"Seagate 80GB HDD Autopsy"                                     [Home]
[Note: This was written in around 2006.... so I'm sure their current drives are of a different design. In fact, I have a Seagate drive I've been using for about the past five years, and it's working fine. LHS 2014] - I like to take apart broken machines before wrestling them kicking and screaming into the garbage or - giving up the fight - putting them into a drawer to sleep for years until a still working part finds a second life in another machine.  And so I started loosening screws on the front and back covers of my dead 80GB Seagate hard drive out of habit, but without really expecting to get very far due to past experience with bank vault hard drives that required a sledge hammer and blow torch to open.

80GB Seagate Parts....

I was pleasantly surprised (in a melancholy way of course; I would much rather have that drive alive and still working) to discover that it wasn't taped, welded, riveted or glued shut, but came apart quite easily.  The dissection of the device then turned out to be far more educational than I had expected.  More than anything, I like to get the hard drive disks as very cool mirrors and figured any problems were within the IC chips and absolutely impossible to see, so imagine my surprise to discover a couple of what I consider to be design faults in the drive:

1) The bottom cover shouldn't be there.  It's probably to make the drive quieter, although the cover itself claims:
     "This SeaShield (TM) helps protect your drive from electrostatic damage and makes installation easier."
     But whether it's actually there for electrostatic protection or for noise, and regardless of whether it was actually the cause of the drive's catastrophic failure, it, with it's blue foam right up against the chips of the drive's circuit board, has got to elevate temperatures, and high temperatures are an enemy to long life of electronics.
     There's a simple solution to this though - if you have a similar Seagate drive, just remove the two screws that hold the steel cover (the bottom, not the top!) with it's insulating blue foam, and remove the bloody thing!  I've been looking at hard drives with exposed circuit boards for years and years, I think that's probably the best way for it to be, with the chips out in the open and better able to cool.  Unless, of course, the cover is there for a mechanical reason, such as to add physical force on the circuit board to keep sufficient(?) pressure on the badly designed contact points (see #2 below) that electrically connect the circuit board to the rest of the hard drive.
    (Disclaimer - If you remove that cover on your Seagate drive and anything happens, including fire, smoke and flaming hard drive, I am NOT responsible.  I'm just expressing my opinion here about the heat theory- it's your responsibility whether or not you agree with my reasoning!)

Seagate Drive Contacts

2) A real shocker - I discovered a no-plug, by-pressure-only set of connectors for the drive's circuit board (this has always been a proper plug in other drives I've taken apart).  While I haven't seen this arrangement in any other hard drive, it was used for a certain model Sony AM radio I bought about 12-14 years ago.  That radio would work for a few months and then it would cut out from time to time and you'd have to hit it to reestablish contact with the speaker connectors and/or battery connections.  Twice I took it in for repairs and they just gave me a new one - which ended up with the same problem after a month or two.  The third time they gave me that same bloody design, I wrote to the factory and explained that the design was defective and they actually answered my letter and the next time I got the radio back, they had soldered the speaker and battery connectors - and finally actually fixed the problem (the next model of the radio had a different design, if I remember correctly).
     Now - a cheap radio with a design that is obviously designed for easy assembly and not long life is one thing, but using that inferior and bloody overoptimistic design in a hard drive is begging for disaster I think!  Seagate?  Hello?  Cut that nonsense out already!!!

I haven't dissected the type of 120GB IBM/Hitachi drive I'm using now, but I expect (hope-hope-hope) that it is of a more robust design.  We're talking about the hard drive after all!  The one device in the computer that really should be overbuilt.  A burned out sound card is one thing, but loosing the hard drive is a traumatic experience.

Lyle H Saxon