Hard Disk Repair – Not for the Faint of Heart

Recently I updated our two computers with new cases. Not a big deal, as far as upgrades go. It started when my power supply fried. It was cheaper to buy two brand-new cases with power supplies from Newegg than it was buy one power supply from Best Buy.


When swapping the components in my wife’s computer, I noticed that one of the HDD was hot to the touch. Now anyone familiar with the inside of a computer case knows that warm is OK and hot is cause for concern. Like most people in a hurry, I went about my business and ignored this leading indicator of a problem. Two days later I got a call “ITunes can’t find my music files.” The problem, and its diagnosis, flashed before my eyes instantly. Later that day I confirmed my suspicion. The drive was now stone cold dead. Luckily this was the secondary drive (D:) and all it held was mp3 files.

the patient

I started to Google “drive recovery”. Somehow I got on to drive repair web sites. Forty bucks would get me a used, tested replacement circuit board for my Maxtor 80GB hard drive. The majority of these sites were from Asian companies with broken English explanations of the repair process. It seemed daunting, because a few steps alluded to implicit contingencies on how to repair my HDD.

Most troubling was this instruction:

In most cases, you should exchange the BIOS chip before you swap hard drive PCB;

Holey molé! How do I determine if this applies to me? And worse still, I didn’t have the friendly little eight-pin SMT BIOS IC like many drives have. Do I need to swap out the 168 pin QFP? Not with my equipment.

Soon, through EBay, I found the web page for PCB Solution. I use their web site to find my matching PCBA and sent them an email. Although it was now midnight I got an immediate reply from Kevin:

This board is direct swap. Some board required more work, but not this one. If you prefer, you can tell me the current symptoms of your hard drive, and I can give you an estimate on your odds of success. There are no refunds with this purchase. I hope this helped and please let me know if you have any other questions. 

So in my return email, I explained my plight. Kevin’s response contained the helpful response that I needed:

If the drive doesn't spin up, and wasn't dropped, I think the chances of
success are quite good.

Bingo! I could proceed with confidence. I ordered the PCBA through eBay and waited. When it arrived, I opened the package and the contents impressed me.

hdd box

I expected to see the PCBA wrapped in a metalized poly bag. It also came with clearly written instructions and a Torx screwdriver. Great!


1 – Remove the PCBA


In the picture, notice: (1) Torx drive, (2) PCBA covered with rubber membrane, HDD, (4) loose Torx screws, (5) replacement instructions and (6) spring pin contacts to interface the PCBA to the HDD chassis. At this point I was still wondering if I had squandered $40.


2 –Installation

Simply put the membrane on the replacement PCBA and screw it in.  The spring pin contacts on the HDD chassis help to make replacement a breeze.


3 – Configure

Simply put the jumper on the new board so it is configured like the old board. If you lose track, simply follow the graphic on the front of the drive.

4 – Test

I installed the drive in my computer, and booted up. Success!


Drive D: is fully recovered and operational.


~ by ratdad on October 9, 2011.

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