Electronic faults on hard disk drives can be caused by any number of different problems but the most common issues are down to a problem with your computer's power supply or the external enclosure that houses the drive.  Our team of electronic engineers can perform Data Recovery Services on hard disks that have experienced an electronic fault from one or more of the common failure types below:

Incorrect or Over Voltage

Over voltage to a hard disk can result in an immediate problem.  Common scenarios that the TRC techs see are the accidental use of a laptop power supply with an external or portable hard drive and the failure of the PSU (power supply unit) of the computer in which the hard drive is housed.  Some of the symptoms of this type of problem include:

  • The hard drive failing to power up or spin as usual
  • Inaccessibility of data contained on the failed device
  • Failure of the device to be recognised in the computer's BIOS or POST procedure
  • Visible damage to the drive's circuit board
  • Often an acrid and unpleasant burning smell will be noticed

Electronic Component Failure

With this type of electronic failure the drive does not need to experience irregularity in the electricity supply, often the problem that leads to this nature of failure lies within the circuit board or component itself and no external influence is required. Many issues can lead to a blown component on your drive's PCB, some of the more common symptoms of this type of problem are below:

  • Your computer may not behave as expected, it may refuse to power on
  • Your hard drive will cease to be recognised
  • Burning and physical damage signs to hard drive components

The motor controller chip on the circuit board is a common cause of electronic failure.  This chip can quite visibly burn out and prevent the drive from spinning.  Most drive manufacturers use motor controller chips from external companies.  One of the more common ones is labelled SMOOTH and often shows very evident signs of damage.

Motor Bearing seizure

The motor bearing of a drive is not normally considered part of the drive's electronics, that said motor bearing seizure can easily be mistaken for an electronic fault as the primary symptom is the same - the drive will not spin. More often than not, no damage is caused to the electronics, however, the behviour exhibited can be very similar:

  • The drive will seem dead and the usual hum associated with a spinning drive will not be present
  • Sometimes a quiet humming or whirring sound can be observed

If either an electronic fault or a motor seizure is suspected, the drive should be immediately powered down.

What do I do if I have experienced an electronic failure!?

One of the most common ideas is to 'swap' the failed hard drive's circuit board.  Whilst this may seem to be a reasonable approach, replacing the failed item with a working one, it can cause further complications.  Modern hard disk drive circuit boards or PCBs are not directly interchangeable, they contain specific or adaptive information from manufacture which 'tunes' them to specific paramaters of the finished device.  There is next to no chance that two hard drives that are purchased seperately at different times will have interchangeable PCBs. Even when a donor drive from the same batch is used, there is no guarantee that the two unique devices are close enough internally for this procedure to work.  Serious complications can arise when attempts are made to swap boards.

Modern hard disk drives are incredibly intraicate and precise devices.. When manufactured no two hard disk drives leave the assembly line with identical platter media or read/write head alignment, differences between two hard drives that seem to be superficially identical can be immense. Once a drive is produced, these differences are mapped out and this information is almost always recorded to a special area of the PCB, as it is unlikely that you will have two perfectly identical devices, it is just as unlikely that a PCB swap will work.

An attempt to swap a circuit board with a 'similar' one can lead to permanent and expensive complications when the drive reaches a data recovery company.  The question to ask should always be: 'Is this attempt really worth it?'

When you contact TRC Data Recovery about an electronic failure on your hard drive you have a guarantee - if nothing has been done that may hamper our efforts and the drive's warranty seals are intact - you only pay us if we are successful because of our no recovery-no fee service.

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