Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Data Storage Hardware

Can a Regular Person Repair a Damaged Hard Drive? 504

Posted by Soulskill
from the macgyver-need-not-apply dept.
MrSeb writes "There's a lot of FUD when it comes to self-repairing a broken hard drive. Does sticking it in the freezer help? The oven? Hitting it with a hammer? Does replacing the PCB actually work? Can you take the platters out and put them in another drive? And failing all that, if you have to send the dead drive off to a professional data recovery company, how much does it cost — and what's their chance of success, anyway? They're notoriously bad at obfuscating their prices, until you contact them directly. This article tries to answer these questions and strip away the FUD." What has been your experience with trying to fix broken drives?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can a Regular Person Repair a Damaged Hard Drive?

Comments Filter:
  • It Depends (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:41AM (#40801599)

    Sometimes just the controller portion fails. If you remove it and replace it with a working one from a identical drive you're back in business. Only tool needed is a torx driver I believe.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by DarrylM (170047) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:45AM (#40801645) Homepage

    One word: Yes.

    Longer version: But it may be more difficult to do nowadays; I don't know. About 7 years ago a family member had a computer with a lot of photos that were, sadly, not backed up. The Maxtor drive had suddenly quit. I was able to eBay another drive with the same model number and swap the boards, and voila! We had a working drive with all of the photos (and other data) intact.

    Again, I have no idea how easy that would be to do nowadays... It was hard enough to change boards with my clumsy fingers on a 3.5" drive, let alone a mobile drive.

  • by HeadlessNotAHorseman (823040) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:46AM (#40801663) Homepage
    I broke an external USB hard disk once (it tipped over while running). It cost me AUD $2600 to get it repaired. They got most of the data off; some was corrupted but fortunately nothing important. I take more regular backups now!
  • my experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:47AM (#40801667)

    Had a disk at work with our sourcesafe database on break. Due to responsibility falling between chairs, there was no backup at all. Sent it to one rescue firm, came back without successful restore, sent it to another one, got more than 99% back, lost nothing important, cost somewhere in the low 4 figures.

    With private disks where data rescue is out of the question, I've had good experiences with freezing and in other cases replacing the circuit board. If doing it yourself, always mount RO and have somewhere with enough with enough space to make first a "cp" of selected really important stuff, a recursive "cp" of everything, and last a "dd" or "rescue_dd" of the whole disk. I've had better luck copying files from within a read-only mounted filesystem at first, you are fighting the clock after all.

  • It depends (Score:4, Informative)

    by woboyle (1044168) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:52AM (#40801701)
    Some HD problems (stuck platters so it doesn't spin up) are user-fixable. Most are not. There is a syndrome called "sticktion" where the read/write heads settle on the platters when shut off (most modern drives will elevate the heads when shut off, but some, including many older drives, do not). Because the platters and heads are so flat, they mechanically weld themselves together over time. To fix this (a technique I have used often in the past), you need to remove the drive, and then snap rotate it on the plane of the platters, so that the momentum of the platters trying to counter rotate against the impetus of the rotational momentum you are applying to the drive will break the "weld" loose. If you then quickly re-install the drive and turn it on, it will most likely spin up and continue to operate without problems. Other failure modes include head "crashes", spindle bearing failures, drive motor failures, controller circuitry problems (bad electronic components), and mechanical breakage of connectors, solder joints, etc. These typically are not user repairable.
  • won't work (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:55AM (#40801713)

    Maybe the PCB swap used to work, it almost certainly won't work anymore. When a HDD powers on, it needs to load some parameters for the servo system (i.e. positioning the arm) and other tuned parameters for the controller to read back off the disk. These parameters are probably stored in flash memory on the PCB and the parameters will vary from disk to disk. So, parameters for drive A will not work to spin up drive B because of small variances in their manufacturing even if they're made on the same day in the same plant on the same line by the same underpaid employee

    You can't swap disks because even if you get a tiny fingerprint on the disk, it's the size of Mt. Everest compared to the distance between the read head and the media. You'll be putting your own home-grown media defects all over it. Forget about getting your files back.

    Aside from common firmware related problems (search for "reparing 7200.11" in google for an example), you're not going to have much luck.

    The only other thing I've seen work: a guy took his neighbors HDD (which was not responding in Windows) and had to use an oscilloscope to realize the read waveform from the read head was a low amplitude. He built a small in-line amplifier which brought the amplitude back up to spec so the data could be read off. I was impressed.

    Source: I have work experience on manufacturing processes for HDDs.

  • Re:Freezer "fix" (Score:5, Informative)

    by toygeek (473120) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:56AM (#40801723) Homepage Journal

    Something on the PCB was cracked. The freezing caused everything to pull back together, and heat separated it. So, bringing it to a lower temperature kept it together longer. Simple enough. Is it a repair? No. Its a workaround. A temporary one.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:14PM (#40801871)
    The old write-over trick. Yes, what you're doing is actually forcing the drive to remap bad sectors. How reliably it works after depends on what caused the bad sectors in the first place.
  • Platters no way (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:17PM (#40801889) Homepage

    You will have great difficulty taking the platters out. The read heads have to be removed without physically coming into contact with the platters. You'll need specialized fixtures and tooling to even begin. If the data is that important then send it to a professional.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by t4ng* (1092951) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:19PM (#40801913)

    As someone that worked as an engineer in the hard drive manufacturing industry for 15 years I would have to agree, "No."

    You might be able to revive a drive if it is a problem with a PCB, but if it is a problem with the disks or heads, forget about it!

    Incidentally, a "hard drive crash" used to mean a head touched the disk and physically damaged the head and/or the disk. But for nearly two decades now, heads in hard drives are "contact heads," meaning the smallest part of the gap between the head and the disk is smaller than the mean free path of air molecules. However the heads are "flying" at a fairly high angle of attack, so it is really only the trailing edge of the head that is in contact with the disk at all times. Between that contact head design and auto retracting armatures that pull the heads off the data area of the disks, actual head crashes are extremely rare under normal operating conditions.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:25PM (#40801957)

    I repaired a drive once by overwriting the entire drive with zeroes,

    TFA is about a physically damaged drive. (Burnt out component on PCB.) The aim is to recover the data from that.

    Your method won't work on that kind of failure, and certainly won't recover any data.

  • Re:One word (Score:4, Informative)

    by t4ng* (1092951) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:39PM (#40802061)

    I can see how that might work if it were a pretty old hard drive. Since hard drives have magnetic recording media, you can't just write raw data straight to disk. For example, if you truly wrote all zeros or all ones (the recording bias all in one direction or another) there would be no way to figure out if it were all zeros or all ones or how many bits of zeros or ones that you had recorded. So all data is encoded before writing it to disk to ensure that there is always an alternating magnetic field on the disk. A zero might be expanded to 1001, or something like, that before it is written to disk. Different encoding techniques have certain known data pattern weaknesses, data patterns that when encoded will produce a more difficult to read signal on the disk than other patterns. These bad data patterns are used to test drive designs. Additionally, each data track on a disk is sandwiched between two servo tracks. These help keep the head centered on the data track no matter where it is without having to worry about drive calibration. And finally, drives include a lot of spare sectors that the drive electronics are supposed to automatically swap out, without the OS knowing about it, when bad sectors are detected.

    So, it is possible that you had a drive that after a lot of writes and rewrites was having some signal-to-noise ratio problems detecting data written on the drive. Your rewrite operations may have normalized the media on the disks just enough to get a little more life out of it. But what was actually being written to the disk wasn't all zeros. If that were possible, you would really make the drive unusable!

  • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwashNO@SPAMp10link.net> on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:40PM (#40802065) Homepage

    Sometimes it's possible to ressurect a dead drive by swapping the controller board with another from the same model (or a very close model from the same range). Unfortunately with modern drives there is often information stored on the controller board which is needed for the drive to start. This information seems to be stored on a serial memory chip (usually an 8-pin device in a SOIC or similar package) on the controller board.

    What i've found you can do is remove the serial memory chip from the dead controller board and solder it to the donor controller board. Provided you have a hot air rework station it's pretty easy to remove and re-fit the serial memory chips. So-far i've tried this twice and it's worked both times, YMMV of course.

  • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwashNO@SPAMp10link.net> on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:42PM (#40802077) Homepage

    If you do that you want to put a dessicant in the bag with the drive. Otherwise you are just sealing the humid air in.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:50PM (#40802137) Homepage

    At least do it the right way.

    1. Get ahold of long cables that can reach *outside* the freezer to your machine.

    2. Wrap the drive *before* you put it in the freezer. Heat a towel in the oven to make sure it's dry, then wrap the drive in the towel. Now stick it in a plastic baggie, along with some silica gel packs to suck up more moisture. Try to close the mouth of the baggie around the cables as much as possible. Use duct tape if necessary.

