Tip & How-To about Computers & Internet

Hard Drive Basics and Beyond Part1

Hard Drive Basics and Beyond

The typical hard drive is basically not much different than an old fashioned tape recorder.
There are magnetic heads which record data to your hard drive platters then read them back as information is needed. I won't get into how this data is stored right now, since what you really need to know is how to repair, maintain and recover your own hard drive.

Remember, a hard drive is not memory or ram (Random Access Memory).
If your program tells you there is not enough ram available to run an application, it isn't telling you that your hard drive has run short on space, but that your memory (ram) is not large enough to handle the program. You can also increase Virtual memory by using an area of the hard drive
to mimic Ram which will allow the program to run.

Whether you have a Serial ATA (AT Attachment) or standard IDE (also known as EIDE or PATA) drive, the mechanics are pretty much the same.
HDDs record data by magnetizing ferromagnetic material directionally, to represent either a 0 or a 1 binary digit. They read the data back by detecting the magnetization of the material. A typical HDD design consists of a spindle that holds one or more flat circular disks called platters, onto which the data are recorded. The platters are made from a non-magnetic material, usually aluminum alloy or glass, and are coated with a thin layer of magnetic material.

But the real important thing we want to address here is just How they get damaged in that sealed environment, and how to avoid it.

The best way to manage a failing hard drive is to use the software that originally came packaged with it. A lot of times you will discover a smart drive error has occurred and sometimes this error is false, but usually cannot be undone.
When a failure is anticipated by S.M.A.R.T., the drive is typically replaced and returned to the manufacturer, who uses these dead drives to discover where faults lie and how to prevent them from reoccurring on the next generation of hard disk drives. None of which help you right now.

A word of warning here about care, handling and maintenance.

Never cover that little breathing hole on your hard drive with tape. It is even better to make sure it is face down to prevent dust collecting on the hole.
Due to the extremely close spacing between the heads and the disk surface, any contamination of the read-write heads or platters can lead to a head crash, (a failure of the disk in which the head scrapes across the platter surface), often grinding away the thin magnetic film and causing
data loss. Head crashes can be caused by electronic failure, a sudden power failure, physical shock, wear and tear, corrosion, or poorly manufactured platters and heads.
Very high humidity for extended periods can also corrode the heads and platters.

So what we want to do here is first save the drive, second test the drive for errors and third try a data read and write to be sure the hard drive can do what it was designed for, Store Data.
All of this can be done with the CD that came with your hard drive. For those who are testing and fixing a drive that came with their PC, a disk may be obtained by finding the manufacturers site who made your drive and downloading the apropriate Drive Manager software for your Hard drive.

Posted by on

Computers & Internet Logo

Related Topics:

Related Questions:

1 Answer

dropped wd external drive & now not recognized by pc

Unfortunately hard drives damage extremely easily. Think of it as an old fashion record player. The needle (head) most likely damaged beyond normal repair. I had fail with less than 6 inches onto **** carpet. Sorry.

Aug 27, 2012 | Western Digital Passport Computers &...

1 Answer

what is the cause of a clicking hard drive?

If you think of a hard drive as an old phonograph/record player it makes this easier to understand (assuming you are old enough to have seen a record player..SMILE) The data is stored on platters or circular metalic disks that spin at 5400 or 7200 revolutions per minute. A "Head" or needle like arm extends from the corner of the drive and actually reads and rights data to those platters. When the arm motor goes bad the "HEAD ARM" typically will chatter against the HD case as the head doesnt stop where it should and hits the case. If your hard drive is still functional I would suggest backing up your data as this chattering always indicates an impending failure of that drive. If the chattering is happening and the drive is not being read then the motor has gone bad on teh arm already and its a goner. If the data has SIGNIFICANT value the platters can be remounted by a professional company and data retrieved but that service usually starts at about $1000 dollars and is usally used only by companies to recover data for business reasons.

Jun 02, 2010 | Seagate U6 (ST340810A) 40 GB Hard Drive

1 Answer

I dropped my maxtor 3200. Now although it will switch on the computer does not recognise it is connected. What should I do to recover the data from the hard drive?

If you can hear clicking then I am afraid there is a serious problem with the hard drive. The noise you can hear is usually known as "the click of death" when referring to hard drives.
Most common causes are that the drive unit was dropped or mishandled.
There is no known cure unless the data is mission critical in which case you could sent it to a data recovery specialist but this is usually VERY expensive.
If you are advised to place it in a freezer or anything similar then that is up to you but my advise would be to run from the person who may give this advise. This is very old fashioned advice and meant for very old types of drives that used to get very hot.
you could still use the enclosure though and just place a new hard drive in there.

Aug 03, 2009 | Maxtor Basics Personal Storage 3200 Hard...

2 Answers

Marantz CP430 fault


I have had the exact same problem with a CP430, Whether in Play Rewind or Fast Forward, after a short duration the tape stops. After a lot of Looking & thinking, I noticed that a few seconds prior to the tape stopping, the tape counter stops. (If you dismantle this unit be sure to work in an orgainsed fashion,& you will need some tiny Phillips head screwdrivers too) If your not confident then dont proceed.

The tape counter is driven by a belt, & on the spindle that drives the counter is a magnetic wheel, that runs past a sensor on a PCB.

I didn't have a replacement belt, so dismantled the unit, & chemically cleaned the Belt (cellulose thinners), until no more 'black' came off, in order to eliminate the possibility of tape slip, I also used a stiff toothbrush, to clean the plastic gears that drive the counter, as any resistance, will cause the belt to slip. I think the reset button had also been pushed hard, & bent the mechanism slightly, as it had a tight spot, so i adjusted the spindle, & finally lunricated the Counter gears (Not the Spindle & pulley, as its too close to the belt to introduce lubricant). Upon reassembly, The problem seems solved, the unit now plays records Rewinds etc, without any issues.

Its a tiny drive belt, & any resistance in the drive train, (dust / fluff / as tiny grit even) is enough to cause the belt to slip, & stop the counter which in turn stops the tape.

I hope this helps.


Apr 26, 2009 | Audio Players & Recorders

5 Answers

Maxtor Basics external portable hard drive not getting detected

I have a Western digital model wd2500b007-rnn
and I cannot get either my PC or my laptop to recognize the drive. I isolated the drive to another computer with the same error. It says USB device not reognized. I also tried a different port. I have not tried different cables. Can I retrieve the old data on the drive?

Did you find a resolution for this? I am having the same problem. None of my PCs can recognize the drive. Formatting seems to be the only choice but I need to recover my old data first.

Jun 06, 2008 | Computers & Internet

Not finding what you are looking for?

143 people viewed this tip

Ask a Question

Usually answered in minutes!

Top Computers & Internet Experts

Doctor PC
Doctor PC

Level 3 Expert

7733 Answers


Level 3 Expert

102366 Answers

David Payne
David Payne

Level 3 Expert

14161 Answers

Are you a Computer and Internet Expert? Answer questions, earn points and help others

Answer questions