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Guide: Open hard drive surgery
Written by Gizmo   
Sunday, 13 May 2007 21:00
Article Index
Guide: Open hard drive surgery
Identify the bodies
Expose the guts
Extract the vitals
It Lives!!!!
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What do you do when you have a dead drive with data that you really, REALLY need to recover?  Well, you can either send the drive to a data recovery outfit and spend a lot of bucks, or you can take the approach of the hardware hacker, and find another drive in your junk pile that is similar enough to swap platters.  This method can work with most hard drives.

Data Recovery

I recently had the misfortune of having to recover some data that had not been backed up from a company laptop (no, it wasn't mine).  The data on the drive were worth a considerable amount of money.  The data could be re-created, but it would take a significant amount of time to do so.  Unfortunately, the poor chap was caught between a rock and a hard place: he needed the data, but because he hadn't been following company policy (regular backups), he couldn't just come out to his boss and say that he needed to send the drive off for data recovery.  Neither could he afford to send it to a data recovery house himself.  Basically, he was looking at spending a lot of weekends and sleepless nights to re-create the lost information, and had to hope he wouldn't be called upon to produce the information until he had recovered it.

The drive in question was a Toshiba MK4025GAS.  This is a 4200 RPM drive with a 40 GB capacity and an 8 MB data cache in a 2 1/2" form factor, with an ATA 133 interface and a single platter.  The reason the drive failed was because he had pulled the drive out of his laptop to plug into his home computer system (he had a drive bay that he could plug the drive into) and had dropped the drive, whereupon it ceased to function.

Upon inspection, I determined that the spindle wasn't spinning, and shaking the drive caused a tell-tale rattle that wasn't particularly encouraging.  So, now what?

Well, the first thought that crossed my mind was to jump on E-bay and see if I could score another drive.  Unfortunately, there weren't any other drives available right then.  A quick search of the 'net revealed that there were a number of places selling replacement drives that were COMPATIBLE, but were not that exact drive.  There were some places that claimed to have the drive, but when you called, they were either out of stock, or selling a drop-in replacement.  Hmm...

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