Getting our videos off the broken JVC Everio GZ-HD620BU camcorder

For Joseph’s birth, we bought what was then a nice and not inexpensive video camera, the JVC Everio GZ-HD620BU.  Three years later, the camcorder was bust, probably due to a broken connector to the flip-open display, which caused both the display and the laser touch controls to malfunction.  Because of that, the videos on the internal hard disk could no longer be transferred to the computer, and it was looking like the videos of Joseph’s third birthday were lost – on a functioning, but inaccessible, hard drive.

I wrote JVC’s service partner in Switzerland about my problem.  Yes, they replied, if the display’s broken, and the laser touch is broken, you can’t get the videos off the hard disk, because the device only connects with the PC if you pick the right menu option, and there’s no picking menu options if the laser touch is bust.  Ok, I replied, but can I open up the videocam, unmount the hard drive, and read it out via an adapter?  We don’t know of any readily available adapter, they said.  We only use the original JVC adapter to read out the hard disk, and besides, it’s a pain to get to the hard disk in this model, anyway.

I finally dared to unscrew the casing.  19 screws and some prying later, the shell came off, revealing a small hard drive.  Toshiba MK1234GAL – I googled for adapters, for information, but found it hard to come up with something useful.  Most search results were of people selling MKxx34GAL drives for iPods; most adapters I found didn’t specifically mention the MK1234GAL model.  I took my half-disassembled video camera to STEG, where the sales guy looked at the device, did some image googling, confirmed that it was a ZIF connector, but also confirmed that they had no such adapter.  However, I’d seen a website address during his search that looked promising, and that was easy enough to remember: http://www.adapter-king.ch/.  That’s where I went looking back home.

There isn’t much out there in the way of ZIF adapters, and finding the right one took a little sleuthing.  In the end I found a comination that looked reasonable: a case that fit 1.8″ hard disks into a 2.5″ shape factor and a more standard IDE connector, coupled with an IDE-to-USB converter, should do the trick.  Unfortunately, the adapter case showed a red traffic light, which I figured might mean out of stock, but no harm in trying: I ordered the pair, but mentioned in the comments that if the case wasn’t available, the order was to be cancelled.

I placed the order after 11pm, and got a reply before midnight saying that in that case, the order was cancelled.  With a reply that quick, I figured asking for help in finding an alternative might prove fruitful.  Indeed, over the course of a few e-mails, Mr. Poell came up with an adapter that should serve my purposes: the KingSpec ZIF case for SSD and HDD.  I ordered one, figuring that it was worth a 38-Franc gamble – I was 95% certain the adapter would fit, but unsure whether JVC might have used an unusual file system.  Two hours later, I had an e-mail from Mr. Poell informing me that I’d get it the following day.

We were outside with the kids this morning when the mailman (actually, woman) came, so I couldn’t immediately drop everything and see if Santa had brought the goods.  Once I got to the mailbox, though, it was clear he had.  During naps, I disconnected my drive from the Everio, connected it to the case with the flat cable that came with it, and plugged the USB into the computer.  Lo and behold: there was the usual USB device message, and a few seconds later, there was a new drive in Windows Explorer.  My hopes soared, and after a bit of clicking around, I found the .MTS files and copied them to the computer.  To be sure to be sure, we watched them all.

Now, why JVC designed the device so that access to the hard disk is impossible without the menu I don’t know.  I’d think that there must be enough klutzes out there that would break the flip-open connector for this to be a known issue, but maybe they all send them in to JVC to have the data restored.  I didn’t ask JVC if that was possible – perhaps they offer that service.  But I’m happy to have my data and my hard drive, too, and pronounce this another triumph of an agile small business over a big player that’s not quite as flexible as the customer might like.

Don’t bug me just yet about uploading those videos, though.  I’ll have to figure it out with new software, so that will take some time…

Added on February 11, 2014: a picture of all the parts, after total disassembly.
Slightly blurry photo of disassembled JVC GZ HD620BU Video camera

11 thoughts on “Getting our videos off the broken JVC Everio GZ-HD620BU camcorder

  1. Doug

    Are you certain the display was broken? I have an issue where the display went black. But I found that by turning the display fully around and then as you close it, it comes on. Right now it is the only way to use the camera which is rather awkward as it is so easy to “touch” the buttons…… Thanks for the info if needed in the future.

