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The Joy of Laptop Hard Drives


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#1
Uncultured

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Hey everyone!
Am new to the forum and am excited to be here--I'm starting to get into building and whatnot, but before I really head over to that forum I have a frustrating question I'd like to ask. I have a Dell 8200 Inspiron laptop with a 60 gb IBM travelstar hard drive. A week or so ago, while potching around on windows (I have XP), I began to hear a clicking noise, as though something was stuck inside the hard drive. I rapidly attempted to begin loading data onto a CD so I could burn it but unfortunately, Windows froze and my hard drive then crashed. I attempted to reinstall windows to get access to the data, but it kept trying to get me to format, so I abandoned my efforts. I looked into data recovery services but they're VERY expensive and I figure, if I wanna build a computer, I could at least put a decent effort into recovering my own hard drive. Does anyone know of a place where I could learn how to do this? A friend mentioned that a good way to get the data is to get a hard drive reader that would, in effect, convert the broken drive into an external storage drive i could plug into a USB port. Do they make these for laptop hard drives? If not, how should I proceed? Again, all responses are welcome. Thanks everyone!
Andrew

Edited by Uncultured, 24 May 2005 - 09:25 PM.

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#2
Samm

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OK, a very brief lesson in hard drives for you :

There are different types of problems you can get with a drive. These include (to name the main ones) : corrupt files, corrupt MBR/boot sector/partition tables, bad sectors, head crashes, mechanical faults etc.

Data corruption is literally just that, corrupted or inaccessible data. There are many different causes of this but only the data is affected, not the hardware of the drive. IE you might lose your files but drive itself will be recoverable

MBR, partition tables etc are at the very start of the drive & normally invisible to the user. They are responsible for containing information about the drive, its partition structure, whether its bootable, what file system is being used and so on. If this gets damaged, you will have problems accessing the drive & the data on it. In some cases, it can be very hard or even impossible to retrieve the data especially after a few failed attempts at fixing it. But again, the drive itself can be repaired simply by restoring the MBR for example, with a default/blank copy.

Bad sectors are sectors or areas on the disk platter which are physically damaged. They cannot be repaired but they can be marked as bad and in newer drives, the area is reallocated to a spare sector. This means that the system will no longer attempt to read or write to that area. Any data that was stored in that sector before it went bad, will often be lost.

A head crash is when the read/write head touches the surface of the disk platter. This is often a non-recoverable problem that means the end of the drive for good.

Physical faults may include problems with the disk spindle for example or a damaged component on the PCB board. Again, these will normally mean the end of the drive.

Unfortunately, when a drive is experiencing symptoms such as yours is, and is making a clicking noise, it often means it is physically dead or dying. This means that you will not be able to use the drive as external storage or anything else if it is physically damaged.

The only thing I could suggest, is go to the link below & download ontracks data advisor (demo version). There are instructions to download for it on that same page. This will run from a bootable floppy disk & analyse the drive for you. As it is a demo version, it probably won't recover anything but it will at least tell you what is wrong & if it is recoverable.

http://www.ontrack.com/dataadvisor/
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#3
crashandburn

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Hey everyone!
  Am new to the forum and am excited to be here--I'm starting to get into building and whatnot, but before I really head over to that forum I have a frustrating question I'd like to ask.  I have a Dell 8200 Inspiron laptop with a 60 gb IBM travelstar hard drive.  A week or so ago, while potching around on windows (I have XP), I began to hear a clicking noise, as though something was stuck inside the hard drive.  I rapidly attempted to begin loading data onto a CD so I could burn it but unfortunately, Windows froze and my hard drive then crashed.  Does anyone know of a place where I could learn how to do this? 

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From personal experience (crashed Connor drive on a Dell 310 10 years ago) it's worth trying to replace the circuit board on the drive. I really couldn't afford the 850+ pounds required to send my drive into a commercial data recovery center.

There are several things you need to buy:

1. Buy one or more drives of the exact same model of the hard drive that has crashed. Either to cannabalize or to send to the recovery people to save your restored files.

2. But several good miniature screwdriver toolkits (ie. jewellers toolkit) for all the different screw types that you will encounter as you extract/replace the hard drive.
If you have built your own PC's in the past, you will probably have these already.
You will need cross blades, standard blade and hex keys (hexagonal allen keys).

You then have several things to do:

3. Remove the hard drive (either to repair yourself or send to the data recovery center)

Desktops are fairly straightforward - open the case, remove the screws holding the drive in place, and remove the hard drive. Laptops are slightly harder in that you might have to take apart the laptop. The best tools for this are an ice-cube tray (empty!), a digital camera and a notepad. As you remove each screw, log where it was removed from on the notepad (diagrams/photographs are useful), and place the screw in the icecube tray.

For early laptops, this involved removing the screw at the left side of the laptop, removing the top cover, then the keyboard, opening the drive cage, and extracting the hard drive.

For the latest laptops, all you have to do is remove a couple of screws at the right side of the laptop, and the hard drive comes out in a little tray. Once removed from the tray you can either replace the hard drive with a new drive and use the system/application recovery disks to reinstall the OS, or attempt to replace the circuit board.

4. Repair the drive or send the drive away to be repaired

5. Replace the drive in the system

Use your notes to replace everything as it was.

I'm in the process of trying to repair my laptop hard drive (a crashed Hitachi 60 GB Travelstar). I've purchased a couple of new drives (about 60 pounds each), but am currently waiting for a new hexagonal key to remove the seven screws that hold the circuit board on the drive.
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#4
Samm

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Re. crashandburn's advice :

1. I think the data on the drive would have to be really important for you to spend £60 on a new drive that you then dismantle for it's circuitry in hope that this fixes the old drive.
Especially given that :

2. If the fault with the current drive turns out to be something like a faulty or worn out spindle or a head crash etc, replacing the PCB won't make the slightest bit of difference.
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#5
crashandburn

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Re. crashandburn's advice :

1. I think the data on the drive would have to be really important for you to spend £60 on a new drive that you then dismantle for it's circuitry in hope that this fixes the old drive.
Especially given that :

2. If the fault with the current drive turns out to be something like a faulty or worn out spindle or a head crash etc, replacing the PCB won't make the slightest bit of difference.

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My hard drive died due to overheating - it had been running perfectly for over 16 months. I left the laptop running screensavers with the screen folded down - the drive failed during this time. Afterwards, the keyboard area of the screen felt like someone had ironed it. After rebooting the system, the BIOS wouldn't even recognise the make of the drive - information stored on firmware on the circuit board.

I don't have any intention of destroying any of the new drives, until I am certain that the circuit boards are interchangable. Though, it might be the spindle that has jammed or that the motor has burned out.

To recover my laptop, I intend to use the first drive to get the system back to a usable state, and use the second drive as a backup mirror using 'ghost'. I had to get at least one new drive to see whether it was the drive or motherboard that had failed.
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