Hard drive replacement sparks singed disk situation
Flash. Bang. Wallop
Big data transfers can sometimes be painfully slow, but they shouldn’t cause you physical harm. Yet one Register Hardware reader feared he could have ended up in A&E after his new hard drive appeared to catch fire.
Karl Sorrenson told us that he’d just finished transferring data from a Seagate hard drive onto a four-day-old internal Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB drive, when black smoke billowed out of his PC. After quickly shutting his system down, he was unable to reboot. Neither the BIOS nor Windows would recognise the drive.
Pictures show burns on the drive’s motor control chip, melted solder and smoke-scarring on the drive's printed circuit board (PCB).
A smoke-scarred Samsung F1 750GB hard drive, yesterday
We spoke to hard drive specialist Duncan Clarke at data recovery firm Retrodata, who said that although the picture looks authentic, there could be many reasons for the combustion. Motor chips like the one shown scorched in the picture often suffer badly when a drive is subjected to overheating or a power surge, he said.
Phew, what a scorcher
Clarke said the PC’s fan had probably been spinning at the time, indicated by the way the PCB was stained by the smoke in the direction of the airflow. This rules out system-wide overheating as the cause.
He said the drive’s bearings may simply have seized, causing a localised heat build up. Or the heat might be the result of the way Karl had installed the two drives.
Crucially, there's no reason to assume a systematic problem with hard drives of this make and model, he added.
thats not solder
but carbonised chip packaging resin.
Judging from where on the chip this occurred this looks like the destruction of one of the pole drivers for the motor.
Most likely the motor shorted a phase short to ground . Harddisk motors are 3 phase brushless motors. The powercombo chip generates three pseudo-sinewaves using a pulse width mdulation technique ( it's not a real sinewave but a specific shape to yank as much current as possible through the coils , without too much power dissipation in the driver ) that are 120 degrees out of phase to drive the motor.
Even a phase short would not cause such a catastrophic failure. ( the three phases are a star configuration. so even a phase short would still leave you with one coil in the loop ( there are always 2 of the coils in the loop. So a single phase short would not cause catastrophic failure. The chances of two phases shorting out are very small.
Premature death. Send it back for an exchange. It's under warranty. Stuff happens. Always have 2 (yes TWO , not one but TWO) backups of critical data on DIFFERENT media / different hardware.
Not solder, its the chip's burned plastic
I used to work for an OEM, you know, a real one with a fab line and pick and place machines. That isn't solder on the legs, its part of the chip's plastic packaging. Apparently that TI chip blew out its internal power and ground, thus the smoke. I saw something similar with Philips surface-mount capacitors. They would turn into ash when you weren't looking. Finally managed to catch one in the act, shut off the machine, and sent it back to Philips for analysis.
I had a WD Caviar that actually set fire to its protective foam. Didn't help that WD put all their chips on the underside of the pcb for maximum heat!
I've seen this before
About 8 years ago we had a similar problem with Quantum Fireball 6.4GB drives in our Gateway machines. We had about a 30% failure rate with scorch marks across a chip and quite often one leg of the chip was lifted off the board.
No black smoke though. Kinda feel cheated.
Similar experience with a maxtor drive
I had the same sort of issue with a 120GB maxtor drive, the case was thankfully open as I was fitting a new fan. For the first few seconds I just looked at it burning with a nice blue flame, thinking it was just the reflection of a blue led on the fan. Then the smell hit me and I yanked the power. I was surprised that maxtor support didn't want the drive returned to investigate. It was out of warranty so all I wanted was them to pay shipping for it.