Harddrive Repair Cable

A diagram of the repair system:

What is it?

The Harddrive Repair Cable was made while working for my parent's home business. We had a serious issue with a company computer that contained the finances and software needed to do business. The issue was that the harddrive, a 500gb Seagate 7200.11 model, had suddenly stopped working. I was asked to take a look at it and after the basic diagnosis steps such as checking the drive in BIOS, with SeaTools and on other computers, I discovered that the drive refused to:

- Show up in BIOS (stuck in BSY state)
- Be avaliable for use with repair and diagnosis software. 

  At first, this seemed to be a serious hardware issue that would result in a serious loss of financial information for the company and possibly a high-cost of repair to get things back to normal again. Out of curiousity, I googled the name of the harddrive and discovered that it was the drive's S.M.A.R.T firmware that that had failed. An issue that can be remedied! Of course, I decided to do some extra work for the business...

How does it work?

  The cable works by talking to the harddrive's Operating System directly and telling the drive to rebuild it's S.M.A.R.T cache (an essential part of the Drive's OS). Unbeknownst to me, the drive actually has the pins for TLL protocol hidden where the jumpers are inserted for Master/Slave designation. 
   The only issue remaining with this feasible repair was the communication with the Harddrive over TLL from a Windows OS. To do this, I purchased a Nokia CA-42 USB Modem intended for connecting TLL-protocol cellphones to computers and modified it for use as a USB-TLL converter. To do this, I had to first add a powersupply where the phone's battery was, identify which colour coded cable was which and add female headers to the TLL,RX and GND cables respectively so that I could plug them into the Harddrive's TLL headers. Once this is done, the harddrive board has to be removed and a peice of card is put between he Harddrive board and the pressure connectors to the read head. This way, when the drive has power supplied and it cannot find the read head, it goes into a sort of 'maintanance mode' which grants the user access to repair commands amongst other things. From here, it is a simple process to use microsoft's hyperterminal software to tell the drive to rebuild the S.M.A.R.T cache after being provided with the correct commands from helpful forum users (and possible seagate employees). 

The modified CA-42 cable:

The back-story:

  The complex method of repairing these harddrives came about after Seagate sold a large batch of bad harddrives that would either fail to show up in BIOS or appear with a size of 0mb after some time running in the customer's computer. One of the many dissatisfied customers that complained in the support forum I was reading had been running 5 or so of these drives in RAID configuration, only to have them all fail successively within a couple of months. One can only hope that the military or government hasn't bought these time-bombs... 

  Naturally Seagate offers a free repair of the drive, but you must ship the drive to them at cost and wait a fair amount of time (in the months) for the drive to return to you; a poor prospect for a business that relies on the hardware as much as the one I worked for did. Realizing Seagate's inability to effectively fix the problem, someone, likely a seagate employee, took it upon themselves to post detailed instructions to repair the drives from the firmware end at home. The community then came together, posting detailed instructions for building various USB-TLL convertors, their own repair stories and experiences. 
  Seagate's negligence has likely resulted in many already dissasitisfied customers shelling out thousands to have their drives repaired by professional data-recovery companies not realizing that the issue is software-based. 

Connecting the TLL headers:

Does it work?

  Yup! I can repair a drive within the course of about an hour and at a significantly lower cost to the customer. I actually still own a seagate 7200.11 drive and have since decided to 'immunize' my own drive by repairing it with the same cable.

Do you have this problem? Check here for more detailed instructions!