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Guide: Open hard drive surgery - Expose the guts
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!!!!
All Pages

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So, off come the covers.  First inspection of the guts looks promising; the model numbers of the circuit boards that interface with the drive heads are the same, which is a fair indication that the heads are the same.  This is important, because different drive heads have different characteristics.  Sometimes you can't swap media between even same modeled drives, because they change to a different head during production (usually for cost reasons, but sometimes for reliability as well) and they behave differently on the media.  The data recovery guys know this, and it is my  understanding they have deals worked out with drive manufacturers to ensure that they have working samples of all the different production runs, in order to allow them to recover the data.  I would imagine the CIA and FBI have access to much the same stuff.

Things are looking promising so far.  Next step is to get the platters out.  Doing this is tricky, for several reasons:

  1. You can't get your fingers on the media.  The skin oils you leave behind will destroy the media over time.  In addition, the flying heads run so close to the platter that the debris from your fingers look like boulders and can potentially cause a head crash.
  2. You've got to maintain the media orientation, i.e. which side is up.
  3. You've got to dismount the heads.  Even at rest, when the heads are parked, they are still over the outer edge of the disk.  This is made more difficult owing to the fact that the heads are spring-loaded by the actuator arm, and removing them from the parking carrier will result in the heads either smacking the platter or smacking each other with considerable force, potentially damaging the heads.
  4. Oh yeah, the hub screw is on bloody tight, and the spindle wants to rotate while you are try to turn the screw.

However, before we deal with all of this, maybe we ought to plug the thing into some power and see if it decides it wants to work?   Well, that turned out to be a no-go.  Plugged the drive in, watched the head seek out and back, but the spindle never rotated.  Still don't know what the rattle is, though, because the heads appear to be intact.  So, on to the next step.

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