Hard drive failure: the thing we all dread and often don't prepare for. Well, it happened to me the other day. Ironically, the drive in question is the one I use for backups. It's a one TB seagate and on that fateful day it decided that all it wanted to do was spin up, make some "head seeking" sounds, then spin down. Over and over again. Not good. I decided to see if there were any simple solutions to be found on the internet, like putting a frozen halibut portion on it for a while or something. After lots of googlification I found that there were at least some things I could at least attempt before giving up.
What I found was that seagate drives have a little four pin header on the back, and three of those pins will happily talk to you over TTL if you have the right hardware. It just so happens that I have a usb to TTL adapter which I use to program my arduino mini. Using the adapter and some hastily soldered jumper wires, I hooked it up. If you look carefully at the photo, you'll see my backup plan (red wine) in the event that I was unsuccessful.
After using a spare PC for the power supply, I was able to get the drive to talk to me over hyperterminal! Through the serial connection you can issue all sorts of low-level commands to the drive and get lots of awesome diagnostic information instead of just preventing your computer from getting beyond POST. From the terminal connection, I was able to wipe out the S.M.A.R.T. data and rebuild the partition information by having the drive scan itself.
This whole process only took only an hour or so, and I am happy to say that the drive is now completely functional and I got all of my data back!! Hooray!
For anyone interested, my drive is a 1 TB seagate, model ST31000333AS with the SD35 revision firmware and I found this forum post to be extremely helpful.