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Can HDD platters theoretically be interchanged that one could recover data from a HDD in which something else might be damaged? I am interested if it is technically possible, whichever effort is needed for that. This might also be of interest for forensic research.

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It's probable possible, but would be very, very expensive –  Andrew Lambert Mar 12 '12 at 10:58
    
In theory its possible. Since you are even asking this question its nothing you will be able to actually do. –  Ramhound Mar 12 '12 at 11:35
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Seriously, who is voting this down and why? –  bamboon Mar 13 '12 at 9:25
    
Seriously? Why WOULDN'T it be voted down my friend? First of all, just how precious is the data? Second, while step by steps on this are available you are going to have find a bad drive of exact same model even to firmware and then you don't know WHAT was bad.. could have same issue or worse. Third, those were not meant to be handled by HAND. There were meant to be dealt with by precise operation machines. Even IF you managed to do the swap... now you gotta align the heads etc... No damn way you are gunna pull that off. The places doing this charge up of 350.00/hour + machines for it. –  OG Chuck Low Oct 20 at 22:04

3 Answers 3

Yes, platters can be removed and re-installed, given you do it in a clean environment and the platter origination matches the platter destination (e.g. it is transferred into the same type of module).

Of course, this can be a DIY project, but ultimately, it should be for professionals, and in circumstances that you refer to. A platter is a platter at the manufacturing plant, the disk doesn't care which ones it gets. But again, it must be clean and it must be careful and still, there's no guarantee.

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Theoritically speaking, yes, if you aren't serious about getting the data and just want to experiment. Practically speaking, no, not for doing this in your basement in an attempt to get real data recovery. In addition to the required clean room, you also need identical hardware. The platters need to be maintained in the same relative position. Replacing platters is simple for data recovery companies that have the equipment. The cost is typically around USD$1,000. Serious data recovery, where the platters are physically damaged is still possible, but at astronomic costs.

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I am not planning to do this, I am just technically interested in the effort which is needed to do it. Where did you get that 1k$ figure from? –  bamboon Mar 12 '12 at 12:05
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We had an older maxtor drive that died (would spin up and then stop after a minute). It had some important marketing proposals that were in progresss that our company deemed critical. We sent it to a data recovery company in the Boston area, and they returned the files on DVD for approximately $1k. Search for "Disk Data recovery services" and you'll find similar rates ($300 to inifinity) depending on the problem/damage. –  jdh Mar 12 '12 at 15:02
    
Heya Bamboon.. I just called two different places for you just for giggles. A 300GB HDD would be minim 500.00 for them to image. IF they have to take into the clean room (and here I am a bit chagrined as he says they generally do it by hand but... they been doing it for decade! And they have the proper tools...) However, the most important part is a clean room. Unless you have access to a clean room the likely hood of this working is slim to none. And, if they took that same drive into the clean for the disassemble approach that's minimum 1600.00.. that's assuming all goes SMOOTHLY. –  OG Chuck Low Oct 20 at 22:14

Yes hard drive platters can be interchanged. As a matter of fact I did this two days ago on a Hitachi HDD that had a password locked up on it. This is not an easy job to do however and requires good lighting and some small fine tools. I use watchmaker tools when I do this sort of work which is very infrequent. The HDD housings are not all the same and neither are the control boards. You will need to remove the thin metal top of it's tiny small screws which may be about 7-9 depending on the brand. In my recent case I tranfered the platter from the Hitachi to a Toshiba HDD. This means that I had to deal with two drives. One should mark the covers and so forth as not to get confused when opening and laying aside the relevant components of each. It is recommended to open onne drive at a time instead of working alternatively on both. Each may have different size screws. The ID tags will need to be removed also that display the type of drive and it's pertinent details as to size, etc.

You will also need to remove the control board from each. this is usually easy to do, but you will need the right size screwdrivers. A "Kamsa" set of 30 tools say from a store home depot (if available) will also have an assortment of these type of screwdrivers. Regular watch screw driver will in some cases work but is not recommended! Reason: The screws are small and usually quite tight, you do not want to do damage here. If you have a drive under warranty doing such work is not advisable. Much here depends on your motive for getting access or switching a platter. That is your thing.

The sticky label can be removed by taking a new thin razor blade (Gillette type) old style that dad used that has double edge. Do not use contractor type blades for cleaning windows for example which have a single edge. They are not sharp enough. Now if your not concerned about putting the sticky label back then you can peel it off in any way you wish.

You will need to remove it, especially if you need to remove other components from inside the drive.But that is not the discussion here. However the sticky label usually covers up a screw that holds the drive motor. In any case one should work slowly and very carefully.

It is the opposite side of the green G10 fiberglass control board that require the access! Once the screws are removed this thin "lid" will come off with use of fingernails to gently pry it up and away. HERE you must be extremely cautious as the drive platter will be immediately exposed. If you slip for any reason one could so easily scratch or damage the platter!!

It is also suggested to at least have your work area clean before starting any of this type of work. Then it is suggested to have at least a single 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of white printing paper to place and work on your HDD. Have very good lighting. It is also suggested to use a head type LED light you strap on your head. And you may wish to purchase a decent loupe (magnifier) of around 30x. This helps for sure when you wish to inspect any detail inside the HDD black box.

Now some people have different drive from different manufactures and sometime not.

Here is what is important: You must be certain in advance that the platter diameter is the same or slightly smaller when switching. You cannot place a platter more than 1/2 mm in diameter into another case even if it is the same type of case. Be sure the platter will fit.If you do not have a way to measure here to know if the platter fits then take the wax paper (not paper) that the Gillette blade came in. The Gillette blade you will only use to get under the sticky label to then lift it from the thin cover using a tweezer to pull back that label. As said if you don't need the label, throw it away.

