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Unable to Access Hard Drive

Posted on 2009-05-10
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Last Modified: 2012-05-06
I'm in the final stages of building a new box and I've been receiving guidance from this site.  Just before I got really into it, my old system wouldn't boot.  I don't need to reiterate all of that here but the question I put describes what was going on  see link:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_24371308.html

The old C: drive (IDE) probably contains some data so Id like, if its possible, to get a look at it.  I have one of those external cases with power supply, so I connected it via USB.  I have the new (XP) PC plus a laptop with Vista.  Both computers recognise the USB device and load drivers successfully, but the drive wont show up in My Computer.

Is there any way out?  I have certain software tools but its feeling like the HDD might need last rites.  What if the controller card on the drive is dead  and how can you tell?   Is there any way to revive a HDD if there's a hardware failure on the drive's own electronics?

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Question by:JRT55
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by:skywalker39
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Hi JRT55,

If you right click my computer, select manage, then select disk management do you see the drive? If you do is it unallocated? If so you'll have to allocate it.
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by:skywalker39
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If there's data on the drive and you allocate it and format it you'll lose your data.
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by:geowrian
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Short answer: no.
Longer but more correct answer: possibly.

Generally, if the system is not detecting the HDD or is only detecting "a" hard disk on the controller but with incorrect metadata (i.e. size), the hard drive is shot without taking it to forensics. They *might* be able to get the data. Some "tricks" people try include shaking the hard drive in case the head is stuck, freezing the hard drive in a freezer in a plastic bag overnight, opening the drive in a simulated clean room in the bathroom, etc. . These do sometimes work, but are very very dangerous for your data. If they don't work, they may make it even worse for a professional forensics person to get the data.

If you suspect it's the board, you can try finding the exact same model with the exact same firmware (not "close to the same") and swap that. Finding that is very difficult and it's not guaranteed to work, especially if damage has already been done to the drive's mechanical parts or the platter's surface or if the servo data is corrupted.
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by:geowrian
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To add to skywalker39's post:
What comes up when you go to disk management? Is the drive found? If so, what does it say for the file system?
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by:coredatarecovery
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You could pickup a identical drive or circuit board for the hard disk off ebay and retrieve the whole drive, possibly.

The cost should be about $40 for the circuitboard for the laptop drive off ebay.

you can transfer the board in about 5 min and stand a 60% chance of getting everything back for your client.

If it doesn't work, you of course need to find a data recovery specialist to retrieve your data.

I've done several hundred of these myself over the years and that's why I can give you a percentage chance (My success with this method is 65% on drives that no longer identify when attached to an external usb.

If you are brave and the customer is unwilling to spend the $$ you could attempt a platter transfer to the donor drive to retrieve the data, you can build a clean bench for about $200 with a .1 micron filter and a fish tank and transfer the platter very carefully to the donor drive and put the screws back into the top of the platter clamp. Not having much experience with this will reduce your chances of success to about 35% on a platter transfer. (But it can be done, in your shop and the resulting experience may help you help others unwilling to spend the thousands of dollars this type of recover costs in a recovery shop)

Personally, if the circuit board transfer does not do the trick, I'd send it in to a shop. I'm just saying as a last resort, since you will have a donor drive (from ebay) you could attempt it if the data is not critical and the customer is not willing to go the $2k price.

If you need details on how to build the clean bench, I can send them to you here.
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by:JRT55
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OK.  To skywalker - I'll try the disk management tonight at home, but I don't think the drive will show up there either.  I know about partitioning etc and the data risk  you refer to.  I've also got Acronis Disk Director which is far superior to MS's Disk Management offering, but I'll try both.
It's a 3.5" Western Digital 250GB IDE/PATA drive - I'll need to write down the model number.  I upgraded to a 500GB SATA 5 months ago, and just left the drive "on the bench."  As I've just about finalised setting up my new system with 2 x 500GB SATA's, I thought I'd revisit the IDE drive once more (which had been my boot drive until last December) and retrieve anything of value onto one or other of the new drives.
It's not the end of the world and I certainly won't be resorting to a professional disk recovery expert if I can't succeed myself.
To geowrian and coredatarecovery - if I understand you correctly, you're both suggesting that (if) I can buy the exact same brand/model number of WD drive I can swap the existing circuit board in the drive itself, for the one on the purchased drive?  And then I've got about a two-in-three chance of being able to see the drive and get data off it?
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by:geowrian
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@JRT55
You need the exact same brand/model with the same firmware revision. Swapping the circuit board with a replacement using a different firmware revision won't get your data. I won't put percentages on it, but if the problem is with the circuit board, there's a good chance of getting the data.
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by:nobus
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i would try to connect the disk directly to the usb or sata ports.
this will show if the disk is ok or not; btw -does it spin up ?
over usb you are adding an interface layer which can hinder you more than help
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by:nobus
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sorry; mistyped above;   "try to connect the disk directly to the usb or sata ports."  should be :
try to connect the disk directly to the IDEor Sata ports
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by:JRT55
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Nobus - I did what you suggested and connected it directly to the IDE port on the mobo too - no difference.  No, the drive doesn't spin up, and it doesn't even show up in BIOS.
I've logged a support ticket with Western Digital and downloaded some diagnostic stuff from them.  My plan is to go through that tonight (Sydney time) and see where I end up. I'll post the outcome back here but in the meantime if you have any suggestions in terms of major DO's and DONT's, feel free to put them here.
I'm sure the fact that the disk doesn't spin up is a BAD sign   ;-(
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by:nobus
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if the disk is not spinning, your options are :
A - self repair :
    1-replace the disk logic board with the SAME model and firmware level board; if the disk spins, then :
    2- try to access your data by copying, recovery soft
B-use recovery Cy like :
    http://www.gillware.com/                              data recovery Company
    http://www.drivesavers.com/services/estimates.html                     "           "           "
C- thrash disk and date

if the disk does NOT spin, NO software can help !
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coredatarecovery earned 250 total points
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That was exactly what I was talking about.

