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Please do not post questions about data recovery cases here (use this forum instead). This forum is for topics on finding new ways to recover data. Accessing firmware, writing programs, reading bits off the platter, recovering data from dust...



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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: March 24th, 2012, 17:21 
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JWCC wrote:
Hmm, didn't even MFM and RLL drives have sectors reserved for mapping info? I know that some early hard drives were directly controlled by the controller card.

Lots of nostalgia here ...

http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/seagate/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/westernDigital/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/xebec/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/rodime/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/shugart/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/quantum/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/miniscribe/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/micropolis/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/maxtor/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/fujitsu/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/dec/disc/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/corvus/
http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/cdc/discs/

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: May 4th, 2012, 17:00 
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Czerno wrote:
pcimage wrote:

Isn't such a scheme a shame in your opinion (even if said code is stored in more than one place for redundance) ? Shouldn't the firmware be entirely in (reP)ROM ? Else, as soon as part the "firmware" is damaged, -all- data become inaccessible to an ordinary user who can't afford professional recovery services.

At least if they were honest, disk drive vendors IMO should provide ways for *end users* to update/rewrite a damaged firmware for no additional (or minimal) added cost.

Questions : How *big* is a typical disk "firmware" (that part which is stored on the disk instead of ROM) ? What additional cost would it make on a new disk if enough PROM were provided for the whole operative firmware ? Isn't that industry simply ripping off us customers for its exclusive benefit ?


Firmware, classically, as we have come to know it from the old days was stored exclusively in a rom or eprom of a sort. However, the method of storage is pretty much irrelevant. The definition of firmware is more about its intended function as opposed to where and how it's stored.

For all that a system cares, you could load your firmware from a punch-card or store it in an array of mechanical slide switches!

As far as making the firmware on a drive user upgradable? I don't know if that's a good idea, except in rare cases of known bugs that cause data loss. And even then.. From time to time there have been public releases of firmware for you to flash to your drive. But really - Too many self-proclaimed experts and DiY'ers would start playing around with it to get extra performance and generally just for fun. And that creates all sorts of problems and failures. Especially with mis-application and wrong diagnosis..

btw: flashing firmware on SSD's is more "popular" due to the fact that these devices are rushed out of the factory before being completely debugged.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 9th, 2012, 16:23 
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drc wrote:
http://files.hddguru.com/index.php

You can find lots of examples here

Czerno wrote:
is there a good reason why it isn't kept in ROM instead ?

That would be like trying to solder Windows onto the motherboard



Uuh, I don't know about that; you can store gigs of information on a single microSD. Sounds like they were curving costs for our sake, seeing mem prices fluctuate; makes them more competitive (but we pay the price for being cheap) Yet why couldn't they still go in that direction? by placing a larger capacity chip onto the board hardwired (or removable)? Especially now that they know their controller boards can die. At least then they'll have our blessings as we swap them out.

They need to come out with a Hard Drive for Tekkies. :)


~UART "I dunno, I kinda feel like VOIDING my 1-day expired Warranty"


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 9th, 2012, 17:42 
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Original posted question: "Did hard drives always have firmware information on platters?"

Ans: No. There was a time that Hard Disk Drives parts were interchangeable, meaning that you can 'borrow' parts from one another thus, fixing one out of two units.

all thats changed-

Now they're smart-dumbdrives that cannot function without its spleen, kidney and appendix removed.

If I were to design one I would have a flash card on the controller board since they had enough resources to make it a 'manageable' box via serial console. You figure SD cards are so cheap now, holding Gigs of info that you can't lose making it possible to swap them out. Afterwards, the average consumer would most likely respect their drives and go back for more (if they don't break constantly like craftsmann's wrenches :P).

~UART "home of the metal frisbees"


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 10th, 2012, 5:06 
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If you have the right tools it is no problem to work with firmware regardless of where it is - platters, ROM, both...


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 10th, 2012, 8:40 
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UART wrote:
If I were to design one I would have a flash card on the controller board ...

Agreed. In fact Seagate's hybrid Momentus XT drives have plenty of onboard flash.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 10th, 2012, 12:26 
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@BlackST,

True, very true. They never make it easy; :roll: what was I thinking. I'm going to need some extra help on this one so I called on my University to extract the code and obtain an address map of the chip. I recently discovered the Instruction Set coming from the Sea-Me's CBZZ001TQ20 MCU chip on the ST31000528AS drive is based out of Intel's 8051 family, a HongKong product no doubt according to that image.

@fzabkar: I wasn't aware that their hybrid Momentus XT drives had that, Thx. I wonder if you can swap the boards on those then? They really should release docs on their PCBs until its hardened enough to not require it.

IMAGE INFORMATION
=================
Filetype: .bin
Firmware: CC35
Size: 524,288 bytes crc32=4300778F
Target Drive: ST31000528AS
P/N: 9SL154-302
Chip: ST 25P40
Attachment:
ST31000528AS 25P40 Firmware Code.rar [437 KiB]
Downloaded 418 times


Hopefully someone can shed some light on this. Feel free.



