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
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.
What A PCB Does
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.
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
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
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.