Friday, February 26, 2010

Circuit Transplant

A couple of days ago I was destroying a Seagate USB harddrive. It was one of a set that my company uses for backups. After it stopped working I decided to take my frustration out on it and at the same time make sure that no one would be able to recreate any data stored on the disk.

After smashing it up a bit with a hammer and crushing it in a bench vice I started to feel re-connected with my, rather naïve, sinister side. But the PCB peeking out of the metal enclosure gave me pause. My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take the disk apart in a more controlled manner so that I could try to figure out how it was made.

As you can see from the second image, the USB disk is really just a regular SATA disk in a metal enclosure with a small controller card to handle the SATA USB interface. I knew for sure that the disk was broken but perhaps the controller card would still work? I had to test it.

I plugged the controller cards surface mounted, female SATA connector into a good Hitachi disk. I connected a USB and power cable to the card and sure enough, the disk started spinning up and I could access it from my computer.

This little card is a universal SATA to USB bridge. Perhaps not that surprising, but at least now I don't have to buy one if I want to check the content of a disk from my laptop.

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