Kind of urgent tech problem... help?

OK, so I’d like to start off by addressing this common stereotype that us robotics people are smart (IE: know how to read). I am currently “breaking the mold” on that one…

I have an IBM thinkpad with a 16v power connector, and a Maxtor 500Gb external hard drive with a 12v power connector that’s exactly the same size. Sooo… I was setting up my system and kinda sorta maybe switched the cables around. The maxtor was running for an hour (and a half?) and it started to smell like it was burning, and it turned itself off. Sooo… I did the usual troubleshooting, unplugged it, plugged it in, listened to it (no hdd spinning) and plugged and unplugged it a few more times. Then I looked under the desk, saw the switched cables, let out a little whimper, and swapped them. Now all the hard drive does is flash it’s power light (fairly quickly) when I plug it in.

So I thought to myself “Man, I wish I was a part of a large technically minded community… oh… right…”

So, my question is: is all my data screwed? should I just wait a while and try again later? any advice? please? anyone?


P.S. There was no release of magic smoke, so it presumably hasn’t “fried” in the traditional sense.

Perhaps the problem is that that the computer was pulling too much current through the Maxtors Disk’s power supply and ruined that power supply?

It seems unlikely to me that the disk drive or computer themselves were damaged, but I’m no guru.

Go to a mom-n-pop repair shop that (because they want your future business) won’t charge you an arm and a leg for what is likely to be a simple diagnosis and repair.

My hunch is that the data on the Maxtor disk should be fine, even if you have to move the actual disk drive that is inside your Maxtor-supplied case, into a new case.


my guess is that yea you probably killed the hard drive (hard drives are relatively delicate pieces of hardware). My suggestion would be to unplug it let it cool down and plug it back in. If it still isn’t working, if you have a desktop lying around plug it into that and see if the hard drive works (maybe you just fried the enclosure). Other then that if you really need the data off the hard drive (backing up is fun kids!), bring it into a local computer shop and see what they can do for you.

My guess is that you killed the power supply or interface module in the hard drive enclosure, so you probably just need to figure out how to get the drive out of the enclosure (not easy on some of them), and plug the hard drive itself into a desktop computer and you should be fine.

But that might be a bit ambitious for someone without the necessary experience to tackle as a first project! Do you know any highly computer savvy people where you live that might help you?

OK, what I ended up doing is taking the drive out of it’s enclosure and I’m gonna put it in someone else’s pc as soon as I can. (in a few hours). Hopefully it was just the drive’s psu, so I’m just gonna try to find another enclosure.

Thanks for the help, consider my problem on hold for now while I get the drive set up on a desktop.

Hm, really, usually the different voltages have different sized connectors.

You could always try the freezer, though if it’s a power supply issue that might not work too well.

But yeah, I believe the data should be fine. Get it out of the case. I’m not too familiar with external drives, but I’d imagine it’d be just like an internal drive. Can you plug it into something else?

My guess is that the power supply is damaged. I’d just buy a new enclosure from Newegg. Of course, if you can test in another computer first do that.

I think it’s very unlikely that the drive itself is damaged, but if it is and you need the data off the drive there are ways to retrieve it.

OK, I removed the drive from the case (it’s a maxtor external, but the drive was a seagate, weird?) and put it in my friends desktop. After some experimenting, we found that if the molex connector was plugged in at all, the computer wouldn’t turn on at all, but if just the data was plugged in, the system was fine.

HDD specs if anyone wants them:
Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm 500GB IDE

hmmmm…not good! The molex connector is the power. I dont think I’ve ever encountered a bad hard drive that would keep the psu from turning on when the power connector was plugged into it!

It’s not about your ability to read. I’ve lived all my life among engineers, and I know their favorite sayings, such as, “If all else fails, read the directions.” Eyesight has something to do with it too–some of those connector labels are nearly invisible, and require both a flashlight AND a magnifying glass. Then, when you can actually see the labels, you have to decipher the little symbols somehow. :frowning:

…it started to smell like it was burning, and it turned itself off. Sooo… I did the usual troubleshooting, unplugged it, plugged it in, listened to it (no hdd spinning) and plugged and unplugged it a few more times…

So, my question is: is all my data screwed? should I just wait a while and try again later? any advice? please? anyone?


P.S. There was no release of magic smoke, so it presumably hasn’t “fried” in the traditional sense.

Umm, if it SMELLS like it’s burning, then it IS burning… I’d be scared to plug anything back in after any kind of burning. I would want to make certain, first, that it wasn’t going to burn any more.

Although I know nothing about fixing hard drives, I have a tidbit of advice related to “magic white smoke” situations. Years ago, after replacing a stinking heat sink, a technician advised me to spray the room with room deodorizer. He said that by covering up the burnt smell, I would be able to detect any new burning smells. Not that we didn’t trust his repair work–we just didn’t know when the old machine I was using might have something else go wrong.

I think Seagate and Maxtor are owned by the same people now, so that isn’t surprising.

When you say “wouldn’t turn on at all” so you mean no lights, no fans, ect., or do you mean sits at the POST screen?

If its the first option I’ve never heard of anything like that. If its the second, its likely that the jumpers on the drive are mis-configured for the machine you installed the drive in, or there are settings in that machine’s BIOS which are incompatible with that drive.

I guess that would explain the brands, then.

By “wouldn’t turn on at all” I mean the fans and leds would flash for a fraction of a second. No POST, no errors, no green light on the monitor.

I tried it with the jumpers on master, slave, and cs, so it wasn’t that.

I’ve worked with a pretty good amount of systems too, and usually a broken drive just doesn’t register, or gets a disk read error, or that one about media cables that I used to get a lot. The complete lack of power is pretty new to me too, and I don’t even understand how that’s possible, because even if the +5 and -5 aren’t connecting, it should still boot just fine.

Anyways, since it’s such a weird thing that I’ve never seen happen before, I’m gonna buy a new enclosure from radio shack and try it on a more familiar system.

Sounds like a reasonable plan. Although RadioShack is probably the most expensive place to get an enclosure. If you’re willing to wait a few days order one from or a similar site.

Radioshack is really my only option right now. I’m not really working under “normal circumstances”. I’m at a 6 week stay at Carnegie Mellon University, so I don’t really have my car, and radioshack is the only place within reasonable distance. I could order from newegg, but I don’t feel like dealing with the university post office.

The flashing power light is likely accompanied by a short whistle from inside the case. This is an indication that the power supply is trying to start up but can’t. Normally, a 16 volt vs. 12 volt on a switching power supply is a big problem but you may be mixing AC and DC supplies as well. If that is the case then a 16 volt AC supply input could fry the power convertor in the external hard drive. Getting the drive out to see if it still works is the first thing you should do. If it spins up then get the data off it pronto. If the drive enclosure was very hot, then the drive could have been damaged as well. Excessive heat plays havoc with the precision components in the drive and might even change the size of the platter(s). When this occurs, the boot sector and formatted data tracks might no longer be read by the drive electronics. Should the drive turn out to be operating normally, then external drive enclosures are available for fairly cheap prices via the net or mail order from places like Microcenter and MCM (