DIY repair of a hard disk?

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Is it possible to repair a hard disk DIY under some circumstances?

I have some old hard disks that I'd like to stick on a similarly old
computer. One failed suddenly -- BIOS & O/S did not detect it without
warning -- everything was working fine up to that point. Another had a
"bang" sound and stopped working.

Both warranties on the drives have lapsed, and I'd like to try to DIY
repair them. If I don't suceed, well, the drives were broken anyway and
at least I get a first hand view of what it looks like inside a drive.

Not quite sure about the former drive, but the latter one sounds like a
blown capacitor, which can be re-soldered on if I knew exactly what I'm
looking for.

If I need to open up the vacuum casing of the HD, can I quite safely
assume it would never work reliably again?

Do you have any advice/links that you think may be useful?

Re: DIY repair of a hard disk?

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I'd say nope to both... One has a logic error - possible fix with a new
board. The other a mechanical failure that would have damaged the
heads/platters. If they are the same model, you could try swapping logic

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I've actually repaired IDE drives by opening the cover. I never trust them
with anything important, but I do have a  Maxtor here that I've had for 5+
years after opening up. It still works. For some reason the head or bearings
had stuck so the platters wouldn't turn - I opened it, gave the platter a
nudge with my finger on the edge, reassembled it and all was well.

Re: DIY repair of a hard disk?

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although i have done a few emergency repairs...
your chance of being successful is very small...
and then the drive would prob. not be reliable anyway.

you should be able to get a good , used drive for next to nothing.
i have a small collection of drives that i;ve pulled from discarded

Re: DIY repair of a hard disk?

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The HDA is not under vacuum. There is a "breather hole", intended
to equalize pressure between the inside and outside. The breather
hole is a very fine filter, intended to filter out dust. For
example, this company makes breather hole filters:

HDA assemblies are produced in a Class 100 clean room.
That means that fine particulate in the air is filtered out. The
staff wear bunny suits, to keep dandruff and dead skin cells from
polluting the room. It is the same kind of environment used
to work with integrated circuits.

The instant you disassemble the HDA where the platters and head
assembly live, you are introducing the unfiltered dusty air of
your room.

When the spindle is spinning, there is a flow of air off the platters.
This air flow is used to flush any tiny particles, towards
the outside edge of the platters. There is another filter of some
sort, that catches the air blowing off the disk, and traps the
particles. This helps to trap any debris generated during the
life of the drive. Whether that cleaning process would be
sufficient to remove the dust from your room is debatable.

The flying height of the heads, above the platter, is
measured in microns. The dust in the room is bigger than
the clearance between the flying head and the platter, so
you can imagine what the head assembly would be swimming in.
And if the head is bumped, and the height between head and
disk changes, the head loses some of the recovered signal.

You can try opening it up, but don't expect miracles.

This is the kind of environment you'd want. Just the process
of inserting a screwdriver into the head of the screw, generates
particles, and compared to the inside of this glove box, the
outside of your disk drive, is filthy. So, your first problem
would be how to clean the outside of the assembly, before
stuffing it into the glove box.

I found a nice web page with more info:


Re: DIY repair of a hard disk?

If you get one microscopic bit of dust on the platters, which is
unavoidable, it is history.  You can try repairing the circuit board, but if
you open the case you are condemning it.


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Re: DIY repair of a hard disk?

I have opened a Seagate 50GB SCSI drive to activate the stuck spindle. After
that, I low-level format the drive and check with Spinrite 6.0. There were
no errors. It has been working well up to now for 6 months. I think that
even if the dust particles are larger than the headroom of the head to the
platter, they can never go between them at a high speed of 7200 rpm. If it
is sure that the drive stuck, it pays to open it than to scrape it. I agree
that the analog board must be sure to be in perfect condition before opening
the drive.
F. Hui

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Re: DIY repair of a hard disk?

On Tue, 29 Nov 2005 02:50:21 GMT, "Free Hui"

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You are very lucky, I've opened and freed several stuck
spindles and while sometimes it allows copying off data,
most often the drive violently seizes up in the middle of
operation, even jolting the drive a few inches across the
desk when it happens if not secured.

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The high speed doesn't prevent this at all, it just makes
the collision with the head all that much more damaging.
Such a collision has a very high chance of causing damage,
possibly including particles off the platter surface which
cause further collisions.  It may not mean a total failure
of the drive though, perhaps a few sectors lost, and we
can't be sure the dust would just sit there on a platter
spinning at 7K2 rather than being slung off so it wasn't of
consequence, but it is still a very real problem with
opening a drive.

Such things are generally done in a last ditch desperate
effort to retrieve data that isn't worth the cost of a
recovery center, right before throwing the drive away.

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