My Passport Studio crashed

photo1.JPG photo2.JPGHey everyone,

I’ve been running a My Passport Studio 500GB external hard drive through the firewire port on my iMac for about a year. It just quit working on me this week with no warning sign. I have it piggy backed onto another drive which is also connected through firewire. I noticed that it wasn’t working when the drive icon disappeared from my desktop. I’ll break this down as best I can with my symptoms and trouble shooting.


  1. Disk Icon disappeared from my desktop.

  2. Display is still showing the drive name & amount of remaining space.

  3. Drive unresponsive


  1. I unplugged the drive and connected it to my 27" iMac directly with the firewire port using the WD supplied cable. The power light comes on for about 1/2 a second then shuts off. I can hear the drive start to spin up but it stops before reaching full speed. It then tries to spin up again, then stops. It repeats this for roughtly 20-30 seconds then makes no noise.
  2. I then repeated step 1 with the WD supplied USB cable, directly to my iMac. The same results.
  3. I tried steps 1 & 2 connecting it to my Mac laptop, same results.
  4. I tried steps 1 & 2 connecting it to my Dell laptop, same results.

I have disassembled the drive and have removed the controller. I will be trying to connect the sata drive to a computer with a USB adapter tonight to see if it will spin up. I did notice some discolorization on the PCB board, which leads me to believe this is where the problem is.

So, my question is if it fails when connected directly to the sata port, how do I replace the PCB board? I know I have to use a Torx head to disassemble it, but what else do I need to know? Is there something involved with Firmware or anything else I should know? Can I just order a replacement board and install it?

I took some pictures…

No one has any ideas?


I’m looking to replace the PCB board for my My Passport Studio 500GB hard drive. Is there a way to find out what firmware is on my PCB, and a way to find out what firmware is on the donor board?

Here’s the board number:

2061-771672-001 AE


Not that I know of, but try to contact fzabkar in here, he’s great with PCB’s.

AIUI, all WD drives manufactured in recent years store unique, drive specific “adaptive” information in flash memory on the PCB. In your case there is a discrete 8-pin serial flash memory chip at location U12 between the SATA data and power connectors.

When replacing the PCB, U12 must be transferred from patient to donor. If you are not adept at soldering, then your board supplier will sometimes include such a service for US$10. Otherwise your local TV/AV repair shop should be able to do it for you.

That said, if the drive tries to spin up, then the PCB is usually OK. I’m not a data recovery professional, but the fact that the drive spins for less than 1 second would suggest to me that it has not achieved spindle lock, which means that the heads will not have attempted to move out of the landing zone. AISI, this would suggest that there may be a power problem of some kind, or perhaps the motor controller chip (the square IC at the top of the photo) has some odd fault. If the drive doesn’t start to spin, but attempts to, then this would suggest a stiction problem (heads stuck to platters), or spindle bearing seizure.

As for discolouration, this is the result of oxidisation due to materials changes mandated by RoHS. I wouldn’t be unduly concerned, but while you have the PCB off the drive, you may as well use a soft white pencil eraser to gently scrub the 18 copper pads at the preamp connector, J1, at the left side of the photo.

The results of a direct connection to a SATA port and SATA PSU connector should help to narrow down the fault.

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Thank you so much for replying! I’m really hoping to save the data that is still on there!

I was able to plug the drive in using the SATA connections and I get the same noise. Listening more closely, the drive is not trying to spin up. It make two distinct buzzing/beeping noises. The volume of the noise is quite low. I put it on youtube but unfortunately you don’t have access. Here is the link if anyone else wants to listen:

The best way to describe it is two very soft tones. The first being lower pitch immediately follwed by a higher tone. Kinda like a “boooooooooooobiiiiiiiiiit” which repeats over and over. Again, it’s very faint.

I do have acess to a clean room as well as outstanding soldiering equipment and a very talented technician. So moving U12 from the original drive to the donor drive should be quite easy.

So if there is a bearing seizure it sounds like I’m screwed, unless those are easily replaceable. If it’s a sticktion problem will the old freezer trick work? or would I have to physically open the drive and move it? The copper heads at J1 actually look very clean on the contact side.

What would you recommend for the next trouble shooting step?

It does sound like you have a stiction fault or bearing seizure. This can happen if the drive is dropped.

You can try to spin up your drive with a replacement board. Do this without swapping U12. If the drive still doesn’t spin, then measure the resistances of the motor windings. They should typically measure around 2 ohms between each phase and common, and about 4 ohms from phase to phase.

The following tutorial has a typical example:

A laptop drive is designed so that the heads park off the platters on a loading ramp. If for some reason the heads come to rest on the platters, then they will adhere to the smooth surface, much like two sheets of glass with water in between.

Since you have a clean room, you can easily determine whether this is the case. If so, then the remedy is to use a non-magnetic screwdriver to rotate the platters in their normal direction of motion while retracting the head stack toward the landing area in one firm, continuous motion. Do not touch the platters. A data recovery company will charge about US$650 for such a service.

Another word of caution. Some WD models use one of the cover screws to hold the head stack in place. Merely removing the cover in such cases is enough to disturb the alignment and render the drive inoperable. Unfortunately I don’t know which models are affected in this way.

Another potential solution is “percussive maintenance”. However this should be your last resort. It involves smacking the side of the metal casting with a screwdriver handle or something similar. The idea is that the shock may be enough to break the adhesion.

As for freezing, I have no valid opinion about such a procedure except to say that it’s a contentious topic.


Thanks again for the responses! It’s very much appreciated.

Here’s an update; I didn’t want to take the hard drive apart so instead of tapping the side with something. I gently rotated it back and forth in my hand side to side, kinda like you would spin a steering wheel side to side but quickly. That freed up the patters. I plugged it in and it spun up just fine, but now I have the “click of death”.

Now I tried the original board and got the clicking. I then tried the donor board and got the clicking. I was able to transfer U12 chip from the original board to the donor board and installed that. Btw, the chip was kept in the same orientation and my tech did an amazing job soldering. I still have the clicking. I’m afraid that this may be all of the work that I can do on my own, unless you have another suggestion.

Thanks again!


It sounds like your drive may have some media or head damage. If you can hear bad sounds, then this would suggest a head crash. That’s what happens when heads slap the surface of a rotating disc. If the stiction had been the result of a shock whilst the platters were at rest, then you would have had a much better chance of a good outcome (I used to routinely smack my IBM DeathStar). I’d say that your only option is professional data recovery. As I said, percussive maintenance should be your last resort,as the risks are not insignificant.

If you opt for professional recovery, here is one company that offers a fixed price (US$800 plus parts):

The proprietor is Scott Moulton who is arguably the best known professional in data recovery. I don’t have any personal experience with his company, but he runs a popular data recovery course that many professionals have taken, plus he has numerous how-to videos on YouTube. So ISTM that someone who shows you how to do it, and who teaches you how to do it, should be able to do it himself.

Thank you very much for all your help! I wish I could’ve fixed it on my own. I’ll just have to chalk this one up to a loss. I’m not willing to pay that much to get back my personal files. Lesson learned. :frowning: