Data Recovery Case Study: Motor Failure

A client recently came to us with a Western Digital hard drive that was no longer spinning, which meant they couldn’t access any of their data. Our data recovery team were able to diagnose the fault as a motor failure and get the client’s data back.

The hard drive in question was a Western Digital WD20EZRZ 2TB, and there was nothing out of the ordinary happening to it before it suddenly failed. As soon as the drive was dropped off, our data recovery engineers got to work to try and ascertain what the problem was. Until the advent of flash-based storage in recent years, data storage media has typically involved a spinning device of some sort. Today’s hard drive store data on magnetic platters that spin between 3000 and 15,000 RPM, with data being written to and read from them via the read/write heads on the tip of the actuator arm. When the drive was booked into our data recovery lab, we knew the reason it wasn’t spinning was down to one of three reasons. One possibility was that a head crash had caused the read/write heads to clamp down on the platters, preventing them from spinning. Data recovery following a head crash can be incredibly tricky, especially if there’s significant damage to the platters. The second problem it could be is the control board. The board powers the motor, which sets the platter in motion, so if the board fails, the platters won’t spin. Finally, it could have been a fault with the spindle motor itself.

Upon arriving in the data recovery lab, the hard drive was disassembled by one of our engineers. On first glance, it was clear the drive hadn’t suffered from a head crash; the platters and read/write heads were in pristine condition. The hard drive’s control board was also undamaged and in full working order, so that narrowed it down to one possible thing – a motor failure. Like most of a hard drive’s internal components, the spindle motor is very delicate and prone to failure. Data recovery requires a brand new compatible motor from a donor hard drive. Rather than replacing the motor, a more efficient way of completing the work is to swap the read/write heads over to the new, donor drive. Because of calibrations stored in the PCB’s ROM chip, this needs to be swapped over too. After carefully removing the platters from the original hard drive in our data recovery clean room and fixing them into the chassis of the donor hard drive, our technicians then swapped the PCB over. From here, we imaged the hard drive’s contents and successfully recovered 96% of the client’s data.

Data Recovery