    3. Put it in the freezer, route the cables through the door seal, and make damn sure the door is shut tight as possible. Seal it with more duct tape if you have to. Let it sit in the freezer for at least 6 hours to get really cold.

    4. Make all your preparations before plugging in the drive. Situate your primary machine right next to the freezer, make sure you're ready to go. If you can somehow manage it, and you know what you're doing, boot into an old copy of DOS, or a command-line interface of your preferred *nix distro. Don't waste time loading Windows if you can help it.

    5. Turn off your machine, plug the drive in, then reboot.

    6. Move *fast*. Start copying the drive contents over to the backup drive as fast as you can. If you can do it via a script or batch file, then even better. Speed is of the essence. In fact, if you know the locations of the files you need, as well as their general file names, then creating a batch file BEFORE starting would be your best option. Just tell it to copy everything in C:\MyLifesWork\coldfusion*.*

    7. MOST IMPORTANT STEP!!! If this does not work, and you can't pull anything off the drive, then don't panic just yet. Turn off your machine, unplug the drive, then unplug the freezer.

    Do NOT open the freezer until it has reached ambient temperature, which will take at least 24 hours or more.

    This will prevent the drive from getting roached from the condensation, and make it more feasible for a drive recovery company to save your data.

  • Correct (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:52PM (#40802157)

    It really depends on what has failed and how. I've repaired a number of drives at work well enough to get data off with just basic software tools, like using Knoppix to force mount problematic partitions and so on. The drive may be failing but not completely so a software-only solution can do the trick.

    Also I've had Spinrite work. It has about a 40% success rate but on drives that nothing else could read, I've had it make them readable again. In one case I ran Spinrite (it takes many hours, put a fan on the disk), copied the data to a new disk with Ghost, did a chkdsk, did a repair install of Windows and the system functioned flawlessly, no data or app loss. Of course the other 60% of the time it destroys the disk beyond any repair so it is a "Use only as a last resort and only if the data isn't important enough to pay for professional recovery," tool.

    Replacing controllers can work if the controller is what has failed. Needs to be the precise controller so one from a like disk but different size won't work and occasionally even the firmware version can matter.

    However if the problem is with the heads themselves or the platters then no, you can't do shit. You need a clean room to open the drive up without destroying it, and then of course you need something to put the platter in to for reading them.

    So you can try to self repair a drive. As I said using recovery software (Knoppix with force mount is a great thing to try first) is a good first step, so long as the BIOS can see the drive. May be that you can just copy the data and call it good. However there are also plenty of situations where you can't repair it so don't count on it working. If the data is really important, send it to a pro.

  • My experiences (Score:4, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:57PM (#40802201) Homepage Journal

    WAY BACK WHEN I took the cover off a 40MB RLL disk, pushed on the spindle by hand (it had so much stiction it could not be repaired by any other means) to free it, put the cover back on, and it worked. Note, 40 megabytes. I didn't even try to improvise a clean room. My cleaning procedure was to blow on the top platter gently before I closed the drive. The drive spun up and I was able to recover 100% of the data from it, and it was nearly full. Before this happened this disk actually burned a power-carrying trace off the board and I replaced it with a wire jumper. Then later that wire got so hot that the solder melted and it fell off, and I put it back on and used it some more. You guessed it, Seizegate.

    MANY TIMES I have got a non-spinning drive spinning again by whacking one corner (from the side of the drive) with a screwdriver. The last one I did this with was 80GB or so, but there's no reason why this technique should not be valid today. Connect to power, give it a sharp rap in the appropriate direction, listen to it spin. I started doing this with ST-225s which needed it very often, but I've applied it to many different disks successfully over the years.

    My experiences aside, many people have put disks in the freezer or even the oven (not hard to stay below reflow temperature) and got them to free up. If it's a stiction problem it's all about thermal expansion and contraction. If the drive spins but does not work, if you're very lucky you might have a PCB problem, and if you can find a disk of the same model and version then the PCB from the other disk might work on your disk.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2012 @12:59PM (#40802211)

    You can't put it entirely in your machine but if it is bad and you just want to try to recover data you don't have to. Maybe you could get extension wires for the power supply and data cables. Attach the cables, put it in a plastic bag with the cables hanging out, seal the bag with tape and then put into the freezer. When the time in the freezer is over, do not open the bag and reattach the dangling cables. Yes, there is the matter on the HD not being grounded but for the short time you need, it is not necessary.

