A broken hard drive is no fun. In fact, if you were storing important data on a drive and it suddenly stops working, you might catch yourself using a few four letter words–but one thing that won’t come out of most computer owner’s mouths is the word “firmware.”
Hard drive firmware is the root cause of many issues that lead to a broken hard drive. What’s worse, understanding hard drive firmware won’t help you fix your drive, although it may help you get a lower rate on data recovery if you need it. Plus, it’s interesting.
Here’s a quick description of hard drive firmware and how it can break a hard drive.
What Is Hard Drive Firmware? The simplest explanation of what hard drive firmware is and how it operates leaves out a lot of important details, but here it is anyways: basically, the firmware on a hard drive tells it how to operate and how to interact with your computer. It’s not the only part of your computer that handles these functions, but it’s the only part of your hard drive with “intelligence,” other than the platters themselves. A hard drive’s firmware might tell it how fast to spin, where certain bits of boot data are located, and the like. Essentially, if your hard drive is your computer’s brain, then the firmware is its motor function.
That’s a grossly simplified explanation, but it’s sufficient for what we’re talking about here.
The Firmware Problem – Hard drive firmware is sometimes drive specific, and it’s always heavily model and part number specific. That means that it’s very specialized–firmware from one hard drive won’t work with another one.
Hard drive firmware needs to be specialized in order to run hard drives at the speeds that we’re all used to. Without good hard drive firmware, we’d still be back in the days of 100 megabyte drives. The problem is that firmware can become corrupted. This can happen in a number of ways; poor hard drive use, shutting down a computer mid-task, or just plain old aging. When hard drive firmware fails, your hard drive breaks. It can break in a ton of ways, too, anything from a head crash to no responsiveness.
When a hard drive crashes due to firmware issues, you can often get it recovered by a professional data recovery company. Unfortunately, your only other option is to replace the hard drive. Firmware is so darned specific that it doesn’t allow for any other options.
Do you have any questions about hard drives? Post in our comments section below or send me a message.