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Magnetic Torque Control Screwdriver Okay for HDD Repair?

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January 18, 2012 6:10:11 PM

Hello,
I've got a friend who is desperate to fix his hard drive and recover some important data on it. He blew his power supply, and the HDD went out with it. He is also poor, and so can't afford the high cost of professional data recovery. I was planning on setting up a lab to repair Hard drives anyways, so I figured I'd help him out. I'm pretty sure it's just the logic board that went out, and I ordered an exact model replacement for it. I also ordered a torque control screwdriver, but I did not realize it was magnetic. Is the fact that this thing is magnetic going to be a problem?

Thanks in advance!
Joey.
a b ) Power supply
a b G Storage
January 18, 2012 6:31:36 PM

Hmm possibly. The platters on a HDD are magentic (or I should say, the data written is magnetic based) so you could possibly destroy the data. Better to be on the safe side and not use (a magnetic) one.

Heres a good little guide, probably best to read it all before you start:

http://www.wikihow.com/Swap-Hard-Disk-Drive-Platters
January 18, 2012 7:48:15 PM

Okay. I'll return it. That is a pretty nice guide! I wasn't planning on doing a hard disk swap, because I don't have a multi-platter removal tool. I would be willing to spring for it, though if someone knows where I can get one for under $200.

Does anybody know where I could get one (platter removal tool) on the cheap?
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a b ) Power supply
a b G Storage
January 18, 2012 8:22:26 PM

Not too sure where you could get a platter removal tool.

But one more thing to mention is that you might want to try disassembling a broken HDD (not the one you plan on transplanting, of course) first just to get the feel of how to take them apart.

I've taken apart literally 100's of HDD's - and some were definately easier to take apart than some others. Some needed special Torx T6 or T8 drivers, and those seem to be somewhat hard to find (well back in the day).
January 18, 2012 8:38:31 PM

Shouldn't the logic board be easily replaced with a standard screw driver (magnetic or not)? You may need T6 or T8 drivers, but a magnetic screwdriver shouldn't harm the HDD as long it never enters the HDD's internals.

I've replace quit a few boards with success using magnetic screwdrivers. I would however, never use one taking platter out. More than likely, the magnet will make the screw driver attach to things you didnt want to attach too ;) 

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a b ) Power supply
a c 415 G Storage
January 18, 2012 8:38:58 PM
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A magnetic screwdriver won't cause any problems just because it's magnetic. Hard drives have a much, much more powerful magnet INSIDE the case that drives the head actuator - no magnetic screwdriver is going to come anywhere close to that.

The reason a screwdriver might damage the drive is if you use it to open the case. With the case open, dust in the air will contaminate the platters and cause all kinds of problems. You should never open the case unless you have a high-grade clean room from which all air contaminants have been filtered.
a b ) Power supply
a c 415 G Storage
January 18, 2012 8:44:07 PM

Chainzsaw said:
Here's a good little guide, probably best to read it all before you start:

http://www.wikihow.com/Swap-Hard-Disk-Drive-Platters
This is a very dangerous article and misleading article for two reasons:

1) Opening the case will almost certainly contaminate the drive and render it inoperable, and

2) Most modern drives store operating parameters unique to the drive on the platters themselves or in flash memory on the controller board. These parameters adjust for minute differences in the precision tolerances between the platters, the access arms/heads, and the head actuator. Trying to transplant the platters into a different drive, even if an identical model, will not work for such drives.
January 19, 2012 1:49:48 AM

Best answer selected by the_joey_o.
January 19, 2012 1:55:45 AM

sminlal said:
This is a very dangerous article and misleading article for two reasons:

1) Opening the case will almost certainly contaminate the drive and render it inoperable, and

2) Most modern drives store operating parameters unique to the drive on the platters themselves or in flash memory on the controller board. These parameters adjust for minute differences in the precision tolerances between the platters, the access arms/heads, and the head actuator. Trying to transplant the platters into a different drive, even if an identical model, will not work for such drives.


I'd heard about the first thing you said, and I was all geared up to build a Class 1000 clean "room" (more of a clean box, on top of a desk). That is, until I learned that I needed a platter extraction tool for multiple platters. That priced opening up his HDD out of my reach, unfortunately.

I have a question about the second thing you said: If you get a hdd with the same model number & firmware, wouldn't you be able to swap the platters?
a b ) Power supply
a b G Storage
January 19, 2012 12:50:47 PM

sminlal said:
This is a very dangerous article and misleading article for two reasons:

1) Opening the case will almost certainly contaminate the drive and render it inoperable, and

2) Most modern drives store operating parameters unique to the drive on the platters themselves or in flash memory on the controller board. These parameters adjust for minute differences in the precision tolerances between the platters, the access arms/heads, and the head actuator. Trying to transplant the platters into a different drive, even if an identical model, will not work for such drives.



1) For one thing, I highly doubt he would have access to a professional clean room. I only provided the link for more information. Any information is better than no information!

Simply "opening up a HDD" will not render it inoperable immediately. It would definately take some time, and the air quality would have to be horrible. Once it's transplanted though you will definately not have much time (due to of course the contaminents).

2) This may be the case now, but years ago - you could have done it. These days they seem to be too advanced for their own good.

3) Also I don't think the article is "dangerous" per - se. It can help people to do what they want if they don't have the money for a proper professional recovery service, which can easily run over $1000 for just a few hundred gigabytes worth of data. When doing these types of things you just have to be careful with what your doing, and to not rush.



Just curious sminlal, do you work for a data recovery service?
January 19, 2012 1:29:28 PM

I've done this before, in terms of swapping out the controller boards. It's a delicate operation, but provided that one knows the hard drive batch, the serial number, the revision, and/or the day made, it becomes a lot easier in terms of compatibility.

My experience has been that different revisions in a family of hard drives tend to not play well with one another due to small changes done in the firmware and hardware as the companies find bugs, fix bugs, and refine the drives for cheaper mass production.

Let's say we have two Seagate 320GB drives that are the exact same model number. A controller board swap may or may not work, depending if these two drives are the same revision and have the same firmware. Compatibility is the highest if one can manage to track down a donor drive that was made in the same batch and left the factory at roughly the same time before the company changed anything. Most of the problems I've seen come in where people think they just have to match the model number.

Tolerances aren't particularly good as you increase to larger size drives. In some cases the controller board will not work 100% at first until it has a chance to basically "map" the quirks of a drive.
a b ) Power supply
a c 415 G Storage
January 19, 2012 4:35:11 PM

the_joey_o said:
If you get a hdd with the same model number & firmware, wouldn't you be able to swap the platters?
Not necessarily. It depends on whether the controller stores operating information in flash memory and, if so, how closely it matches the new platters. For such a drive, you may have to desolder and swap the flash memory chips on the controller boards along with the platters, and that's not an easy task with modern surface-mount chips.

Chainzsaw said:
Simply "opening up a HDD" will not render it inoperable immediately. It would definately take some time, and the air quality would have to be horrible.

Just curious sminlal, do you work for a data recovery service?
The air quality doesn't have to be "horrible" at all. The head flying height of modern drives is so small that contaminants completely invisible to the naked eye or even with a magnifying glass will cause problems if the head hits them. Yes, the drive may run for a short while, but with modern high-capacity hard drives taking several hours to read completely you'd have to be a heck of an optimist to believe you'd be able to recover all the data.

And no, I don't work for a data recovery service and I'm not trying to push anything - other than perhaps the idea that people should have backups of their data rather than relying on desperate measures like this to try to recover it from a failed drive.
a b ) Power supply
a b G Storage
January 19, 2012 5:12:48 PM

sminlal said:

The air quality doesn't have to be "horrible" at all. The head flying height of modern drives is so small that contaminants completely invisible to the naked eye or even with a magnifying glass will cause problems if the head hits them. Yes, the drive may run for a short while, but with modern high-capacity hard drives taking several hours to read completely you'd have to be a heck of an optimist to believe you'd be able to recover all the data.

And no, I don't work for a data recovery service and I'm not trying to push anything - other than perhaps the idea that people should have backups of their data rather than relying on desperate measures like this to try to recover it from a failed drive.


I definately agree with the back up statement, however the OP clearly posted he was helping a friend (who is in a humble situation right now). So some people just don't have that luxury option of getting a proper back up.


...I wonder if there is anyone out there that is the owner of a professional data recovery service who is willing to lend the OP's friend a free session?

Considering the cost...I highly doubt it, but it would be a very nice gesture (and in my eyes, would be a company worthy of praise - and more business!).

However it goes - good luck the joey. I hope it works out for you (whichever way you go).
!