  • Repair a hard drive? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:00PM (#40802231)

    Unless the drive has valuable data, don't bother attempting it yourself. Drive recovery companies have plenty of spare parts to swap (ha, that would be the PCB board on the back of the drive), they might be able to help as long as it isn't a head crash.
    1. Gimmicks like heating and cooling a PCB have a remote chance of helping.... for a few minutes, until the PCB has operated long enough to come to normal (and implicitly failing) operating temperature. If you were super lucky you might get it to work long enough to copy off a limited amount of critical data.
    2. If the value of the data on the drive exceeds a few hundred dollars (which would buy you several new hard drives), and it can't be re-input by hand at a reasonable cost, then it may be worth paying to get recovery done.
    3. If your bad drive won't spin up - That is something a PCB will likely fix it.
    4. If you heard your bad hard drive make a horrible sound just before it went bad - It could well be a head crash, you drive and it's data are unrecoverable, pray you have good backups.
    5. If you have a few bad spots (which seems unlikely from your tone), you may be able to run Spinrite, which has a good track record for fixing this specific problem. But... If your drive is getting bad spots, it's time to retire it to the trash can and put in something (new and ) reliable, immediately after data recovery. A significant percentage of the time when the surface of the disk is starting to decay, it's from bad treatment or bad manufacturing. Replace it, rarely is peace of mind and not loosing work time worth the cost of less than $100.
    6. if you have critical data, it should be backed up on to a second media, these days likely a hard drive.

    My credentials?
    I worked on a development engineering team for one of the first 3.5 inch (ahem, 'full size') hard drives, back in the 70's. I did drive recovery for pay as a consultant for 3 years in the early 80's and have continued working on PC hardware ever since as a professional.
    The likelihood of recovering data on a flaky/bad hard drive, less than 1 in 4 is my gut estimate, being very optimistic.
    I've attempted drive repair at a commercial repair companies on 3 occasions in the last 15 years, one was less than wonderful but genuinely helpful (I got 90% of my data recovered and sent to me on a new drive). But 2 were failures, and I still had to pay the fee for the data recovery service regardless, which was a few hundred dollars each time.
    sigh...
    Rarely does data recovery make sense.
    Rarely does a TESTED data backup practice NOT make sense.
    Hard disks are cheap relative to lost work and lost data.
    If all else fails, buy a second drive and copy the important stuff from on to the other.
    If you can't afford a second drive, Dropbox (and other similar services) will allow you to keep 2 gigs of data on there servers at no cost to you.
    Clearly backing up you music or videos isn't practical but you get what you pay for. If you have work product (maintaining web sites, writing a books or training materials, etc.) or other valuable files, this will be adequate.

    Good luck.
    YMMV

  • Re:A Better Word (Score:3, Informative)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:10PM (#40802297)

    his answer: truth

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by blackicye (760472) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:11PM (#40802307)

    One word: Yes.

    Longer version: But it may be more difficult to do nowadays; I don't know. About 7 years ago a family member had a computer with a lot of photos that were, sadly, not backed up. The Maxtor drive had suddenly quit. I was able to eBay another drive with the same model number and swap the boards, and voila! We had a working drive with all of the photos (and other data) intact.

    Again, I have no idea how easy that would be to do nowadays... It was hard enough to change boards with my clumsy fingers on a 3.5" drive, let alone a mobile drive.

    This will not work with many newer drives, especially WD Caviar Black and Blue. There is a firmware chip on the PCB that also needs to be transplanted, and this is tricky even with a Surface mount electronics soldering station, the type that uses channeled hot air.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:13PM (#40802315) Homepage Journal

    I've personally used the freezer trick once. Because of the possibility of condensation, I used the fridge first.

    There is little possibility of harmful condensation if use a limited version of the freezer trick, and simply suck as much air out of the bag as possible (use a vacuum sealer if available) and then let the disk return to room temperature before opening the bag. You don't NEED to run the disk while you thermally cycle it if the problem is stiction. And there is also always the option of using one of the many waterproof enclosures available on the market, and simply slipping some dessicant packets in there before you start your quest. You could also just put it in a tupperware and seal the hole the cable passes through with silicone, and put the dessicant in there with it.

  • by Enigma2175 (179646) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:53PM (#40802583) Homepage Journal

    The issue is also what the humidity was in the room in which the head-disk module was assembled/sealed.