If the drive does not spin, I could be electronic (circuit board)

Or it could have  a bad bearing. (You would need to do a platter transfer)

Typically drives fail because of:

1. Heat, over heating due to several causes including bad bearings etc. This tends to expand the epoxy surrounding the silicon chips causing them to fracture (They have different expansion and contraction rates)
2. Low Voltage, Brown outs, power supply problems. Too little voltage causes too big of current to flow thru the chips causing them to fry.
3. Firmware issues... Many modern drives load the firmware specifics of the drive off the platter during spin up. Sometimes the drive is writing and loses power or browns out during a write and overwrites some of this critical info. Sometimes the media just loses integrity (Heat doesn't help, it demagnetizes the surface)

Sometimes you can reflash/rewrite drives with the appropriate hardware & software to fix firmware issues, however if the drive fails to spin up, you will have to delve deeper into the problem, or exchange the circuit board do diagnose it.


Be certain you pickup a circuit board with the correct firmware revision, it will increase your chance of recover greatly. Please note that if the firmware is wrong, it can do damage to the data (Due to the drive trying to reloacate data it cannot read properly and screw things up further.)

I have thousands of dollars invested in hardware data recovery equipment, however you don't have my tools at your disposal. I'd try the circuit board first.

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by:JRT55
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Guys,
Sorry for delay.  I really suspect the circuit board is the problem, and I accept that no software will help  - it makes perfectly logical sense to me.
I live in Sydney.  I've located a disk recovery company which comes highly recommended. I'm leaving the disk with them today for an assessment and quote.  Depending on the amount of the quote, I'll make my decision to recover the data or chuck the disk out!
The option suggested by coredatarecovery (thanks) about replacing the PCB would have been the direction I might have taken, as I'm someone who is always keen to learn and very 'hands-on'.  However I lodged a ticket with Western Digital also, and they advised me that I'd best contact some companies in North America!  Remembering that the data is only personal stuff - and I can't be sure how much of it is 'valuable' anyway - means that I'm not prepared to go into massive efforts to obtain a PCB, which I may not even be able to get here in Australia. Interestingly, when I told them that I had been advised to absolutely ensure that the firmware was identical, WD stated that they didn't record which firmware version was stored in each PCB anyway - which means I'd be completely guessing.
When I contacted the data recovery company yesterday they advised against trying any further ideas out with the disk, especially not connecting the DC to it, until they got a chance to take a look themselves.
As I always do I'll leave the question open for another couple of days so I can report the final outcome for the interest of those who have offered me their (welcome) help. I'll allocate the points then too.
 
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by:coredatarecovery
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Quotes should run between 700 and 1900 for recovery on this unit. Just to give you an average range.
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by:JRT55
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The techo had an immediate quick look at my drive in my presence when I delivered the drive. He removed the PCB from the drive and turned it over - BINGO!  The motor controller IC has taken a big zap - there was a nice burn mark right on the IC.  Ouch!
He's doing a quote now. Problem is that the (presumed) voltage spike may have damaged more electronics downstream, but as he explained they won't really know until they replace the drive controller first.
 
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by:Cuteadder
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Sounds expensive, if it comes back more than $100 have a look on eBay for the same drive, get yourself some small screw drivers and swap the PCB yourself...

Thats all your tech guy will be doing!
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by:nobus
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as i suggested earlier...
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by:coredatarecovery
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Usually it's caused by a drop in voltage, not  a spike, when voltage drops, current increases leading to electronic failure. Brown outs or power failures are the most likely cause.
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by:nobus
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>>  when voltage drops, current increases   <<   that's new to me; you seem to have other ohm's laws than me...
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by:coredatarecovery
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Lower voltage generates more heat, Never really thought about why, always assumed it was more current.

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by:coredatarecovery
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if the component draws 1 watt of power, that's
W=VA
 
1watt = 12V*1/12 Amp
1 watt = 1V * 1 Amp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watt


I just assumed that something that draws 1 watt of power would require more amperage at a lower voltage.
(Is this not true?)
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by:geowrian
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I agree with coredatarecovery. The science behind is appears correct and matches what I've always followed.
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by:nobus
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you both know nothing about electronics.
the source is the voltage. if the voltage drops, the current drops also for a given resistance.
A calculation : 24W= 12Vx 2A meaning the resistor (load) would be  24/2 (R= V/A) =12 ohm
if the voltage drops to 6 V, the current will be : 12V/12ohm = 1A
this is basically OHM's Law - and it has not been changed.
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by:nobus
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an error above :if the voltage drops to 6 V, the current will be : 12V/12ohm = 1A
should read : 6V/12 ohm = 0.5 A  
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