~UART "See? You should've backed-up your backed up backup."


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 10th, 2012, 16:26 
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I didn't mean to suggest that Momentus XT boards stored all the firmware in the NAND flash. I just wanted to suggest that it could easily be done.

The boards still have a discrete 8-pin serial flash memory, so I suspect that the drive is just a regular Momentus with added flash hardware. Therefore I suspect that you would still need to move the 8-pin chip to the donor. However, I wonder about the cached data in the NAND memory, and how you would go about clearing it from the donor PCB. AISI, you wouldn't want cached data from a foreign file system interfering with the data on the patient drive. Maybe the solution is to read enough data from the drive in raw mode (using a tool such as DD) so that the cache is completely flushed, and only then embark on a logical recovery.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: November 12th, 2012, 5:34 
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My take..

1) Firmware is stored on the platters for economic reasons and ease of mfg. When you can knock fractions of a penny off of a production run of 10's of millions of the widget, well, the answer is clear. There is substantial savings. If you can do two or three pennies, WOW! There is now hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, and that's just 1 product lineup.

2) I consider "firmware" to be fixed code, generally not user modifiable, small in size, and serving a highly specific function. A backbone function which is mostly transparent to the user. How it is stored is pretty much irrelevant.

3) In the years I've been "messing with computers" I've never had to ask a customer to upgrade or change disk drive firmware. Drive firmware is something the end user, even the technically inclined, should not be messing with. There are too many engineer wannabes anyway; they end up breaking things by tinkering. Part of the inaccessibility of the disk's firmware is also part of its stability. And security.

4) Regarding reliability. No HDD company is carefully engineering their products to last x amount of days and then fail. They would not be in business very long. Products may seem to fail more often today than yesteryear, but the reason is cost-cutting and pushing a design to the limit. Engineering and marketing are constantly fighting a battle about how fast and how far something with go. In the case of HDD, how much data can be stored reliably. Sometimes the outcome doesn't favor the consumer and you get a buggy product. A fact of life for all mass produced goods.

5) A disk with onboard hardware encryption is really no different than a standard non-encrypted configuration. In fact as time rolls on, all disks will be made this way. Cheaper than stocking 2 sets of parts for encrypted and non-encrypted models.

6) HDD mfg. will never ever maintain a database of firmware code and serial numbers for end users. This is not economically beneficial to the company. It also opens up huge liability issues.

7) Soft peripherals like sound and modems and network will only continue to gain in popularity. More and more functions will be offloaded to the CPU. And software will make it happen.

8) Everyone needs to understand that today's consumer electronics are not engineered to be played with by the end user. This is not the 1970's and the days of the Apple II. I remember they sold firmware updates in retail shopping malls back then. You could update the language resident in the computer, and even the software on the disk controller card. Thus gaining more commands in BASIC or getting more storage space on your floppy disk drive. The same forces that give us these super sophisticated cool toys also come a certain amount of "closed system" architecture. This isn't going to change anytime soon.

9) It is common psychology. When a product or "something" fails and becomes unfixable, we look for a replacement and totally focus on the weak spot that bit us in the ass the first time. We crawl into a rabbit hole with blinders on and totally ignore the big picture and other great features the replacement may offer.

10) Any high-density storage device, today, is complex enough to be treated as a black box. It either performs or it does not. There is no inbetween. Any sort of failure, you dispose of it and get a new one. It isn't worth the time or effort.

11) It is always important to make two copies of anything you wish to keep. In other words backup. If you don't you will learn a lesson one way or another. A properly prepared backup allows anyone to become their very own Sunday morning data recovery technician.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: December 22nd, 2012, 3:15 
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Czerno wrote:
pcimage wrote:
The vast majority of FW (at least on modern drives) is on the platters, with the ROM info on the PCB just a "kick-start" to read the actual FW from the platters.


So, the operational code necessary to the bare workings of our disk drives is in large part stored on the disk platters themselves! Calling data stored on magnetic disks "firmware" is an abuse in itself BTW.

At least if they were honest, disk drive vendors IMO should provide ways for *end users* to update/rewrite a damaged firmware for no additional (or minimal) added cost.

Questions : How *big* is a typical disk "firmware" (that part which is stored on the disk instead of ROM) ? What additional cost would it make on a new disk if enough PROM were provided for the whole operative firmware ? Isn't that industry simply ripping off us customers for its exclusive benefit ?

TIA

PS: I had a disk (Maxtor) trashed and all data lost in practice for (probably) the cause outlined above. Vendor greed :(


IIRC I have a couple of 10MB HDD's from the 1970's and 1980's that have 100% firmware in EPROM.