    Except that hard drives are generally not sealed. They have a filtered breathing hole to exchange air with the outside. Otherwise, the casing would balloon when you took your computer on an airplane or when the drive is shipped via air.

  • personal experiences (Score:5, Informative)

    by v1 (525388) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:15PM (#40802737) Homepage Journal

    I've been a repair tech for the last 10 yrs. (and I don't mean I'm a "I built my own PC, I'm a computer god! I fix my friend/family''s computers" I actually know what I'm doing and have electrical engineering experience) I'd estimate I've seen around a thousand bad hard drives in that time. Of those, I'd say 65% would tap repeatedly, 25% had some io errors but were still working, 8% would sound normal but would never post on the bus, and the other 2% were the other weird issues like chirping or no power at all.

    The tappers were very rarely recoverable by me. Every now and then I'd see one that if you powered it up dozens of times, you might get lucky and it would post properly and you could get data from it. None of the other common methods were helpful.

    Over 90% of the drives with io errors and slow blocks could be recovered from. Most of those simply required a file level copy from bad drive to good. Most would have a handful of unrecoverable files. Depending on what was lost, an OS reinstall was sometimes required on the new drive, but not usually. A small percentage of them would have a large number of errors and require days to recover, or would fail completely during the recovery. A few of them would look promising but then quickly becomes apparent that almost nothing will be recoverable.

    Sometimes a drive would stop responding during recovery and require a break. Trips to the freezer helped on about 30% of the drives. Some drives required numerous trips to the freezer, using rsync to resume copying where it left off last time, a process which could take days but could result in a complete recovery. I pondered ways to cool a drive during the recovery such as using a peltier, but never got anything implemented. I also use ddrescue and another custom script I wrote that works in a similar way, doing block-level recovery while splitting problem areas for smaller recovery chunks. That's useful for windows or other foreign OS where you can't do a file copy. (mac shop here)

    I've never dried "drop therapy" or "impact maintenance". I'm sure it could help under specific circumstances like a stuck spindle or loose connection but I've never witness it.

    I've done a little bit of onboard controller card ("OBCC") swaps for identical drives where the bad one wouldn't power on at all. About 25% success there. For that reason I tend to keep old tapping drives because their cards can work in dead drives. I assume the tapping drives have head failures, which isn't related to the OBCC. I've talked with multiple data recovery places about this process, and to my surprise every single one of them has told me "that won't work". They usually explain the remaps are stored on the OBCC, which makes sense, but isn't a good excuse not to try when the remaps probably don't account for more than one in a hundred thousand blocks. I think they just want me to send the drive to them.

    The sled you place the drive into makes a HUGE difference in recovery. Avoid usb. I don't care if you insist on windows, install a firewire card. Almost all USB bridge chips handle misbehaving drives very badly. Only use one of those little external adapters with the build-on 2ft usb cord on it as an absolute last resort. OWC's "mercury elite aluminum" series are the best (reasonably priced) recovery sled I have found, and I have tried many. USB (39MB/sec, not 36, 26, 16, 12, etc), FW400, FW800, AND esata interface. In the past I used a Granite Digital "fireview", those absolutely rocked for drive recovery (LCD panel with diag menu....) but they stopped making them and they were IDE only. Someone needs to make a modern sled like that for sata please.

    As for paid recovery, results seem random. Techs tend to have a recovery place they swear BY, and others they swear AT. But my observation is simply that methods vary and different places handle different problems with varying success. I think many techs' impressions are based on their first few experiences - if good they like, if bad they don'

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:27PM (#40802831)

    Pure snake-oil today. It used to have some merit in the MFM and RLL days, but these are long over. The only thing SpinRite can do today is to cause more damage to the drive if it has mechanical problems. If the drive is mechanically fine, repeated read accessed do exactly the same as SpinRite does, because it does not have any other possibility on modern drives.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:31PM (#40802859)

    "7. MOST IMPORTANT STEP!!! If this does not work, and you can't pull anything off the drive, then don't panic just yet. Turn off your machine, unplug the drive, then unplug the freezer."

    That's ridiculous. You don't have to defrost your fridge. Just leave the drive in the air-tight bag, ideally with some dessicant in it. Once you've taken the moisture out of the contents of the bag, changing temperatures aren't going to cause any condensation. Don't break the seal until you are back to ambient temperature, and there will be no issue.

