Heads Failure Data Recovery

The magnetic read/write heads are the workhorses of the hard drive. These components work harder than any other part of the hard drive. Unfortunately, they can also be the first to wear out as your hard drive ages. This is perhaps the most infamous form of hard drive failure; the rhythmic tick-tock sound commonly produced by failed heads is so commonplace that computer repair technicians have a name for it: the “Click of Death.”

In addition to being relatively quick to wear out, read/write heads are also delicate, and physical trauma can not only blind them, but also make them damage other parts of the hard drive, putting the safety of your data in jeopardy. If your hard drive’s read/write heads have failed and your hard drive is clicking, our heads failure data recovery services can reunite you with your data.


Or, continue reading to learn more about your hard drive’s read/write heads, how they fail, and how we can help you:

What Are the Read/Write Heads?


An extreme close-up of a magnetic read/write head resting on the mirrored surface of a platter ( source )

Every read and write operation your hard drive performs gets carried out by its read/write heads. The heads are tiny electrically-charged coils of copper wire. They are capable of picking up and altering the electrical signals produced by the billions of magnetic sectors on your hard drive’s platters. These electrical signals are the data that lives on your drive.

The components of your hard drive are constantly in motion. The spindle motor spins your drive’s platters at thousands of revolutions per minute. While the platters spin below them, the heads are constantly darting across the radius of the platters.

Hard drives today have many platters stacked on top of each other. The read/write heads are also arranged in a stack. Each head reads data from one surface of the platters. Some hard drives have more platters than they have heads. Often, the only physical difference between a 500-gigabyte Western Digital hard drive and a 750-gigabyte Western Digital hard drive will be that one has less heads than the other.

The heads hover over the platters. A thin cushion of air produced by the platters’ rotational speeds helps keep them aloft. The read/write heads maintain a distance a scant few nanometers from the platters. With every read and write command, the arms which hold the heads over the platters shift to position them over the correct sector. This is tiring work, and the read/write heads are very fragile. Over time, they begin to wear down. In the early stages of failure, heads can mess up their read or write operations. Users will start to hear the hard drive click of death occasionally. The hard drive is clicking because it is failing to detect the magnetic tracks that encapsulate the binary data. Attempting to write new data with clicking heads can result in file corruption. If a set of read/write heads writes the wrong data to a firmware sector, it can turn your hard drive into a brick.

Read/write heads are also a common point of failure in hard drives. An excessive physical trauma or sudden loss of power can cause the heads to impact the platters. This will often destroy the heads. The platters, too, are somewhat fragile, and can sustain damage this way. Clicking hard drives that are having consistent i/o errors should be shut down if the data on the drive is critical and not backed up.

Failed heads don’t just keep you from accessing the data on your hard drive. Damaging the platters can lead to irretrievable data loss. If your hard drive begins to make a steady ticking noise or grinding noise, stop running it immediately. This could be a sign that its heads are damaging the platters. Our heads failure data recovery technicians have the tools and experience to salvage your data from your crashed hard drive.

How Does Heads Failure Data Recovery Work?

Replacing read/write heads is a tall order. Read/write heads are delicate, easy to destroy, and hard to replace. It takes an engineer with steady hands and keen eyes to remove one set of heads and replace it with another without damaging something.

Every model of hard drive has read/write heads that are just a bit different from each other. At Gillware, we keep a massive library of donor hard drives on hand. Just about every model of hard drive is somewhere in this library. And yet compatibility issues still arise. Hard drives are so sophisticated nowadays that even drives of the same model will be subtly different from each other. The calibration parameters will differ even on two drives that came off of the assembly line within seconds of each other. And so even with ample donors, finding a good set of heads can require trial and error.

It may take a few tries, and we may have to manipulate with the hard drive firmware a bit, but eventually, our engineers will find a set of heads that works. They may not work optimally, but even a stopgap solution is better than nothing. Our proprietary data recovery tool HOMBRE can manipulate the performance of a hard drive in a way that normal data recovery software can’t. This gives us a high degree of flexibility. Even if a newly-repaired hard drive’s performance leaves much to be desired, our engineers can still salvage data from it.

In many heads failure data recovery scenarios, the heads will need to be replaced several times. With each set of read/write heads, our engineers read more and more of the hard drive. Our focus is on reading as much of the used area as possible. Eventually, the condition of the hard drive may degrade to the point where no more data can be read off of its platters. When a hard drive fails, it is not long for this world. Our engineers always go after the user’s most critical files first for this reason.

read write heads

The complete headstack from a Western Digital WD2500JS-00MHB0 hard drive

Why Choose Gillware for My Heads Failure Data Recovery Needs?

At Gillware, we understand that hard drives often fail without warning. Few people plan for the expense of data recovery. And in general, people don’t like spending money and getting nothing in return. This is why Gillware’s data recovery evaluations are completely free. In fact, we even offer to cover the cost of inbound shipping. We can create prepaid UPS Ground labels for any clients in the continental US.

Our engineers assess the hard drive’s condition in our Class-100 cleanroom workstations. We inspect the read/write heads and data storage platters for damage. We determine whether the platters need burnishing and how difficult it will be to replace the read/write heads. We use all this data to formulate a price quote and probability of success.

The price quote is not a bill. You have a chance to review the cost and possibility of success before signing off on any recovery work. If you approve the quote, our heads failure data recovery engineers put in the work to salvage your data. We only charge you for our efforts after we’ve successfully recovered your critical data. If we can’t recover everything from your drive, we show you a list of results so that you can help us determine how successful our efforts have been. If we do not recover your most important data, you owe us nothing.

Our read/write head data recovery engineers are highly-skilled and world-class. We have data recovery tools no other data recovery lab in the world has. We will do everything in our power to recover your data. When you send your failed hard drive to Gillware, you can rest assured that your data is in good hands.

Still not convinced? Check out some of these case studies for heads failure data recovery situations...

Case Study: Western Digital Blue WD3200AAKS-00L9A0 making a clicking noise

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