Hard drive clock

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OK, everyone has seen the dude who made an LED POV (persistence of vision) clock out of a hard drive, and we’re all very impressed (no, seriously). But not all of us have those skills. This is a hard drive clock that requires only a power drill and some basic hand tools. No electronics knowledge is necessary. Total project time: 60-90 minutes.
Supplies:

  • Old hard drive (duh). I happened to find a 5.25″ model. Smaller or bigger drives could be just as fun.
  • A clock movement from your local craft&hobby store. Get the one with the longest shaft you can. Mine was 3/4″ and it fit perfectly.
  • I used a bit of old IDE cable to help support the bottom of the clock. You may need to get creative to get yours to hang parrallel to the wall.
  • A six pack of your favorite beverage to celebrate your cool looking clock.

Tools:

  • Hand drill with bits up to the size of the clock movement shaft. I needed a 5/16″ hole for mine.
  • Various screw drivers, perhaps with hex or torx bits, depending on the model of your drive.
  • A hammer
  • If you do the IDE cable trick I describe, you’ll need a utility knife (or sturdy scissors) and some hot glue.

Step 1: Remove the cover from the hard drive. Your model will vary. Look under the “Warranty void if label removed” labels to find hidden screws and nuts.
Harddrive clock 1

Step the second: Remove the screws holding the platters in place. Be very careful to not touch the surface of the platters–finger prints will look pretty crappy. Hold them only by their edges.

In my drive, the top platter came off easily after the screws had been removed and the armature pushed aside.
Harddrive clock 2

However, to get the second platter off, I had to partially dissassemble the actuator.
Harddrive clock 3

The magnets holding this part together are incredibly strong, so don’t be suprised if it takes a bit of force to remove one after the screws have been removed. I then jammed the arms all the way down into the circuit board so that I could remove the second platter. Depending on your drive, you may have to remove the arms.

Harddrive clock 4

Step C: Pry off the rotor (cover for the motor in the center of the platters). I found a couple of screw drivers did the trick pretty quickly.
Harddrive clock 5

Once the rotor is off, you can see the coils beneath.

Harddrive clock 6

Step IX: Punch the bearings out of the rotor. I put the rotor on top of my vice, with the jaws about an inch apart. I then put a philips screwdriver on the bearings, and tapped them out with the hammer. This took a couple of tries, but eventually they came out.

Harddrive clock 7Step 9: Now it is time to drill through the center of the motor mount in the back of the case. I spent a great deal too much time attempting this because there was a small steel column that I’m guessing the motor rotated on top of–it was the center spindle that I needed to get through. My crappy drill bits just weren’t making much progress. Finally I turned the drive over, and tapped on the spindle with a punch (a philips screw driver would suffice) and a hammer. It came right out. After that, enlarging the hole in the aluminum was incredibly quick. So, my lesson here is: if you think you have to drill, try something else. If you are drilling steel, it will take forever, especially if you have crappy drill bits (like me).

I was so excited when I widened the hole an got wood from the work bench, I shot the picture right then and there, without removing the debris.

Harddrive clock 8

The Next Step: Reassemble the platters and the spindle rotor. Let them sit in place in the center of the drive, but they won’t stay there very well. Put the magnets back together for the drive arms and put them back between the platters.

Fit the clock shaft up through the hole in the center of the platters. The hole left in the rotor after removing the bearings was bigger than the nut and washer supplied with the clock movement, so I had to add another washer. Fortunately, it is almost impossible to tell.

Harddrive clock 9

Step -i: Follow the instructions provided by the clock movement for putting the hands on the clock.

Harddrive clock 10

Step M: Now, looking at the back, the body of the clock movement sticks out, and so we need something at the bottom to brace it agains the wall (I’m hanging mine). If you choose to stand yours on a desk, well, good luck with that.

Harddrive clock 11

So here’s where that IDE cable came in for me. I took an old cable, and cut off the end that fit the drive along with about 6 inches of cable. I plugged the cable into the bottom of the drive, and hot glued the tail against the back, just under the movement body, leaving a bit of a loop in the wire. In this way, the IDE cable holds the bottom of the drive body away from the wall about as much as the movement body does.

So, here is the finished product, hanging on a wall in my den.

Harddrive clock 12

You can see a bit of the IDE loop at the bottom to get an idea of what I mean.

Step 6 Pack: Time to enjoy a cold beverage, admiring your wicked cool White & Nerdy harddrive clock.

17 thoughts on “Hard drive clock”

  1. Who is the manufacture of your 5.25″ hard drive? I’ve been looking around for hard drives but found none that look like yours. I really like the circuit board in front.

  2. This drive is a Quantum “Bigfoot”. The 5.25″ format really seems to work, and I agree about the board in the front–I was very happy to stumble across it.

  3. “I was so excited when I widened the hole an got wood from the work bench, I shot the picture right then and there, without removing the debris.”

    The saddest part about that sentence is that 95% of the people that read it will have no idea that they just breezed over the master work of a true word smith.

    The article is cool enough on it’s on merit for linkage, but that sentence is icing on the cake =)

    Linked at http://www.boxgods.com

    I would love to reprint it in full, with hosted higher rez images (on our servers of course) if the author is interested.

    Geno,

    EIC BoxGods.com

  4. DRILLING TIP:

    Drilling through steel, even with “crappy drill bits”, is not QUITE that big a deal….if you know what you’re doing.

    (And – I’ve actually been out in my garage Mad Scientist Lair today, drilling through fairly tough stainless steel – I know whereof I speak….)

    Two concepts: lubricate, and step-drill.

    A) LUBRICATE: when drilling metal, even cheapo drill bits will do FAR better with a little bit of lubricant, which both cools AND smooths the way. Industrial fluids are great, but you’ll do just fine with WD-40 (OK but a little thin), some transmission fluid, chainsaw/lawnmotor/engine oil, (great!) or even vegetable/olive oil from the kitchen. The point is just to keep the friction, and the temperature, low.

    B) To drill a hole in metal, you first want to give the drill bit a target — you punch a starting dimple. The drill bit will center itself in the dimple, rather than wobbling and skating all over the surface. Pros use a “center punch” – but a nail actually works pretty well for this. Then drill a SMALL hole, first (1/8″ is fairly standard), and then step up through a few sizes of drill bit until you get to the desired size.

    Enjoy!
    Andrew

  5. Ditto on the oil – no matter what bit you use, you will have a much better/faster/cheaper time using it. I made a clock years ago just using a single platter (the hole is just the right size). How can we get the disk to spin?

  6. I am about to DIY a clock using a CDR as the back platter, so I googled to your website and read you excellent work here. Working on a CDR seems much easier than yours, but I have to find or make a good stand eventually for a desktop clock. Since the clock movt. is a delicate gauge, I think it is also necessary to do some dustproof work, such as a cover or something. Thanks for your idea and wish I can finish it soon.

  7. Nice! I have several wiped, dying hard drives lying here at work, that I don’t know what to do with. I was pondering something like this. I’ll link you up if I do.

  8. This is neato! I have built something similar using old cd’s that no longer worked due to being scratched too much… this would be sweet to have on the wall, I’m starting to eye up the stack of dead hard drives on my shelf now

  9. If you are looking to display your clock on a desk or table, a friend of mine just used the cover of the hard drive. He just bent it into an “L” shape and then used the screws to screw it into the back of the hard drive. It holds it up pretty well. And yes, gr8 Christmas gift for my computer nerd boyfriend.

  10. Interesting Article – thanks for the effort!

    I’m also interested, what wordpress template are you using on this blog? It’s amazing and I’d love to know the name of it.

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