Why Spindle Motor Failure is so Problematic

A customer recently came to us with a hard disk drive that had suffered from a spindle motor failure, a particularly cumbersome problem.

If your hard drive’s platters have stopped spinning, or you’re hearing a strange noise coming from within the drive, this can be indicative of a motor failure. Data recovery from a hard drive that has suffered from a motor failure can be difficult, but our data recovery engineers will do everything possible to ensure success.

A customer contacted Data Recovery Specialists after their drive had literally ground to a halt, and it was no longer operational at all. Prior to the hard drive failing, the customer had reported hearing a beeping and stuttering noise. The hard drive was immediately sent to our data recovery team for a free diagnosis. All physical work undertaken by our data recovery team is done in our class 100 clean room, which ensures they are working in a contaminant-free environment, and preventing further damage.

Our data recovery technicians discovered that the hard drive’s motor had seized, and because of the continued use, there was extensive damage to the platters. It is unknown what caused the motor failure, but the drive itself was around five years old, and hard drives have a limited lifespan. There had been contact between the read/write heads and magnetic platters, resulting in significant platter damage. Platter damage on this scale can make data recovery incredibly difficult, and while our data recovery team were able to bypass some of the media damage by excluding these sectors when imaging the drive, only around 50% of data was recoverable.

This is why it is incredibly important to immediately power down your drive if it makes a strange noise that you wouldn’t normally hear, such as a clicking or beeping sound. Powering down as soon as possible with give professional data recovery specialists the best chance of recovering your data.

The spindle motor within a hard disk drive is vital to its functioning, allowing the drive’s magnetic platters to spin at speeds of around 15,000 RPM, enabling the heads to read and write data. Located on the underside of a hard drive, the spindle motor is incredibly fragile, like all internal hard drive components, and can fail due to physical trauma as well as general wear and tear; remember, hard drives don’t last forever. However, in the data recovery lab, we see a lot of hard drives that have failed due to some sort of physical trauma, such as a knock, drop or bump. Another common cause of hard drive motor failure is bearing failure, as was likely the case in this instance. The spindle rests upon a series of bearings, which contain lubricant. This lubricant can often fail, causing eventual seizure of the motor.

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