My question

Is there any way of debugging bad (as in no longer recognized) hard-drives? Ideally an open-source tool that can interact with the device to capture/interpret SATA communication and issue error codes such as "platters stuck", "head failure", etc.

The problem

One of my NAS hard-drives, a Seagate ST2000DL003, started beeping/chirping and clicking repeatedly. After a reboot the storage manager no longer recognized the HDD. The sound is similar to this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9i5yixsJbk .

My attempts

I suspected that one of the read/write heads got damaged and was touching its platter because the platters are spinning-up but the read/write heads are making noises when being actioned. With no backup of that drive (shame on me, I know), not willing to pay for professional support (too expensive with no guarantees of recovery) and having another similar drive at hand, I attempted a fix by swapping parts.

  1. Swapping PCBs - did not work: The bad drive (with the PCB from the good one) keeps making the same repeated noises and isn't recognized. The good drive (with the PCB from the bad one) spins-up and makes no noises but isn't recognized either. Note: the two hard-drive PCBs have identical codes: 100617465 REV B .

  2. Swapping read/write heads - inconclusive: I've ignored all warnings and followed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iiEKZhDapo . After removing the head assembly from the bad drive, I discovered that there is no visible damage to the read/write heads (see the attached image) and no visible scratches on the platters. I didn't continue with the head assembly swap, assuming there is no mechanical issue with the drive but rather a firmware issue.

ST2000DL003 head assembly with no visible damage to read/write heads

My pointers rely only on youtube videos (which is not always a good source of information). So, before disassembling a functional hard-drive I would like to narrow down the causes of the problem I'm dealing with.


Opening a hard-drive case WILL void its warranty and CAN lead to total data loss. Such operation should only be performed by data recovery professionals. Having said that, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNJqTPutrJ4 suggests DIY HDD disassembly to be a less risky procedure.

  • "Swapping read/write heads" the warnings are not for fun. You need a clean room to do that. – DavidPostill Oct 7 '18 at 19:27
  • The problem is even the professionals won’t touch it now. – Appleoddity Oct 7 '18 at 19:31
  • With you're limited knowledge you might actually do more harm than good, but if you are willing to risk it, I would advise swap the platters an put it in a working donor drive. Unless the problem is with the platters you might be able to access the data. Again, you might do more harm then good! – Albin Oct 7 '18 at 20:53
  • @DavidPostill: I've edited the question and added a disclaimer. However, a debugging tool would be useful and would prevent unnecessary HDD disassembly. – Game Instance Oct 7 '18 at 20:56
  • @Albin: Thanks for the advice. I admit my limited knowledge and that this is a hail Mary attempt. I would rather swap the heads as they seem less prone to accidental destruction while handling. Also, the heads are kept in place only by a screw. – Game Instance Oct 7 '18 at 21:01