How to fix a broken hard drive port?
April 20, 2010 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I broke the port on my external hard drive. It isn't visibly damaged, but when I plug the USB cable in, the port feels wiggly, like it's not connected to what it should be connected to. Nothing happens when I plug it into my computer. How can I fix this or recover the data?

It's a 160 gb Western Digital Passport (model number WD1600U017-004) that's about three years old. Best I can tell, I must have damaged it by not being careful enough with my backpack while it was in there with the USB cable still plugged in. I found directions for how to open it so I could see what's actually broken, and I'm not averse to trying that if it will accomplish anything. I looked for replacement parts, but I don't think I'm googling the right combination of words. (I am pretty clueless regarding hard drive innards, but I'd like to learn how and fix it myself unless it's prohibitively difficult.)
posted by little e to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Once you get the case opened, you can probably connect the USB cable to the loose connector and retrieve your data. You can also probably glue or affix the loose connect back to the external HD case. Failing any of these, you can carefully remove the 2.5" or the 3.5" HD from the external case and put it in another external case.
posted by apark at 12:02 PM on April 20, 2010

You need a 2.5" SATA hard drive enclosure (like this one)
posted by schmod at 12:04 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Replacement enclosures are cheap--as little as $10. Take apart the current enclosure, figure out whether the drive mechanism has an ATA connection or SATA connection (at that age, I'm guessing SATA), and get a new enclosure with the appropriate drive connector. Stick the drive in, close it up, and bob's your uncle.
posted by adamrice at 12:08 PM on April 20, 2010

You don't even need an enclosure.

Alternatively, you could just hook the drive up inside your computer, but that is a little more adventuresome, although cheaper.

This assumes that there is only one hard drive in the enclosure. I have seen some that use two, and some weird striping across both drives. In that case, you may be hosed, unless you have a similar enclosure handy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:12 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most likely you just broke the USB jack itself. Those are usually pretty easy to replace.

You remove the old one by heating the solder pads where it connects to the board. You install the new one by putting it in the holes where the old one went and solder them up. There are about a jillion soldering tutorials online, and trust me, it's easier than it looks.

On the other hand, other people answering here are right. If you wait for a special, you can get a replacement enclosure for next to nothing. Then just move the disk from the broken enclosure to the good one. You can probably get a few bucks for your damaged enclosure on ebay.
posted by fake at 12:19 PM on April 20, 2010

Awesome. I got it popped open. Yep, it's an SATA adapter that looks just like this, and the USB jack is broken off of it. Should be easy enough to get back together. Thanks!
posted by little e at 1:53 PM on April 20, 2010

I've seen two WD Passports break this way. The only thing holding the USB socket in is four tiny little surface mount solder joints.

These drives are also a prick of a thing to take apart, and even worse to put back together, because their innards are all gunked up with double sided tape and foil. But once all that's scraped off, re-mounting the drive into a decent generic USB drive enclosure is generally straightforward.
posted by flabdablet at 5:38 PM on April 20, 2010

« Older paraSolve my problem ?   |   How to watch tonight's Suns game in St. Louis? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.