Introduction: Samsung M3 Portable HDD REPAIR

About: Enjoy all types of reverse engineering. Projects such as web servers /rtos /power supplies

I love my M3 portable USB drive. Its only a Terabyte but was a welcome gift a couple of years ago.
One of the things I liked about it was that you could be rough with it by unplugging from a PC without having to worry about drive corruption etc. With some USB sticks if the drive gets corrupted it refuses to be read and will only let you format the drive, damn infuriating sometimes.Still, not something my trusty M3 would suffer from, or so I thought.
The drive was originally supplied with a short USB 3 cable which plugs into the side of the drive. It has one of those 10 pin double plug/socket affairs and I used to cart around in my laptop bag with the cable attached ready for action. This I think was my first mistake although was always conscious of maximum insertion counts for any type of plug like these and just liked the idea of minimising the pluggery.
Personally I think the drive should have a hard wire to USB plug rather than the socket but I digress....

I first noticed the problem when using the drive with the computer randomly dropping the USB port and the drive disappearing from explorer. Then I noticed the random dialog boxes asking if I wanted to format the drive and error messages from the USB driver telling me that the device "might not have installed correctly"
Fiddling with the cable at the device end brought it back intermittently so I thought may be time for a new cable.
I dutifully ordered one from Amazon and waited for it to arrive. When it arrived I plugged it in and ,,,yes you have guessed it...same as before.
Now these drives have come down in price a lot and you can pick one up on Ebay for about £30 but hey ho lets have a look inside , it might be a quick dab of solder round the loose socket and bob's your uncle...if only!

First up lets get him out of his jacket.
Now I have to say before you read on, you will need a good pair of eyes or at least a strong magnifying glass or even the mag glass and light above. I also have a mantis but I did not use. OK on with the show.

Step 1: Open Sesame

Or open Samsung depending on what you fancy.

I removed the USB cable and placed its housing with the Samsung Logo uppermost.
Using a flat bladed screwdriver I inserted it in the seam nearest the top of the case and slowly working round the perimeter prised the lid up a bit at a time. This revealed the HDD sitting in the bottom of the case. Removed it and placed upside down with the PCB uppermost. Remove also the rubber shock around its perimeter noting its orientation.
I did have a visual look at the connector to see if there was any obvious damage but to the naked eye nothing was apparent. Some time ago I had bought a micro view USB camera from Maplin and thought it may be better to have a look close up, what I found was not nice.


My socket is the two photos left as you have guessed, the one on the right is a shot of what it should look like, its a new one.

You will notice that there are two sets of pins with 5 in a block. The USB 3.0 spec has TX- TX + RX- RX+ plus two pins for power 3.3v and 1.2 , 3 for analog ground and another pin that needs tying to gnd with a 12k resistor
Given the state of it I had to make some decisions, trash it or attempt a fix.

Step 3: Why Do I Do It?

The socket is pretty much masked by the drive so its best to unscrew the pcb from the drive. This is held in place by Phillips type screws. DO NOT get confused and attempt to take the drive lid torx screws out. If you do go looking for the trash can or marvel at your new door stop.

The PCB has some contact points which mate with spring loaded contacts on the drive so watch its orientation as you remove it. Watch also the plastic sheet which acts as an insulator and protector.
Inspecting the socket a little closer you will notice that it has a metal cover which holds the body of the socket and has four through hole tabs which are soldered to one side of the board. On the top side the socket is an SMD type with 10 pins soldered directly to the tracks. Note the close proximity of the LED and some more components just a short distance from the socket.
Before attempting anything like a replacement socket it would be best to check you can get one. Damn ....I can via Ebay. CHECK OUT THE PIC ABOVE AS A CUT FROM EBAY Onto the next problem which is how can you get this socket off.

Step 4: ITS USB 3 U KNOW

Couple of pix from the internal board which is purely the interface board.

USB 3 Driver chip with SPI flash probably to hold config data.
Its a JMicron device s539 that supports USB 3 and 2.

