I have a custom built PC with two hard drives. All was working fine until one day I tried to power on and it came on for a second and immediately turned off. I smelled a burning smell and assumed the power supply went dead. I replaced the power supply but now it wasn't turning on at all.

I wanted to backup one of my hard drives so I took it out and plugged it into a friend's desktop. When this hard drive was connected, his desktop did not start either. When I took it out, it started. I tested my own machine now without that hard drive and it started as well! It seems like something is messed up with the hard drive, which is disappointing because I have a lot of files on it.

Does anyone know what could be wrong with the hard drive and if there is any way to fix it? Perhaps replacing the power connector?

  • Is it just that specific drive? or any drive that is connected? If you use a different controller on the mainboard does it do the same thing?
    – MaQleod
    Jun 9, 2011 at 5:39
  • @MaQleod It is just that specific drive, plugging this drive into two separate machines causes neither to start. Leaving it out causes both to be able to start. I have tried different controllers on the motherboard with the same result. Jun 9, 2011 at 13:02
  • Then it definitely looks like something on that drive is fried. Burning is never a good smell from electronics, it is typically not repairable (unless you're very good with components and a soldering iron, then sometimes it is, but HDDs are very sensitive and if you're not careful you can damage the discs and destroy the data).
    – MaQleod
    Jun 9, 2011 at 14:05

3 Answers 3


You could buy an absolutely identical drive and swap the circuit board.

However the easiest solution is to toss it in the bin, buy a new drive and restore your important data from your backup.

  • Thanks, I think I'm going to try that. I'm looking online at replacement circuit boards. Jun 17, 2011 at 4:54
  • Replacing the circuit board worked! I quickly copied all my important files to another machine, but it seems like the circuit board may have just overheated. Everything seems to be working with the new circuit board. Thanks for the suggestion. Jun 29, 2011 at 20:24

The burning smell implies that some electrical component(s) heated up and failed. Seems like you isolated the failed subsystem to one harddrive. Have you visually inspected the electronics on that HDD for damaged components?

The good news is that it's probably an electrical failure on the HDD rather than a mechanical failure, so data recovery might be possible. But that data recovery might involve a professional service, i.e. $$$.

  • I checked the circuit board on the HDD, but couldn't see any visible components damaged. I'm hoping that it's just the circuit board that was affected and I can replace it. If not, I may investigate data recovery. Jun 17, 2011 at 5:06
  • This inspection info combined with the failed power supply mentioned in your other comment leads me to guess that either the platter motor or the voice coil failed. So replacing the main circuit board has a small probability of success. Replacing the motor or coil probably requires a "clean room".
    – sawdust
    Jun 17, 2011 at 7:32

You could also try inserting the drive into an external HDD USB enclosure, and connecting it via USB to the computer.

This would bypass whatever malfunction was preventing the computer from starting.

If the drive is dead, it simply won't be detected by the computer, and won't be listed, but at least it won't prevent the computer from starting.

  • I tried a SATA/IDE USB cable I found on Amazon, but a few seconds after I plugged it in, the cable's power supply got fried. I am looking into replacing the circuit board as another user suggested. Jun 17, 2011 at 4:57
  • If only the 12 volt section of the power supply is fried, then you can be sure that the HDD's motor or voice coil is the problem. Use a voltmeter to see what the power supply can still output.
    – sawdust
    Jun 17, 2011 at 7:37

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