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May 13, 2009

My Dead Hard Drive story or How I restored my saved games

This is the story of how I ressurrected my hard drive.

How I fritzed my hard drive

I went away on holidays for 2 weeks, came home, turned on my PC and after about 10 seconds, heard some electrical fizzing. Ack!

I quickly turned off my PC, but being an idiot, thought, "I'll just make sure all the cables are in correctly and try again."

So I do that and hit the power switch. This time I get more buzzing and smoke starts coming out of my power supply. Nice one!

Ok, so I go and buy a new power supply. No worries. Get it home, replace the fritzed one. Turn on the PC.

Hmmm, something's wrong. Something's dead wrong. My main Seagate 80gig hard drive is not being recognised. I put my ear next to the drive - there's no sound - it's not even spinning up.

I try a few things - using a different power connector, different ide connector, etc - all to no avail.

My hard drive is dead. Panic sets in...

Backups? What backups?

Uh, yeah - maybe 3 months ago... 3 months of emails, 3 months of code, 3 months of NeverWinterNights save games...

How to fix a hard disk

So I do some searching on Google. I turn up lots of sketchy info about how other people have fixed hard drives. I even try some of them.

One of my favourites - put the hard drive in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer - cooling it down shrinks the parts and may enable the drive to spin up properly. I actually try this and get lots of funny looks from my wife. Still, it doesn't work.

I look at some businesses that do hard drive recovery - the prices are exhorbitant! I could buy 2 replacement drives for those prices.

The techy answer to everything - open it up!

So I look at the hard drive - man, I don't even know what type of screws those are! More searching on Google lifts my ignorance - they are Torx screws.

So off I go to the shops to buy a Torx screwdriver set. Dick Smith's has them for 12 bucks. Cool. I get them home and off comes the cover.

I can't discern anything wrong but I assume the logic board is fried somehow.

Now I get to thinking - I'm almost positive the actual drive is ok - if I could just replace the logic board...

Shopping for hard drives

So I go get a replacement hard drive. I'd only bought this hard drive 5 months previously so it wasn't too hard to find exactly the same model from a number of dealers. I actually end up buying it through my brother's business.

The grand experiment

I get the new drive home and things are all set.

Here are the drives - Mmmmm lovely new drive in its clamshell - am I about to kill it as well???

Note at this point how they look the same - they are both Seagate Barracuda IVs model number ST380021A.

I take the logic board off the old drive.

Ok, let's get the new drive...

Now I take the board off the replacement drive. Here are the 2 logic boards.

Wait a sec. There are some differences there.... Hmmmmm - a closer look is in order.

My original drive's logic board :

The new drive's logic board :

Oh well, still worth a try. I put the new logic board onto the original drive.

Put the cover back on and cross our fingers...

The moment of truth...

I can hear the hard drive spinning up!!!

But it doesn't work! My old 15gig Quantum drive is recognised, but not the seagate.

I fiddle around in the bios and still no go!


We will not be defeated

So what gives? Why doesn't it work? Should I give up?


Time to take a closer look at that drive information.

My original :

And the new drive :

Bugger. The firmwares are different. My original is 3.19. The new one is 3.75. Ok, I obviously need the same firmware.

At this point even my techy friends are thinking I'm crazy.

So I ring around some places and besides having to deal with some hopelessly non-tech sales people I actually find a shop that goes to the effort of looking on the drive for me and it's the right firmware! Cool! I go and buy this one.

Yep, it's got the same firmware :

And the logic boards look the same :

Well actually there's a couple of discrepancies. (At this point I begin to wonder about whether buying hardware is a bit of a lucky dip - I may buy exactly the same hard drive as a friend but be getting something with quite a lot of differences internally which may be more or less reliable etc...)

Well, no point backing out now - let's give it a go.

So I put the new logic board on, plug it in and....

The drive is recognised!


Phew! My NeverWinterNights save games are back in action!

At this point, I use the other 80gig drive I bought from my brother (the drive with firmware 3.75) and make a copy of the drive.

Then I take the new logic board off the original drive, put it back on the new drive and copy the contents from my brother's drive to it. Now I have a totally new drive with a copy of my original hard drive!

Lastly I wipe my brother's drive and return it to him.

Now, I wonder if I can make use of the warranty on the original drive.........



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