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.

 

The broken connector...sad day.

The broken connector...sad day.

 

 

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.

 

The PCI SATA Card.

The PCI SATA Card.

 

 

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.

sata3

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.

 

The final result.

The final result.

 

The final result from another angle. The modified connector extends longer than the original one did, but this doesn't affect performance.

The final result from another angle. The modified connector extends longer than the original one did, but this doesn't affect performance.

 

 

 

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.

  • http://techpp.com Raju

    that’s really a brave effort man! Couple of years back, something similar happened to me, it wasn’t the plastic but one of the pins broke off :( I had no ways to fix it. But still went ahead and tried. Since half of the broken pin was remaining, it was enough to make the contact (I had to hold the wire to ensure the contact). With my friend’s help, I took the backup of important data and finally replaced the HDD.
    How about you? Not planning to replace the HDD yet? :)

    • http://clifgriffin.com clifgriffin

      Heck no! :)

      I’m going to keep using this drive as though it never happened.

      • http://techpp.com Raju

        LOL!! All the best ;)

  • http://www.seascapewebdesign.com Katy

    Hey, thanks for posting this. the same thing happened to me. where can I find a PCI SATA card?

    • Katy

      Hello, turns out the L part is intact so thankfully the hard drive connection is OK.

  • sean

    I stupidly did this with 2 drives… i know idiot. I fixed one but i lost the L shape from the other.

  • Yagnesh

    This was useful. I have a broken connector on my drive just like this and now I am going to fix it. Thanks

  • Brad

    This was absolutely perfect.   Did exactly like you did, and saved a 2tb drive full of thousands of hours of TV series.   thanks a ton dude

    • Anonymous

      Glad to hear it!

      Desperate times call for desperate measures. :)

  • Anrymont

    gave me courage to take a shot at it. Good Feed!!

  • Anonymous

    Had the exact same thing happen here.. Going to give your ideas a try ..
    Thanks for your efforts posting this…

  • Sergio A. Becerril

    Awesome.

    Cheers from Mexico.

  • Gerardjnolan

    Exact same thing happened to me on a brand new drive. Totally gutted, I managed to loctite the original piece back in. Only problem is i was a little too keen to get it back in an now have a 90deg sata connector there permanently! LOL But it works.

  • Grateful Johnny Canuck

     Hi there, I also ran into this most unfortunate situation and quite frankly thought I’d lost 750 gigs of valuable data, pictures, music etc.

    Using tweezers I was able to extract the broken L-shaped connector the STAT cable. Then I did as opposed to directed, using Loctite plastics superglue (Home Depot), using tweezers I slowly and carefully was able to place the broken pieces together, let them sit half an hour and then set off to my computer room to hopefully revive my drive. It worked (insert exaltation point here).

    Honestly I thought there was a slim to no chance of this working prior to my search and reading your experience.

    I used a generous amount of glue as suggested, not backing up all my data !

    Thank you to the poster, I have pictures as well very similar to the ones posted if you’d like.

    Good luck !

    • Grateful Johnny Canuck

       Backing up all my DATA now rather !

  • Michael

    Loctite Plastix Bonder was this the super glue or the epoxy?

  • Dundee1_dm

    I had the same thing happen.. luckily I was able to recover the end to the SATA drive.. I was able to reattach it then we also epoxied the end of the cable to the drive to make it more durable.

  • BR

    Add me to the list — reaching into my case to move something, bumped downward on the cable and popped it right off…but so far I’ve only done what one other person here listed — I slipped the cable (with the plastic end still in it) over the pins and taped it down so the cable is now part of the drive…it’s a 1TB drive, and would be 90 bucks to replace, so unless I see some instability, I’m just gonna leave it like this as long as I can!

  • Tom Stott

    Also happened to me – opened a sff case and lifted the HD assembly up and the cable snagged and broke straight off :(. Funny how ive never broke a PATA or SCSI HD but there seems to be lots of this happening. I then made it worse by trying to superglue the cable with the broken bit back onto the HD. Resulting in some very well insulated pins. Tonight is removing super-glue from delicate pins before attempting the fix as above. I need the data off this drive so either as above or by directly soldering to the non-superlued base part of the pins i will win (he says hopefully).

  • Blair

    Add me to the list of people this has happened to, I haven’t been able to find a source for the L yet, but I bet all the pins slightly downward and taped a sata cable copiously to the drive.. so far it’s holding up.. I’ll have to do this once I can source a cheap component to sacrifice.

    Thanks for the article!

  • Ovuef

    Same as the others, the L shape stood inside the female plug when I put it apart.
    Been able to put the disk wo the L shape in my Mac Pro and then back up all the data. Mac Pro has its own way to handle its hard drives : you put them on a tray that slides inside the case and plug with a fix connector, no cable.
    Expensive solution though..

  • Alan

    I just stuck a piece of plastic from a lid in the cable end and wire tied it to the other connector. I made sure the other cable connector would keep it from sliding sideways.