Electrical Failures

Electrical failures are very common and result in the hard drive not operating correctly. iCube Development can fix electrical failures.

Learn about common hard drive electrical problems.

A hard drive electrical issue is considered an easy fix and usually is repaired the same day.

Most hard drives contain many electrical safety measures located on their Printed Circuit Board (PCB). These components prevent electrical damage from reaching critical components of the hard drive. It is very common for electrical failures only to damage these safety measures and once replaced the hard drive will operate as normal. Most hard drives will not turn on with damaged or missing safety components.

An electrical failure is considered to be a simple problem and repairs typically range between $100 - $200. Consider getting a free hard drive evaluation before you try to make repairs yourself.

Most Common Electrical Failure Types:

  1. Preamplification (Preamp) Chip: The preamp is responsible for increasing the signal of data head by the heads. Without a working preamp a hard drive may click and data is not accessible. The chip is extremely small and is affixed to the head assembly ribbon cable. Data recovery labs do not typically repair or replace a preamp chip. Instead, the entire mechanical head assembly is replaced. Because replacement mechanical parts are required preamp chip failures are considered the worst type of hard drive electrical failure.
  2. Transient Voltage Suppression (TVS) Diode: TVS diodes are part of a protection circuit. The diode is designed to fail when voltage spikes are encountered thereby protecting other electrical components. When damaged, the diode will prevent a hard drive or connected computer from powering on. TVS diodes are not required for a hard drive to function.
  3. Read Only Memory (ROM): A hard drive ROM module contains unique information which instructs reading and writing heads to load firmware located on the platters. If damaged or not functional a hard drive cannot process firmware assets needed for identification and data access. Depending on the model of hard drive the ROM is usually an 8-legged surface mounted integrated circuit but can also be located on NOR Flash within the MCU. Recovering data from a Seagate or Toshiba drive with a failed ROM can be difficult. Western Digital hard drives allow ROM content to be recreated from assets located on the platters.
  4. Fuse or Fusiable Resistor: As the name implies, a fuse completes or "closes" an electrical circuit. If a circuit is open (eg: fuse is blown), power will not be delivered to required components. Hard drives and solid state drives typically use fusiable resistors instead of a fuse as they're much smaller and take up less room on a PCB.
  5. Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Damage: A PCB contains traces (thin wires embedded into the silicon). These traces can be damaged due to corrosion and warpage resulting in connectivity issues. Our lab has encountered notable PCB damage with select Western Digital My Passport and Seagate Barracuda LP hard drives where an electrical trace fails to maintain a good connection to an IC (integrated circuit). In many situations, the drive may spin however the computer will not recognize the hard drive.
  6. Wrong Power Adapter: Most 3.5in external hard drives typically operate using 12V at 1.5A. If the wrong power adapter is used (eg: from a notebook computer adapter which outputs more volts) the electrical components of the external HDD will become damaged.
  7. Interface Connector: As plastic ages it can become brittle and crack when under strain. Higher quality SATA connectors have a metal locking mechanism, if the SATA cable is pulled when the locking mechanism is not depressed it can result in the connector breaking.

Typical Failure Reasons:

  • Unstable and / or inconsistent power supply.
  • Sudden power failures.
  • User error (wrong cable is connected).

How do you recover data yourself?

Sometimes you can fix an electrical problem with your hard drive yourself.

For hard drives made prior to 2010, it was common for the PCB to be swapped with a known working donor. While this Do It Yourself (DIY) fix worked in the past it will not work for modern drives.

  • Most drives manufactured after 2010 contain unique adaptives located in a ROM module. These adaptives must be can read using a ROM reader (also known as a chip programmer) or specialized software. Alternatively, the ROM module can be desoldered from a damaged PCB and then soldered to a replacement. If adaptives are not transferred or the ROM not physically moved to a donor PCB your hard drive will click and can be damaged internally as a result.
  • Some drives also contain a unique key stored in the MCU (a large chip located on the PCB). This key is paired with an asset located on your hard drive's platter. Each hard drive can contain a unique key. If the key and asset do not match specialized software must be used. This makes recovery of data extremely difficult and sometimes impossible. The data recovery industry refers to these types of hard drives as Self Encrypting Drives (SED).
  • Most drives will contain electrical circuitry to mitigate power irregularities which can cause damage. Check the TVS diodes, fuses, and resistors for continuity and replace as required.

Special electrical tools are used to recover data.

Data recovery companies use custom built adapters to recover data from electrically damaged hard drives.

Companies which specialize in the recovery of data will have purchased many proprietary tools and adapters. If a tool or adapter does not exist, iCube Development will build one. Recovery of data from a well-known SMSR150S3/128G SSD requires a custom built electrical adapter.

Western Digital My Passport hard drives are widely known as having a USB only PCB. Without converting the drives electrical interface from USB to SATA, data recovery may not be possible and can drastically reduce the amount of data which can be recovered.

iCube using a Western Digital PCB 2060-800067 Adapter to recover data.

An adapter is used to recover data in our Calgary lab from a locked and encrypted Western Digital PCB.

Common Problems Fixing Electrical Problems:

A donor PCB, soldering station, and a hot gun will be required.

The average consumer will not have the knowledge or equipment to determine what electrical part or parts have become damaged. That said, it is possible for some electrical failures to be self-repaired.

iCube Development has dedicated tools to rapidly diagnose electrical failures.


Before you start trying to fix electrical failures issues yourself.

Attempting to repair electrical failures without the use of specialized equipment and knowledge may result in the loss of data or the inability to recover data. iCube Development provides this information without warranty and for educational purposes only.

Choose Service:

Just click to get more information on a specific service.

Data Recovery & Investigation:

Computer Repair & IT Consulting: