We came across a rather interesting case recently. One of our customers, a videographer for a Dublin-based marketing agency, was on assignment in Parma, Italy. The video footage for a multinational food company took two days to shoot. After the first day of filming, the SD card inside their Sony Alpha camera was running a bit low on space. Luckily, they had brought a small portable Seagate One Touch external drive with them. So, after the first day of filming, they were able to transfer their footage (XAVC-S, a proprietary Sony video format) to the external drive. Before they wiped the card, they dutifully checked the folder size on the One Touch disk to make sure it was the same as on the SD card. It was, so they formatted the card and popped it into the camera ready for the shoot the next morning. What could possibly go wrong?
As expected, the second day of shooting did not take as long as the first. After filming, they brought their camera gear back to their hotel and took a stroll around the city. They came across a shop selling artisanal food produce where they bought some cheese and olive oil.
Back in Dublin, they opened up their flight bag and, to their shock, discovered an unbelievable mess inside. It was like a mini-Amoco Cadiz disaster had unfolded inside – except with extra-virgin artisanal olive oil in lieu of crude oil. It now dawned on them what must have happened. The artisanal olive oil bottle had a cork top on it. This must have popped due to the air pressure on the flight home. Their clothes were sodden with this viscous liquid. And to their horror their Seagate One Touch was covered in it. They were now getting flashbacks of formatting that SD card. This was turning into a nightmare. Miraculously, their Sony Alpha camera ensconced inside a camera case escaped a soaking.With some trepidation they connected their One Touch drive to their MacBook’s USB port. It was dead as mutton.
On recommendation of a colleague, our distraught customer delivered the disk to Drive Rescue. Our diagnostics revealed a dead PCB. Opening the main chamber of the disk (Seagate ST1000LM024) in our clean room thankfully did not show any olive oil ingress. Phew! In this particular case, anything could have been wrong with the PCB. It could have been a failed IC (chip) such as a diode, transistor, or motor controller chip. Or, the problem could have been related to a short-circuit on one of the tracks. We took the decision to replace the PCB with a new one which we had already in stock.
Now we would need to de-solder the ROM (EEPROM) chip off the old PCB. This is a crucial step because this tiny chip contains servo parameter adaptives unique to the drive. This would need to be transferred to the new board.
The clean-up process:
Before we started the de-soldering process we used copious amounts of isopropyl alcohol to clean up the olive oil. (In this case, flux would have been of little use because that really only works well in cleaning oxides). Using a hot-air gun and with the assistance of anti-ESD tweezers we removed the Windbond ROM chip from the Seagate’s PCB. It was vital that the temperature of the hot-air gun was correct so as not to damage this tiny chip.
We then carried out the same de-soldering process on the new (donor) PCB.
It was time to micro-solder the original ROM of the damaged drive onto the new PCB. This was the most intricate part of the task because the pin of the chip must align perfectly with the 8 place markers of the chip. Just one of these pins out of place and the chip will not make a proper bond with the PCB. This process involves adding a tiny piece of solder to each of the markers. Too much solder applied here will result in “solder bridges” – a surefire way to create a short-circuit.
After waiting a while for the solder to cool and settle, it was then time to place the PCB back onto the disk and see if it would ID. The disk ID’d successfully and the HFS+ volume appeared. Their X-AVC S footage could now be transferred to another disk.
Lessons from this case:
The important lessons of this case… Firstly, don’t skimp on SD cards. They are relatively cheap these days. Formatting an SD card with an active workflow on it is really not a good idea – even when you have it backed up to a second location. Secondly, liquids should never be placed in the same luggage as electronic equipment. Ideally, electronic equipment, including hard portable disks, should be transported in a protective case such as those made by Peli. These cases use watertight O-ring seals which ensures IP-67 liquid resistance. They also use foam padding to protect your equipment from shock damage. A worthy investment!
Is your Seagate One Touch not showing up on your Windows or Mac computer? Drive Rescue offers a complete clean-room data recovery service for Seagate One Touch external drives which are inaccessible or clicking, such as the Seagate One Touch 1TB, Seagate One Touch 2TB (STKB2000400), Seagate One Touch 4TB (STKC4000402) and Seagate One Touch 5TB (STKC5000400).