Bienvenido! - Willkommen! - Welcome!

Bitácora Técnica de Tux&Cía., Santa Cruz de la Sierra, BO
Bitácora Central: Tux&Cía.
Bitácora de Información Avanzada: Tux&Cía.-Información
May the source be with you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

IBM DeathStars


IBM (later Hitachi) is widely known in data recovery business for their line of DeskStar HDDs also known as DeathStars. These hard drives, mostly DTLA and AVER families, became infamous for their reportedly high failure rates. It is believed their problems were mainly connected with glass platters - new technology introduced by IBM in these hard drives. After some time magnetic layer started to fall off the platters creating dust inside the HDA(Head Disk Assembly) that led to massive head crashes and large number of bad sectors making the data inaccessible.
Apart from this IBM used soldering alloy of poor quality and had deficient PCB layout that caused looseness in contacts between the PCB and HDA that in turn led to firmware corruption. If you attempt to boot up from such drive or read any data from it you would get "Primary Master Hard Disk Fail" or "Operating system not found" or "USB Device malfunctioned" error or "S.M.A.R.T. Capable But Command Failed" or some other hard drive error on boot. It's critical at this point to stop any manipulations with the hard drive and send it for evaluation to our lab. Any further attempts to read these areas would shorten the drive's life and may result in further unrecoverable data loss.

IBM spins up fine. The heads click but there is no grinding noise. It does this for a bit then it spins down and the clicking stops. The drive is not recognized by the bios. When it happened the computer itself was on then something clicked (probably a short or surge) and the whole system shut down. I think something on the drive's primary control board may have fried.
Tristan B.
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Another common data loss problem for all IBM-Hitachi hard drives is burnt components on the cirquit board(PCB). Hard drives are very vulnerable to power surges and bad power supply unit combined with power streak is usually enough to burn spindle driver chip on the PCB. If this occurs the computer would reboot itself, you would normally notice acrid smoke coming from your PC and upon power on the drive would not spin up at all.
If this is the case you can try PCB swap from another IBM drive of the same model but the chances of successful data recovery are close to 0. Moreover, newer drives sometimes "lock" incompatible PCB and after that PCB won't be able to work on the original donor drive. The fact is that most modern drives have special parameters in the ROM chip on the PCB called adaptives which are unique for this particular drive and these parameters should correspond to the HDA PCB was manufactured with. In our lab we are able to read ROM and NVRAM contents even from burnt logic boards and write it to the compatible donor board. After that donor PCB becomes fully compatible with the damaged drive and often data can be recovered after that.

There is one more problem that is typical for all IBM drives: bad sectors. After some period of time magnetic media the platters are covered with starts to degrade and bad sectors appear.
Whenever the drive hits such unreadable bad sector it could start freezing, scratching, ticking and sometimes loud clicking. If you happen to hear that unmistakable repeating scratching noise from your drive this is exactly your case. This leads to further damage to the surface and causes more data loss.

As soon as you start experiencing such symptoms while reading important files stop the drive immediately and send it to a data recovery lab. Any further attempts would just add up to the problems. In our lab we use special imaging hardware tools that are capable of reading raw sector data ignoring checksum check. That's usually the only way to retrieve as much data as possible from these LBAs.

Another quite common symptom Hitachi drives have is clicking or knocking sound. The drive spins up and the head starts clicking right away. Most often this a sign of a bad head and the drive needs heads swapped from a donor, but before doing any clean room work, it is very important to perform accurate diagnostics and eliminate a chance of possible firmware corruption that sometimes can also cause clicking.

If you experience any of the symptoms described above with your IBM DRVS-09D please feel free to contact us to get upfront quote on data recovery from your failed drive.

If you hear your IBM hard drive making some other unusual noises visit our Hard Drive Sounds page for more examples.

No comments: