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A hard drive post-mortem

It's dead, Jim
— 12:00 AM on March 26, 2004

AT WORK LAST WEEK, a hard drive in one of our Dell boxes bit the big one. After being put through the requisite tech support penance ("What is the error?" "Primary hard drive failure." "OK, I'd like to check a few things...") I was issued a replacement drive, which soon arrived. I swapped it in and prepared to send the old one back. Surpisingly, Dell didn't want it back. I knew hard drives were cheap, but I didn't know they weren't even worth the cost of shipping anymore.

I could've chucked the thing in the trash, but why do that when you can tear it apart, take a bunch of pictures, and then chuck it in the trash? I hesitate to call it an autopsy, because I don't know or care why the thing actually died, but read on to see a dissection, anyway.

Let's start with the intact drive. Well, mostly intact. In this picture, I'd already torn a piece of the label off to reveal one of the screws holding the top cover on. On the flip side...

... we have the bottom of the drive. Look closely, and you'll see a few screws holding the circuit board onto the drive. A few turns of the screwdriver will take care of these.

Here I've rotated the circuit board around the top edge (in the photo) of the drive, and laid the board next to the drive. In the lower right corner of the drive, you can see a gray plastic block with metal contacts in it. This interfaces with the metal pads near the top right of the circuit board, and connects the drive's electronics with the parts inside. The four metal prongs on the left side of the circuit board press onto the four matching pads on the drive, supplying power to the motor that spins the platter.