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PCB Basic

The PCB is more than a simple way for a hard drive to contain power; it often contains part of the firmware of a drive, which lets the hard drive know how to operate properly and how to read data from the platters. For instance, part of its function is to store information about how many heads are contained within the drive, unique adaptives, and how to access continued microcode for successful drive start-up.

This information is put onto each PCB at the factory, and is programmed to be very specific to the particular hard drive for which it’s designed. While this may sound inefficient, it’s actually the culmination of dozens of years of hard drive technology; it allows larger and larger drives to be built that are both accurate and dependable.

Hard Drive PCB Board Problems

If you’ve ever installed a hard drive, you may have noticed the green board on the bottom of the drive, and have probably made a few educated guesses as to its purpose and use.

The green board is known as the hard drive’s PCB, or Printed Circuit Board, and it’s one of the most complex and intriguing parts of a hard drive.

When hard drives fail, occasionally it’s due to a malfunction of the PCB board. Power surges can cause this type of a failure, as well as dust contamination and many other common computer problems.
PCB Failure Symptoms

Hard drive PCB failures usually render a drive unable to boot up. Depending on the brand and model of the drive, some PCB problems cause a hard drive’s information to display inaccurately in the BIOS.
Swapping Out a Hard Drive’s PCB

Because of this customized firmware, however, it’s not possible to switch out a PCB board in many cases; of course, this varies depending on the manufacturer of a drive. For instance, some older drives have the same basic information on two PCB boards of the same model, provided that both drives were made at about the same time, before more unique adaptives were programmed into the next line of drives. If one of the PCBs fails, there is some chance of making a recovery by simply swapping the boards of the two drives. However, hard drives have contained “customized” firmware on at least an occasional basis since they’ve become a consumer product, so the chances of a straight “board swap” working are very low. In addition, because of the unique adaptives, it is highly possible to damage a drive further by the placement of a foreign PCB.

Fixing PCB Issues

Data recovery companies must rebuild the firmware information in many situations when the PCB of a drive fails. In addition, occasionally PCB failures cause damage to other hard drive components, such as the heads of the drive (and subsequently the platters, in certain situations). Professional data recovery companies have special processes to treat these problems as well.

If you think that your hard drive has a problem with its PCB board, it’s important that you don’t try to operate the drive any further or try switching out the PCB board with another drive’s. Get your hard drive to a reputable data recovery company immediately for an evaluation. A good data recovery company will be able to quickly diagnose the drive’s issues and let you know what your options are from that point.

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