Case study: Toshiba MQ01ABF050 – skewed spindle
An unusual failure in a Toshiba MQ01ABF050 500GB 2.5″ laptop hard disk drive (HDD). The owner of the laptop had fallen down a flight of stairs whilst carrying the laptop. As a consequence, the HDD sustained a significant physical shock.
On arrival, the HDD emitted a buzzing noise. The most common reason for this is when the read-write heads get stuck to the platter surface, which prevents the motor from spinning. Usually, the motor bearing itself is OK. A less common failure is when the bearing itself fails, which prevents the motor from turning at all. These are typical mechanical failures of a HDD.
However, the fault in this HDD was very unusual.
Clean room inspection
When the HDD was opened the head assembly was parked in the landing ramp. It was not possible to rotate the platter. Assuming a motor bearing failure the head-assembly and the landing ramp was removed in the preparation of performing a platter swap to a donor hard disk assembly. On removal of the landing ramp, it was possible to rotate the platter freely.
There was an initial suspicion that the plastic landing ramp itself had become misaligned or damaged. A donor landing ramp was refitted. The fault in the HDD was replicated.
A thorough inspection of the HDD took place. It became apparent that when the landing ramp was fitted that the platter was not passing freely through it. That is, the landing ramp was pressing against the platter, which prevented the platter from spinning.
The physical shock had skewed the spindle of the hard disk drive. When the platter rotated it did so with a small, but significant ‘wobble’. Please view the video below showing the failed drive and this unusual failure of the spindle motor.
The platter was swapped into a donor hard disk assembly. The platter rotated correctly without any misalignment. The original head-assembly of the failed HDD was used, which had retained full functionality despite the physical shock. It was possible to make a full recovery of the data.