Editor's Blog: Hard Drive Repairman Rik Fixes a Dead Drive (with Photos)

Editor's Blog: Hard Drive Repairman Rik Fixes a Dead Drive (with Photos)

Even if your Mac has plenty of volumes, losing an important one can ruin your day - or at least your regular backup schedule.

 

The other day one of my backup drives went south - the one holding my photo backups, to be exact. I have about 100GB of photos, and since losing them to a hard-drive failure would be a tragedy, I back them up daily. Well, I actually back everything up daily, but it's the photos I worry most about. Losing photos of my daughters' early years, Rox's performances, Carey's athletic events, my folks, our family vacations, and more would be far more painful than losing my iTunes collection - and besides, that's still on my 'Pods.

 

But since I'm well-protected by backups, I could actually perversely enjoy the death rattle of this particular drive - at least in a pseudo-scientific way: It died in what was easily the loudest fashion that I've ever heard: loud chirps 'n' sqeeks, clicks noticeably louder than an Iomega Zip Drive's classic Click of Death, and the occasional parrot-like squawk. After this sadism began to bore me, I ejected and disconnected the offending drive - but didn't toss it.

 

When hard drives die, it's easy - and cheap - to simply replace their innards rather than buy a whole new external FireWire drive. Follow along and learn how - and, by the way, if you're not interested in learning how to replace a drive's guts, cut ahead to the last page of this blog entry to learn some Fun Facts to Know and Tell about hard-drive evolution. Trust me; it's interesting stuff. Really.

 

Next: The Point of No Return, then The Screws

 

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anju

Last monday i already faced this problem. Suddenly my laptop hard drive window corrupt. Then i ask my friend he gave me advice to go only HDRC in Nehru Place. When i reach there they ask what was happen with your hard drive. I told everything about my HDD, then they gave me time for testing and recovering. Next day when i check my data, i thanks to my friend who gave me a good suggestion, i would like thanks to the staff also. That why i am asking you also go their without wasting your time. They have very efficient tools for recovery the hard drive in physical and logical condition.

best regard,

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JohnF

Keeping the home price and storage price comparison going, you'd probably be better off spending the same money for a 167M/sq ft house than buying the same house for a buck 12. After all, people (apps) are thousands of times fatter than they were 20 years ago. And they've got tons of baggage stashed all over the place. Elbow room today is not much more than it was way back when.

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edictofnantes

Wait. By the way, $0.000336 is not three one-hundredths of a cent, it's three ten-thousands of a cent. [from Rik: Actually, shouldn't it be three one-thousandths of a cent?] Not to nitpick, but I don't know if anyone else picked up on that. Also, I'll throw some more interesting figures at you. According to those same inflation figures I stated above, $1199 is worth roughly $2165.46 today, and with that same cost per megabyte, you could get a drive today with nearly 6.5 TB (6,445 GB) of stoarage!

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edictofnantes

Oh man!
I was really hoping to find out what that 250GB drive would have cost at that same cost per megabyte that year.
So I'll tell you. $14,987,500!
If you factor in inflation, that makes it about $7,679,595 (source: Consumer Price Index, annual Statistical Abstracts of the United States). I just thought that would be interesting to throw in.

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Ken W

First off, if you do a Google search for Maxtor you'll quickly find out they've been acquired by Seagate.

I've been very pleased with the Maxtor Barracuda Hard Drives. To my knowledge, they are the only brand of hard drives that come with a five-year warranty. Also, I've yet to have a Barracuda fail on me (I shouldn't have said that!), but I've had several IBM Deskstars die.

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Rik

1. I did refer to the Seagate purchase of Maxtor in an earlier comment ("Backup!", above).

2. It's interesting that the Maxtor drive you refer to is named "Barracuda," as that's a name that's been used for years by Seagate for a very dependable line of their drives (and a line often found in Macs). I just dug around a bit on the Seagate website, and only found Barracudas branded as Seagate -- their Maxtor-branded drives appear to be the well-known DiamondMax and MobileMax. There's a good chance, however, that I'm missing something -- can you give me any more specifics about a Barracuda drive that's Maxtor-branded? I did find one German site and one Italian site that referred to Seagate/Maxtor Barracudas, but that's the best I could do.

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Anonymous

Well I can remember like 4-6 years ago you ran an article about buying firewire hard drives that had failed hard drives and replacing the internals to save money.

This article is really elementary, I would say most people who visit a tech site would know how to do this already, or is this an indication of new target of Mac**** magazine. Sorry I still can't call it the new name.

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rmyslewski

Actually, it was intended to be elementary. Not everybody feels comfortable with opening up a hard-drive enclosure - I was trying to thoroughly demystify the process, and make it possible for the average Joe (or Jane) to have the chutzpah to peel off a label that says "Warranty Void if Seal Is Broken" and dig around inside. Maybe next time out I'll write a how-to about building a mini nuclear reactor using depleted-uranium shell casings to power a Blue-and-White G3 tower...

Oh, and to whomever asked about the pattern of the fabric: Good eye! That's a Turkish tablecloth, from the days when my wife lived in Gemlik on the Sea of Marmara.

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Anonymous

I love the fabric backgrounds of your photos. Is it Greek? Lebanese? Turkish? Somewhere in the northern middle east area, right? It is nice to see actual fabric being used and not just table top wood. You have good advice as well about how to replace a bad hard drive. You also have friendly writing with good information and good photographs. Did you make these photographs at home?

