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Platter salvage transfer

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September 6, 2011 2:36:49 PM

My HDD is fine right now

Just wondering that short of sending hdd to expensive recovery lab, are there any known DIY project that managed to accomplished this?

(physical transfer of platters from dead HDD to another working HDD chassis, of course excluding cases with damage to platters)
a c 289 G Storage
September 6, 2011 8:52:58 PM

Glad to hear that your HDD is fine.

Platters cannot be moved DIY for at least two reasons. The first is that you would need a very good clean-room to even open and close a hard drive without breaking it. Any dust, lint, skin flakes, or corn flakes would prevent the drive from ever working again.

The second is that most HDDs now come with a chip on the controller board that has been calibrated to, and is specific to, the combination of platters / heads / whatever else is in there.

The closest that is done as a DIY is replacing the controller board. There are two groups of opinion on this right now: One is that if you choose the parts well enough, and move that chip of which I spoke, you can recover data from a drive if the problem was the controller board. The other camp holds that this is arrant nonsense and a waste of your time. Full disclosure: I belong to the second camp.

What is done on a DIY basis a lot is recovering data from drives where the directory structure, the partition information, or a limited number of blocks have been corrupted. This is done with software that reads the drive as raw data and tries to reconstruct the container information.

Try it someday - with two drives that don't have anything on them that you need. It might be fun.
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September 6, 2011 9:24:46 PM

WyomingKnott said:
Glad to hear that your HDD is fine.

Platters cannot be moved DIY for at least two reasons. The first is that you would need a very good clean-room to even open and close a hard drive without breaking it. Any dust, lint, skin flakes, or corn flakes would prevent the drive from ever working again.

The second is that most HDDs now come with a chip on the controller board that has been calibrated to, and is specific to, the combination of platters / heads / whatever else is in there.

The closest that is done as a DIY is replacing the controller board. There are two groups of opinion on this right now: One is that if you choose the parts well enough, and move that chip of which I spoke, you can recover data from a drive if the problem was the controller board. The other camp holds that this is arrant nonsense and a waste of your time. Full disclosure: I belong to the second camp.

What is done on a DIY basis a lot is recovering data from drives where the directory structure, the partition information, or a limited number of blocks have been corrupted. This is done with software that reads the drive as raw data and tries to reconstruct the container information.

Try it someday - with two drives that don't have anything on them that you need. It might be fun.


Thnx for your reply.

I think dust wont be much of an issue because I believe any sane pc user would only try it as their last ditch effort, like baking GPUs. I imagine it to be a one shot operation just to image and transfer the hdds. I think it's possible because there are some video showing people running windows with open hdds to demonstrate how the drive works.

I came up with this idea when 3,4 years ago while messing around with old hdds I found out that the platter(s) are being held inplace by just 2 -4 pieces of hollow aluminum-cylinder-ring bolt(also sounds nice when dropped) things which looks to me like how lens are being held in lens assembly but in reverse. I used to disassemble and reassemble lens just for fun so I thought it might be possible with platters too.

I could thing of some procedure that have to be develop just now.

-accessing platter
-protecting platter surface while working
-removeing platter from pivot safely
-align/ install platter
-verify that failure in testing wont be destructive.


Perhaps boards and controller chips varies widely but does the PLATTER's physical property itself uniform across all manufacturers? also, compatibility among hdd of same model is a guarantee right?
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a c 288 G Storage
September 6, 2011 9:25:31 PM

WyomingKnott, I suggest that you spend some time in the data recovery forums where the professionals hang out (eg hddguru.com), rather than relying on the dubious information in user forums. Perhaps then you will come to recognise that the people in the first camp (ie those that understand that modern drives have unique "adaptives") really do know what they are talking about.
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a c 415 G Storage
September 6, 2011 9:35:45 PM

If your drive is working fine right now then you should simply assume that if/when it dies it'll be as useful as a brick. Plan ahead and do regular backups - that way you'll be assured that your data is safe without having to bet on a long shot in order to recover.

fzabkar: I basically agree with WyomingKnott in that I think you're far, far better off to have additional copies of your data rather than rely on trying to recover it from a drive that may have died for a myriad of reasons. I've seen your posts and I have great respect your knowledge of drive repair - but IMHO that's a last resort for the foolish or naive people who don't have a backup. I think of it as akin to equipping aircraft with parachutes rather than redundant engines.
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a c 289 G Storage
September 6, 2011 10:17:07 PM

fzabkar said:
WyomingKnott, I suggest that you spend some time in the data recovery forums where the professionals hang out (eg hddguru.com), rather than relying on the dubious information in user forums. Perhaps then you will come to recognise that the people in the first camp (ie those that understand that modern drives have unique "adaptives") really do know what they are talking about.

