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HW: Salvage a smoked hard disk

I admit. I have old PCs hanging around. I know it’s hoarding, but you may need something from it, some day! Like the one with Windows 2000. I recently decided to get rid of it. But, I wanted to move the programs and data from the hard disk to a new one, so I can use it in a machine. The drive was an old Maxtor 80GB hard drive. It had old Windows 2000, so I didn’t bother with the OS files. I just wanted to copy the documents and other files (may be even some programs I wrote) to my new computer. This drive used the old PATA technology.

I normally get a external hard drive enclosure, so I could attach it as an external USB drive and copy files from it. This time I got a little adventurous (cheap?) and went for a SATA/PATA hard drive adapter, something like this. Essentially, it’s open ended cable with SATA or PATA pins available to plugin the hard drive. There is no safeguard compared to a hard disk enclosure.

I got my PATA drive hooked up to my computer via USB using this adapter. Everything was going well. Except, it is not hot-swappable – meaning you can’t plug and unplug while the thing was on. I did that and the next thing I know, the inevitable happened! I smelled smoke and surely, the drive was fried.

I thought it was gone. I researched a bit about data recovery and all. Sounded so expensive. Then I landed on this site called PCB Solutions.  According to this site, apparently when you smell smoke on a hard drive, chances are it’s only the PCB circuit that sits on tops that’s fried, not the disk or the platter. So, in theory, if you can replace this PCB board, you can salvage any drive. Really? I’ve worked with SCSI hard drives for a while, when I worked for a SCSI software company in the past. Never knew those things came off like that.

2013-12-22 13_56_01-2013-12-22 12.59.19

It’s the L-shaped circuit board (in green with chips) that comes off the top of the drive.

The site offers really good service. First the identifying/matching service. Lets you enter a few codes/numbers and matches the PCB needed for your drive. Once you pay and order it, it arrived within a week or so. The package comes with a kit – a small screw driver included. So, anyone can remove the old plate and replace it with the new one. Voila!! That worked!

It was that simple. I’ve done some hardware stuff, but I can’t claim to be an expert in that area. I was able to do this easily. Great service, great support. I highly recommend this for anyone at a loss of their precious hard drive. This service can save you 100’s if not thousands. You just need some patience and some caution. (Like don’t touch the circuit part, not to zap it by accident etc).

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