Heads’ clicking, knocking, sweeping

For Seagate Barracuda Series, especially 7200.7, 7200.8, 7200.9 and 7200.10 series, one common problem is with heads! Seagate introduced new technology in this line – special coating for the platters that was supposed to protect magnetic layer. But in fact it caused more problems than protection. Under special conditions this coating starts to flake and tiny bits of this substance stick to the head read/write elements. Reading becomes more and more unstable, the drive starts losing tracks and at some point typical symptoms or bad heads appear – clicking, knocking, sweeping sounds which make the data inaccessible. Usually this problem is solved by disassembling the drive in class 100 clean room and replacing head assembly from matching donor.

PCBA Damage

Hard drives in general are very vulnerable to overheating, power spikes and surges. Bad power supply unit combined with power streak is usually enough to burn spindle motor controller driver(SMOOTH chip) on the logic board. If this occurs the computer would reboot itself or shutdown completely, you would normally notice acrid smell and when powered on the drive would not spin up at all.
Non-spinning could also be a symptom of seized motor on multi-platter Seagate Barracuda drives. The drive would also make buzzing sound like it’s trying to spin up. Data recovery in this case requires transplanting platters from bad drive into donor in clean room environment.

Heads sticktion to the platter surface

For Seagate laptop Momentus drives, heads sticktion to the platter surface is one of the most common problems 2.5 inch HDDs meet. Heads are normally parked on the parking ramp outside of the platters, but sometimes due to a fall or abnormal termination they fail to return to their regular parking position and are left on the surface. Immediately after the motor stops spinning they stick to the ideally smooth surface and it becomes impossible to release them without proper tools and experience. Don’t attempt to open the drive by yourself – you will damage the platters for sure and this could make all your data unrecoverable.

Other Typical failures

After some period of time magnetic media the platters are covered with starts to degrade and bad sectors develop. Whenever the drive hits such unreadable bad sector it could start scratching, freezing, ticking and sometimes loud clicking.

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 to prevent further data loss. 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 sectors.

Seagate drives operate under special firmware microcode that could also fail sometimes. Typically hard drives with corrupted firmware spin up normally, do not click but still fail to initialize. Such drives could have one of the following symptoms:

* HDD is not found in BIOS at all
* shows up with wrong S/N or capacity,
* fails to read any data or boot up operating system.

If you attempt to boot up from such drive or read any data from it you would get “Primary Master Hard Disk Fail”, “No operating system found”, “Drive Mount Failure”, “Disk boot failure. Insert system disk and press enter”, “USB Device malfunctioned”, “S.M.A.R.T. Capable But Command Failed” or some other BIOS hard drive error message on boot.
Seagate’s new family – Barracuda 7200.11, specifically with FW version SD15 has especially high firmware failure rate. In such cases hard drive either doesn’t show up in BIOS at all or identifies with 0 capacity. Unfortunately it is impossible to fix such drives without special equipment capable of accessing and repairing firmware modules in the hard drive System Area.

For Seagate Barracuda 7200.11, HD Doctor for Seagate is a good choice according to research.

Above statistics may be not complete and we welcome public comments and listen to more about the typical failures and data recovery solutions for Seagate hard drives.