Instructables

Hard Drive After Life

FeaturedContest Winner


So your aging hard drive can't hold its data any longer and you replaced it with a new one. Instead of letting it die by the hands of the recycling undertaker, you force it into a new life as a musical noise maker. A dying hard drive makes all kinds of grunts and groans as it starts up. The sounds it makes can be musical and percussive.

This project uses a homemade PIC midi interface to allow sequencer software (Anvil Studio free) to turn on and off eight hard drives. Midi signals are serially transmitted by the sequencer software as sets of 3 bytes at 31,250 baud. A PIC 16F877 has been programmed to receive these bytes to turn on and off solid state relays. Each hard drive needs 5 volts and 12 volts to run. Two SSRs are used to turn on and off the hard drive. I tried leaving on just the 12 volts, then switch on 5v to start the drive up. This worked well for awhile until one smoked up. So I use two SSRs to switch on both 5 volts and 12 volts at the same time. A modified PC power supply is used to supply power.  A guitar tuner pickup and computer soundcard amplifies the sounds, making the point that something went horribly wrong with those drives.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
That is cool! love the concept!
spaceman8742 years ago
thats quite awesome i say
You could make a real cool sampler with one of these. Or maybe just with hard drive sounds in general
bishopdante3 years ago
sounds like stockhausen or schaeffer
Syko Pyro4 years ago
Be super hyper mega careful with this... One speck of dust (and I mean just one) and when the drive spins up, the entire platter will literally explode with similar effects to a grenade, shrapnel wise. Just warning, we made one explode in our AIT class by doing this. ;P
That depends on the drive. If you use a Hitachi/IBM Laptop drive that could happen because those are glass platters. This doesn't happen to non-glass ones.
kool1zero3 years ago
I want diagrams of that hard drive rack. add some clear plastic on it and it looks like a perfect raid enclosure to me. maybe mount some fans on it ad drill some ventilation holes.... sounds quite plausible
rusky4 years ago
Nice job! Reminds me of an Amiga demo that made music by manipulating the stepper motor on the R/W head of a floppy (or 20MB HDD if you were mad enough to run it on your A590!)
The Osbourne portable (sewing machine style) used variable speed floppy drives, as the head moved toward the outside, the RPM was reduced to keep a constant linear speed for the data writing--there was a challenge to get someone to use this variable speed effect to play a tune on one or both of the drives, but I never heard of a result.
  this is a really good green project. i find the sound of HDD's to be ambient 
Plasmana4 years ago
I would never thought of using dead(ish) noisy harddrives as musical instruments, amazing idea!

The only problem is where can I get my hands on the drives? They are so hard to get as people are worried about the data left on the drives... :(
botronics (author)  Plasmana4 years ago
Data on hard drives would be a concern.  Although, If the drive is bad, it would be difficult to extract the data without a lot of effort. You should check with the local recyclers that deal in computer scrap.  There is one in Berkeley, ca that offers bulk erasing of hard drives with a massive ac magnet for a small charge. You could talk with local computer repair shops too. Just explain what you are going to do with them. There are other devices that make noise, like steppers motors, pager motors, solenoids and even christmas tree lights that have thermostat flashers. See this link.
I did when to a few computer shops and asked for HDD's, no matter how much they want to give me the HHD's to help me with my projects, but they can't. Because they said they had already register HDD's to the recycling logbooks, once it is done, it cannot be undone and the computer stuff must be given to the recycling guys.

Instead, they gave me an old broken PC lappy and a unwanted 250W PSU which is not registered! :D

They also said it is illegal to give their damaged stuff away. The Health and Safety law really, really do my head in!!
You have GOT to be joking!!!
I can not believe the amount of dedication you have set to realize a wacko idea that came to your mind "I do not know how" :)
But it's just so cool!

Sadly for some reason I am incapable of opening/downloading the link for the recording. Is the address correct?
botronics (author)  BlackDidThis4 years ago
If you are talking about the Percussus recording, it is a mp3 recording at: http://home.comcast.net/~botronics/relaybeat2.mp3   If you are having trouble with the video, turn off your ad blocker.

Sometimes you get a crazy idea and you just have to run with it. Otherwise you will never know. Remember Faraday when he was showing his electromagnet to the public.  Someone asked "What good is it?"  His answer was, "What good is a newborn baby?"
Oh no... :)
I may have sent the message across in the wrong manner. Guess it's my way of showing my love :p

I am totaly for your doing... and it is just so amazing to have come up to such a conclusion AND result!
I mean making those hard drives "Sing for me Baby!" is way off the roof in being creative.

I recall he had quoted something more like "Does a baby have any?" when asked "what use does this have?"... Though  I may have read a version lost in translation... yes have heard such a story.
Sooo where's your baby gonna grow into?
botronics (author)  BlackDidThis4 years ago
The singing hard drives was started last year at Robogames 09 during the Musical Artbot competition along with my electric wind harp. The wind harp tied for silver. This inspired the idea for Percussus, which is entered this year at Robogames. So I guess you can say Percussus is the baby.
jdubbullyoo4 years ago
Can you upload a sample of some of your audio for us?
This is an impressive Glitch instrument. Great job!
xSphinx4 years ago
I don't understand the point of this, it didn't sound like anything to me.
botronics (author)  xSphinx4 years ago
The project was to test an idea for an artbot installation. I was planing to have many of these "dead" hard drives arraigned as a spiral tree structure with a hard drive at each branch.  I would compose how they operate using the midi sequencer.  Another artist did a similar project called Hard Drive Rock and that installation was awesome. I showed this test piece at Robogames 2009 and got a lot of good response from the public. Watching the drives operate and listening to the amplified sounds was a lot of fun.
I love the idea of the tree with a harddrive at each branch, that'd look SOO good, very artistic! The sound of these brings back so many memories xD
plokko4 years ago
a 7.1 hard disk surround system was way better!
luvit4 years ago
 this may sound almost as goos as a 1984 casio keyboard
Wow you've been through a lot of hard drives. 0_0

The project is awesome I cant believe you were able to accomplish that.