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Jason Whong

I have to admit I thought you were going to swap out the platters into a new drive mechanism when I came in, but I guess there's a reason why people (used to?) pay hundreds of dollars for such a service.

I recently replaced a squealing HD in a PowerBook G4. It was a lot less fun. But I used a Toshiba TravelStar drive, at 7200 RPM, no less. (Batter life is not all that important to me...)

Anyway, this is one of those blog posts that people will refer to for many years in the future... Great work.

Jason

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Dave

Let's not generalize too much. I've had a 40gb Maxtor firewire drive for, I think, 4 years, maybe 5, and it's still going strong. I'm sure drive reliability varies greatly across any manufacturer's product line, as they change vendors, etc. Probably the best thing to do when shopping for a new drive is to look at customer reviews on sites like CNET or Amazon.

That said, I have to admit that last summer I helped a friend who just happened to have a LaCie FW drive fail on him. We cracked it open and yes, I admit that it was a Maxtor drive (don't remember the capacity, etc.). However, we were eventually able to reformat it and, as far as I know, he's still using it, albeit with the loss of the data he had on it (the project files and media for his feature-length film, argh).

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rmyslewski

Dave, you write: "...albeit with the loss of the data he had on it (the project files and media for his feature-length film, argh)." He didn't have a daily backup of something that important?! Yikes! With drives as cheap as they are these days, I can't for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn't have a bootable external backup drive. (I know, I know -- I'm a hopeless nag...)

Oh, and of course most Maxtor drives run just fine for a long time -- otherwise Seagate would never have bought the company. I've just had a run of bad luck with them that I've never had with Hitachi, Seagate, or Western Digital drives.

 

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Josh

Obviously, if a large percentage of Maxtor drives were bad the company would no longer exist. That said, I stay away from Maxtor as I've has two "unlucky" streaks. The first was when I decided to put a Maxtor 40 gig drive in my QuickSilver G4, which died after about a month. I replaced it with another Maxtor 40 gig, which also died. I then decided to go with a 60 gig drive, Maxtor being the cheapest, and that died as well. A couple years later I decided to lift my ban on Maxtor and get myself a 160 from Maxtor, which lasted three months. I promptly replaced it with a 120 from Maxtor, which lasted three days. Yes, days. Now I stick to Seagate and Western Digital, with no problems.

I tried contacting Maxtor's support but they weren't any help for any of the drives, which kind of pissed me off since I lost over $500 on Maxtor drives. It's reassuring that someone else has had a similar experience.

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Anonymous

Good Grief...If I were a lawyer...I would be calling Maxtor and offering my services for non statistical trashing of a company and product but since I am not I will simply add my two cents to the debate. I have had many hard drives over the years, usually replacing them with larger capacity drives in the cases if the firmware in the case recognises the larger capacity drives. I have had exactly one failed drive in fifteen years and that was a OEM in the Apple 7100 Power PC machine..yes...that far back was the only drive that died on me but I managed to pull the data out of it whilst it was still staggering about. I have had fifteen Maxtor Drives or more. I have also some Seagates and Hitachis....all work fine, some are faster and some slower but all work. What can I say? I back up my work. I listen for odd sounds. I use non fan cases for them most part but new drives run pretty cool so that is not an issue nowadays. I check my drives for directory errors from time to time but with OSX they are rarely damaged in terms of that and mechanically the new ones are outstandingly silent...especially the Maxtors...So this is a different opinion and there are no doubt many stories. I am a bit startled at the writer who had piles of drive failures from a particular case..sounds like a power supply issue to me but hey. so sue me...

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Ben

So I was at my friends house one day this last summer and they're those "other users" who like that OS-not-to-be-named-here. But anyways, they USED this old IBM running '98 for a faux-network storage solution. As we all know, because of how Windows ages, it couldn't really be used for anything else. One day, they needed to get something off of this old P.O.S. and when they turned it on, it made this really loud grinding noise. Immediately I said, "your hard drive just ate itself." And what do you know? It won't boot Windows anymore [and considering how insecure Windows is, especially '98, this is probably a good thing]. For kicks, I cracked open this old beastie and find it has a 6 GB. MAXTOR IDE drive in it.

RIK SPEAKS THE TRUTH

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Bay-Area Bound?

I'm thinking of moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I soooooooo wish that your home prices/hard drive prices comparison was anywhere near true. Ah, a house in San Francisco for a buck and change! If only.

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Taras

I've actually had the opposite problem occur more frequently, that is, I've had the electronics in the enclosure go south while leaving the hard drive in the enclosure fine with no data loss. This used to happen more often with the early FireWire enclosures. I actually have one drive that is on its third enclosure.

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Chattanooga

I think this is the case with my LaCie 500 GB drive. Have you replaced a power-board before?

(The drive would suddenly lose power, but would restart and remount. This Saturday night, it didn't restart.

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Anonymous

Interesting that you've had the drive's electronics fail on you -- that's never happened to me, though I've had the HDDs crap out a couple of times (I manage a bunch of Macs in a small graphic design shop). I guess you and I will balance out the curve. By the way, I can usually hear an HDD die -- Rik's reports of clicks and squeeks are pretty common -- but how do you know that the electronics are dying? Or do you just know when they're dead?

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Tom

Rik - It appears that you didn't actually "fix" anything. You replaced the failed hard drive within its case, but you neither fixed the dead drive nor restored its data. I was looking forward to you moving the old platters into a new drive (in a homemade clean room or somesuch) and being able to read your photo library once again. I guess that would be rather tricky, wouldn't it?

Will you be "fixing" a bad memory chip next month? ;-)

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