How to Fix a Hard Drive Motor

By Shannon Johnson

The inside of a hard drive
i hard drive 2 image by Graham Lumsden from

When a hard drive dies, it can be nerve-wracking, particularly if your data was not backed up. This problem can occur for a multitude of reasons: Perhaps you recently plugged in new hardware or installed software and didn't follow the directions properly, or maybe the drive has been dropped, bent or otherwise physically damaged in some way. Unfortunately, there's no surefire way to fix a hard drive or its motor, but there are many techniques you can try with fingers crossed before you send off the drive for costly data recovery.

Extract the hard drive carefully from your computer. Techniques to do this will vary from computer to computer. In order to determine the source of the problem, you will need to inspect various pieces and parts. After each corrective step, attempt to boot the hard drive normally and observe changes in behavior.

Examine the exterior of the drive for any obvious damage, such as bent parts or scorch marks. These could indicate improper installation, power supply issues, or a dysfunctional connection to the motherboard.

Try freezing the hard disk overnight. This technique has been met with varying success--it will not always work. If it does revive the hard drive, it will only be for a short time, so use the opportunity to transfer all data off of it and onto a new, secure external hard drive.

Rap lightly on the edge of the hard drive motor with your knuckle. Do not knock hard enough to damage the drive; just rap lightly to see whether this will jump-start the drive into spinning again.

Remove the screws holding the controller board to the back of the drive to expose the board. If there is an indication of power when you first start up the hard drive, such as the spindle moving momentarily, you may have an issue with one of the pins. Use masking tape to cover each pin individually (preventing connection to the motherboard) until you find the one that, when covered, allows the drive to spin.

Replace the pin with one of identical size and shape. The best place to find a spare pin is from another hard drive of the same make and model. If you don't have one available, check your other computer peripherals or contact a computer repair business for spare parts.

Perform a last-ditch at-home fix by dropping the drive from about 5 to 8 inches above a surface to try to "jog" it back into functioning. As with freezing, this is a technique that will not always work, and it should be used with the awareness that it may in fact damage the disk further. However, it may restart the drive long enough to allow for data recovery.

Contact professionals. In extreme cases, a bad head may be the problem. It is possible to replace this with a working head from another of the same model hard drive, but it requires a lot of finesse and careful work, as heads are extremely sensitive pieces of hardware. It is generally recommended to leave this work to professionals at a computer repair shop.