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I have a spinning drive that randomly failed on me. I have since replaced the drive and restored the data from backup. However, I want to ensure that the drive failure was due to an internal fault, and not because of another factor such as the power supply, SATA controller, or some other component that is still in use.

I have taken the PCB off the drive, and opened the drive up, everything looks pristine. What can I learn from the damaged drive to determine the cause of death?

  • Plug the old disk in an look at the SMART stats. that should give you some clue whether it was mechanical or issues with the disk platters or heads. – Frank Thomas Nov 3 '16 at 2:34
  • I'd try taking it to the morgue and asking for a full autopsy. Then of course a nice tombstone or cremation depending on your faith. – ejbytes Nov 3 '16 at 5:37
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You can't learn much by looking at its innards if it looks fine inside, without hard drive testing hardware.

The best way to find the cause of death is to plug it back in and see what noises it makes. Some examples are: clicking, grinding, no noise at all, which can all indicate different problems.

It also helps to diagnose by thinking about what happened immediately before it stopped working (such as a lightning strike), or if it was having problems for awhile or being slow for months before it finally gave out.

Some reasons hard drives die:

  • power surges (e.g. lightning strike)
  • mechanical failure (e.g. bad sectors, spindle broke, etc)
  • dropped the hard drive
  • too hot, exceeded hardware specifications and temperature limitations
  • more rarely, too cold, froze and caused breakage or permanent corruption
  • corrupted system (usually fully recoverable if only problem)
  • defective PCB (motherboard) - common reason, often replacing PCB results in working drive again
  • Hi @User91232 thanks for the reply. The drive died pretty quick while in use and lived in a good home, thus my desire for postmortem. Can you please expand on what hard drive testing tools would help without the drive being powered? – Resorath Nov 3 '16 at 2:10
  • Hard drive testing tools (hardware) are not available to the layperson, this isn't something you can just go buy and test. It is too expensive and requires detailed knowledge of hardware, something you don't have or you would not be asking this question. Alternatively you could pay $500 to $2000 to take it to a data recovery facility and I am sure they will diagnose it for you as well. Otherwise, your best bet is to do as above in my answer. – user7783780 Nov 3 '16 at 2:16

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