So, i have old HDD and i need to get information from it but small problem that HDD is dead, can anybody explain proccess how peoples get information from it. Is this depends from model of HDD?

Thnx for any information about this question.

  • 3
    How dead is dead? Is there any physical damage - burnt chips and the lot? Is it making noises that sound like undead rabbits having a party? Does it click like a rat clicking its teeth while you're having off a bottomless pit by a rope?
    – Journeyman Geek
    Jul 27, 2012 at 7:30
  • 1
    How old is old? Is there more than one platter inside? If there is just one platter you may be able to exchange platter to another case (same mfg/model!) extremely carefully. This method however, if not successful, could destroy this platter. Another thing is that you need to waste one working HDD. I've done this few times without too many problems. If you wish to try this method (last method to try! 2 disks wasted!) I can write short guide here, just ask. Do not open it for counting platters! Jul 27, 2012 at 7:40
  • You could also, in theory replace the system board from an identical HDD. Still, the best approach would very seriously depend on the mode of failure.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Jul 27, 2012 at 7:46
  • 2Journeyman Geek ha ha)) no, in one moment i can't see it in BIOS, not any physical damage on it and it looks fine, no undead voices inside it, yep it's so old six years ago it happend)) 2Sampo What about guide i think it'll be very good for me, and maybe other people who have same problem say thanks too) Jul 27, 2012 at 7:48
  • 2Geek How difficult to repair it by yourself, without any failure when you never do this things? Jul 27, 2012 at 7:53

3 Answers 3


This answer focuses on exchanging HDD platters,

you really should try all other methods before this, some listed here:

  • Try to figure out what part is most probably broken, spend most of your spare time to do this.
  • Turn DMA off from BIOS settings.
  • Try doing hot boot Ctrl+Alt+Del from BIOS several times to allow more time for drive to spin up.
  • Try using disk with another computer.
  • Try using external HDD docking station or something similar.
  • Try swapping logic board with one from working disk (there is change that you don't need board from exactly same model).

Now, if you have another disk that is working and decided to remove protective covers from broken HDD then remember to:

  1. Use clean tools and clean workbench, avoid dust.
  2. Do not touch hard disk platters or heads by hand.
  3. Be extra careful when working with parts around actuator arm magnets as those magnets are extremely strong in terms of permanent magnet.
  4. Avoid dust. Generally and in theory older disks can take more dust before completely breaking (more room for heads).
  5. Do not use magnetic tools. Also most parts and screws is made of aluminum.

You will need two hard disks, one broken and one working. Both disks will be wasted and rendered useless during recovery process. Other tools that you need is torx driver (T8 is common one), few small and sharp flat-blade screwdrivers, and some imagination.

Start with working HDD by removing top cover:

Unscrew top cover screws. If required use sharp edged screwdriver to release cover sealing.

If there is more than one platter inside you should immediately put cover back and get some special tools for holding platters and lifting them out. Platters must be aligned properly so you need to make sure that they don not move in relation to each other.

For broken disk inspect all components inside, try to rotate platter from top of bearings (do not touch platter surface), check platter surface for any visible scratches. Try to keep platters covered while you are not working on it. Best if you can take some sharp hi-res pictures, put covers back and take your time inspecting pictures, usually you could see many things that is not visible for naked eye.

Remove actuator arm if needed:

If actuator arm has special separate parking zone then you want to check if platters can be removed/inserted without removing/rotating actuator arm. If needed you can try to loosen head parking zone bearing screw.

If there is no parking zone outside platter then you probably need to take actuator arm with heads out. In this case use your imagination, how to keep heads in good condition and how to get heads back to platter surface. I have used small plastic square (5x5mm) or taped hard foam (in pictures, easily cutted to right size and thickness), thickness should be same as platter thickness or 5-10% more to avoid collisions with platter edge. Use material that does not damage heads.

Note: My old Maxtor in images does not have special parking zone which means that heads will always "touch" platter.

Moving heads out. Heads ready for moving back without too bad slap.

Remove locking ring that holds platter in place:

While loosening screws that hold ring in place you also need to hold platter in position. Do not allow any uncontrolled platter rotation. Use holes or screws in ring to hold it, loosen and tighten lightly all screws before removing them (if you remove screws right away then at least last screw will take all pressure and you need more torque for opening it, try to keep pressure for screws equal).

Hold locking ring and remove screws from platter center.

Remove platter:

Now you can use your imagination again if you don't happen to have hard disk platter removal tool in your arsenal. Any rubber edged tool that fits comfortably between platter edge and case will do. Make sure that platter is held and balanced well, do not force platters out.

Remove platter by holding edges using rubber edged tool.

Repeat above steps for broken HDD

Be extra careful while removing heads or while moving actuator arm. Again, it could help if you can get drive spinning before trying to move heads. Here it can be better to remove all parts that might be too close to platters as you are not going to put platter back to broken drive. Avoid scratching platter at all costs.

Insert platter from broken HDD to working one:

Insert platter by holding edges using rubber edged tool.

Finally try to put it back together. If actuator arm removed or there was no parking zone for heads you can use foam between heads to move them back on track (platter surface), again carefully, be steady.

Do not turn actuator arm back in original position by hand, instead try to rotate platter and see if it magically goes to right position (again: don't touch surface, this is not CD/DVD). If you need to force heads to some parking position then use some small soft spring for pushing actuator arm to right direction, again: rotate platters.

  • 4
    pictures are awesome, especially the website being reflected on the platters ;-)
    – user118305
    Jul 28, 2012 at 18:44
  • Nice tutorial and pictures
    – Force Flow
    Jul 28, 2012 at 20:35
  • 1
    +1 for epicness. Shouldn't you be doing this in a clean room tho? ;p
    – Journeyman Geek
    Jul 29, 2012 at 12:20
  • @JourneymanGeek it depends, if you are repairing disk for continuous use then you should use clean room. However if it is enough that drive works for few hours for copying bits out then it is not strict requirement. This method will break both discs, probably by head crash. Higher density means higher risk, this works best with old small capacity disks <100GB. I have once runned 40Gb Maxtor for many hours without cover at all, and it worked well. Jul 29, 2012 at 12:36
  • o ho ho ho, such a beautiful tutorial, thanks very much and +1 of course, nice pics and very very nice explanation, thank you! Jul 30, 2012 at 6:44

If all else fails, you can send your drive off to a professional recovery service.

Typically, at minimum it costs $500 and can go upwards of $2,000.

Here is one of the reputable ones (this used to be the company named "Ontrack"): http://www.krollontrack.com/data-recovery/data-recovery-services/hard-drive-recovery/

The bottom line is that for professional recovery services it all depends on how much that data is worth to you.

  • Thanks for answer. Can you tell me do you have experience of working with this company? Jul 30, 2012 at 6:56
  • Not personally, no. I know a few people who have, though.
    – Force Flow
    Jul 30, 2012 at 12:29

If you aren't ready to pay large amounts of cash for data recovery and want to attempt to do it yourself, you can TRY it, but keep in mind that these companies get paid the big bucks because it's hard to do.

My Hard Drive Died, one of the various commercial data recovery companies, actually has videos and presentations showing exactly how they recover data from hard drives, depending on exactly how the drive failed.

It's interesting stuff to read and watch, but if the data is worth more than the cost of recovery, then you're best off to send it to the professionals.

  • Yep, i agree with you, it's better to send it professionals. What about me, i want to understand how it works and how to use DIY methods. Thanks for links Michael, it's very useful. Jul 30, 2012 at 7:02

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