There is an enduring myth out there that if you swap the PCB (printed circuit board) or controller board on your non-working, hard disk with a similar one, it will start working again. Unfortunately, while this might have worked well for disks manufactured in the early 2000s, it no longer works with modern hard disks.
But before we go into specifics, there are multiple reasons why a hard disk won’t work. The disk-heads can fail, the firmware, or file system (NTFS, HFS+, APFS, exFAT, EXT4 etc.) can go corrupt or the spindle can fail. Failure of the PCB is just one of many possible reasons. Without through diagnostics deciding that PCB is the problem is like the drunkard who has lost his keys at night. The first place he will start looking will be under the street light because that seems like the easiest place to find them. For some distressed computer users who’ve just lost data, their disk’s PCB also seems like an easy place to find a quick data recovery solution!
Will swapping my hard disk PCB work?
Unfortunately when recovering data from modern drives, swapping a PCB from a similar drive (even with the same model number) won’t work. This is because of adaptive information which is stored on the ROM chip on your disk. For example, on Western Digital drives, it’s marked as the U12 or U14. Other times, the adaptive information is integrated into the main controller IC. Some adaptive information is also stored in the Service Area of your disk. Adaptive data is unique to your disk and your disk will not run properly without it.
Typical adaptive information might include:
- Microcode for disk initalisation
- Voltage levels for each disk-head
- PMRL channel amplification information
- Disk head write and read currents
- Head allocation for read/write zones
This is all crucial information needed for your hard disk to run. If you’ve performed complete diagnostics on your disk and you’re absolutely certain that your PCB is the problem, the a ROM chip swap is needed. Here the ROM or Main IC needs to be micro-desoldered off and soldered to an exact match donor board. This is an extremely intricate job, which ideally needs to be performed by someone who has successfully completed it hundreds of times before.
Drive Rescue, data recovery Dublin offer a complete hard disk PCB (controller board) repair service for Seagate S-ATA Barracuda disks (7200.9, 7200.10, 7200.12), WD Passport, WD Blue, WD Green, WD Red and HGST (Hitachi) disks.