Fixing A Broken Hard Drive SATA Connector: An Unlikely Tale of Success
Sometimes I cut corners. Not often, mind you, but in ways that have virtually no merit. For instance, every SATA cable was packaged with some other piece of hardware. That means I have a great assortment of extremely cheap SATA cables. Extremely cheap SATA cables are prone to problems.
For some reason, I have chosen to work through these problems by occasionally unhooking my SATA drives and blowing on them. The problems are sporadic and usually happen at reboot. The solution takes about 5 minutes, but it’s retarded. For 20 bucks I could replace all my cables with high quality cables.
Today, whilst performing routine “maintenance”, the unthinkable happened–the connector for one of my SATA drives broke off. The L shaped piece of plastic ended up stuck in the end of the cheap cable I purchased. Now this would be a bad situation any day, but when you consider that this drive was one half of my failure vulnerable RAID-0 array, you can understand why my heart sank. I don’t have any data that is terribly important on these drives, but the cost in time and thoughts like “I wonder what files I have lost and don’t even know it yet” make it a huge task. Not to mention the cost of replacing the drive.
Because of this, I decided to try to fix the connector. Fortunately, only the plastic L piece was missing. The pins remained in tact. I started searching through my miscellaneous hardware for something with a SATA connector that I could break the L piece off of without regretting it. I soon discovered a PCI SATA card I bought at least 5 years ago…the perfect target. The card was only SATA 1 compliant, but since every SATA connector is built to the same specs for the sake of backwards compatibility, this was not an issue.
My first attempt to remove the L piece failed…the piece broke in the middle and was useless. I had positioned the flat head screwdriver in such a way that it put all the stress on the middle of the piece. Fortunately, my second attempt proved successful.
Having the tiny piece of plastic in hand, I mixed the Loctite Plastix Bonder I purchased in anticipation of this project. I put a somewhat generous amount on the bottom and used tweezers to carefully put the piece in position. I held it for a few moments until it felt somewhat secure. I then layed it aside to dry and watched The Royal Tenenbaums.
An hour or two later I decided to put it to the test. I will admit that I was full of dread at this point…there was little else I could do if this attempt did not work. I had little hope that it would actually work the first time…and no real plans of how to fix it if it didn’t. I went ahead and tested connecting a SATA cable…I observed that the pins seemed to be slightly off set, but should find their mark. Possibly.
After installing the drive, I pushed the power button. Within 10 seconds, I saw the NVIDIA RAID controller boot up with the word “HEALTHY” next to my stripe. Soon Windows 7 greeted me as usual.
And that’s all there was to it…I still can’t believe it is actually working. I hope my story gives you the courage to try fixing your drive should the same thing happen to you.