Basic Information of Hard Disk Drive (Part II)

If a drive has damaged data in the SA, for example in the firmware code module, it might become unusable. To repair these disks, the HDD can be switched to a so called ‘safe mode’, by setting specific jumpers on the drive. If the drive is operating in safe mode, it bypasses its own firmware. Instead, it wants the user to upload firmware to its ram. If the user uploads a correct ‘temporary’ firmware to RAM, it starts executing that firmware. If this uploaded RAM code (the ‘loader’) starts operating, the user can then start to issue ATA commands to the drive to modify the damaged modules.

Firmware files that you can find on a site like this contain a lot of files. First, there is the ‘loader’ file (*.LDR). This file is the ‘temporary’ firmware code, that’s being uploaded to the RAM (so, it’s not being written to disk). Then, there are a lot of ‘*.RPM’ files. These files represent the different modules, which can be written to the SA. The filenames consist of 8 numbers. The first 4 numbers specify the (hex) UBA and the second 4 numbers represent the hexadecimal module size in sectors (each sector normally contains 512 bytes, so for example, if a filename ends in 0002, then that module is 1024 bytes long). So, in short, after uploading the loader to RAM, the user can start replacing damaged modules by overwriting them with correct ones.

BTW, please note that the term ‘firmware’ for the packages on this site is not very well chosen, since these packages contain all needed modules to repair a HDD and not just the firmware (=code) module.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a specific firmware module, you can do 3 things:

1) rip the firmware modules from the SA of an identical HDD
2) get these modules from a friend (or for example, from the files section on this site:
3) use a firmware update program from the vendor.

About this last option: firmware updates from vendors are pretty rare, since firmware code almost never needs to be replaced. However, Maxtor for example, had some problems with the firmware code on some Diamondmax HDD models. So, they issued a firmware update. This update consists of 2 files:

1) the executable file that issues the ATA ‘download microcode’ command to upload the firmware files to the HDD
2) The firmware code, consisting of the ‘main’ firmware code and ‘overlay’ code modules.