  • Re:One word (Score:4, Informative)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @09:04PM (#40804799)

    Condensation won't kill electronics. The water from condensation is pure and free of contaminants. The electronics will quite comfortably run with beads of water on them.

    This is a common trick in electrical equipment fault finding. Any fault that is caused by thermal expansion or contraction can be located on a giant PCB by using a localised blast from a freeze spray. The end result is everywhere the freeze spray has been used frosts over then gets wet. I've yet to kill electronics using this method and have been through about 10 cans in my life.

    I used the freezer trick to recover a HDD which died of neglect (unused drive for about a year), I assumed the motors just suffered stiction. Out of the freezer and straight into service. Worked beautifully even with condensation running down the side of the PCB. After about 5 minutes it all dried out.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mathieu Lutfy (69) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @11:33PM (#40805379) Homepage

    Here are two PCB sellers in HK who ship overseas:
    http://www.onepcbsolution.com/ [onepcbsolution.com]
    http://www.hkmingdi.com/enindex.asp [hkmingdi.com]

    I found them off the forum of this site:
    http://www.deadharddrive.com/ [deadharddrive.com]

    I wrote a short post about it in French, you can probably run it in google-translate. It took me a bit of time to figure out the PCB number on my Seagate drive, which is on the PCB, but on the side facing the disk, so I had to unscrew it to obtain it. (both HK sites were helpful and responded to my e-mails in good English).
    http://www.bidon.ca/fr/random/2011-04-12-disque-dur-ressuscite [bidon.ca]

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Sunday July 29, 2012 @03:22AM (#40806285)

    For fuck's sake, am I the only one who knows how hard drives work?

    Actually, it looks more like you are the only one who doesn't know how hard disks work.

    Even if a drive were stuffed full of air (pretty sure they're a vacuum),

    Actually, the drive does contain air. The HDD's spindle system relies on air pressure inside the disk enclosure to support the heads at their proper flying height while the disk rotates. [wikipedia.org]

    it's not high humidity air

    Actually, drives usually have tiny "breather" holes to allow air through for pressure equalization if ambient air pressure changes. These also let through along any humidity that is in the air. The only thing that they are designed to hold back is tiny dust particles, which might otherwise cause a head crash. The environment within a hard drive is merely dust free but not a vacuum.

  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday July 29, 2012 @12:10PM (#40808353) Homepage Journal

    Firewire? Why the heck would you...

    Quite a few reasons really.

    - I like to get my work done quickly, I'm impatient. MOST internal IDE/sata attachments require a reboot. It's inconvenient to have to reboot one of my service machines every time I attach a drive to it. Which happens many times every day.

    - I can replace a laptop drive with a new drive, boot off a USB stick, and plug the failing drive in and run the recovery directly. There have been days when I've been running four recoveries at once. Often more efficient than trying to get several things going on a service machine at once. And with having to reboot it would get that much worse. You can't attach an old hard drive internally to a laptop at the same time as the good drive. (most cases)

    - failing drives have a habit of hanging their interface until power cycled or unplugged. Again, not something you want to be doing with your service machine or even target machine. If it hangs, I pull the fw cable which un-hangs my service machine, power cycle the sled, plug back in the cable and resume. Cranky drives can require a dozen sled reboots, or periodic trips to the freezer. Having a recovery hang a service machine while I was trying to use it for something else at the same time causes TWO of my jobs to have to be started over.

    - When necessary, I can get more than one recovery going at the same time on a single service machine. Can't reboot a machine for one drive while you're doing another.

    - Firewire isn't as fast as many sata and most ide, but a lot of the time I need to be attaching one drive or another over firewire anyway. If I have a laptop booted into target mode and attached to a service machine for recovery, attaching the bad drive internally doesn't save me any time since it will have to go TO the good drive over firewire anyway.

    - When I have a lot of things going at once around here, speed becomes less important than the ability to multitask, and firewire offers me many more options and flexibility. Careful consideration of your options, how you do things, and in what order greatly reduces turnover time. This can be the difference between a process taking four hours of time and monopolizing a service machine, vs taking 90 minutes of time and using one sled and a usb stick off in the corner while I do other things. OR 30 minutes of my time focusing on a single job vs shuffling something like that off to a corner to run for a few hours on its own while I get other things done. Most things I do can arguably be done in many different ways, requiring very different amounts of clock time, hands-on time, and various resources. Prioritizing, availability of options, and planning my methods are very important to my job productivity.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce

Working...