Inside Laptop Hard Drives - Drive Mounts And Internal Components

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The Laptop Repair Workbook

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Copyright 2010 by Morris Rosenthal

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2010 by Morris Rosenthal -All Rights Reserved contact info

The printable eBook version of The Laptop Repair Workbook is now available for download anywhere in the world.
This set of photos of hard drive photos is a web based illustration for The Laptop Repair Workbook. To the right is a dead hard drive with the cover removed. If it wasn't dead when the cover was removed, it would be dead now, because it's not a clean room environment. The slightest spec of dust getting into a hard drive can get in between the read/write head, which floats on a cushion of air a few millionths of an inch above the spinning platter, and cause a head crash. In a head crash, the head actually touches the surface of the disk, or a bit of foreign matter gets stuck between the head and the disc, with the same results. The magnetic coating on the platter gets plowed up, and the data is lost forever. Dead laptop hard drive with cover removed
Read/Write head on arm out over platter surface Just in case the actuator arm that moves the head in and out the platter wasn't clear above, I manually pushed it out onto the surface to the left. The arm is controlled by a voice coil, the same sort of technology (sort of) as a loud speaker. The drive electronics position that read/write head through the magic of feedback loops. The voice coil doesn't "know" where the head is, but the drive is factory prepared with formatting sign posts that let the electronics determine the position by reading the magnetic position markers for tracks and sectors. In any case, there are no user serviceable parts inside hard drives, you replace them as whole units if they fail, or send them out for expensive data recovery if you are desperate. If you aren't sure whether the failure is with the hard drive or the laptop, try mounting it in a USB enclosure.
The two hard drives to the right are mounted in different style cages, that in turn are secured in the laptop by a single screw. The laptops are generally secured in the cages by four screws, and the cages have tabs that hook or get hooked over the laptop's metal structure. Unfortunately, the screws that secure the hard drives are often over-tightened and over secured with thread locking glues. It's a real pain if you have to replace a drive, and a screw head strips out, even if you're using the exact size phillips screwdriver bit. Two mounting cage types for laptop hard drives
Rubber shock mounted hard drive with no screws! The Toshiba hard drive to the left is nestled in a lightweight Toshiba business laptop, in rubber shock mounting. The shock on opening up the hard drive bay by removing a single screw from the bottom of the laptop was to find that the drive isn't secured at all. It just sits tightly in the rubber shock mountings located at the corners of the bay (they show up as black rubber), and pops out if you pull up on the transparent plastic tab. Because the object of shock mounting is to isolate the drive from the rest of the laptop, should it be dropped or hit, even the connector has to float. In normal laptop mounting, the male pins on the drive fit right into a female connector that's attached to the laptop structure or motherboard, and provides some of the mounting strength. For the shock protected drive, the connector is attached by flexible wires.
The picture to the right shows the standard IDE interface on a 2.5" laptop hard drive. If you open up your laptop, remove the hard drive, and find that there's a female connector on the drive, it's almost certainly a removable gender changer. Some new laptops feature SATA hard drives, the serial version of ATA or IDE drives. It makes no difference to the user, unless it's a higher performance version, but the connector is smaller since it uses a serial rather than a parallel bus. Laptop hard drives are amazingly rugged little things, they often get noisier as they age, but a noisy hard drive may run for five years without failing. Standard parallel IDE connector on 2.5" hard drive
The printable eBook version of The Laptop Repair Workbook is now available for download anywhere in the world.