With all due respect, I retain the opinion for the first-time DIYer this is still a pretty iffy proposition. Based mostly on spending time in the forums where the non-professionals hang out, which is the context in which I answered this question. Professionals can mostly do it - I've paid them to do it for me! But the average user here is nowhere near that level with training, knowledge, and experience.

As an analogy, I know that there are people who hunt rhinoceroses or rhinoceri or whatever they are called professionally. (That was a poorly-constructed sentence. Rhinos are not called anything "professionally," the adverb was intended to modify the verb "hunt.") But I wouldn't recommend it for someone on his or her first hunt. The odds of success would be low.
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a c 288 G Storage
September 6, 2011 10:21:37 PM

sminlal: I have no idea where you got the impression that I consider backups to be unnecessary, or of secondary importance. I've seen and repaired enough head crashes on expensive production systems to know first hand just how important backups are.

In fact, if you want to see what I really think about backups, I suggest you visit hddguru.com and take note of my signature line. ;-)

BTW, I respect both yourself and WyomingKnott, as far as your expertise as end users goes. You're both probably streets ahead of me in the user aspects of storage technology. However, we all need to recognise our limitations. If you want to know how hard drives work at the chip and firmware level, then you won't learn much at tomshardware.com. Instead I suggest you pick up a book on electronics, or lurk at professional data recovery forums. That said, I'm not a data recovery pro, only an interested observer with a chip-level electronics background.
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a c 288 G Storage
September 6, 2011 10:28:09 PM

The cost of moving "adaptives" from a patient PCB to a donor varies from $0 to $20, if they are stored in a separate flash memory IC.

Some board suppliers include such a "ROM transfer" or "firmware transfer" service. Otherwise you only need the professional soldering services of your local TV/AV repairer. Sending such a simple job to a professional data recovery company would be like asking your cardiac specialist to apply a bandaid to your cut finger.
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a c 289 G Storage
September 6, 2011 10:36:25 PM

fzabkar said:
Sending such a simple job to a professional data recovery company would be like asking your cardiac specialist to apply a bandaid to your cut finger.

No offense meant, none taken. On the other hand, our family GP used to be one of the finest vascular surgeons in the country, who kept a small general practice for family and friends. So I guess I've gotten pretty close to that example!

Yeah, I know what you meant. This is just my sense of humor running away with my mouth, or fingers, again.
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September 7, 2011 12:09:59 AM

So in the worse case that backup regime failed, and supersensitive/important data left stranded in dead hdd, the safest and most cost effective course of action is to use recovery service? (that is possibly in another country)

btw does freezing/ baking /slight shaking hdd have any magical effect on recovery?
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a c 415 G Storage
September 7, 2011 4:56:38 AM

dontknownotsure said:
So in the worse case that backup regime failed, and supersensitive/important data left stranded in dead hdd, the safest and most cost effective course of action is to use recovery service? (that is possibly in another country)


I'm sure that fzabkar would strongly disagree with this, and I'm sure he's right that for some types of drive failures it really is possible to fix them yourself. For example I've seen posts about how to replace fuses on the drive controller card, and if that's the problem and you have the equipment and a bit of skill with a soldering iron then it's far more cost effective to do it yourself.

The biggest problem I have with the idea of repairing a drive yourself is that there are many potential reasons for drive failure and I'd really hesitate before suggesting that a novice could diagnose the problem and apply the correct solution without making things worse. I think it's akin to telling somebody that they're wasting money to pay a mechanic when they could fix their car themselves. It's a true enough statement, but not everyone has the tools and skills to do the job and if you screw it up then you may end up paying more than if you'd given the job to a mechanic in the first place.

I have several decades of experience in the computer industry, and although its never been my trade I have even built my own gadgets using microcontrollers and homemade printed circuits. Despite this, I've never considered trying to repair a hard drive myself - I value my data far too highly so I'm very disciplined with my backup strategy. For me, backups allow me to treat hard drives as disposable items that aren't not worth the bother to repair.