Step 5: Pass the Sledgehammer

So here is the problem. The socket has a metal cover which acts like a massive heatsink. Any attempt to use a soldering iron and solder wick to soak up the solder around the case pins is fruitless. The cover shrugs off all the heat. Assuming you could de-solder the cover we still have the problem of the 10 pins. Now you could apply brute force by cutting off the socket and then removing what's left with a hot iron and a de-solder pump but the components next to the pins are very close. I needed to think of something else.
Now when these type of boards are manufactured they are normally wave soldered, that is the components are stuck to the board with a type of solder paste and then heated by passing through a heated curtain. I needed to do something like it but heating all the board would loosen all the components, not what I wanted.

I needed to protect the board first with heat resisting tape. You can get this stuff from any decent electronics distribution or probably on ebay. I had some borrowed from a job some years ago.

Step 6: Wrapping

I protected all the areas of the board apart from the socket I wanted to remove. This was applied top and bottom of the board and just left the socket and pins clearly visible. Then using a black and decker heat gun heated the socket up until it could just be lifted off the board.

Couple of points here:
This is more than a one man job:
Put the board on something that will protect the locality from the intense heat.
I used an old floor tile.

Trick in removing is to put a bit of solder on top of the socket metal casing. Heat the socket until the solder melts and then in one swoop lift off the socket with a pair of tweezers or such like.
Get someone on the heat gun and another on the socket removal process. Don't try and do yourself, its risky and dangerous. I tell the helper to direct the gun and then after removing the socket can remove the board from the heat. Now some smarty pants will say why not use a proper mini heat gun rather than the brute force approach. Truth is I don't have one, but maybe I might consider if I had enough of these to do. Yes I know a de-solder station but this is all about saving money.

I have used this practice for stripping boards of smd devices and can be done by one person.

Step 7: Removed

So here is the board with the socket removed, make sure the tracks are clean and if required lightly add some solder if looks a bit lean. Thoroughly clean the board [No not all of it just around the socket] with some isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush. Now need to reverse the process to fit the new one.

Step 8: The Socket Arrives

Now why isn't life simple! The socket arrives and although is correct as far as contact pins, the anchoring to the board is missing a couple of tabs. Never mind will fix later, for now straightened the two external tabs that I had to go through the board and tinned the 10 pins on the socket. Now these are small so just lightly apply solder of the thin variety and dab each pin. Next fit the socket to the board and pass the two tabs through. Make sure the pins overlay the pcb tracks. I use my mini camera to check this. Now I have not removed the heat tape yet as you still need to protect the existing components on the board. Holding the top of the socket dab each pin in turn to secure them to each track. Remember not too much heat here. Turn the board over and solder the pins as they come through the board. Don't worry if it does not flow too well but as long as you get a small bit of solder to attach. Turn it upright and lay a small piece of solder at each of the points where the tabs go through the board topside. Again use sparingly but don't worry if does not flow. Now place the board on a suitable surface and direct the heat gun at the socket until the solder melts on the side, be careful not to apply too much heat and if you have an extra pair of hands its easier.
What should have happened is that all the solder has run nicely around the through holes and the pins have well and truly laid into the tracks on the board. Again clean using your toothbrush and check with a multi-meter and the camera for any track shorts.
You know I said that a couple of the through hole outer case pins were missing, well I added a couple of dabs of epoxy resin to make sure it stayed put. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET RESIN IN THE SOCKET HOUSING!

Step 9: Reassemble and Test.

Remove the heat tape carefully ensuring you don't rip any components from the board. assemble the board back to the HDD. DO NOT forget the rubber shock that fits around the drive, it only fits snugly one way. Before you put back in its case just test it to make sure all is ok.
Assemble the lid with Samsung logo nearest the socket.

Now if you have diligently ploughed through this you should be rewarded with a healthy disk drive that does not keep dropping in and out.

Good luck!

Addendum. I have a confession to make. Before I started this I had no intention of repairing this drive. After all its only a terabyte[ Cant believe I'm saying this when I remember drives of 1 Meg] So I bought on Amazon another drive of 2 Terabytes. However when I came to throw this one in the bin I couldn't do it without trying a repair, after all what had I to lose, the sockets were 99p each and apart from a soldering iron and some tools it was worth a go. This has been a very good drive for the past couple of years and if I get another couple it would of been worth the gamble. Mind you even if I don't its been fun!.