Hacked Gadgets Forum

April 25, 2006

Top 5 Dead Hard Drive Projects

at 1:10 am. Filed under Crazy Hacks, DIY Hacks, Electronic Hacks, Top 5 and Top 10

Hard Drive Speakers

Afrotech uses three hard drives of difference sizes when making his hard drive speakers, this method ensures high fidelity. :)
“Why pay 500$ for Klipsch’s latest speaker system? You can make something that looks way cooler for the price of a DIY amplifier and some HDDs out of a dumpster. It doesn’t sound quite as good but who cares! There really isn’t much to say about this project… It’s fun as hell to watch, easy to do, and impressed the crap out of everyone I’ve showed it to.”
Afrotech Hard Drive Speakers

The Harddisco is amazing to look at, it doesn’t sound as good as the Afrotech speakers but there is no audio being pumped into these drives.
“Techno basics. “Harddisko” is an installation piece dealing with raw computer sounds. Rhythmic noises are evolving from sixteen harddrives, which are orchestrated through simple power circuits. By cutting the harddisk’s power in varying sequences and amplifying the peculiar sound characteristics of each drive, an unpredictable acoustic and visual interplay is taking place.”

Stephen Moore did a little experimenting before he modified a few hard drives into speakers. What tipped him off that the drives might be able to be used as speakers was the term “voice coil“.
“Reading the literature, this hard drive had seek times in the millisecond range, which would suggest usable frequencies up into the kHz range. High frequency signals (over 5000Hz) created unusable output. On the other end of the scale, low frequency signals caused excessive motion of the drive heads and a buzzing noise. I finally settled on using pre-processed program material, using Cool Edit (trial version) to implement a digital 400Hz – 5000Hz bandpass filter. The first tracks successfully played on my new speakers were AC/DC Hell’s Bells and Clint Black Killin’ Time. The track selection was based on easily recognizable vocals.”


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118 Responses to “Top 5 Dead Hard Drive Projects”

  1. Egor Says:

    In soviet Russia….

    I don’t know if it’s still being done but old hard drives platters (metal, about 8 inch in diameter) were used as a TV aerial. I think, a pair of them nailed to a ‘T’ bit of wood made a dipole: (like a pair of goggles):


  2. Alan Parekh Says:

    Yes Hacked Gadgets was down for a few hours today (April 25, 2006) There was some issues with my hosting service not being able to handle the volume of traffic :(

    All seems to be back to normal now though… :)

  3. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Egor,

    I had never hear about that before, that must be some old drive to have 8 inch platters!!

  4. Matt Says:

    hey, an idea for the creator of this hacked gadget…

    you mentioned that the drive platter spins too fast for that single mirror… how about using
    numerous mirrors arranged in a octagon or similar so that the outputed image scans repeatedly
    over the same small area?

    anyway, nice hack :)

  5. clark Says:

    what about this awasome thing these people did:

    they put a dead hard disk into the microwave, just to see what happens, hint, fire!

  6. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hey Matt,

    That’s a good idea, I was thinking of ripping some small mirrors off a small mirror ball but and placing them around something in the center. That could be a version 2 :)

  7. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Clark,

    LOL, I just watched the video. I love the way the one guy keeps saying “FIRE… FIRE… FIRE”

  8. clark Says:

    yea, i watched it a bunch of times, and i think i fire was said 7 times!
    there are some other good things those people did too.

  9. thisbme Says:

    Wot the Hell was the guy with the harddrive generator thinking???????
    Since When does breaking a magnet inhalf give you Two POLES????

  10. withaclue Says:

    -Since When does breaking a magnet inhalf give you Two POLES????-

    since always, guess you were asleep in science class that day. the metal is magnetic all the way through.

  11. Mac Cody Says:

    Electronic Goldmine sells a “14 Segment Front Surface Mirror Disk” (http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com/prodinfo.asp?number=G15470) that could be mounted to the spindle of the hard drive. The only problem is that the disk is only 3/16″ thick, so it might not capture the modulated laser beam completely if the modulation is too great. Perhaps you could purchase several of the disks and stack them to provide more “dynamic range” for the modulation. This is a pretty neat hack, though.

