Seagate Momentus Drive Failures [Updated]

Just recently we have had an influx of unrecoverable Seagate Momentus 2.5″ hard drives. These drives are used in most of the Apple portables from the Macbooks to Macbook Pros and also in laptops from other manufacturers. Ranging from 60-120GB they seem to suffer from some sort of media defect. Most of the problems we see with these drives are head crashes, where the read/write mechanism contacts the disc surface, removing some of the magnetic coating. This damage is not always visible on the top surface of the disc so can be difficult to confirm. If we do see damage then we would not usually attempt any rework, due to the almost instant contamination of the new component. After many failed recovery attempts and much money wasted on replacement mechanisms we decided that we should just inform our customers of the problem before they send us the drive as we have only had one single successful recovery from these drives. I have listed some affected model numbers below for information purposes only. Please be aware that we have no information about how widespread this problem may be. We do only see defective drives in our line of business!

  • ST98823AS
  • ST9100823A
  • ST9408114A
  • ST9120821AS
  • ST94011A
  • ST96812AS
  • ST94813A

Update 21-9-2010:
We are still receiving a trickle of these drives in for diagnosis. Unfortunately they are still unrecoverable. There must be loads of people still using these, without any idea of the potential failure that awaits them.

A Maxtor Head Crash

A Maxtor drive with a head crash
A Maxtor drive with a head crash

Here is a perfect example of why you should not attempt data recovery on a failing hard drive. This Maxtor 6Y160P0 drive was sent to us after being attached to a PC as a slave and then spun up and down repeatedly in a data recovery attempt. Needless to say the telltale crunchy spin-up was heard and we headed into the cleanroom to check out the damage. It was not a pretty sight. So much of the magnetic coating had been scraped off that there was a layer of soot on all of the components inside the hard drive enclosure. Even after a deep clean, debris and rough edges would wreck a new head mechanism in seconds, rendering any further data recovery attempts pointless.

Head Crash on 1.8″ 60GB Toshiba ZIF Hard Drive

 

We received an iPod containing a Toshiba MK6008GAH 1.8″ drive for data recovery recently. The iPod was rattling when inspected so we thought the ipod itself may have been broken. Upon removing the drive we observed that the rattle noise was in fact coming from inside the tiny drive.

More than a head crash with this drive
More than a head crash with this drive

We checked if the client wanted us to move into the cleanroom phase of recovery which is more expensive. The client said yes and so we took the drive in for its diagnosis.

After removing the cover the level of damage was very clear. The top disk platter was completely shattered leaving no chance of recovery. The other intact disk was scratched to pieces by the loose fragments of glass that were knocking around inside the drive enclosure. The read/write mechanism had not even left the ramp as you can see in the photographs although it would be clearly contaminated by the glass dust.

Looking at the severity of the damage it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind using glass disks inside such a portable hard drive. We do not know how much shock caused the disk to shatter but the fact that it is possible at all seems strange.