A client recently called us to say that he had mistakenly plugged in a 19V power laptop power adaptor into the 12V connector of his LaCie external hard drive.
He realised his mistake when he, rather ominously, got a faint burning smell emanating from the drive. He immediately disconnected the drive from its wrong power adaptor. Using the correct power supply adaptor, he switched it back on but the drive would not start.
He removed the Samsung drive from its LaCie enclosure and connected it to a computer directly using a S-ATA cable hoping that this would work – but still the drive would not spin up.
When he asked his I.T. department in work to recommend a data recovery company in Dublin – they recommended Drive Rescue. We examined the drive. It was immediately apparent to us that the 4R7 chip, which is an inductor chip, was physically damaged. An inductor chip, used in conjunction with capacitors, helps filter out or emphasise specific frequencies travelling through a hard drive’s PCB.
We had a replacement inductor chip of the same type already in stock. We de-soldered the old burnt inductor chip off the PCB and replaced it with the new one. We connected the hard drive to our systems. The data was immediately accessible. We returned the drive to the customer strong advising him that, even though the drive was fully operational, to transfer the data over to another drive as soon as possible. Physical repairs to hard drives, no matter how well executed, are not meant to be permanent.
The lesson: always exercise care when connecting your power cable to your external hard drive. It sounds like a harmless mistake but can be catastrophic for your drive. This customer was lucky. Sometimes, a power surge will fry the MCU or memory chip of a PCB (destroying the drive’s adaptive information) and even has the potential to damage the pre-amplifier chip on the actuator arm. And of course, always have your data backed-up to a second storage medium.