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The Mysterious Case of the Missing PCB

pcbThink of a hard drive and the first thing that comes to mind is the platters, maybe the read-write heads, it’s seldom that people remember the printed circuit board (PCB) nestled snugly on the back of their hard drives.

This – often overlooked – component is a crucial and integral part of keeping your data accessible and stored on your hard drive.

The PCB can contain all sorts of important and often unique data which your drive needs in order to work correctly. Anything from controlling the spinning of the platters, to managing the input and output of your data, to encryption, the PCB is the brains of the operation.

Some time ago we received a hard drive from a customer whose Apple Mac Pro One hard drive had failed. He had sent it to another local data recovery firm before contacting Kroll Ontrack, but unfortunately they were unable to recover his data.

We received the hard drive, which had been opened, and found it to be initially suffering from an internal mechanical failure. However, even after repairing this failure, the drive was still unreadable.

After some tests performed with our in-house tools, it turned out that the hard drive did not have the original PCB attached, and when contacted by the customer, the other data recovery company insisted that it was the original board.

Fortunately, with our specialist tools, we were able to rebuild the information stored on the PCB, and successfully recovered the customers data.

In this case the customer was extremely lucky. In many cases the data stored on the drive’s PCB is unique and cannot be reproduced. This means that without the original electronics the data will almost certainly be unrecoverable. In some cases, swapping circuit boards between drives can cause irreversible damage, leading to permanent data loss.

Small and overlooked it may be, but the humble PCB is nevertheless a vital component on your mechanical hard drive.

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