Ok so more often than not a giveaway symptom for a hard drive with electrical failure is that it’s completely dead… It doesn’t spin, it doesn’t make a noise, the computer won’t detect it…
- Listen to the drive – put your ear close to it if you can – can you hear anything at all?? If you can hear a very faint noise (often buzzing or ticking) your drive most probably has a mechanical problem – a seized motor is a good bet, but it could be any type of mechanical fault.
- External hard drives only: If the drive is being recognised differently by the computer (for example when it was working it used to say something like ‘F:\External Disk’, but now it says something like ‘Freecom USB’ (as an example), the computer is not detecting the hard drive. Instead it is just detecting the USB interface on the external hard drive.
Things To Try…
If it’s an external hard drive –
- Try plugging it in to a different USB port on the computer
- Try using a different power cable
- If those 2 things don’t work you can carefully remove the hard drive from it’s external case (you’ll invalidate your warranty by doing this) and plug it in to your computer directly or via a caddy. This process eliminates the external enclosure from the fault scenario, so if your drive is still completely dead at this point it most like is an electronic fault on the actual drive that is the cause of the problem.
For Hard Drives from Tower systems –
- Take the side off the tower so you can get inside the machine
- Listen carefully – can you hear a faint noise from the drive ? (If yes, you most likely have a mechanical hard drive fault, rather than an electrical one)
- Check the cable(s) that connect the drive to the computer are properly seated at both ends
- Change the cables
- Remove the hard drive from the machine and try it in an external caddy or other machine. If you’ve done all the above things it’s pretty likely you have an electrical fault.
For Hard Drives from Laptops –
- These can be more tricky as often the design of the machine (especially if it’s a Mac) precludes you being able to physically get at the hard drive.
- Ideally you’ll need to remove the hard drive and hook it up to an external caddy. If it’s still dead it’s pretty likely your drive has an electrical fault.
Things Not To Try…
Changing The Controller Boards
It Used To Work – Back at the start of the 21st Century, when the capacities of hard drives were small (the largest drive available back then was about 10GB), it was occasionally possible to swap the controller board on a broken drive with the controller board from an identical drive and bring the broken drive back to life. This was possible mostly on Quantum Fireball and some Seagate drives.
Now It Doesn’t – Whilst the physical size of a hard drive has remained the same, their capacities – the amount of data they can hold – has grown exponentially, and so has the technology that ensures the drives function correctly.
Modern drives contain what is known as ‘adaptive data’ – information that is unique to that hard drive – and without it the drive won’t function correctly. Swapping the controller board on a broken drive with the controller board from an identical drive no longer works because the adaptive data isn’t transferred.