USB HDD Repair

Whilst at my 9 to 5 job I received an email asking for some help with a faulty external USB harddrive. It seems the drive had been working the previous evening but failed overnight and wouldn’t power up. It sounded like something I could help with so I asked the customer if they could drop it off to me after 5:30.

After having to give some directions via mobile phone (my house can be a bit of a nightmare to find, I own a new build and, according to google maps AND google street view it’s currently a construction site, google also place the post code about 4 miles away from where it should be!) the hard-drive arrived and I set to work on it pretty much straight away.

The drive was a Seagate Expansion 500gb, quite a nice looking drive, which proved to be a bit of a problem! Here’s a picture of it below:

Very swish, very smooth, very lacking-in-screws. I plugged it in to the mains and nothing happened, the drive didn’t attempt to power up and the case didn’t show any signs of life. I figured it could be the power adapter and tried a spare of similar voltage I had kicking around (it’s a handy little device I got from Tesco, it’s got removable ‘ends’ that allow it to fit pretty much anything, and you can adjust the voltage on it).

Still no luck. This was both bad AND good.

Bad – The case is busted.

Good – The drive inside isn’t even getting chance to power up, chances are it’s still operational and no data has been lost.

Surgery was required. It’s at this point I realised it’s very pretty exterior was going to prove a challenge to access. I sent a quick text to the customer explaining the situation and said there was a good chance I’d damage the case getting to the drive, and did they mind?

I got the ‘ok’ back to do what I had to. Armed with a sharp knife and a screwdriver I set about opening the case. For anyone about to attempt this, it’s not as bad as it seems. Start with the rear of the case (the non-sloped section) and jam a screwdriver in to the gap. Leaver back (so pull the screwdriver towards the case, putting the pressure on the bottom half) and the catches should start to pop. Once the back is open, jab a spare screwdriver in to the space so the catches don’t close and lock again. Now work around the side, leavering the bottom of the case away from the top.

When you get to the front (the sloped section) just attack the sides, don’t open the front. When done the front will act as a hinge and you can lift the top of the case upwards, revealing the caddy inside. There are four screws on the inside that act as motion dampners to keep the drive steady, remove these. Remove the one small screw on the top which keeps the caddy/cage closed. There are also two screws you need to undo to remove the circuit board (this would have been much easier to describe had I thought to take pictures WHILST opening it, rather than afterwards).

When all the screws are out you can open up the caddy and slide out the drive. It’s a standard 3.5″ SATA drive inside.

Conveniently I had a spare 3.5″ USB external case that I’d bought at the weekend for repair work. I slotted the drive in to here, closed it up and plugged it in to my Macbook. Bingo, the drive was absolutely fine, it was just the case that was faulty.


(Pic of the old enclosure and the new)

I gave the customer a quick text message to see what they wanted to do. I could either fit the drive in to the USB enclosure I’d bought at the weekend (cheap, but functional, not too pretty), or they could get one themselves. They were happy for me to use the USB enclosure I had, so I screwed the drive in, boxed it all up and they picked it up about an hour and a half later.

My Fee: £15
Parts: £20

Total: £35.

(Pictures fo this post uploaded when I’m not on my phone)

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