Hard Drive Repair

Repairing hard drives is a mix of art and science, combining talented recovery engineers along with proprietary software and a few other high-tech utilities and utilizing them to recovery data from most any device, including USB drives, external hard drives, and internal drives.

Repairing a hard drive is similar to putting a spare tire on your car. The spare tire’s purpose is to get you to a location where you can get a new, full-size tire. It is not meant for cross-country family trips.

Same with hard drive repair. The repairs our engineers make to hard drives are to get the drive up and running long enough to extract the data from the device. A repaired hard drive should never be put back in to a computer for everyday use.

Hard drives that come to our lab usually have one of two problems: physical damage or parts failure, or logical damage/corruption. Let’s take a look at each of these categories.

read write heads

Read/Write Heads Repair

Read/write heads are tiny sensors that read and write data to and from the platters. The higher the capacity of the hard drive, the more read/write heads the hard drive will have.
pcb closeup

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Repair

The PCB (Printed Circuit Board) allows electricity to pass between various components that allow the hard drive to operate normally. You will find the PCB when you flip a hard drive over, usually green or blue in color.
Hard drive spindle motor removed from chassis and dismantled

Spindle Motor Repair

The high rotational speed of a hard disk’s platters generates the thin cushion of air that keeps your hard drive’s read/write heads afloat. All of this happens because the hard drive spindle motor dutifully does its job.
A hard disk platter in Gillware's burnishing machine

Hard Drive Platter Repair

Platters are thin, circular discs made of glass or aluminum inside the sealed hard drive enclosure. Each platter surface is coated with an extremely thin magnetic substrate that stores the user’s binary data in the form of a magnetic field.
firmware repair

Firmware Repair

Firmware is the storage device’s operating system and can become corrupted and require repair.
background

Logical Corruption Repair

Hard drive failure are not always mechanical. Logical corruption can render a hard drive as useless as one with a dead spindle motor.

Computer Hard Drive Repair – Physical Components

A typical hard drive consists of 4 main physical components:

  • Read/Write Heads
  • Printed Circuit Board (PCB)
  • Spindle Motor
  • Platters

All of these components are important for a hard to function normally.

If…

…the read/write heads fail, there is no way for data to be saved or accessed.

…the PCB is damaged and doesn’t function properly, the motor doesn’t receive power to spin the platters.

…the spindle motor seizes up, the platters do not spin, causing the read/write heads to make contact with the platters.

…the platters become damaged, data will be lost, unrecoverable by any lab.

Can a hard drive be repaired?

Yes, but as stated at the beginning of this page, the repairs made to hard drives are temporary. We need to get the hard drive up and running so we can recover the data from it before it possibly fails again. Again, “repaired” hard drives should not be reused.

Repairs to hard drive usually involve replacing read/write heads. This could be the busiest part of the hard drive, constantly moving around like a hummingbird, reading and writing data to the platters. Sometimes they fail due to wear-and-tear, or they could get damaged due to a hard drive being dropped.

PCB repair is the least intrusive. If a PCB is damaged, say due to it overheating and having a bit of fire damage, we will look for a replacement part and then transfer chips from the old one to the new PCB, provided they are in working order. While it may sound easy, there are other steps needed to ensure the PCB functions properly.

Spindle motors are not…well…fun. In newer drives, the motors themselves cannot be removed from the hard drive and be replaced. In some cases, a motor that is seized up can be “unseized” in order to get the drive to operate properly. When that doesn’t work, the platters need to be taken out and put into a drive chassis of almost the exact same drive (model #, year). Even then, there can be issues where the platters don’t spin evenly, therefore causing problems with recovering the data.

Speaking of platters, this is where the data lives. The read/write heads read and write data from and to the surfaces of the platters. Any damage to the platters almost always results in some data loss. Damage on platters cannot be repaired, but Gillware has a glide burnishing machine that is used to clean debris and dust from the platter surface so that we can try and read data from the undamaged parts of the platters. If the damage is too bad, the attempt is deemed a failure.

External Hard Drive Repair

Repairs to external hard drives are done no differently than with hard drives from computers. In fact, if you open the case on an external drive, you will find a regular hard drive in there. Most smaller externals use 2.5″ drives while higher capacity externals will use 3.5″ drives. After the drive is removed from the external case, repairs are performed like any other drive.

Does hard drive repair software work?

Yes and no. For the most part, software works for instances where you deleted data from your hard drive, accidentally reformatted your drive, or have minor data corruption. Software DOES NOT work when there is physical damage to your hard drive. If your drive doesn’t power on, or can’t read your data, or the motor is bad, any software will not work. A drive must be physically healthy in order for software to be effective. So, if you feel your drive has physical issues, save your time by avoiding recovery software.

Computer Hard Drive Repair – Logical Repairs

Not all hard drive problems are mechanical in nature. Firmware corruption is a common scenario we see in our lab. Firmware can be described as the operating system of a hard drive, where the drive’s calibrations, defect lists, zone tables, performance logs, and so forth are stored. Corruption the firmware can transform a hard drive into a door stop.

While software may work for recovering data in this type of scenario, you want to make sure that when it recovers data that it doesn’t give you corrupted data!

Can someone do hard drive repair near me?

Maybe. Hard drive repair should only be done at a reputable recovery lab with a cleanroom environment. Fingerprints and dust on platters can cause the read/write heads to crash, so they should only be opened by professionals.

Gillware may not be near you but we offer free-inbound shipping and free evaluation for your failed hard drive. Once the evaluation is complete, we will give you a quote and you decide if you want us to continue. No money upfront in almost all but extreme cases.

If you are ready to send in your device, simply click on the blue button to the right and begin the process. If you are curious about pricing, click the green button to the right and watch some of our estimate videos. They explain what goes in to pricing for different scenarios.

If you would like to talk with one of our client advisors, choose your method below:

clientadvisors@gillware.com

877-624-7206 ext 1

Your hard drive has failed, now what?

 

Below you find recommendations from Gillware’s storage experts for August 2019.
BUY A NEW LAPTOP / COMPUTER
Easiest, most expensive option – ready to use out of the box
REPLACE WITH A SOLID STATE DRIVE
Increased performance – more durability
 
REPLACE WITH HARD DRIVE
More capacity for less money – less durable than SSD