Understanding Hard Drive Firmware Failure

Linda J | TTR Data Recovery
By Linda J

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At TTR Data Recovery we use specialized tools to diagnose and recover files from all types of damaged Hard Drive, including VMware Data Recovery.

Hard Drive Parts

Hard Drive Firmware Failure Facts

Did you know that inside your computer’s Hard Drive is a tiny operating system (similar to Windows or Mac OS) that tells the drive to act? Most computer users don’t, because it runs in the background and there’s no reason to ever worry about this little piece of software… that is, until it stops doing its job.

As with any bit of code, your hard drive’s operating system, aka the firmware, can become corrupted or damaged as a result of viruses, incompatibility, or even manufacture failure. If a firmware failure incurs, you may lose access to your data instantly. Even worse, it could stop your hard drive from spinning or cooling correctly, which can lead to more significant damage.

How Do I know if I have a hard drive Firmware Failure?

How to know if i have HDD Fialure

Some signs of a firmware failure include freezing a startup, inability to recognize the drive by any reader, or partial or complete mechanical failure of the VMware hard drive. A firmware failure can cause complete failure of the drive, even if there is not physical damage to it.

Where is the Firmware located?

The firmware is a set of codes positioned on the service area of the platters and also in the ROM of the PCB. It’s not something that is visible because it is not a physical part of the hard drive.

What Does Firmware Do?

When the hard drive is powered on, a small part of firmware on the PCB is starting the whole process of booting the drive. It sends the command to power on the motor and tells the heads to move over the spinning surface to catch the synchronizing marks of the platter in order to stabilize the speed. Then the microcode on the service zone starts loading into the drive’s memory.

Then the microcode on the service zone starts loading into the drive’s memory. Then the microcode on the service zone starts loading into the drive’s memory. That piece of loaded code from the disk platter must be matched to the firmware code from the circuit board. Otherwise, the integrity of the whole drive’s software system is violated.

Tell-tale signs of Hard Drive Firmware damage

  • “Not Initialized” error
    One sign that could indicate that your hard drive is faulty, is when your computer sees it as blank, thus indicating a “Not Initialized” error. This message could mean issues like bad sectors on the platters, problem with the read/write heads, or firmware.
  • Clicking noises coming from the hard drive
    Repetitive clicking noises can most of the time be thought of as mechanical issues, which can mean that the head comes apart and crashes onto the platter. Mechanical problems can als be due to power surges or outages. However, a corrupted firmware can also cause the drive to make clicking noise.
  • Slow hard drive or performance is deteriorated
    A firmware malfunction can result in slow hard drive, to the point of getting a “Not Responding” error repeatedly.
  • Drive is not recognized
    Another sign of possible corrupted firmware or read/write head failure is when you computer is unable to detect your hardware. However, sometimes, it could be due to bad or loose cable to the drive or malware infection.

A firmware failure can render your data inaccessible. Recovering lost or inaccessible data from a damaged firmware requires expertise, sterile environment, and specialized tools. Attempting to repair damaged firmware on your own using a software may only make matters worse.



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