Data Recovery Case Study: Seagate Motor Failure

A client recently came to us with a Seagate Barracuda hard drive that had stopped, preventing the data on it from being accessed. Our hard drive data recovery team quickly diagnosed the problem as a failed motor, and the client’s data was recovered.

The client’s hard drive was a Seagate Barracuda ST500DM009 500GB, and it stopped spinning with little warning and there was no sudden drop or shock – it was an internal hard drive in a desktop PC. As soon as the drive was dropped off, our data recovery engineers got to work to try and ascertain what the problem was. As soon as the hard drive arrived into our data recovery lab, it was catalogued and assigned a unique job number, which follows the case at all times. The hard drive was then worked on by our hard drive data recovery team in a Class 100 clean room lab. A clean room environment ensures that there are no dust particles or other contaminants in the air, and “Class 100” simply means there is always less than 100 particles per cubic foot. In reality, though, there are typically less than that, as our engineers cover their footwear before entering the clean room.

Despite the growing prevalence of solid state, flash-based storage devices, mechanical hard disk drives are still widely used. Data on hard drives is stored on magnetic platters, which spin at incredibly fast speeds, typically up to 15,000 RPM, and powered by the motor. Data is read from and written to the magnetic platters via the read/write heads, which are located on the end of the actuator arm. Having so many moving parts can be both a curse and a blessing; while hard disk drives are more susceptible to physical damage, it’s normally not too difficult to diagnose the problem. The client reported hearing a grinding sound when they attempted to power it up after it failed, which offered a clue as to what the issue was. A common hard drive fault is a head crash, which is caused when the read/write heads crash onto the magnetic platter below. This, however, causes a clicking or ticking sound, rather than an aggressive grinding noise.

Upon arrival in the data recovery lab, our team carefully disassembled the hard drive. It was clear from the outset that the drive hadn’t suffered from a head crash, as the platters were in perfect condition and there wasn’t any visible damage to the read/write heads. The control board was also in perfect condition. It soon became apparent that the hard drive had suffered from a spindle motor failure, requiring a donor part from another drive. We sourced a donor drive, from our library of spare parts which currently totals in excess of 14,000. From here, our data recovery engineers swapped the platters, and PCB board over to the new drive, which had a motor is full working order. We were then able to recover around 95% of the client’s data.

We provide all of our clients with a free, no-obligation data recovery assessment, along with a file listing of recoverable data, and a quote. Once we’ve been given the go-ahead and received payment, we’ll copy the data onto a blank hard drive and return it to the client via recorded delivery.

Find our more about the data recovery process below