The Lazarus Syndrome and an old hard drive

In the mid-1970’s, “The Lazarus Syndrome” was a made-for-TV movie (and later, a single-season medical drama) based on the premise that some doctors were gifted enough to cure nearly everything – including death.

So now I have to hope that death has not claimed one of my computer hard drives.

Background.

A few months ago, my home-cobbled computer tower seized up.  A vicious piece of malware snuck past my anti-virus software and crippled my hard drives.  Thankfully, I was able to get one of the hard drives functioning again, and after upgrading my operating software from Windows Vista to Windows 10, the computer resumed its operations.

Well… most of the computer did.

And now I must tell a story.

Way back in 2010, the original hard drive on the computer tower seized up.  I’m assuming this happens every five years or so.  Anyway, I hired a computer tech to duplicate the hard drive to a new 1 TB hard drive.  At the time, I purchased a second 1 TB drive so that I would have two TB’s of operational power and storage.

So now it’s 2015.  One of the drives is still operating, and I’ve been using it as a “slave” data drive in my new working operations system.  The other drive, however… the platters won’t spin.

What does this mean for me?

Years and years of photos and music are stored on that drive.  It’s not like any of those photos are irreplaceable; I’ve backed all those photos up on various other media.  And as for the music… 95% of what I enjoyed on iTunes is now on YouTube or Spotify or some other streaming service.

But the drive … I could either send the drive away and have some “clean room data retrieval service” transfer as much info as they can to a new drive for $2,000 – or I could just keep the hard drive in a desk drawer and hope that someday there will be a home-based computer operation system that can resurrect this lost data, like Lazarus from the dead.

Crap.  I don’t have $2,000 to throw away like this.  And I don’t even know if what’s on this drive is even worth $2,000.

All I want to do is save the data, if at all possible.  There must be a way to do this.  Seriously.

I’ve heard stories about homebrew solutions – freeze the hard drive in the kitchen freezer and then throw it into the computer and hopefully the drive will wake up.  Pour some sort of solution on the hard drive to loosen the internal mechanism up.  Scuff your shoes along a carpet and then touch the hard drive until you see a spark.

Yeah, don’t believe anything you read on the Internet these days.

I had to think logically on this project.  The data’s not lost, it hasn’t disappeared.  It’s just currently unretrievable, similar to a coin that fell through a floorboard.  You can’t reach for the coin, but it’s still there.  You have to get a tool to open the floorboard and retrieve the coin.

And I had a hypothesis.  The hard drive itself still has all that data.  But it’s trapped under a floorboard; and that floorboard blocking my access to the data is the hard drive’s motherboard.

What if I swapped the motherboard out with another computer motherboard and fooled the hard drive into working?

Silly Chuck Miller, that’s not going to work.  You can’t swap out motherboards unless the motherboards are exactly the same, right down to the operational numbers on the board itself.  You can’t place a Maxtor board on a Seagate drive, any more than you can put a Toyota engine in a Chrysler.

And that hard drive is over five years old.  Where are you going to find another Western Digital hard drive that has that exact same operational pattern?  A board that has proven to work in the past?  A board that has the same operational functions?  A board that has essentially the same DNA as the current faulty data drive?  Another hard drive with model number WD10EARS-22Y5B1?

Yeah, I got nothing.  Great.  I’ve got one drive that works and one that doesn’t.  How in the world when I bought both these drives five years ago would I have ever known that one would live and the other would spark out?

Yeah, I got nothing…

What?  What did you say?

Say it again.

Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.

Yes, I bought both hard drives at the same time, they were bought at Best Buy five years ago.

Yes, it was with the same purchase.

Yes, they were the same brand, Western Digital HD Caviar Green 1.0 terabyte SATA hard drives.

Yes, they both possess model number WD10EARS-22Y5B1.  They were both manufactured on the same day, August 16, 2010.

Yes… um… hang on a second…

Okay, it’s a ten million to one shot.  I’m essentially sacrificing one drive to save the other.

Rolling up the sleeves.  Putting on my scrubs.

First up.  I transferred all of the working data to a storage unit.  I then used a TORX (six-star) screwdriver and removed the motherboard.

Now to the malfunctioning hard drive.  I removed its motherboard and marked it with a green pen, so as to not get the two motherboards mixed up.  Loose screws dropped in a paper cup.  You can never have too many loose screws.

Okay.  Deep breath.

Motherboard from drive A onto drive B.  Four screws.  Tight.

Into the hard disc drive enclosure.

Power it up.

And…

NOTHING.

The experiment failed.  The data is still irretrievable.  Sad trombone.  All that data is now locked away like Han Solo in carbonite.

And with that in mind, I will put the drive away – storing it in an antistatic bag until some day when either technology catches up, or I come into a ton of money and have the drive duplicated at a clean-room facility.

And maybe this is a lesson.  Not about backing up things, hell I do that all the time.

No, the lesson is more about the fact that only person was able to raise Lazarus from the dead.

You might have heard of him.  We celebrate his birth about a month from now. 😀