Mathew Inkson

Unbricking a Seagate Barracuda

May 13, 2009   |   Technology

Recently, one of my hard disks ‘disappeared’ from my computer - it was not being detected in the BIOS. It turned out that this was a known issue with my drive, and one for which Seagate had released a firmware update.

Unfortunately, the update could only be applied to functioning drives. Seagate will apply the fix to bricked drives for free, but I was reluctant to send my drive to them because I didn’t want to give strangers access to my personal information. I wanted to do it myself.

After a bit of a search I came across this enormous thread. The first post has changed quite a bit since I first saw it - it initially contained a lot of true and false information, and the same followed in the rest of the thread. I spent some time cross-referencing the various opinions and experiences, and finally managed to unbrick my drive.

I had intended to provide a how-to here but I have since discovered that someone has already done it. What I did was pretty much the same as the author of that guide, except that I used a USB cable instead of a serial adapter.

I found myself a Nokia data cable (DKU-5) and cut off the phone end. With the help of a multimeter I determined which wires were used for transmit, receive and ground, and connected them to some wires I cut off an internal CD-ROM cable. These wires were attached to jumper pins, which I was able to slot into the hard disk. The USB end plugged into my computer, and I was able to connect to my hard disk via putty.

Apart from that, the steps I followed are identical to the guide above. I don’t recommend that people do it - if you have this problem and aren’t wearing a tinfoil hat, I reckon you ought to send it back to Seagate and safely recover your data.

Here are a few photos that I took during the operation.