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ase note: resurrecting a bricked

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 disk


9

Oct by yimingsun

A few weeks back, my 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 disk bricked


suddenly. It happened after a reboot. The computer stuck on POST
trying to detect the disk, and the disk activity LED was on steady, but it
just would not recognize the disk. With SATA power cable connected I
could feel the disk spinning inside, which told me it was not a
mechanical problem, but the computer just would not recognize it no
matter what I did (including putting it into an enclosure and plugging
into another computer). It looked very disturbing at first but after
some research it turned out to be a common problem with a bug in the
firmware and there is a fix for it. The bug manifests in 2 symtoms: the
LBA=0 problem and the BSY problem. For the former, the disk is
recognized by the computer but it shows the capacity as 0, and for the
latter, the computer doesnt detect the disk at all, which is the case I
encountered.
The general steps for fixing the BSY problem are roughly the following:
1. Rig a cable, typically with USB on one end to plug into a computer,
and 3 wires on the other end to plug into jumper pins (TX, RX, and
GND) on the disk.
2. Loosen the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) of the disk with a Torx 6
screw driver.
3. Insert a non-conductive layer between the PCB and the chip on the
disk so they no longer contact.
4. Power on the disk.

5. Use a terminal program on the computer to send a couple of low


level commands to the disk to spin it down
6. While the power is still on, remove the non-conductive layer so the
PCB and the chip make contact.
7. Use the terminal program to send a few more commands to the disk
to spin it up, and erase the S.M.A.R.T. data.
8. power cycle the disk
9. Use the terminal program to re-create the partition data.
HDD-Parts sells a repair kit for $49.99, but I was hoping for some
more affordable methods. There are several Youtube videos showing
how it can be done. Quite a few of them suggest to modify a Nokia CA42 cable by cutting off the phone connector end and crimping 3 RS232
connector pins to the wires. I spent $13 for the cable, $9 for a crimper,
and $5 for a RS232 DB9 female connector. While it looked easy on the
videos, it didnt work too well for me. One problem was all these
instructions out there used HyperTerminal as the terminal program,
but Microsoft stopped bundling it for Windows Vista and later. This
was not a big deal because puTTY works just equally well. Another
problem was that the RS232 DB9 pins I got were way too big for the
jumper pins on the disks to fit snuggly and they easily fell off. What I
really need were jumper headers as I found out later, but the local
Radio Shack was disappointing (the guy worked there swore they didnt
carry any DB9 crimpers until I grabbed one off the shelf and asked him
what it was). But the bigger problem was that Windows (vista and 7)
kept using the Prolific USB-to-Serial driver for the cable. The name of
the driver sounded convincing but I just could not get the
communication going. Worse, the videos also instructed to crack open
the USB connector so people could tell which wire is which (TX, RX,
GND), but the wires were so thin that after a few moves they broke off
from the solder, and I had to toss it into the trash since I didnt feel like
buying a soldering set.

Later someone told me to check out the driver on the mini-CD that
came with the Nokia CA-42 cable. Honestly I didnt even notice the
mini-CD until the cable was in the trash can, so I couldnt verify that
driver worked any better.
Luckily, googling a bit more pointed me to the MSFN forum on how to
fix the problem, and since it is a forum, it is interactive, which means
there are people who could help when we run into weird situations
(many many thanks to jaclaz!!). The forum also pointed me to a fix kit
on eBay for $19.99. The item listing on eBay recommends to use
the VCP (Virtual COM port) driver for the kit, but it was buried under a
ton of pictures and I literally missed it until jaclaz pointed it out to me
(thanks again!!).
The instructions on the forum are great except for one part. Instead of
steps 3 ~ 6 listed above, it suggests readers to practice how to remove
and re-attach the PCB board while the power is on. It runs a high risk
of short-circuiting the PCB because it is very easy to drop these tiny
metal screws, and if they fell on the wrong spot, the PCB would become
an FCB, fried circuit board. So DONT do that. Take steps 3 ~ 6
instead which is much safer. The instructions also uses HyperTerminal
as the example terminal program, but I will show you how to use
puTTY instead.
Disconnect the bricked disk from any power source. Use the Torx 6
screw driver to remove the PCB board from the disk. You will see a
small chip on the disk. Cut a strip of anti-static bag, or as the videos
suggest, cut a strip of some plastic card (dont use any paper-based
cards because they can be torn easily when you try to pull them out
later), and cover the chip, and leave enough leads to the right side of
the disk for you to grab and pull later. Re-attach the PCB board, but
dont tighten these screws too much, especially not on the right side
where the non-conductive strip is jammed in between so you can pull
out the strip. You will have 1 extra screw left out because it should go
into the middle of the chip and the chip is now covered dont lose the
screw.

The repair kit was easy to use I plugged the USB connector to my
computer, the 3 wires to the disk jumper pins (make sure you connect
GND to GND, TX to RX, and RX to TX). Windows had trouble finding
the driver on its own, but I only needed to point it to the VCP driver I
downloaded. Once the driver is properly installed, log into Windows as
an administrative user, go to control panel, Device Manager, and locate
the serial port device. Right click on it, go into properties, and change
its baud rate from the default 9600 to 38400. Also note the COM port
it is using. On mine, it is COM4.
I found it easy to do this with a desktop computer. An eSATA cable
from a laptop doesnt seem to provide enough current to even power on
the disk. Remove the side panel from the tower case so you have direct
access to its SATA power cable. Plug the SATA power to the bricked
disk. You should be able to feel the disk spinning by slightly lifting it
with your hands there is a certain vibration, and also if you try to
turn the disk you can feel a drag due to gyroscopic resistance.
Run puTTY. On the configuration dialog box, make sure to select the
radio button that says Serial [1]. Enter the correct COM port
number noted earlier in Serial line [2], and 38400 in Speed [3]. I
highly recommend saving this session by providing a meaningful name
in Saved Sessions [4] and click the Save button [5]. After you have
done all that, click on Serial under Connection in the Category tree
on the left side [6]. It shows some options for the serial connection.
Change Flow control to None [7], and click on Session on the left
side again [8]. Then click on Save button one more time to save the
session for later use [5].

