PREFACE: Even if you don't have some familiarity with the inside of a hard drive, you'll probably still be troubled by this story from my past. To answer the obvious questions that you'll have after the story: Yes, I really do have a legitimate degree in Electrical Engineering. No, don't worry, I've never been employed in a way that uses that degree in a significant way to design or build any products that you might own.
Wow. Shiny. Really clean.
I plugged the hard drive back in, while both the computer case and the hard drive case were open, and booted up the computer. Cool. It spins! I watched it spin up, and the computer boot. Everything working great. That little moving arm is really neat, too. It bounces back and forth really quickly! So, I ran some programs on the computer and started listening for the noises that I thought were signifying an imminent disaster. The hard drive just sounded rough. Something like ball bearings worn down or the spindle just getting sticky. Logically, I got out my WD-40, with the little red straw to make sure I could target the center of the spindle.
Squirt.... Squirt... drip, drip.
Well, let's see if this works for a while. Maybe that was enough to quiet the drive down.
Things working fine. Then the head did a seek and ran right through a drip of WD-40 and smeared across the platter. Is that bad? Then the actuator arm started thrashing back and forth, clicking hard against the center of the spindle and back against the outer wall of the case. Clunk. Clunk. CLUNK. Whirrrrr..rr...r.... Quiet. Computer locked up. Hard drive stopped.
Maybe if I clean that WD-40 off of the platter it will work again?
So, I got out my trusty Goo Gone and a soft rag to remove the extra drips of WD-40 that were now smeared across the top platter of the hard drive. Rub, rub. Wipe. Rub, rub. Polish. That looks pretty good. Let's spin it back up and see. W....h...i.rrrrrrrrrrr. OK, that sounds pretty.... CLUNK. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Unplug the computer.
I worked on this for a couple of hours. I used more Goo Gone. I used alcohol -- both the rubbing kind to clean the platter and the drinking kind to calm my frustration. In the end, I was able to get the drive spun up long enough to retrieve some files. This was still an age when most of my working documents were on floppy disks, because I needed to carry those between different computers. So, luckily, there was no important data lost.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how "broken" business processes impact data quality and data integrity -- thinking about the ways we look at trying to keep the data inside those disks clean and running smoothly. Sometimes we look at things from a perspective that is too distant, with a too limited understanding of the context of the processes that we're examining, and act too quickly and too inexpertly without taking time to understand the nuances of the systems and business processes involved. We do things that we think will help (implement governance processes and quality screens) and end up sending the system into a tailspin. Things do recover from that dive, but not without a major investment in time and energy.