The Causes of a Hard Drive Motor Failure

A hard drive’s platters are powered by the spindle motor, and is essential for reading and writing data. Unfortunately, a motor failure is one of the worst data recovery problems we encounter.

The spindle motor is located on the underside of the hard drive, and this component spins the hard drive’s magnetic platters at speeds of around 7,200-15,000 RPM. This exceptionally high rotational speed is what enables your hard drive to read and write data so quickly. To put this into context, a 3.5” hard drive spinning at 15,000 RPM works out at around 160 MPH. If your hard drive’s platters have stopped spinning, or you can hear a beeping noise emanating from the chassis, there’s a chance that the spindle motor may have failed. Spindle motor failure is one of most common physical hard drive faults our data recovery team see, and it’s also one of the more difficult to resolve.

So what are the potential causes of a spindle motor failure? Like all hard drive components, the spindle motor is delicate, and the most common cause of its failure is physical trauma like a knock, bump or drop. If a hard drive is dropped while it is running, the read/write heads may come into contact with the platters, clamping down and preventing the spindle motor from spinning them. While modern hard drives are fitted with accelerometers that can detect when they are falling, and quickly move the heads away from the platters, this doesn’t prevent the spindle motor from failing altogether. Old age can play a role too; hard drives don’t last forever. The spindle motor rests on top of a series of bearings, which contain lubricant. If over time this lubricant dries out, the subsequent friction can cause the motor to burn out due to the resistance.

Our data recovery lab contains a library of over 14,000 spare parts, and sourcing suitable donor drives is easy. However, the chance of a successful data recovery rests on the condition of the hard drive’s platters when it arrives into the lab. This is why, if you hear any unusual noise like a beeping or clicking, you should immediately power down your drive and consult a professional data recovery specialist. All of our physical data recovery work is undertaken in a class 100 clean room, preventing any further damage to your media.

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