Hard disk drive surgery… Attempting to replace a head assembly – Part 2

Take 2! After my initial attempt at replacing a HDD head assembly which ended in a complete disaster, I took my lessons learned and tried it again. This time I decided to practice first on a 3.5″ HDD:


Eventually, the shim slid off! At this time I confirmed one thing: the head comb is definitely there to keep the heads from touching! 🙂 But, I later also confirmed, that if you re-insert the shim where there’s a gap near the magnets at the tips, and gently slide it towards them – you will eventually separate them, and still have a good chance of maintaining a working head assembly – as it was in my case! For real! Scout’s honor! 🙂

With this, I confirmed one more doubt: you could definitely improvise this way if you have no head comb – it might work! But there’s a risk associated with it, and if I have to estimate – I would say without hesitating >50%! So… It’s your choice at the end of the day!


Take 3! It was now time to practice on a 2.5″ form factor HDD – an older 20GB IBM hard drive I had for some years and used it as a recovery based tool:


And this was with a dual head!


Nevertheless, I applied everything I learned until that point and again – I was successful!


Take 4! Now it was time to work on the real deal: the patient HDD and the donor one!


… and this where everything went up in smokes! 😦 For one, why is it when your don’t know what you’re doing and you’re doing it for the first time – you do OK, but when you do it a second time – you screw up!? What happened is that when I decided to remove the “supposedly” non-functional head assembly first, my approach (which I later realized was wrong!) resulted with a successfully removed head assembly. But when I decided to take out the definitely good one (from the donor) – I screwed up and ended damaging it!?


I was pulling on one side only – on the side of the coil – and this is the result of it:


I was fortunate enough to come across a second matching donor drive! This time, I made sure I understood why I completely damaged the second head assembly and adjusted my approach. I managed to take out the second working head assembly and mount it inside the patient drive – in under 15 minutes from start to finish!


But all unfortunately, was in vain as I really confirmed what I wrote days before on LinkedIn (Data Recovery Essentials): the platters were the ones most likely damaged! And this is where I stopped!

BOTTOM LINE: If you truly value your data, go to someone who actually did this before and knows what he/she is doing! Most importantly – HAS THE APPROPRIATE TOOLS! DO NOT IMPROVISE!