Click the Open button to open the connection. You will see a blank
window. If everything was done correctly, pressing Ctrl-Z will show
you the prompt.
1

F3 T>

Type the command below followed by <Enter> to go to level 2

F3 T>/2 <Enter>

And your prompt should now change to


1

F3 2>

Now you need to spin down the disk by typing the command below, but
wait for several seconds before hitting <Enter>
1

F3 2>Z <wait for several seconds before hitting Enter>

And you should see


1
2
3
4
5

F3 2>Z <wait for several seconds before hitting Enter>


Spin Down Complete
Elapsed Time 0.135 msecs <the time may vary here>
F3 2>

People have reported (including me) that if you hit <Enter> too soon
after the Z command, you may see some error codes such as:
1
2
3
4

F3 2>Z <Enter immediately after typing Z>


LED:000000CE FAddr:00280569
LED:000000CE FAddr:00280569

One guy has even reported that it is enough to just type Z without even
hitting <Enter>, and he just back spaced and erased Z after feeling that
the disk spinned down. I didnt try that.
If you successfully spinned down the disk, you are ready for the most
important part: keep the power on to the disk and pull out the nonconductive strip you sandwiched between the PCB and the chip earlier.
And tighten all the screws that are already in (so you still have the 1
laying around. Dont worry about this screw for now). Still be careful at
this step because you dont want to accidentally skid the tip of your
screw driver on the PCB to fry it. This ensures the PCB provides
enough current to the disk motor so it will spin up correctly.
Use the following command to spin up the disk
1

F3 2>U <Enter>

and if everything was correct, you should see something like


1
2
3
4
5

F3 2>U <Enter>
Spin Up Complete
Elapsed Time 7.093 secs <the time may vary here>
F3 2>

I was lucky enough to have encountered a problem at this stage


because I didnt tighten the screws at the first attempt, and the motor
wasnt able to draw enough current. It gave me the following output:
1
2
3
4
5
6

F3 2>U <Enter>
Error 1009 DETSEC 00006008
Spin Error
Elapsed Time 31.324 secs
R/W Status 2 R/W Error 84150180

If you encountered that, make sure you have tightened the screws and
try again.
Once the disk has been spinned up successfully, change to level 1 using
the following command:
1

F3 2>/1 <Enter>

and your prompt should change to


1

F3 1>

Now reset the S.M.A.R.T. data using the following command:


1

F3 1>N1 <Enter>

If everyone was correctly done, it would not output anything and only
show you another prompt. However, because of the loose screws, the
motor wasnt spinned up correctly for me during my first attempt, yet I
failed to notice the error messages from the U command. So when I
continued on with the N1 command, I got the following output:
1
2
3

F3 1>N1 <Enter>
Unable to load Diag Overlay

If you see this, STOP. Power off the disk, re-sandwich the nonconductive strip and START FROM THE BEGINNING. I was bald
enough to go on even after seeing the error message and I will tell you
what happened in just a bit.
If erasing S.M.A.R.T. was successful, power off the disk also. Wait for
the disk to completely stop (several seconds), and power it back on.
You need to reconnect a terminal session to the disk, press Ctrl-Z.
Now do the last command to re-create partition data (there are 5
commas between the second 2 and the last 22):
1

F3 T>m0,2,2,,,,,22 (enter)

This command takes a while to execute. If everything was right, you


will eventually see some output like the following:
1
2
3
4
5

Max Wr Retries = 00, Max Rd Retries = 00, Max ECC T-Level = 14, Max Certify Rewri

User Partition Format 5% complete, Zone 00, Pass 00, LBA 00004339, ErrCode 000000
User Partition Format Successful - Elapsed Time 0 mins 05 secs

Now you have your disk back. Power off the disk. Disconnect the COM
cable. Put the last screw back in, make sure all screws are tightened,
copy all the data from this disk to another disk, and apply the latest
firmware from Seagate (perform this as the last step because updating
firmware is risky too, you only want to do this after you have copied the
data to another disk).
Because I wasnt paying attention during my first attempt, I tried to recreate the partition data even when the motor spin-up wasnt
successful, and the disk started to give out a horrible click click click
noise and I thought my disk was doomed for sure. It turned out to be
okay, but I wouldnt recommend such risks.
In any case, if a step fails, you are more than likely need to power off
the disk and start from the beginning. If you are uncertain about
something, dont rush head-on first. Go toMSFN and ask jaclaz and all
the good folks there first. We want you to be a happy bunny in the
basket.

Looking back, I was debating with myself if I shouldve bought the


$49.99 repair kit from HDD-parts.com. Because I ended up paying
something close to that price anyways ($13 + $9 + $5 + $19.99). But I
decided it was a good thing I didnt because the $49.99 repair kit is
only half the story I may not have found the MSFN forum had it not
been the failed attempt with the CA-42 cable, and I would still run into
the problems I encountered later and there would be no one helping
me in these situations and might have mistakenly thought the disk was
not rescueable and give up on it. Again, many many thanks to jaclaz
and other folks!!