Failed hard drive - pcb replacement?

Posted on 2011-05-03
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I have a hard drive that just died on me last night. This is my personal at home server drive. I did have a current backup, but it was data only. I am very grateful that I had that or else I would have lost 6 years worth of pictures of my 6 year old daughter.

The data has been restored already to a different computer.

Now, what I am wondering is if I can get the rest of the info off the hard drive by replacing the pcb board. The drive contained 3 virtual machines including a Linux web server, a Windows domain controller and another file and print server. I can rebuild all of these if I have to, but I found a place online out of Canada that sells the pcb boards for $50. I realize it is a gamble and am willing to take that gamble if there is at least a 50% chance of getting the data back intact.

The drive was running in a ESXi server for the last 2 years. Last week, all of my VM's just stopped responding. No local console or anything. I rebooted the ESXi server and they all came back up with no problem.

About 3 hours later, all the servers died again. I went to look at the events on the VMWare console and it said the datastore was unreachable. I rebooted again and looked at the bios. It said the drive plugged in was a 1000Gb unknown drive. VMWare would not recognize anything on the drive.

After a final reboot, I checked the bios again and it said no unknown device and unknown size. I opened up the case and I could hear the distinct and faint clicking noise of a failed hard drive.

The drive itself is a Seagate Barracuda1TB drive. It is about 2 - 3 years old.

From what I have described, does this sound like a bad pcb, or does it sound mechanical?

Thank you.
Question by:bcdudley
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LVL 40

Expert Comment

ID: 35515472
You can try to make non-destructive Seagate tests for determining reason of failure.
Tests can be done even drive is not presented in BIOS.
When you have problems with mechancs or with disk surface, you hear some non-usual noises. Do you have them?
You can also not to check your luck, but go to professional disk restore service.
LVL 15

Assisted Solution

by:Robert Sutton Jr
Robert Sutton Jr earned 200 total points
ID: 35515502
Well, i'd consider a few things b4 attempting any type of restore on that drive. Was this setup in a RAID? If so, what type?
Secondly, were you able to obtain that data from that defective drive or the back source? Have you attempted connecting it to another working computer as a slave drive to see if you can access some if any of the data?
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 35515522
The clicking sound is not good -- it can be an actuator OR it can be failure of the PCB board ... hard to say.

IF the PCB board you can buy is the exact same board -- same model; same firmware level -- then it's worth a try.    It sounds like the drive is still spinning, so it's not the spindle motor;  but it's impossible to say whether you have an electronic (PCB) failure or a defective actuator.

I'd give it a try ... $50 is about 1/10th of what it would cost to have the data professionally recovered.

... and be more thorough with your backups in the future :-)

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LVL 18

Assisted Solution

web_tracker earned 200 total points
ID: 35515559
Unfortunately changing the pcb board will not help with the drive once it starts making the clicking noises. I have tried doing this several times without sucess, if it is really important to get the data off the drive you will need to take the drive to a proffessional drive recovery place, where they willl swap out the intenal components of the drive, or they will remove the platters from the drive to insert it into a working drive then they will recover the data. Or it is possible that the data on the platters that contains information about the type of drive, size of drive, including sectors, heads, cylinders, is lost. Still to solve this issue the drive will need to be taken to a proffesional data recovery service as als315 stated.

Author Comment

ID: 35515598
Thank you for the responses. I will not be restoring anything to this drive. It will be replaced.

There is an audible clicking noise coming from the drive, so I don't think software is going to cut it.

The drive was not in a raid array, but it was formatted with the proprietary VMWare file system for ESXi. I am not sure if Linux can read this or not.

The data I obtained was from a tape backup.

I have not yet attempted to connect it to another computer. The only Linux computer I have available for this is a laptop, but I cannot find my usb - sata drive adapter. I will pick one up after work today if I cannot find mine.

Thank you.

Assisted Solution

burners earned 200 total points
ID: 35515689
Clicking sound means the arm that carries the head is shot and it likely smoked the disk surface in the process so in short its junk dont waste your money on a PCB.

Also NO LINUX cannot read the ESXi file system and get anything USEFUL from it.
LVL 40

Assisted Solution

als315 earned 700 total points
ID: 35515721
Do you know also that 1TB Seagate disks can have firmware problem?
Check your serial here:
and read this:
may be there is something useful for you.

Author Comment

ID: 35515752
I just was able to try the drive on another computer and it had the same results as expected.

The place that is selling the pcb board actually specializes in these. Not sure if I can list the url, but it is onepcbsolution.com.

For my particular drive, I have to send in the pcb and they will copy the firmware, then send it back to me.

The data is not worth the cost to me of a professional drive recovery service, but it would be worth the $50.

As I said, I can rebuild everything I lost. The backup I had was a backup of the data that could not be replaced (i.e. pictures of my daughter). The rest was just time spent on labor.

Thank you.
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 700 total points
ID: 35516373
Agree the most likely cause of a clicking sound is an actuator that's not able to successfully seek the desired cylinder  ==> but this can be caused by either mechanical failure or a bad read of the servo data (which would indicate either a failed head or a PCB error).

For $50 it's worth a shot ... especially if the data's not important enough to justify professional recovery.     It sounds like the outfit you've found does a professional job -- the key to a successful PCB swap is to ensure you have identical firmware ... and they clearly ensure that's the case.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 35517157
Since I was looking for opinions on this, I am awarding everyone who commented.  I am going to go ahead and take the gamble on the $50 board and see if it works.

Thanks for the help

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