Removing a broken screw that won’t budge

September 26th, 2006

Long question today:

I read your article on the stuck screw for the harddrive assembly. I tried both superglue and quick-drying epoxy. Nothing. The screw won't budge.

Originally I took it to a PC repair place, they took out the HDs without my permission and pirated screws from my machine to install the drives in question (they lost the screws apparently). I need to remove the drive they failed to fix in question, but they put a screw that's far too big for the hole they jammed it into (It's currently into a V shape, so you know how bright that tech was). The phillips head are near to bare and the screw is flat (no pliers).

Since epoxy didn't work, what other ideas do you have to removing such a screw that another person --pardon for the pun-- screwed up?

I tried to remove the fan above the drive in question, but the fan's last screw is behind the drive I'm trying to remove. And there is no way to remove the case behind the drives...

Any advice without banging and disassembling the drives would be highly appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Sounds nasty.  Very nasty, and I'm afraid that I don't have a simple solution to this problem.

If I absolutely, 100% had to get that screw out, here's how I'd go about it.  It's not easy but I've used this technique to remove busted screws.

  • You need:
    - Electric drill (cordless is best)
    - Safety specs (your eyes are important!  No upgrades available!)
    - A couple of tiny drill bit (1mm/2mm and 3mm and maybe a 10mm)
    - Spiral screw extractor (you might not need this if you are lucky)
    - Modeling clay
    - Small amount of oil (cooking oil will work)
    - Lots of patience!!!!
  • OK, fit the smallest drill bit into the drill.
  • Locate the busted screw and around it build a small "cylinder" out of modeling clay (imagine it like putting a small tube over the screw head).
  • Pop a little oil to the inner surface of the cylinder of modeling clay.  This will catch any of the swarf (metal particles) that the drilling generates.
  • OK, now what you want to do is drill a small hole in the center of the busted screw.  Take your time, work slowly and apply no more than gentle pressure.  You're aiming to get as close to the end of the screw as possible without, if possible, going through it.
  • Done?  Good!  OK, now take the 3mm drill bit, fit that into the drill and re-drill the hole with this one.  This will be a lot easier so take care not to go through the drive casing!
  • Now if you can get a grip on the screw with pliers, you might be able to remove it.  If not, you'll need the spiral screw extractor.
  • The spiral screw extractor is a screw with a reverse thread on it.  The idea is that you take this and screw it into the hole you made, but instead of screwing it in the clockwise direction, it does anticlockwise.  While you are screwing it in, it should grip the screw and start undoing it.
  • If that didn't work, it's time to get drastic.  Take the bigger drill and use this to eat away at the head of the screw.  You might not get the screw out, but you should be able to wear enough of the head away to allow you to remove the drive.

Remember - the trick here is to work slowly and carefully.  Take your time.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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