The 42 Gigabyte Hard Drive Mirror

42 GB Hard Drive Mirror

While I was playing with hard drives, I was really struck by how mirror-like the platter surface was. I decided my next project was to create a “mirror” out of hard drive platters.

So I started asking around for “dead” hard drives. I know there must be mountains of them out there. I hit pay dirt when one of the server dudes at work said “Yeah, you can have all of them out of this MSA.” He handed me 10 18 GB drives (worthless on eBay, I checked). Along with the others I had amassed, I figured I had the raw materials to begin.

Raw Materials

I then completely gutted them all, saving every single part. A couple of challenges that I encountered:

  • A lot of them required multiple sizes of Torx bits. The ones I had on hand were not enough, so I picked up a set that included 5mm through 10mm. With those in hand, almost nothing stopped me (see next…)
  • My technique for removing the top ring around the drive motor was clearly flawed. No matter how many I took apart, I stripped the head of the last screw I had to remove. This really sucked. I had to drill out the head of the remaining screw to get the platters off. It clearly had something to do with the pressure exerted on the remaining screw by the platters, but no matter how carefully I worked them out, the last one’s head stripped. I broke at least one drill bit during this process.
  • I could not get the drive motor out of most of the ones given to me by my coworker. They were secured by a nut that was set into the case such that I could not get pliers, wrenches or sockets to bite on it. Fortunately I could get one out (different brand) and that was all I needed.

I then played with the pieces of circuit board and other parts to find a layout I liked for the background.

Hard Drive Frame

I placed part of the drive tray holders on some plywood (secured with wood screws), then layered the circuit boards on top (secured with hot glue). I was short one drive tray holder to make a complete border, so I took one of the tray levers (used to pull the drive from the MSA) and put it at the top.

The Hard Part

The hard part was figuring out how to secure the drive platters. Glue doesn’t stick to them. I finally decided to use the same technique that the manufacturers did: clamp the platters on the drive motor. I put spacing rings on the motor until I had just enough room for two platters stuck right together. I secured those with the motor’s retaining ring, then started jamming the edges other platters in between the center two platters. The result is kind of like a flower, kind of like a mirror. The top platter in the center go so warped by the jammed in platters, that I glued another platter on top of it. Yeah, I know I said glue doesn’t stick–I used a ton of glue and all it has to do is hold the weight of one platter. So far (2 hours) it has held….

Finally, I threw an armature on the edge and we have the final result…

In the end, I used 14 platters. There were 6 platters in each of the 18GB drives, so that means my “mirror” is a total 42 GB. And yes, I’m using the term mirror loosely–I sure as hell won’t be shaving with it….