Smoking HDD

Hi all,

One of my friends had an external hard drive in an enclosure. They said it stopped working and asked me to see what I could do.

I took the drive out of the enclosure (WD 32GB 3200AAJS Caviar) and there are clear scorch marks on the top of the drive and the enclosure itself. After wiping down the drive, I plugged it in directly and as soon as it spun up, it started putting out a nasty smelling (poisonous?) smoke.

My theory is that some melted plastic has gotten by the spindle? Any advice on how to proceed? I could take off the logic board and etc, but don't want to risk it if nothing will come of it.

Should I just hang up my hex screwdriver and send it into a data recovery service? If so, any recommendations?
12 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. Data recovery services are EXPENSIVE!!

    Hang it up, buy a new one. Sorry about the lost of data.
  2. Don't plug the drive into another computer (or anything else) or you risk destroying them.
  3. @foscooter On what order of magnitude? 500? 1000? +?

    @fihart What makes you think that? Not that I don't believe you, but just to get a better understanding of what's going on/what could happen.
  4. It looks as if you have a fried circuit board, if you are lucky data may be able to be recovered by replacing said board, it won't be cheap, but probably cheaper then data recovery which can be anything into $$$$.
  5. If the drive is smoking it means that a component on the board has failed and may be causing a short circuit. This could damage the power supply or motherboard of the computer. Not worth the risk.

    As per Jonmor above the cheapest course is to obtain an identical drive and swap the circuit boards. Even then, if the fault is in the motor it will destroy the new circuit board.
  6. Thanks both of you.

    The circuit board is scorched and the enclosure is burnt above that area, so I think I'm liking my chances with this. Going to do some more research and try and find a PCB that matches my drive. Will update with results.

    Hopefully I won't have to deal with unsoldering/resoldering the ROM chips as I don't have that much solder gun experience. :??:
  7. This may be a simple fix, the capacitors near the power connector (electrically across the connectors) have a habit of going short circuit, and simply removing the capacitor may enable you to use the hard drive.
  8. Remove a capacitor??? surely you would replace it not just remove it..its more likely an IC which is friedcausing the smoke. Just try and find the exact same model drive and swap the circuit boards.
  9. You could of course replace the capacitor but if it is a capacitor across the power supply then the hard drive may work without it. IC's do not often go catastrophically wrong without being abused in some way and is unlikely to smoke. I have seen many times these capacitors going faulty in the way described by Anonymous. Replacing the circuit boards is unlikely to work.
  10. Best answer
    The usual culprit is a short circuited TVS (transient voltage suppression) diode near the SATA power connector. These diodes sacrifice themselves in the presence of an overvoltage, thereby protecting the rest of the electronics. If your power supply can be trusted, then the easiest remedy is to snip the shorted diode with flush cutters. The drive will OK without it, but it will no longer have overvoltage protection on the affected supply rail.

    For continued protection, a 12V diode can be replaced with an SMBJ12A, and a 5V diode can be substituted with an SMAJ5.0A. Both are available from Farnell, Mouser, Digikey.

    These URLs should help you identify the components:

    Other common culprits are the motor control IC, often marked "SMOOTH".

    If you need to replace the PCB, then you will most probably need to transplant an 8-pin serial EEPROM chip from patient to donor. This chip stores unique drive specific calibration data. Sometimes the ROM data are internal to the MCU chip, eg Marvell 88ixxxx, in which case professional data recovery would most probably be required.

    If you upload a detailed photo of the component side of the PCB to a file sharing service, then I may be able to help you identify the fault.
  11. Best answer selected by NeoElemental.
  12. Just to inform you all of what happened. The problem was not simply a short. The drive's PCB was scorched. I ended up sending it in for data recovery and ended up paying $350 to get the PCB replaced and the ROM chip on the old drive's PCB read and rewritten to the new PCB.

    The PCB repair by itself would have cost something like 50-75, which didn't seem terribly unreasonable. Compared to quotes I was expecting, $350 seemed like a good deal. Just wanted to close this up so people could see what they could expect, especially as companies freaking NEVER post any information about prices.
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