The Most common hard disk failure

1. Head Corruption

A quite common symptom drives have is clicking, knocking or beeping sound. Clicking can be  because of broken heads , firmware corruption or PCB problem, it is very important to perform accurate diagnostics what the particular problem is. Generally speaking, the drive spins up and the head starts clicking right from the beginning with a regular constant sound, most often this is a sign of bad heads.

2. Bad sectors problem

There is one more problem that is typical for all manufactured hard 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. This leads to further damage to the surface and causes more data loss, but if you want to recover data, you needn’t fix these defects; in the past, we usually use special tools image all HDD, but it may cost much time, especially in the times when the drive’s capacity is more and more larger. Fortunately, Data Compass with shadow disk technology would help us solve that problem easiest.

3. PCB & ROM problem

The other most common problems hard drives experience is PCB. It may overheat, power surges and streaks. Often bad power supply unit combined with power streak is usually enough to fry spindle driver chip on the electronics and make the data inaccessible or the drive couldn’t spin up. For different HDD, swap PCB has different principle, for example, WD HDD you should make the ROM match as ATA mod, and for HITAHCI HDD you should match the NVRAM first.

Hard Disk failure of Different Hard disk manufacturers

Maxtor Hard Drive

1. Firmware problem

Maxtor hard drives are well-known for their firmware problems. If one of the modules becomes Corrupted the whole hard drive micro-operating system can’t boot up, the drive can’t initialize Correctly and stops working. If this situation occurs, the drive becomes identified with its factory alias (N40P, CALYPSO, SABRE, GRIZZLY etc) quote often with 0 capacity.

For this problem, you need set the drive to safe mode first, then connect the drive to Maxtor Doctor, use the boot management function. Boot the patient drive up, ordinal load ROM, load all modules, reset HDD, and load RAM. Then you should load from file…..after that, the drive has been boot up. Now we could check the broken firmware and repair them, the drive would be ok.

2. P list problem

A seriously error condition is the P list broken, for other drives, P-list broken usually means all data lost, but for Maxtor drive, it has a backup P-list, so we could backup this mod and re-generation the P-list, then the data will come back.

3. SA-C for Maxtor drive

Like HITACHI drive, Maxtor also has a SA-C, it exist on all 6Y posterior series and some 6E series, but different with HITACHI, you couldn’t use the SA-C firmware to repair the broken firmware in SA-A, it just used as SA-C seflscan. If you upload this firmware, it may cause many unknown problem.

Western Digital Hard Drive

1. Load from HDD

For WD drive, you must choose the family by manual first, otherwise some of the parameter frames may bank (like SPT) and the SA position couldn’t be located well.

2. Firmware problem

In such case the drive usually spins up fine, it doesn’t click but has one of the following symptoms:

1). It is not found in BIOS at all

2). Identifies with its factory alias(for example WDC ROM MODEL-MAMMOTH—,WDC ROM MODEL-HAWK—);

3). Shows up with wrong S/N (for example WDC-ROM SN# XYZ—) or capacity;

4). Identifies fine but fails to read any data or boot up operating system giving I/O device errors whenever you try to access sectors.

To repair the firmware problem, we need prepare a donor PCB and swap it, match the ATA and ROM, and then fix the broken modules.

3. Defect list problem

If the Defect list was broken for WD drive, it may cause the drive couldn’t be recognized or all“!!!!” symbol when scan in MHDD. “Regeneration translator” function could help you solve this problem and get the data back.

4. ATA / ROM content damage

In this error condition, the drive could be “ready” status, but when “load from HDD” it may failed, but you could access firmware by “load from file” or “low-speed read”.


1. Firmware problem

Inimitable, HITACHI has another Service Area called SA-C; in this area store some backup firmware which could upload to SA-A replace the broken modules, which means we needn’t waste time anymore to try to find the donor drive. If the drive didn’t work which caused by the firmware corrupt, first load from file and then check the broken modules, then switch SA-A to SA-C and backup the modules from C area and upload it to A area, it would be ok.

PS: if you want to find the donor drive, it’s very easy, just require the same series and capacity would be ok.

2. Be protect

That’s a very common condition in HITACHI drive, HDD WAS LOCKED, for this problem, we also need switch to SA-C first, then backup the password mod (depend on different series: PSWD/ICES/SECI) from C-area, them upload it to A-area, the drive will free.

3. NVRAM problem

Sometimes we need swap the PCB between HITACHI drives, we can try to swap PCB from another drive of the same model but the drive would work still. Moreover, donor board could “lock” itself causing a good working donor drive not to spin. The problem is that logic board on modern hard drive is adapted to the head disk assembly it was manufactured with. That info is stored in a small chip called NVRAM, so after we swapped PCB, we need to do NV MATCH first. Backup the NV file from donor drive, swap PCB to patient drive, then do NV match, the drive would work well. PS: for 3.5’ HDD, just choose “Dynamic repair” button could repair this problem.


Seagate drive is different with the other three, it has a special mode call CMD mode, in the mode we could analysis the drive’s condition particular and directly, push OFF-ON button in CMD mode, the screen will show the drive health info for us, and depend on this info, we know what the problem is for this drive.

Some typical error info:

1. NOTHING shows in CMD mode

Check the serial line connect first, push – plug the connector again, if the connect is well, check the serial terminal, when got into CMD mode and type any command, the RX light will blinking, if it not, maybe the serial terminal was broken. If both the connection and the terminal are ok, click the “A” button in CMD mode, and if it still invalid, contact us please.

2. seagate-f-level-failure

This is a MOST common condition in all Seagate drive, F level, unfortunately, if your drive

shows this info, generally speaking, your data has gone. The more content about F level could

reference Seagate manual.

3. ce-log-error

4. CE log error, choose “CE LOG” repair in Boot management could fix this problem.

5. failed-sys-sect

Read only problem, for 7200.7 series, choose read-only repair, for 7200.8/9/10 series, contact

us please.

6. head-broken

Head was broken, need change head.

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Article provided by SalvationDATA Europe and African Dept.