How to turn an old hard drive into a cool clock

Tell the time with this functional geek-chic project

Hard drive clock

Everyone must have an old 3.5-inch hard drive lying around the place? Either through sheer laziness or the fear that some probing youth might find whatever incriminating video is left stored on it.

We know we've got a small mountain of the things that need to be put beyond use. So why not take one of those waiting environmental catastrophes and turn it into something that's functional and beautiful?

So while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, we like it. The stark antiseptic reflective disc, contrasted by the functional hands of a mechanical analogue timepiece. Artful.

For the mechanism we're using one of the many that are up for sale on eBay. But most hobby stores sell them for all manner of projects. The important thing is to go for a long spindle as it needs to be long enough to go through the centre of the driver platters. Ideally, you'll want hands about 50mm long with a contemporary style, though you can trim longer ones back easily enough.

The main difficulty you will discover in completing this build is removing the drive platters so the clock mechanism can be installed.

First of all the platters need to be removed so the mechanism can be installed. Second, you will need to remove any extra platters, again, so the mechanism will fit. These extra platters are usually fixed in place with star-head TORX screws and you'll find the motor itself will need to be manhandled into shape.

What you will need

3.5 HDD
Clock mechanism
TORX screwdriver set

How to make a HDD clock

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1. The main problem is getting the platters out and making sure you get a long spindle mechanism.

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2. Most hard drives now use star-shaped TORX screws to perturb consumers from opening them. Thankfully, these screwdrivers are stocked by most DIY stores. Older drives may have crosshead screws.

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3. Many drives conceal securing screws beneath warranty seals; check them all. With the screws removed you'll need to lever the lid off, as most have a dust-tight seal.

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4. To make getting the platter out easier remove the read heads. We found the magnets surprisingly strong. Watch your fingers.

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5. Remove the TORX screws from the drive platter, we found a T6 worked best. With the top removed, the platter and spacing rings will easily lift out.

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6. Some HDD motors are screwed in place, easy. New ones are not, just take a hammer and a screw driver and bash the spindle out from the bottom of the drive. Under the motor will be the copper armature, pull this out with pliers.

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7. You'll need to bash out the various bearings from the remaining motor assembly.

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8. Cut the end of the motor assembly off, about 5mm worth, so you can screw the end section into it and have everything fit in place.

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9. Screw the end-cap into the section you cut from the motor assembly and slide a left over space in place. Place a platter over the clock mechanism and bolt the end section into place.

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10. Fit the whole thing into place and voilà: hard drive clock.

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