The wax paper that the blade came in can be used to measure from the center screw of where the platter rotates on it's motor to the edge and you can care fully mark the distance onto the wax paper. Simply take one end of the wax paper and place it's end onto the center screw and you will see then the opposite end where it falls as to the housing (black HDD box) Mark it now with a fine black felt pen marker. Now if your hands were steady and vision good you can open up the other drive to see how the "layout" is. It may very well be the same or very close in all respects.BUT THE PLATTER MUST FIT by diameter!.

Now comes the hard work: Notice that you should see a sort of cone (I call it that) in the center of the platter. This is what hold down the disk/s in place on the rotor! you should see various holes around this cone, maybe four or six. In any case the center of this will have a "Hold Down" screw. The holes on the cone (depending manufacturer) are for a tool that they use to hold things in place while they TIGHTEN the center screw! Here you may or may not encounter a problem. This center screw is what need to be removed. Those other holes do not hold anything.They are simply for an assist tool so as not to scratch the platter. Even if you place a screw remover (proper size) on the center screw and turn the screw driver you will observe that the platter rotate freely. But they are "locked"in due to the center screw.OK so how do you do this removal.If you wish to take the risk here do the following: Have at hand a eyeglass cleaning cloth (a clean one) and fold it and place it on top of the exposed platter and very,very near the cone or hub. When you have done so place you left index finger and middle finger opposite the hub diameter to hold the platter from rotating. IF lucky you can now use the appropriate screwdriver to loosen the center screw that holds all in place. Note: This may not always function as some assembly workers use mor strength than others. It just depends on how tight that screw is!.

If it loosens your in luck. But hold your breath, nothing is over yet. Now if it did loosen then just snug it up again and do the same on the other drive if the diameter of the disk is the same.

If your lucky in both drives you are about 80% in business. Here next is the tricky part, BUT I mean tricky. I say this because even an experienced individual in other micro technology issues may not solve the next 20% issue. You will notice that you will see the read/write arm and at the end of the arm a small piece of plastic that has a screw in it and another small hole next to it. Well that plastic piece (usually yellow or green)is now in the way!. In other words you cannot lift up the platter till that plastic read/write head is out of the way. There are two ways but one is very dangerous and the other way requires some manipulating of the other components in the case.

But before I elaborate on that let me now explain how you will lift the platter of the center drive cone or hub. here is what you do and what I do.Take a very sticky tiny piece of tape,-clean tape. You will need two of these small pieces of tape. On each side of the cone BUT at the outside of the disk / platter place carefully with LIGHT pressure or no pressure the tape.This will ASSIST to lift of the platter when the read/write head is out of the way.

Here now is additionally a different factor YOU MUST consider: If you have identical drives then no problem, but here it depends on the height of the platter on that cone or hub as it-the hub determines the height (sitting height) of the platter as it moves through the yellow or green plastic glider (explained earlier) that is at the end of the arm that holds the read/write heads.I cannot over emphasize the importance of this check as you will have no real way to know this without PRECISE measurement. But it may be your luck or if you have same housing configurations that you can Go Ahead here.I have years and years of super fine instruments and knowledge in mechanics and electronics, so I don't care to assume you do. I think like in my first days as watchmaker there are good ways and not so good ways of doing a service job on a Patek Phillpe or other fine make.

But you decide your risk here. Maybe you just want the platter and do not care to mount it right away or whatever and just wish to take it out. We all have reasons for doing things.

So here now is the step that you must take into consideration: (1) If you feel or believe or somehow are sure the height of the glider piece (yellow/green) where the fingers slide from the read/write are at the same height then CONSIDER this: It is very very very difficult to get the read/write head back into that plastic (yellow or green) slider if it FALLS out. Read that last word again! It must not fall out from the arm. If you view this with a loupe (magnifier) you will observe that this is an EXTREMELY delicate piece of the apparatus!

If you have the nerve, will, time, lighting, patience, love, etc you can accomplish this final task.

Now you must loosen the arm assembly and the rectangular block that hold the pins that connect to the other side of the housing that interconnect to the green G10 Control board.

It looks sensitive and it is but it will not BREAK or destroy if you remove the screws that hold the arm and the small block connector. The small block connector has two (2) screws and the arm will have his screws. essentially when all is loose the whole apparatus will lift out. But you may not need to lift it all out! REMEMBER YOU ONLY NEED CLEARANCE FOR THE PLASTIC (green or yellow) PIECE THAT STOPS THE PLATTER FROM LIFTING OFF THE CONE/OR HUB.

IF YOU KEEP THESE FACTORS IN MIND (KEEP IT IN MIND) --- THEN BE SURE AS SURE CAN BE THAT THE GLIDER DOES NOT SLIDE OFF THE READ/WRITE FINGER OR ARM ASSEMBLY. If it does happen your in deep water but not drowning! You would have to know how to slide it back on. This very tricky as at the end of the read/write arm you (vision given) you would notice two tiny, tiny heads about a millimeter square attached by very very fine wires, hardly visible. But who knows you may have good eys, mind and hands and some tools to help get the slider into the right location. Here it is best if you could photograph this if you have a camera so ask to not need to be in doubt as to just how it was placed on the arm.

So that is about it as far as this procedure goes.

It really is a job to be done cleanly and exactly right. Some of us have patience,some do not.

So I wish you luck if you go ahead.

You may always write if help is needed: mcb@stealth-email.com Place in subject line HDD

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And this would be why you don't do it. It's called a Ghost. Image your shit. –  OG Chuck Low Oct 20 at 22:05

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