How to Fix 3.3v Power Issues with Hard Drives

Today’s tutorial from the “things-that-should-have-easy-answers-but-for-some-reason-don’t department”, here’s how to to fix the 3.3v power “issue” with some SATA hard drives (HDD) .

If you’re reading this, you probably already know what I’m talking about, but if not, Tom’s Hardware covers it in detail.  If you’re too lazy to read that, the short summary is that some newer hard drives align to the SATA 3.2+ or SATA 3.3 spec, which means that the 3.3v power supplied by the 1st-3rd rails is used as a shutdown signal.

The problem is that older power supplies don’t know this, and will happily supply continuous 3.3v power the way they were designed to, no questions asked.  This triggers the shutdown signal, and keeps the HDD locked in a powered off state.  Super frustrating if you’re not aware of what’s going on.

Luckily it’s easy to fix this.  Simply prevent 3.3v power from reaching the drive!  Here are two easy ways to do it:

1) Use Kapton Tape

Instructions for this are all over the place, so rather than reinvent the wheel I’ll just link to this handy visual guide from Reddit’s /r/datahoarder community:

3.3v Pin Reset

But in short, you find the 3.3v power pins on the HDD and put a strip of non-conducting tape over them.  Seems janky, but it works, and it’s safe for the drive.  I’d strongly recommend specifically using Kapton tape, though, or you’ll have a mess or possibly a small fire on your hands. Kapton tape is designed for this sort of thing, and it’s cheap.

2) Modify a SATA Extender Cable

Some people say to just start cutting wires on your PSU, but that’s crazy talk.  Buy a SATA extender cable [not an affiliate link, I’m not that fancy] so if you ruin it, you’re only out a few bucks, and you can easily remove it later if your needs change.  Then cut that!

If you look at the SATA connector that plugs into your hard drive straight on, you’ll see it has an “L” shape on the inside.  The 3.3v wire is the first one from the edge closest to the small part of the “L”.  Give that a snip, wrap the cut ends with electrical tape for safety, and you should be good to go.  Should end up looking like this:

Cut the 3.3v wire on the SATA extender.  It's the one closest to the small part of the "L"
Cut the 3.3v wire on the SATA extender. It’s the one closest to the small part of the “L”

Hope that helps!  Also, it’s not my fault if you somehow mess this up and fry your gear/self, but I will feel sad for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.