Finger grease on the hard drive platters



August 30th, 2006

"I was hoping you could tell me what I can use to clean the platter in a hard drive that I had removed the top cover while repairing it.  There isn't any dirt or dust on the plater but I did have to touch it a few times and I'm sure the oil on my fingers wasn't good for it.  Thanks!  I hope you can answer this in a timely manor - I'm behind the gun on recovering the data on the drive."

Hmmm, I'm not sure how to answer this one.  You say you opened the drive to repair it but touched the platters accidentally.  Not knowing what the problem with the drive was initially it's hard to see what you might have repaired, but by touching the drive with your fingers you've made the problem worse.

The problem is that the hard drive read/write heads skim the surface of the drive platter incredibly close (it's been likened to Concorde flying at Mach 2 a few inches off the ground).  Anything that gets in the way of the heads (the smallest speck of dirt or dust or grease) is bad news when it hits the head, gets jammed underneath and damages the platter surface.  A fingerprint will be like a mountain range made of grease for the head and isn't going to go it much good.

Now, you mentioned cleaning the platters.  The problem is that this is very difficult to clean the platters.  First off, the cleanest, most lint-free cloth you can find it going to leave behind muck on the surface.  Add to this that you can't use any solvents because this will remove the oil that the manufacturers coat the platters in to maintain them.  This makes cleaning a no-no.

Here's what I'd do (assuming the drive works).

  • Pop the cover back on
  • Fit it in a PC
  • Fire it up
  • If it works, recover all the data off it immediately and put it onto another drive and then retire the drive (I wouldn't trust it to last too long afterwards)

Hope this helps.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 30th, 2006 at 21:15 and is filed under Questions from Visitors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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