BTW I'm one of those people who have made videos of open hard drives working. But "working" is a relative term - the drives I used were dead as far as their ability to read and write data so I had already written them off. But that doesn't stop them from spinning and moving their heads in pretty much the same fashion that they do when they're working properly - so it makes a good demonstration of how hard drives work.

btw does freezing/ baking /slight shaking hdd have any magical effect on recovery? said:
btw does freezing/ baking /slight shaking hdd have any magical effect on recovery?
I wouldn't recommend shaking, and I have no personal experience other than reading anecdotal tales of how freezing a hard drive overnight has sometimes allowed people to recover the data off a recalcitrant drive. IMHO that's an "if all else fails" kind of proposition.
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a c 289 G Storage
September 7, 2011 12:49:13 PM

On the flip side of my claiming that you need a clean room, there was once a fad for replacing part of the HDD casing with clear plexiglass so that you could see the drive whirring. Not something that people bother to do with SSDs, for obvious reasons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF1DGFwQ4po
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a c 288 G Storage
September 7, 2011 9:39:45 PM

Before sending your drive to a data recovery service, you need to first consider the question of privacy, and the possibility of damage or loss in transit. You should also attempt to determine whether the problem is a logical one (eg file system damage) or a physical one (board fault or internal damage). Just about anyone should be able to handle a logical data recovery, including the end user. A board problem can in most cases be fixed by the end user, with a little external help if soldering is required. Internal damage, however, requires professional intervention. That said, if the drive has crashed, then 99.99% of data recovery professionals will be incapable of doing anything with your drive. In this case your only real option will be companies such as Kroll Ontrack or Seagate's i365.

In fact the biggest problem is in deciding who to trust from a competence point of view. The data recovery industry is completely unregulated, despite the massive fees that are charged. There is no professional accreditation body, so any ex-IT keyboard puncher or PC board jockey can just hang out his shingle and start offering his services. And that's exactly what happens. These people are mesmerised by dollar signs and the ka-ching of cash registers, so they invest in tools such as PC3000 from Ace Laboratory, Salvation Data's HD Doctor, DeepSpar Imager, Atola Insight, etc.
The formula for success appears to be ...

data recovery wannabe + expensive tool + manual = HDD Guru

Most of these people start out knowing nothing and rely on their tools to do their thinking for them. Some do Scott Moulton's data recovery course, and after only 5 days of tuition they receive Scott's "Data Recovery Expert Certification". Many wouldn't recognise the hot end of a soldering iron and end up outsourcing even the simplest of soldering jobs. At HDD Guru I've had to teach several DR "professionals" how a multimeter works and then show them how to use one. I've had to explain to them how to distinguish between a resistor and a capacitor, even when the resistor was identified with an "R" on the PCB and the capacitor with a "C". I've had to show them how to find a fuse (it is usually near the power source), and how to identify the TVS diodes (a very common problem). I've had to explain to them that the funny numbers on the chips are actually date codes and marking codes, not part numbers. These are all things that every junior technician knows, or should know. The amount of incompetence that I've witnessed at the HDD Guru forums alone should be enough to scare anyone into implementing a rigorous, bullet-proof backup regime.

Some other things I've seen are shorted TVS diodes replaced by wire links (ie a short circuit replaced by a short circuit) and zero-ohm resistors (ie fuses) removed altogether. I've seen quotes of US$850 to remove a HPA (a simple 5-minute job using freeware), $650 for a stiction fault (a 10-minute job involving a little manual dexterity and not much else), and $1400 to remove a shorted protection diode (a $0 DIY fix).

The fact is that many jobs are trivial, but the data recovery profession is able to command such ridiculous fees because they cultivate an aura of mystique via their unwritten code of silence. One reprehensible individual contacted me privately and asked me not to reveal their "secrets". In fact many of the regulars at hddguru.com despise me because I attempt to help those same people that they would like to exploit. I'm the guy in the audience who lifts the magician's black curtain and exposes the wires, pulleys and trapdoors.

As for the question of who to trust, there are some individuals in the DR profession that I respect, both for their integrity and competence, but anyone else would just be a crapshoot.

BTW, on the subject of clear plexiglass covers, be aware that some WD models use a cover screw to retain the head stack. Simply disturbing this screw renders the drive inoperable. DR people claim that it sometimes requires several hours of trial-and-error before they can get the drive working again, and even then the data can only be accessed with difficulty.
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September 14, 2011 12:34:38 AM

WyomingKnott said:
On the flip side of my claiming that you need a clean room, there was once a fad for replacing part of the HDD casing with clear plexiglass so that you could see the drive whirring. Not something that people bother to do with SSDs, for obvious reasons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF1DGFwQ4po


Perhaps with SSD you melt top hal of IC, replace with clear plastic to see NAND arrays live in action! lol
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a c 415 G Storage
September 14, 2011 1:11:05 AM

dontknownotsure said:
Perhaps with SSD you melt top hal of IC, replace with clear plastic to see NAND arrays live in action! lol
You mean like this?

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a c 415 G Storage
September 21, 2011 3:45:42 PM

It's an EPROM - "Eraseable Programmable Read Only Memory". Like flash memory, it's a memory chip that doesn't loose its data when you turn the power off. And like flash, the contents can be erased and reprogrammed. But to erase an EPROM you need to shine an ultraviolet light on the chip for several minutes - hence the quartz window.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eprom
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!