How To Fix a Seized Hard Drive Motor

If you have a hard drive that has stopped working, is not spinning, making a beeping noise, or getting very hot then you are probably dealing with motor seizure.

These are the normal symptoms of this HDD condition. A seizure happens when the platters to fail to spin up.

Brands commonly affected by hard drive motor seizure

Seizure of the motor bearing is quite a common problem after physical shock in many situations.

In the case of Seagate hard drives and specifically the 7200.10 and the 7200.11 Barracuda, the problem is so widespread that some specialist tools have been developed to deal with the specific motor bearings of these models.

On some occasions, users have reported seizures in Samsung and Western Digital hard disk drives as well.

For these hard drives, it is important to do a platter swap to a good matching donordrive. On modern disks, this is quite difficult and is always the last option in the process of recovery.

Where is the motor and how does it fail?

There is a small round bulge in the chassis on the underside of the hard drive, which is fitted around by the PCB. This is where the motor that spins the platters is located.hard-disk-motor seized-motor-hard-drive

The hard drive platters spin on spindles at revolution speeds of anywhere from 5,400 – 12,000 RPM. The spindle rests on a series of ball bearings that contain lubricant.

The lubricant is what often fails, in turn burning out the motor, and finally causing seizure.

Bearing failure normally causes motor failure and there is little that you can do to protect your hard disk. The most common ‘killers’ of bearings are heat, improper handling, inadequate lubrication, and contamination.

Each hard disk has a ‘breather’ hole for equalizing pressure in the chassis. Even though there is a filter, debris, and even dust particles can pass through, and the contamination can be destructive for the hard drive.

Platter and read/write head damage

This hard drive making a beeping sound above likely means your platters are being scraped by the heads, not from a seized motor.

The read/write heads float on the air produced by the moving platters, and will not rise to their normal distance in drives with failing motors.

This contact causes one form of either platter or head damage, and sometimes both. This is evident in around 70% of all motor failures.

Extensive platter damage eventually causes futile data recovery. The recovery expert can bypass some media damage when imaging the hard drive by excluding those sectors from the process and attempting to polish out.

However, the damage causes the data to be physically scraped off the surface of the platter, and thrown around the interior of the hard drive. This data is lost forever (unless you can piece back together dust).

Solutions to motor seizure

For most cases a complete head and motor transplant to a donor hard drive will be necessary.

Since the motor is on the bottom of the chassis, the process will involve a total strip down and rebuild. This involves disassembling both the patient and donor hard drives to their component parts, and rebuilding the replacement hybrid.

All you as the user can do to protect your hard disk, is to keep your computer in a reasonably clean environment. For most people, this means not keeping your CPU on the floor under your desk where it can collect a lot of dust.

Keeping the fans clean and keeping your CPU running in a cool environment are other things you can do to protect your computer. If you follow these steps, you will prolong the life of your hard disk and computer.

The take away

If your hard drive has seizure problems or any other mechanical problems then it is advisable to take it to a professional for repair. I’ve learned it’s never worth the risk of attempting any repair/recovery on hard disks with mechanical problems when my data is important.