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HDD Spindle and spindle motor are very important components spinning up the platters. The platters in a drive are separated by disk spacers and are clamped to a rotating spindle that turns all the platters in unison. The spindle motor is built right into the spindle or mounted directly below it and spins the platters at a constant set rate ranging from 3,600 to 15,300 RPM. The motor is attached to a feedback loop to ensure that it spins at precisely the speed it is supposed to.

The HDD’s spindle system relies on air pressure inside the enclosure to support the heads at their proper flying height while the disk rotates. Hard disk drives require a certain range of air pressures in order to operate
properly. The connection to the external environment and pressure occurs through a small hole in the enclosure (about 0.5 mm in diameter), usually with a carbon filter on the inside (the breather filter, see below). If the air pressure is too low, then there is not enough lift for the flying head, so the head gets too close to the disk, and there is a risk of head crashes and data loss.

When the platters are not able to spin up, the data cannot be read and written and the data is inaccessible and lost if we cannot fix it and we call this one platter seizing. This is one very common physical data recovery cases within our clean room data recovery lab. Usually you can see more such cases in laptop and external hard drives. When external hard drives are bumped or jarred, the shaft of the spindle motor get slightly bent or broken and this happens more in Seagate external hard drives. For laptop hard drives, we usually see 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.

Seized platters are not often met within desktop hard drives but in a few seagate hdd cases, 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.

Anyway, this kind of data recovery cases can mostly be repaired and recovered only if you have a qualified clean room environment, proper head or platter swap tools and a donor hard drive with working spindle motor. We can usually remove the platters onto the donor drive or replace the spindle directly.

News: Data Recovery Salon has launched the advanced clean room data recovery training in Portugal this September, 2012. Students are able to learn how to fix and recover different clean room data recovery cases using different head and platter swap tools and technologies. You can order one seat for this clean room data recovery training here.