fix this problem for you.

Guest post by Usman who runs his own Technology Blog.