    Reply
    1. thduggie Post author

      After taking it apart, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the actual display that broke, but the connector to the display. It’s a flex cable, and the design is pretty nifty: the cable is rolled around both axles with quite some give, so that opening the display or rotating the display just change how much give there is, but don’t put undue tension on the cable. I suspect that little hands opened the display with enthusiasm and pushed a little too far, which probably tore the cable a little bit. By the time I took the camera apart, two or three connectors had been ripped. I can diagnose a torn cable, but I can’t fix it. I’ll add a photo of the dissected camera to the post.
      With my very limited understanding of electronics, my guess is that you’ve got a connector problem, too.

      Reply
      1. Doug

        Yes, I believe you are correct. I can no longer see the display, However, it will still turn on and record by hitting the record button. So I assume I can get photos as well. However, getting them off seems to be the issue. I tried downloading the PDF from JVC and my ‘old’ Windows 7 version would not open it (not that reading it will do my any good). However your post is great. I would be interested in some close up photos of the cabling system to which you refer. After exploding the camera, did you notice any easier access to this connector?
        I just took a video of this posting with the camera for the fun of it. In the event that I find a fix, I will let you know. I may just buy another camera like this one. It is the greatest night lighting camera I have seen yet and its quality is great. I use it several times each month to take progress videos of my construction projects, music festivals/ jams, and family gatherings.
        Thanks for the good post.

        Reply
        1. thduggie Post author

          Your selection of video projects sounds fascinating! What kind of music festivals do you tape?
          Anyway, I wish I could help with a better photo, but I didn’t think to take any more than this one spread. I think it’s the cable in the middle toward the right, off the shutter mechanism, or else the one off the oval on the far right middle.
          I don’t remember it being easy to get to anything. It took me a lot of time to disassemble the thing, and only the larger connectors (e.g. to the hard drive) were reasonably easy to remove.
          We ended up going with a Sony video camera. It was cheaper and has a few drawbacks: half-baked video management software (PlayMemories), manual lens cover switch, and no time lapse. But its strength is the memory card: I can remove it and use a regular card reader to import the videos. I then use Tencoder to convert to MP4 and upload to youtube with the mass upload function.
          I’m getting the impression that video management software isn’t ever particularly good. PlayMemories made uploading to youtube difficult, as I recall, and was annoying enough for other reasons I deleted it entirely (file naming, or sorting, I believe). Adobe Photo Organizer doesn’t let me upload more than one film at once (but otherwise, it’s great, and it’s what we use for photos). Everio Media Browser (came with the JVC) won’t let you import an entire file tree, just individual directories – but by default saves videos into different directories all the time. And if you back up to an external disk, it won’t recognize its own file structure.

          Reply
    2. Mike Quinn

      You are a life saver. First night of revival at our Church and I couldn’t get the video off the recorder until I tried your trick. Thank you and God bless you.

      Reply
      1. thduggie Post author

        Hi Mike,
        I’m glad you found something helpful here and I hope the revival went great!

        Reply
  2. Georgina

    Hello,

    I’ve had the somewhat of the same issue over the past years and have held onto my (2) yes, 2 devices that I broke both with water getting into the camcorder. As you, I also have much footage of my first and only child being born and the first years. I will cry if I can’t figure out how to get this info off the hard drives. I also had a JVC and contacted them and they said there is nothing they can do. Plus, my husband doesn’t want me giving our footage out to just anyone to fiddle with b/c we believe to recall there may be some more personal “adult” footage on there as well, lol. I went to the site you recommended but I have no clue what to look for because everything is in German so I’m uncertain what adapter I would require or if they even carry it. If I contact them, will they be able to speak English?
    Thanks for your great story, it sheds a bit of light on my hopes.

    Reply
    1. thduggie Post author

      Weird: it looks like I already replied to part of your post with my year-old comment below. Be that as it may, I’d try writing Mr. Poell. He deals in electronics, so he likely has contacts with overseas manufacturers and knows enough English to hold a conversation on adapters. The question is whether he’ll ship overseas, and whether you want to pay for it: Swiss postage can be pretty brutal.

      Reply
  3. john

    flex on my everio is broken.. will try to solder each pin with a standard cable and see what happens

    Reply
    1. thduggie Post author

      Good luck – you must be more skilled than I am with electronics! Let me know if it works.

      Reply

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