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Hard Disk Drive Failure Recovery Case Study: Hard Drive Not Spinning

WD Blue hard disk drive failure

The client in this data recovery case came to our lab after suffering a hard disk drive failure. Their Western Digital hard drive had stopped spinning altogether, cutting the client off from all of the photos they had stored on the drive. Fortunately, when they noticed their hard drive not spinning, they brought it to the hard drive repair specialists at Gillware Data Recovery. Our Western Digital hard drive data recovery experts have the know-how and tools needed to successfully recover their lost data.

WD Blue hard disk drive failure


Hard Disk Drive Failure Recovery Case Study: Hard Drive Not Spinning
Drive Model: Western Digital WD Blue WD60EZRZ-00RWYB1
Drive Capacity: 6 TB
Operating System: Windows
Situation: Hard drive not spinning, cannot access data. Total hard disk drive failure
Type of Data Recovered: Photos
Binary Read: 15.1%
Gillware Data Recovery Case Rating: 9


Since the invention of the gramophone, most forms of audiovisual recording and data storage have relied on making things spin. Hard disk drives are no different. When IBM invented the first hard drive, a stack of disks coated with magnetic paint spun at 1,200 revolutions per minute. These disks had a total storage capacity of five megabytes and were roughly the size and shape of vinyl records. The hard drive itself was about the size of a refrigerator and had to be moved with a forklift. Today, a hard drive can hold over a terabyte of data on a single 3.5-inch hard disk platter. The platters in your typical hard drive spin at 5,400 to 7,200 RPM.

Why is Your Hard Drive Not Spinning?

Put on a record, let it play for a while, then cut the power. When the record stops spinning, the music no longer plays. The needle needs the record under it to move in order to produce any sound. While the technology inside it is far more advanced, your hard drive works in much the same way. The magnetic read/write heads inside your hard drive have a limited range of motion, and can only read data from all of the disks’ surfaces if the platters are moving.

Three possible culprits can stop your hard disk drive’s platters from spinning. The first is the control board. Power flows through the board and powers the spindle motor, setting the platter in motion. If the board fails, the motor receives no power. The second is the stack of read/write heads. If these heads collide with the platters and clamp down on the disks, they can hold them in place and prevent them from spinning. The third is the spindle motor itself. The motor can fail and burn out, leaving the platters with no way to spin.

Recovering from Hard Disk Drive Failure in Gillware’s Data Recovery Lab

Our hard drive repair expert Drew took a look at the client’s Western Digital hard drive inside our cleanroom data recovery lab. The hard drive’s control board still worked, and its read/write heads looked to be in good shape. This left only one possible culprit—the motor itself.

Spindle Motor

This spindle motor has been taken out of the chassis and has had its bearings removed. (source)

When spindle motors seize up, one common point of failure is the lubricated bearings inside the motor. Over time, the lubricant eventually dries up and becomes unable to protect the motor from the forces of friction. Eventually, the motor seizes up and the hard disk platters grind to a halt. The lubrication inside the spindle motor can’t be reapplied. To get the platters spinning again, we needed a new motor.

To replace a spindle motor, our engineers take the platters out of the drive and carefully set them into a donor hard drive. The donor drive must be as close of a match as possible. Due to the drive-unique calibrations stored on the control board’s ROM chip, the original control board must also be swapped over to the original drive. Doing this is actually more efficient than replacing the motor itself.

Since the read/write heads in the client’s drive were still functional as well, Drew swapped those into the donor as well. Hard drives are all uniquely calibrated for the various tolerances and quirks of manufacturing in their parts. Therefore, a hard drive will never truly perform optimally with another drive’s read/write heads (although in many hard drive repair scenarios, our engineers have no other choice). When our engineers repair failed hard drives, it is best to use the hard drive’s original parts whenever possible.

Hard Disk Drive Failure Recovery Results

After burnishing the hard disk platters and carefully placing them in the donor chassis, as well as performing the other necessary operations, our cleanroom data recovery engineer Drew could start reading data from the failed hard drive. With the delicate HDD surgical procedures out of the way, imaging the hard drive’s contents went smoothly. Drew successfully recovered 99.7% of the client’s photographs after reading 15.1% of the platters’ contents. A handful of the recovered photos had incomplete reads due to some bad sectors on the hard drive’s platters, but these incompletely-recovered files made up a scant 0.3% of the files on the disk. We rated this Western Digital data recovery case a 9 on our ten-point scale.

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