Instructables

Homemade glove box clean room for DIY hard drive repair?

Hard drive data recovery costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, which just isn't worth it for most things.

Sometimes it's possible to fix a dead hard drive by replacing the controller board with one from an identical model (make sure every model number, part number, etc is identical). Some people have success with freezing the hard drive.

If there's a mechanical problem, though, you can't just take the hard drive apart and fix it, since it's very sensitive to even the smallest particles of dust or contamination.

I've heard of people (with not much to lose) taking the drive apart anyway and successfully repairing it, or even adding a plexiglass window and (apparently) using the drive afterward. Somehow I doubt that this one was still usable:

http://www.grynx.com/projects/plexiglas-harddrive-window/

I've heard that you can make a makeshift cleanroom in a bathroom by running a shower for a while to clean all the dust out of the air. It seems like it would be a lot easier to just make a glovebox out of a clear tupperware and create a clean room environment inside it.

Has this been done? What would it take?

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/saving-data-a-head-crash,1044-4.html

Picture of Homemade glove box clean room for DIY hard drive repair?
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AndyGadget5 years ago
Yep, been there, done it. Swapped boards to recover data from a blown drive. Put drives in the freezer (in a plastic bag) to get just that bit more runtime before it dies completely - It's amazing how effective that method is.
I've never had to swap components from the drive bubble itself, but I have had a drive running continuously and accessing data without errors for over a month with the covers off. Then I got bored with it working so well and dropped a dollop of mayonnaise on it - That did the trick. (They haven't let me back in the server room since ;¬).

However, I think that does prove that naked drives are more rugged than you might think. I'd guess that the disc rotation causes a centrifugal fan type effect which would throw any dust approaching the surface outwards and off the edge.

If you do want to build a 'clean box', I'd suggest cutting two 5" diameter holes in the tupperware box and gluing a couple of silicone rubber gloves into them - Biohazard cabinet style. Have a couple of sealable vents at the ends, and a small hole in the middle. Give a good long squirt from an air-duster to blow all the dust out of the vents and then seal up.

If you did change the armature / head assembly you may run into problems reading data afterwards as the data density is so high that the slightest difference in positioning could give mis-reads. Interesting to try, though.
endolith (author)  AndyGadget5 years ago
I've never had to swap components from the drive bubble itself

I'm going to have to. The other methods don't work.

but I have had a drive running continuously and accessing data without errors for over a month with the covers off.

That's awesome, and the fact that people have (stupidly) put plexiglass windows on their drives and continued to use them is encouraging, especially considering I only need to clone the drive once, not use it continuously.

If you do want to build a 'clean box', I'd suggest cutting two 5" diameter holes in the tupperware box and gluing a couple of silicone rubber gloves into them - Biohazard cabinet style.

Yep, that's what I'm thinking. Would need to get gloves that don't have talc powder on them, though. Also thought maybe I could put tape and magnets inside for dust to stick to, blow air in with a fan through air filters first, etc.

If you did change the armature / head assembly you may run into problems reading data afterwards as the data density is so high that the slightest difference in positioning could give mis-reads. Interesting to try, though.

Hmmm... Isn't it more robust than that? Using feedback to self-align the heads and such?
hey you should stop bashing on the people who put windows in their hard drives. If youve got a 1 gig harddrive that your probably gonna take apart for the magnet and other shiny things inside why not see if you can do a sweet mod first? thats why people do it they dont expect to put anything important on it or for it to last very long infact id suggest moving the stuff on the drive you open up to a new drive as quick as you can. btw i did hear of a dude trying to put a window in his terabyte drive only to have it fall apart because one of the screws he took out was keeping everything aligned. That guys okay to bash.
Hmmm... Isn't it more robust than that? Using feedback to self-align the heads and such?

I'm not absolutely sure on that but I think not. CD / DVD drives use a much less precise positioning system and rely on a guide beam each side of the track to centre the head but as a HDD is only low-level formatted once I think it relies on an absolute positioning system and everything staying aligned.

Tell me more about the problem. Is this a 5.25" or 3.5" inch drive and what are the symptoms?
endolith (author)  AndyGadget5 years ago
It's a 3.5" 6 GB laptop drive that I dropped in 2002. I know it has some things on it that I never got to back up, but nothing worth a $1000 recovery fee. Just some old schoolwork and stuff that I'd like to have around, but not terribly important. I'm partially interested in getting back my old data, and partially just interested in trying something that people claim is impossible to do yourself.

I got an identical drive on eBay (all numbers are the same), so I will have a spare to swap things with.

The symptoms are that it is not recognized by the computer at all, and just makes clicking sounds repeatedly forever. I've tried freezing it, hitting it, and turning it in all different orientations and nothing helps.

Linux's log of attempting to access the drive

On the one hand we've got recovery people saying it's impossible. "The mechanical precision of today’s hard drives makes head assembly replacement nearly impossible without specialized tools. Platter removal is dangerous and will affect how the drive reads the sectors. As previously mentioned if just one component is out of alignment, the drive will not find the required sectors. If the hard disk electronics cannot find the sectors requested by the controller, it may endlessly try to find those sectors or it will shut down the unit."

On the other hand, we've got people saying they've done it successfully by swapping the platters with another drive:

http://www.drownout.com/blogsavemyharddrive/2006/01/hard-drive-resurrection-hack-day.html
3.5" with clicking sound . . . . . . Not good. I've never managed to get any sense out of one of those and the one I took apart had the head hanging off the armature. Best of luck, and I hope your eyesight's good. Don't ever be tempted to bend one of the platters on a 3.5". I did once to see what sort of 'metal' it was made of - It was glass. I was showered with a trillion high-velocity razor-sharp shards.
endolith (author)  AndyGadget5 years ago
Oops I mean 2.5", not 3.5". Yes, I know it's not good. That's why I need to recover it. :) Yes I have good eyesight, and I work with tiny electronics all the time. Not as small as hard drive heads, but still.. The good thing about waiting so long to attempt a repair is that I can cheaply buy others of the same model to practice on.
Oops I mean 2.5", not 3.5".
You're right - My fault - I started calling it a 3.5".
(That's a bay size, not the drive.)

Post back and let us know how you get on. I'd. be interested to know.
(My eyesight used to be spot-on, but I'm sure they make those component makings smaller nowadays ;¬)
endolith (author)  AndyGadget5 years ago
I got an identical drive from eBay. I thought I'd get another one as cheap as possible from a similar line that I can just take apart in the air to see how feasible it is.
grimgroper5 years ago
Also thought maybe I could put tape and magnets inside for dust to stick to, blow air in with a fan through air filters first, etc.

magnets would only attract ferromagnetic materials... i though maybe you could use some sort of electrical charge like static, like how dust is attracted to a crt tv screen. this would be risky though you wouldnt want the charge to transfer onto any of electrical components on the hdd that could do more damage than dust.

i to have had hard disk drives running with out cases on them. i have also taken apart a few hdds and you have to be careful because the heads tend to stick together if you remove the barrier from between them... iv have never had a hdd work after taking the platter out.
endolith (author)  grimgroper5 years ago
Yes, ferromagnetic dust and particles from unscrewing things. And something sticky all around the inside of the box would trap dust out of the air.

Can't I just swap the platters while the heads are parked?

http://hddguru.com/content/en/articles/2006.02.17-Changing-headstack-Q-and-A/

http://www.dataclinic.co.uk/hard-disk-repair-tools.htm
hintss endolith3 years ago
look up click of death on wikipedia