What Are Hard Drive Platters
The platters of your hard disk are what store the data. If you compare a hard drive to…a record player for example, the platters would be the record itself. They spin at speeds of anywhere from 4200RMP to over 10,000RPM. As they rotate, the heads sweep back and forth reading and writing data to them. In most hard drives there will be multiple platters mounted to a single spindle. Both sides of the platter can be read, so there is going to be a read-write head for each platter surface that is used. The platter is coated with a very thin film which is typically comprised of a cobalt-based alloy. It is this coating that actually records your data and stores it. If the coating is damaged, which can happen when the heads contact the platter in the event of a head crash, it is extremely difficult to recover the data. The heads will sometimes score or scratch this delicate coating, at which point there is no way to retrieve the data stored in that area of the platter. If the damage is severe enough, it will damage replacement heads as well.
What Does It Sound Like?
When the spindle is seized, you don’t get the normal loud clicking that you would hear in a disk that has damaged read-write heads. Instead you would hear more of a “buzzing” sound. Kind of a repetitive short…buzz…buzz…buzz. Here’s an example of a Seagate 7200.11 with a seized spindle:
Seagate Seized Spindle Motor:
Seagate hard drives are especially prone to a seized spindle motor, mostly because the spindle shaft and bearing is so weak. We’ve seen these drives suffer from bearing failures for no apparent reason, and we’ve seen them fail with just the slightest hit. If your hard drive sounds like the one in our example, or if it is making any unusual noises at all, do not apply power to it and give us a call. We’d be happy to help you. There are no evaluation fees and there is no charge if the data is unrecoverable.
Common Causes Of Seized Platters
A common physical failure within certain hard drives is platter seizing. This is when the platters are unable to spin up, and the drive is inaccessible. There are a number of possible causes for this type of failure. The two main drive types where we see spindle motor problems are in external hard drives and laptop hard drives.
And as mentioned earlier, in external hard drives…especially Seagate drives…the cause is typically due to the drive being bumped or jarred in some fashion. This results in the shaft of the spindle motor either being slightly bent or broken.
In laptop hard drives, we commonly see drives where the heads have moved from the parking ramp and onto the platters. This results in the heads seizing to the platters and the platters are then unable to spin up. Another common problem, mainly in Toshiba laptop drives, is a breakdown of the fluid dynamic bearing. In these cases the spindle motor is either unable to spin up to the proper speed, or the speed is erratic. The drive will usually make a loud “whirring” sound as well. In these cases the lubricant used within the bearing starts to break down and “gum” up. The thicker it becomes the harder it is for the drive to attain it’s normal operating speed.
There are rare instances where a drive that is stationary within a desktop environment will also have a spindle motor failure. In some Seagate drives we have seen where the spindle shaft will actually develop a burr, and at some random point, the spindle motor will seize up due to the burr.
Hard drives with seized spindle motors are almost always recoverable. Whether we have to transfer the platters over to another drive casing with a good spindle motor, or we have to repair the existing one, as long as the platters are not physically damaged, then the data should be recoverable.