  12. Mac Cody Says:

    Another thought related to post #11. You could change the mechanical layout of your setup to have the unmodulated laser beam be swept by the rotating mirror disk attached to the hard drive spindle. The swept beam could then reflect off of the moduation mirror to the wall. The modulation mirror, if positioned closer to the rotating mirror disk should still be large enough to catch the laser beam as it sweeps. Hope this helps.

  13. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Mac,

    Something like this one might do the trick…

    You have some great ideas, thanks!

  14. Egor Says:

    Regarding the platter TV aerial, I saw them in Novosibirsk (or rather, Akadem Gorodok) in 1995.
    I suspect some academic institute must’ve gotten rid of a lot of old harddrives, which got recycled in this interesting way.
    I had a look at the contraption, platters were indeed huge (around 8 inch in diameter, metal) with a bit of TV aerial soldered to both platters to make a dipole.
    I wish I still had a photo because at the time I thought “no way these actually work”… but there they were, sold in street markets around town and popping at every balcony like Mickey mouse ears 😉

  15. Superkuh Says:

    “I broke them in 2 pieces in order to have one pole.”
    That is an odd statement considering that magnetic monopoles are not very common in reality.

  16. spamster Says:

    Another Hard Drive speaker video

  17. major Says:

    Seems to be a lot of projects using old HDs. Also must mean there are a lot of HDs going bad. LOL, i’ve had several go bad in the past year. Maybe it’s just me but it seem that drives are going bad a lot faster than before. HD maker must be doing well, i know i always recommend buying 2 drives at a time to people. I tell them to set up a raid so they have the data protected. with hd space going into the 750Gb range, that’s a lot of data to lose. Any one know any good and not to expensive raid boxes (like teraserver)?

    HOT DEALS on the NET

  18. Threefingeredlord Says:

    I dont think more hard drives are going bad, i think the internet is expanding and more people are using it so you just hear about more broken HDD’s. Also, over time hard drives are getting more used and worn, so more liable to break. I havent even noticed that many broken hard drives recently anyway.

  19. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hey spamster great hard drive speaker link :). Thanks!

  20. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Major(17),

    I think that lots of the drives that are getting junked are just ones that are too small for anything useful anymore. All of those 1 and 2GB drives… I guess there was a bunch of news a few years ago when there was a bunch of defective drives from various manufactures but I don’t think that is the norm.

  21. CACA Says:

    La reputisima madre que los pario a todos.

  22. Apple Says:

    Any one know any good and not to expensive raid boxes (like teraserver)?


  23. Alan Parekh Says:

    Interesting hard drive video posted in the forum, go have a look:

  24. Scott Says:

    If you’re moving the spindle by hand anyway, why not gang the coil/mirror assembly to hip-hop turntables?

  25. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hey Scott,

    Cool idea. I was also thinking of using a second hard drive to move the second mirror… Future project I guess :)

  26. RC Sanders Says:

    What he means about breaking the magnets in half is that
    hard drive magnets have two sets of poles. If you break them
    in half, each piece has one set of poles.

    Whole magnet:

    N | S
    S | N

  27. RC Sanders Says:


    In order to generate any usable power, the magnets on the rotor
    have to be arranged with the poles facing the stator alternating –
    as you move around the rotor you’d have N S N S…

    You can’t do that if the magnets have two sets of poles. Breaking
    them in half solves that problem.

  28. Doug Bell Says:

    is there a wiring schematic for the laser

  29. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Doug,

    I have had lots of requests for construction details for the HD Scope. It should be done within a week.


  30. John Hunter Says:

    More Hard Drives are going bad because too many fools think they need RAID. RAID has no relevance to 99.99% of computer applications.
    Having RAID isn’t clever, it costs a lot more because it requires at least three separate HDs and a RAID controller but the capacity of one disc is lost.

    Data isn’t safe and still has to be backed up since it can still be destroyed by a virus or mechanical failure, erased by a disgruntled employee, stolen.

    Lower MTBF because there are more components to fail and the disks are driven harder.

    When the first drive fails the others may have to be trashed because identical replacements might not be available by then.

    Fault tolerance requires more than just the RAID you need a UPS, Twin PSUs, HOT Spare RAID controller, Dual ethernet cards, Virus protection, anti theft security, fire protection, user protection (i.e. no disgruntled employees), luck (in case a second drive fails before the first failure is fixed)

  31. bob Says:

    ive got a couple of dead HDDs layin around and im thinkin about building one of these, if i do ill be sure to post some pics over on the forums. im thinking about trying to rig up one of the suggested rotating mirror octogan thingies in the middle and see how that works. first id better see if i can get my sterio to move the arm tho.

  32. Alan Parekh Says:

    There is now some build instructions available for the Hard Drive Scope:

  33. David Says:

    First of all, sweet hack! Simply awesome. However, I wanted to personally thank you for introducing me to my new favourite band, Five Alarm Funk.
    Thanks again

  34. Michael Says:

    A laser printer has a spinning mirror in it. The older ones had three or four surfaces. The newer units may have more as they spin up much faster. It’s inside the laser scanner assembly. Check it out.

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  36. Mat Says:

    Is it possible to connect it to a microphone instead of directly to the stereo?
    That way it can be portable and not risk distroying the stereo.

    Any ideas on this?


  37. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Mat,

    Not really since you need some amplification to move the voice coil. A microphone puts out a VERY small signal. Best thing to do is use an old amp that is not worth much.

  38. pcproblems Says:

    Nice idea pal. let me try with my old hdd collection.

  39. Pablo Says:

    This bloody rocks man i find 6 dead hdd

  40. Joshua Santos Says:

    To be able to work that hard disk clock mod you have to find out how to lock the motor driver after the motor reaches full speed so that the controller can’t shut it off. On Seagate U series drives it is very easily done, just by momentarily closing two contacts on the logic board after the spindle motor reaches full speed.

  41. www.DokumentAMarble.com » Top 5 uses for a dead Hard Drive Says:

    […] Read […]

  42. Mexico501 » Blog Archive » Speakers made out of Dead Hard Drives Says:

    […] Page Summary: ?Harddisko? is an installation piece dealing with raw computer sounds. Rhythmic noises are evolving from sixteen harddrives, which are orchestrated through simple power circuits. You could change the mechanical layout of your setup to have the unmodulated laser beam be swept by the rotating mirror disk attached to the hard drive spindle. Also, over time hard drives are getting more used and worn, so more liable to break.read more | digg story […]

  43. » Speakers made out of Dead Hard Drives Says:

    […] Page Summary: ?Harddisko? is an installation piece dealing with raw computer sounds. Rhythmic noises are evolving from sixteen harddrives, which are orchestrated through simple power circuits. You could change the mechanical layout of your setup to have the unmodulated laser beam be swept by the rotating mirror disk attached to the hard drive spindle. Also, over time hard drives are getting more used and worn, so more liable to break.read more | digg story              […]

  44. What to do? at Earth: Mostly Harmless Says:

    […] A clock? A laser oscilloscope? A speaker? Wind chimes? […]

  45. Chris Says:

    My name is Chris. I recently found this HD laser osc. project and tried it. its cool!
    But, i upgraded it, i saw another article of an X-Y- dual HD setup and was intrigued…
    I tweaked my setup a little by not only using the servo arm, but using the main motor as well.
    I kept the main setup (mirror on spindle) but instead of using it’s own power, i found the motor power traces and placed the audio wires on those also. Therefore using the motor in the same fashion as the servo arm. Since the motor is rotational and not linear, like the arm, i used a quick fix to keep the motor from spinning uncontrollably from the music, by putting high strength
    flexable adhesive tape over the spindle (under the mirror) taping it to the hard drive floor, but still allowing it to vibrate. Overall it came out very nice. P.S. As i write this, my laser pointer broke, so until i get a new one, my cat is sad.

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  48. Salman Raza Says:

    hi my name is salman, i am new to this site , it is amazing uses of a hard drive. can someone told me more uses of hard drive.

  49. Jane Quatam Says:

    Hi Salman,
    Hard drives can be used to magnetically store digital data as ‘bits’ – it seems like hardrives should be rated at twice their ‘listed’ capacity – because digital data is stored as ones and zeros and zeros are nothing and nothing doesn’t take up space, so you really only needs the ones.

    Also old hard drives make great doorstops, not the laptop ones though. Good paper weights. Tombstones for hamsters, and the platters make dandy little mirrors.

    Next week what can I use A CPU for and what is the difference between a CPU and a CPA?

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  53. Anita Says:

    Why don’t you make a video of how to make a oscilloscope and how to use it.

  54. Dan Says:

    One of my favorite tricks with old HDD’s it to open the case (of course !) and unscrew the center hub fasteners > then remove the disc(s) > then scribe & make a series of cuts ( aircraft shears work just fine , does not matter if your cuts are perfect ) > then bend the disc(s) into a series of ‘vane assemblies’ > then sit the disc (unfastened) upon the drive hub & MOVE AWAY FROM THE HDD & apply power to view ‘wonderful & dangerous flying thingies’ .

    You can also apply the same principle to make a killer cooling fan for you computer case – JUST MAKE SURE TO SECURELY RE-ATTACH the disc to the drive motor hub .

    I hope you have fun with this & that it gives you some wonderful ideas for odd devices to construct !!!

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  56. m.shen Says:

    I am a retired analog electronic design engineer from days gone by. Even so, I have kept up
    with digital electronic design.

    Can you tell me where to look to find schematics of a hard drive? Any hard drive will
    do since I would like to understand the peripheral circuits that are used.

    thanks for whatever help you can offer.


  57. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi M. Shen,

    These pages may help.

  58. MAKE: Blog Says:

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  61. senderj Says:

    At first, I though this is a recycling idea. But on the second though, recycling is for environmental protection, but to run this clock 24 hours a day is not environmental friendly at all. Can anybody stands the sound of an old HD for 24 hours each day? How about the electricity bill and the energy consumption of generating such electricity?

  62. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi senderj,

    I never thought much about the energy cost of the device over the long haul… But this is coming from a guy that leaves my main computer on 24/7 which is drawing more juice than the single hard drive clock. But when you consider a modern wall clock can operate n a single AA battery for almost 1 year the hard drive clock is a power HOG. :(

  63. emma Says:

    cool blog!

  64. Hexypoo Says:

    Who here has not made one of the HD speakers. God, that was one of my first make: kinda projects. I was so proud of it.. *tear*

  65. Hack247.co.uk » Blog Archive » DIY Hard drive laser oscilloscope Says:

    […] See some videos below of the unit in action or go check out Alans site for more details, pictures and construction instructions […]

  66. Tita Says:

    Nice Site!!! (p)

  67. JP Says:

    Dead HDDs are one of my favorite things to take apart. They’ve got a ton of cool mechanical parts to salvage.

  68. ryan Says:

    ohhhh, shiny clock….shiny clock……. I WANT SHINY CLOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  69. DataGuru Says:

    You can also make cool stuff out of old CDRs and DVDRs.
    Use the Compact Disc Eraser for sensitive data discs before doing so. DiscEraser.com

  70. Michael Says:

    I am having problems. I cannot get the HD motors to spin. I am using the HDD motor and disk for the basis of a rotating mirror for an experiment to measure the speed of light. This is for the school kids next week so I would like the solution ASAP if anyone cap help. Regards

  71. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Michael,

    Depending on the model, it may not spin up or only spin up for a short time since some of the drives look for data transfer as a condition of keeping the drive spinning.

    Your best bet would be to crack open an older drive, they tend to have less additional features like that.

  72. Haseeb A Says:

    havent read this in detail but seems like i can probably use this to maek my first wind turbine.

  73. Michael Garrett Says:

    I have got so many old hard drives sitting around that I may have to try on of those mods

  74. Karen Says:

    Hi everyone! I too have had my fair share of Hard Drive troubles and was in the habit of trashing my defunct storage devices and buying new ones.

    I have had 7 hard drives crash in the past 3 years and they’ve all been good brand names. Thank god for Computer Giants and their website, http://www.computergiants.com. I buy from them every single time I have a crash. If one of your media storage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_storage_device) devices bites the dust, check out their site. You can find just about anything there like SCSI, ATA, servers, Hard Drives, and Enclosures (http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Disk_enclosure). Good luck everyone!

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  76. Robbo Says:

    Dead hard drives can live again – as really really fast optical shutters: http://optics.ph.unimelb.edu.au/atomopt/shutter/shutter.html

  77. LouiseandSean.com » Total Hard Drive Failure Says:

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  78. Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog » Blog Archive » Top 5 Dead Hard Drive Projects Says:

    […] 1) Hard Drive Laser Oscilloscope (page 2) […]

  79. Free PS3 Says:


  80. HH Says:

    Can a spindle motor be used as a generator? With the nice bearings and platter, it could be used to illustrate wind power with a pringle can wind vane.

  81. Alan Parekh Says:

    HI HH,

    I don’t think so since it isn’t a typical DC motor. There may be a way though…

  82. HH Says:

    I’ll chuck one into an electric drill and see if makes any voltage/wattage/amperage.

  83. Binary Hard Drive Clock Project - Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog Says:

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  85. juan Says:

    i like the video

  86. whiz! Says:

    Yes, hard drive platters are still being used as TV aerials, and are even being sold as ones =) That’s in Bulgaria though, and i haven’t seen one for sale here in a lot of time =)

  87. Hard Disk Drive Drum - Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog Says:

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  92. Hard Disk Drive Laser Shutter - Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog Says:

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  94. Mike Craghead Says:

    More hard drive fun:

  95. What Can You Do with a Dead Hard Drive? | Chris Pirillo Says:

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  97. LouiseandSean.com» Total Hard Drive Failure Says:

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  100. Stanley Fisher Says:

    a company called debrace is selling a hard drive color built from recycled hard drive with housing. It actually looks quite nice.

  101. Stanley Fisher Says:

    here is the link http://www.debrace.com/home.php?cat=2

  102. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Stanley,

    Thanks for the link, that is actually a very cheap price for the custom clock!

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  105. media player Says:

    Wow there are some really talented and creative people out there. Great inventions all done with hard drives.

  106. Jay Says:

    This is a nice proyect. Those magnets have two poles per side. So, it is necessary to cut them in 2 pieces with a stone cutting disk.

  107. Hard Drive Platter Wallet - Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog Says:

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  108. Nikhil Says:

    Hey guys could any1 tell me more abt dis I damn wanna hack my hard disk but donno where to strt frm pls pls pls lemme know like steps for my Samsung HD!!!! pretty PSL!!!!! 😀
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  109. clark smith Says:

    Great ideas! I usually just smash them and pour water over them.

  110. Jarvis Says:

    Wow, pretty tech!

  111. How to Replace a Capacitor - Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog Says:

    […] have featured the work of Afrotech here before, remember those cool hard drive speakers? His speakers were a big inspiration for the Hard Drive […]

  112. dual monitors Says:

    this reminds me of that Radiohead contest where the first place dude used all old hardrives for the video. Geeh wish I could find it, you would all really appreciate it :-)

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  114. DIY Hard drive laser oscilloscope - hack247 Says:

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  115. Spotted Marley Says:

    You can use the magnets from inside your HDD and a 75 cent reed switch to get that stepper motor spinning super fast.

    Here’s the video tutorial: http://jaytube.org/share/PueF3b3XXBo

  116. Hard Drive Hamster Wheel - Hacked Gadgets – DIY Tech Blog Says:

    […] have upgraded your hamster wheel if you still have a few hard drives left have a look at some other Hard Drive Hacks that you can […]

  117. Jeff Avery Says:

    I go through a ton of hard drives. I’ve made a USS Enterprise, Motorcycle and various other stuff:



  118. HELP Secondary Master Hard Disk Error Says:

    […] Disk Error Thanks for pointing it out .. I must have overlooked it but the HDD is still useful Top 5 Dead Hard Drive Projects – Hacked Gadgets – DIY Tech Blog What Can I Do with a Dead Hard Drive? __________________ ..Who Dares Wins.. ..Avenging […]

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