We were recently sent a 1TB Western Digital (S-ATA) drive from Waterford. The user could no longer access their data and when they connected the drive to their Apple Mac they got a faint smell of burning.
The user’s findings were correct. A burning smell could be detected withing 30 seconds of power-up. We proceeded to remove the PCB and it was immediately apparent that the problem was a burnt smooth motor controller chip. We used then used a multi-meter to test other components of the PCB. Luckily, these appeared to by okay.
What function does a motor controller chip on a hard drive perform?
A smooth chip or motor controller chip controls rotational speed of the platters, but also acts as a DC to DC converter.
Why do motor controller (smooth) chips fail?
Motor controller chips tend to be subjected to the more unregulated voltages from the PSU than other chips on a hard drive’s PCB. A short-circuit of any kind can cause the transistors to heat-up and subsequently burn out.
What is the fix?
Burnt motor-controller chips are a very common occurrence which we see on Western Digital and Seagate drives. The fix usually involves replacing the motor controller chip itself or replacing the whole PCB. If you go for the latter option, you will also have to tranfer over the drive’s unique adaptives information stored on the drive’s BIOS chip or NVRAM chip (Hitachi).
What is the success rate like?
Success rates for this type of data recovery is excellent. However in a rare number of cases, if the drive’s pre-amplifier has been damaged by the short-circuit, this might need replacing also. The 1TB Western Digital drive whose PCB is in the photo above was recovered completely and the customer had all his data back in 3 days!