Not really an abuse. No. Firmware, today and forever in the future, is more about function. You're thinking old-school with firmware burned into ROM, PROM, EEPROM and FLASH. The method of storage, as long as it is persistent, does not determine whether something is called firmware or user data or main program or whatever.

Even older-school firmware, was done with wire plugboards or diode arrays.

Storage techniques will change with time. And right now, HDD firmware is stored magnetically. Perhaps in the future it will be stored optically or in a crystal or in some form of space-time rift. Who the fuck knows..?

Messing around with HDD firmware at the consumer and hobbyist level is asking for trouble.

It would cost a United States dollar or two extra per HDD to include a PROM with the entire firmware. Actually you'd want it to be EEPROM, EAROM, or FLASH. And you'd need the appropriate circuitry to support that functionality. At the end of the year, all this adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, in savings and mfg. costs and materials. Not to mention 5 less parts to manage in inventory.

Some of these savings are passed on to you in the form of a price reduction. Perhaps you'll pay $59.95 as opposed to $60.73 for an HDD.

Then there is the cost of electricity powering an extra chip. If you run multiple data centers with millions of drives. You can realistically expect to save several thousand dollars on the monthly electric bill by eliminating just one chip.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: December 22nd, 2012, 3:22 
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Ohh, and corporate greed? Sure, there's greed in everything. Show me one piece of modern low-cost consumer grade that isn't full of cost-cutting measures.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: February 3rd, 2013, 6:39 
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Hard drives did not always store firmware on platters, there was a time when you bought a drive and it came with a "defect table" printed on the drive.
You would need to input these sectors into your BIOS so the computer would know to not access these bad sectors.

Eventually drives started coming without defect tables printed on them, some took this as drive manufacturers had managed to manufacture defect free drives.
In reality they had simply made the drive keep track of the defect table via it's own software, this was sometime in the 1980s.

Care to make a guess how much EEPROM memory cost in the 1980s?
Therefore they stored the information on platters, and hard drive technology develops very slowly, especially the parts of it which do not effect speed or price!

You seem to think there would be some benefit to storing the data in a chip on the PCB, riddle me this: if the PCB fails how do you fix the drive?
As it is some of the disk information is already stored in a chip on the PCB, and on some drives they have even integrated this into the main controller chip, which is sometimes BGA mounted...
So this EEPROM or if an external EEPROM does not exist whole controller chip needs to be moved to your donor PCB if your drives PCB has failed.

I thus ask the question: Would it not be much better if the main controller only had a very basic logic that reads the firmware from the disk platters, and this logic could be the same for their whole series of drives. (Think of the bootrom in routers on bootblock of computer BIOS)
So if a drive PCB fails you simply take the PCB off another drive from the same manufacturer and it will work with your drive?


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: February 3rd, 2013, 13:22 
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In many many disks, today, you still need to swap the rom when you change the PCB.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: March 10th, 2013, 2:45 
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i think so


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: March 10th, 2013, 3:21 
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Think so. Think so what? That disks always had firmware on the platters?

Guess again.. I've got some classic disks from the 70's that have many EEPROMS. Enough to contain complete firmware.

I also have a 10Meg drive from 1986 that has 100% firmware in EEPROM, this was for an Apple 2 series computer.

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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2013, 15:09 
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like i tought it would

i have a very old drive 100 mgs ( connor Tecologiers that i think have bad heads ... do the clicks only) and identifies correctly in BIOS but isn't available to the OS

so the code is in EEPROM.... most of the users could recover data if firmware was on the EEPROM... i don't mind paying 10 dollars more to have that instead of magneticaly...


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: August 29th, 2019, 16:03 
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Joined: August 29th, 2019, 15:53
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Location: United States
I have a Toshiba HDD built in the year 2001. It is without a PCB. Is there any recovery machine that can retrieve the data off the platters directly that may bypass the service area on the platters? I am looking for a think out of the box answer as the typical response is "No" due to the firmware stored on the platters and it would require the specific PCB or chip from the PCB that it was created with.

Thanks in advance,

Nyse01


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: August 29th, 2019, 18:54 
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nyse01 wrote:
I have a Toshiba HDD built in the year 2001.

2001 ? PATA ?


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 Post subject: Re: Did hard drives always have firmware information on plat
PostPosted: September 1st, 2019, 5:27 
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Czerno wrote:
drc wrote:
http://files.hddguru.com/index.php

From a cursory peek into one or two of the FW files, it appears disk FW is a few tens of kilobytes at most. How's that comparable to Windows, or even DOS ?


there are several copies of critical firmware components on the platters usually (how would you add redundance to the flash?). And besides the code there are files needed for LBA-PCHS translation as well, which can take up a few megs. Would you like to store those in flash as well?
What's the outcome of a decent overvoltage on the pcb? The flash memory may die and you are in an even worse situation.
So the best you can do for your data is backup. Hdd manufacturers are not responsible for data loss.

pepe

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