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Quick Guide: External Hard Drive Data Recovery

By on April 30, 2018
external hard drive repair











If ever you have lost data on your computer, whether it’s records that you have created for your business, information you have gathered over the years, or worst of all, photos, particularly precious family photos that can never be recreated.

This is why data recovery services do so well and providing they are good at their profession, will have constant work for years to come. A work colleague for the college that I teach at part-time had this very problem. It seems that one of his students removed the data cable and must have applied a lot of force as the port became dislodged from the circuit board. That’s what he told me anyway 🙂

It wasn’t difficult to diagnose as the cable held loosely from the drive and showed obvious signs of being disconnected.

external hard disk drive repair

It seemed like a simple solution –just reconnect the USB 3 port back onto the circuit board.

I’m sure you would agree that things are rarely as simple as they seem.

external hard disk drive fix

Simply by running my fingernail around the plastic case lid, all the clips were easily released.

The hard drive itself was covered with an aluminium foil, to both protect the drive and provide protection from unwanted EMI. This was peeled off to access the drive.

Next, the port was examined and seemed to be ready to be soldered back onto the circuit board. The traces on the circuit board appeared to be in good condition.

I should have looked more closely!

 hard disk drive fix

The pins on the port had been torn off and were still attached to the circuit board. All was not lost. The traces on the board were clearly still in good condition and it was just a matter of replacing the port with a new component and hopefully, the data could be retrieved.

 hard disk drive repair

Once the new port arrived through the post, my mistake became obvious.

Fortunately, with liberal amounts of flux and a steady hand under a LED magnifying glass, the port was placed and soldered in place. This took several attempts, since it was very hard to get the pins to accurately line up with the circuit board traces. When soldering at this level, bridging between pins can be a real problem. If you draw the solder away from the component toward the end of the pins, bridging becomes less of a problem.

how to repair hard disk drive


Using a digital microscope makes it easier to see any poor connections, bridges, or where pins and traces have not met correctly. Even though the soldering wasn’t necessarily pretty, all the connections appeared in good condition. Of course, it doesn’t matter how good the soldering is, the most important requirement is data retrieval.

how to fix hard disk drive

After connecting the USB cable to the computer and drive, that knot in your stomach slowly releases when you see the light on the drive start to flash. More importantly, when the drive is recognised by the computer and all the data shows up in the folders!

After reassembly and further testing, the drive was handed back to the now relieved customer. He was advised that he should back up this drive so that no data would be lost if any future problems arose.

If you are interested in this repair, you can see a video on my channel following the link below:

This article was prepared for you by Mark Rabone from Australia.

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Note: You can check out his previous repair article below:




  1. Everett Crosiar

    April 30, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    In the U.S. you can usually find and purchase a hard drive of the same model for around $10 off e-bay or amazon. Just remove the motherboard (along with the connector) from the replacement drive and install it on the defective drive. Much easier and only takes 5 minutes. You won't need a microscope or magnifying glass and if your time is worth anything then this is a much less expensive way to recover the data.

    • Mark

      May 1, 2018 at 9:05 am

      Thanks Everett,
      Good to know, but I must admit that it was a good learning experience for me as well.

  2. Parasuraman

    April 30, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    Good article! Very useful information! Many thanks for sharing.

    • Mark

      May 1, 2018 at 9:13 am

      You are welcome 🙂

  3. Albert van Bemmelen

    May 1, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Retrieving personal data is very important! Good job Mark. My brother lost his harddisk with all family slides he had scanned over the years. Sadly I never was able to check his harddisk or the equipment he had used that may have been causing this failure. He said he made copies but now one seems to have one.

    • Mark

      May 1, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Such a shame to lose all that precious data.

  4. Albert van Bemmelen

    May 1, 2018 at 12:21 am

    I meant to write 'No one' of course (; )

  5. Mihai

    May 1, 2018 at 12:44 am

    Hello, Mark ! Good job ! The next step is to see your video.

    • Mark

      May 1, 2018 at 9:14 am

      Thanks Mihai,
      I hope you enjoy it.

  6. Henrique Jorge Guimarães Ulbrich

    May 1, 2018 at 3:21 am

    Very good, Mark. A lot of patience too!

    • Mark

      May 1, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Thanks Henrique,
      Maybe I just have too much time on my hands! 🙂

  7. Robert Calk

    May 1, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Good job, Mark. The sound is muted on the video.

    • Mark

      May 1, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Hey Robert,
      I've checked on YouTube & can't see a problem with the sound. It isn't a problem with your media?

    • Robert Calk

      May 1, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      Yeah. I guess the upgrade I installed a while ago for Win10 turned off my speakers. It gets tiring going back and checking everything every time they have an upgrade. Maybe I should go to Mac and get away from Windows?

      • Mark

        May 1, 2018 at 6:59 pm

        From what I understand, Mac has it's own set of problems....

  8. Michael Ripley

    May 2, 2018 at 8:05 am

    The pcb is just a usb to sata converter.
    You could have simply plugged the hard drive into a spare sata port on a pc and accessed the data.
    Still, good job. Those connectors are a pain.

  9. Suranga Electronics

    May 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Mr, Mark,Very Good Services.

  10. Paul

    May 6, 2018 at 2:01 am

    Good job Mr Mark Rabone
    Thanks for that service

  11. Yogesh Panchal

    May 6, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    Good JOB! Mark


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