Recovering from a Seagate HDD firmware bug

Hard drive firmware is about the last place you want to find a bug. But that turned out to be the problem with [BBfoto's] Seagate HDD which he was using in a RAID array. It stopped working completely, and he later found out the firmware has a bug that makes the drive think it’s permanently in a busy state. There’s a firmware upgrade available, but you have to apply it before the problem shows its face, otherwise you’re out of luck. Some searching led him to a hardware fix for the problem.

[Brad Garcia] put together the tutorial which illustrates the steps needed to unbrick the 7200.11 hard drive with the busy state bug. The image in the lower right shows the drive with a piece of paper between the PCB and the connectors which control the head. This is necessary to boot the drive without it hanging due to the bug. From there he issues serial commands to put it into Access Level 2, then removes the cardboard for the rest of the fix.

In the tutorial [Brad] uses a serial-TTL converter. [BBfoto] grabbed an Arduino instead, using it as a USB-ttl bridge.

Two hard disks and one DJ get down with no delay

Mixmaster [robelix] built a MIDI controller for DJs that uses two hard drives for scratching and cutting some wicked beats.

[robelix]‘s project is called Hard DJ and was inspired by this earlier build capable of producing a droning appreciated chiptune music using the motor inside a hard drive. Instead of reading the out of phase sine waves produced when a hard drive platter is manually rotated, [robelix] used custom laser cut encoder wheels and an IR detector from old computer mice. This gives [robelix] far more resolution than would be possible by reading the drives stepper motors and allows him to scratch and cut to whatever his MC desires.

The electronics portion of the build are a little rough at this stage – just an Arduino Mega, a few buttons, and a trio of faders. [robelix] will be building a proper enclosure for his controller soon, something we can’t wait to see.

If you’d like to clone this DJ controller, all the files are up on the Git. Check out the video after the break.

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Repurposing old HDD Components


[IronJungle] had an old hard drive taking up space in his workshop, so he took it apart and wrote in to remind us how useful these old pieces of hardware can be. Aside from offering up incredibly strong magnets and donut-shaped mirrors, HDDs also come with a reliable stepper motor in tow.

He pulled theold drive apart, wiring up two of the stepper motor pins to a pair of the drive’s header pins. This allowed him to easily access the signals produced by the stepper simply by hooking up a small JST connector to the back of the drive.

From there, he can use the drive for any number of purposes. For the sake of discussion, [IronJungle] used it to flash an LED as seen in the video below – something he willingly admits is no great feat. However, stepper motors can be used for in a wide array of projects, both simple and complex. Be sure to share your favorite use for salvaged HDD motors in the comments.

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Bricking a Seagate drive while trying to make it work in an Xbox 360

If you’re looking to replace the hard drive in your Xbox 360 without just buying an official unit, you may be out of luck. There is a tool which will let you do it if you are using aWestern Digital drive as the replacement. But if your new drive is a Seagate this tool will not work. [Darth Circuit] set out to make his Seagate work in the Xbox 360, but his manual changes ended up bricking the drive because of just one little error.

The tool that does this with WD drives is called HddHackr. [Darth] started his quest by finding out what the program actually does. In order to stand in for the original drive the new one must have the same model number, serial number, LBA, and firmware revision. Once these values are changed in a binary file it is written to the drive at a specific location. He changed these values on the drive itself, and got pretty far. That is until he tried a new command which ended up locking him out of the drive. Right now it’s pretty much a brick but we hope someone can pick up where he left off and turn this work into something useful for others. Good luck!

Game of chance built as a Red Bull Creation entry

[Tom Bourke] wrote in to show off the game of chance which was built for this year’s Red Bull Creation contest. The project was completed with the help of the Wausau Collaboration Center, a Hackerspace in Wausau, Wisconsin.

He does a great job of showing off the game in the clip after the break. Near the bottom of the device is a hard drive platter which each player can spin to test his or her luck. [Tom] used a max485 chip to turn the leads for the hard drive motor into a quadrature encoder. This input is monitored by the Bullduino board, which puts on a light and sound show during the spin. The LEDs that surround the display are individually addressable (probably the same LED strings as this wall display) and cycle trough different colors based on the rotational speed of the patters. The large seven segment display provides a readout for the random number that is generated. Roll a ten and you win! We guess you need to make the rest of the game up yourself, but this could easily be used as a 16-sided die (or less).

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Encrypted drive attack hints at original Xbox hacking

[Thice] discovered a vulnerability in encrypted portable storage a few years ago. He’s just pointing about the exploit now. He mentions that he notified manufacturers long ago and we’d guess the wait to publish is to give them a chance to patch the exploit.

He calls it the Plug-Over Attack and for those who were involved with original Xbox hacking, this technique will sound very familiar. The Xbox used hard drive keys to lock the device when not in use. When you booted up the console it checked the hardware signature to make sure it was talking to the right motherboard. But if you booted up the device, then swapped the IDE cable over to a computer without cutting the power you could access the drive without having the password.

This attack is pretty much the same thing. Plug in a drive, unlock it on the victim system the normal way, then replug into the attacking system. In the image above you can see that a USB hub will work for this, but you can also use a hacked USB cable that patches a second jack into the power rail. For some reason the encryption system isn’t able to lock itself when the USB enumerates on the new system, only when power is cycled. Some of them have a timer which watches for drive idle but that still doesn’t protect from this exploit.

Brute forcing the password on a terribly insecure hard drive

While at work one day, [Marco] was approached by a colleague holding a portable USB hard drive. This hard drive – a Freecom ToughDrive – has a built-in security system requiring a password every time the drive is mounted. Somewhat predictably, the password on this hard drive had been lost, so [Marco] brute forced the password out of this drive.

The Freecom ToughDrive requires a password whenever the drive is plugged in, but only allows 5 attempts before it needs to be power cycled. Entering the passwords was easy to automate, but there was still the issue of unplugging the drive after five failed attempts. [Marco] called upon his friend [Alex] to build a small USB extension cable with a relay inserted into the 5 V line. An easy enough solution after which the only thing needed was the time to crack the password.

The rig successfully guessed the password after 500 attempts, or after cycling the power 100 times. This number is incredibly low for getting a password via brute force, but then again the owner of the hard drive was somewhat predictable as to what passwords they used.