GEEK-TO-YOU: How to Take Apart a Hard-drive (humor Included)





Introduction: GEEK-TO-YOU: How to Take Apart a Hard-drive (humor Included)

About: The author of the GEEK-TO-YOU series: a series of Instructables designed to educate YOU about computers. I am interested in computers, and the world of technology in general. I am pursuing a career in softwa...

Do you still have that old 10 gig hard drive that you've kept thinking, "Some use for it will come along"? Despite your mother's (or wife's) nagging? Well that use has finally come along to put your nagger at bay.
The simple solution is, "Guess what....I finally have a use for that hard drive: to give students a closer look at the workings of computers!" 

But how? That's what this Instructable is for, to give you a fun, interactive, and engaging activity to do with students and children. This activity will give them an in-depth view of the technology used today! 

This Instructable is entered in the Hands-On Learning contest! Please vote for it if you think it can be applied in an educational setting and/or if you think I did a good job of making this muggle friendly (easily understood by those not super tech savvy)!

Breaking the seals of your hard-drive, dropping it, banging on it, opening it, or tampering with it at all will void it's warranty. If you take the 250 gig hard-drive out of the brand new desktop your wife bought, and ruin it, it's not my fault (I hope you're not that stupid anyway).

Step 1: Things You Need to Dissect Your Old Hard-drive

So now that you understand the consequences of taking apart your hard-drive, you need to know the things required. You are not going to come at it with an ax, or scream at it until it gets scared (only because that would make your family members and students VERY concerned), you are going to approach this task in a very precise and calculated manner(relatively).

Old hard-drive(naturally)
Phillips screw-driver---two bit sizes usually required
Torx screw-driver---Several sizes needed
Flat-head screwdriver (or flat-bladed: this distinction rises from a recent Instructable that I found: Find the combination to your master lock!)

A tray/container to put screws on (optional: you can even use a magnet instead!)

Step 2: The Point of No Return!

It's time to take the leap of faith. The point where any sanity loving person would not dare go. The point at which you can't stop going because if you do you will DIE!!!! It is time, to void the warranty!!!!!!!!

First, break the seals that will uncover the last few screws. This will void the warranty. But we don't want to just void the warranty, we want to render this thing unuseable before we get one screw undone. Next, you'll want to find a surface that creates static. Like a carpet. You'll want to rub the underside of the hard-drive on your carpet. Or, rub a balloon on your head untill it's nice and statically and touch the underbelly of your hard-drive.

These actions wll create and ESD (electro-static discharge) that will destroy your hard-drive. Now that you can't do anything usefull with your hard-drive (or at least what it was intended to be used for) there is no reason not to continue! Nothing your wife, oh sorry, I forgot a woman could be following this Instructable, (or any other gaurdian) can say will give you a good reason to stop what you are doing.

Now continue to the next step.

Step 3: Time to Let in the Dusty Gremlons!

Well now that we can't go back, let's keep going. This next step would make a great horror film for other hard-drive platters. We are going to remove the lid of the hard-drive.

All you need to do is remove the several philip's screws and the torx screws. The philip's screws will be sticking out like a sore thumb but the torx heads will be under the seals you just broke; though, there may be one or two smaller ones on the outside.

Next, carefully slide your flat-head under the lid and pry up. Do this several times along the lid to loosen it up. Do this carefully so as not to scratch the delicately beautiful platters inside.

Now you should be able to lift the lid up with your hands, though keep a grip on the rest because there is some sticky stuff to keep it sealed.

Step 4: A Lily Amoungst the Mud.

Wow, just look at that beautiful shiny thing. THAT (or those), is (or are) the hard-drive's platter(s). The platter(s) stores all of the information on your computer. From your pictures, to your programs, even the OS(operating system) that you are using right now (like Windows or Mac). Just to clarify, it was storing all of the old stuff you had, not the current stuff....didn't mean to make you flip out thinking you were "toast"! (gg1220 gets the back story)

But what about all that other stuff? The other stuff includes the actuator arm, the magnets that move the arm, and just some circuitry.
The platters are made from a non-magnetic material which is coated with a small layer of magnetic material. When you use your computer, the actuator arm swings changing the magnetic pole of many many many many many many many (multiplyed a bunch) magnetic regions which stores your information. You may recognize that this is binary: 1 or 0, on or off. (this description is what I can remember from my intro to tech class, it is not completly acurate. I'm just giving you an idea of how it works).

So now what? Now we need to remove all the other stuff around the platter(s) before we remove them. 

First, we must remove the two magnets (one of them is on top of the other). Refer to the pictures as you follow the steps (this is picture 2). Remove the screws that fasten the magnets to the casing; there should be two or three.
After you do that you can remove the top one. These magnets are called neodymium magnets (or rare earth as they are commonly called) and are VERY strong. Because they are brittle they are attached to metal brackets which are in turn screwed into the aluminum casing of the hard-drive. Be careful as you remove the magnets, you may need to use your flat head. Be sure to lift the bracket not on the magnet (stay close to the edges and you should be fine). Also be careful not to snap your fingers with them because that hurts badly!

Once you have the magnets out you can access the actuator arm (also shown in picture two) and everything else. The hard drive platters may be tricky. Remove them after you take out the actuator arm. You will need a very small torx bit. 

Step 5: The World of Now

In recent advances of technology, a new kind of hard drive has emerged: Solid State Drive (SSD). The older type, which we just gutted, is a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). HDD's are not obsolete, but Solid State Drives have a number of advantages. 

SSD's are circuitry contained in a housing much like an HDD's housing, but smaller and thinner. It is more like a RAM stick but is just ensconced in a shell that mounts inside your computer. Rather than having moving parts (an actuator arm and platters) it just has that RAM like circuitry. Because it has no moving parts, there is no friction, and a significant less amount of heat. Sense there is no friction, an SSD is less likely to fail. Also, dropping a Solid State Drive is less dangerous because there are not any platters to break. The access speeds (data transfer) of a Solid State Drive is around five times faster; in an HDD, the arm has to move across the platter(s) back in forth to retrieve and write information. In an SSD, there are no moving parts, it just retrieves information from an electrical circuit. You may also look at an SSD like a flash drive; they are very similar.

So you have gained some good knowledge of hard drives. What is inside, how to disassemble one, and some basic science about the workings of a hard drive. You have also had a peek into today's new technology.

I hope this Instructable has given you something to do with your old hard drive, and given you a great learning opportunity to share with your student's and children!

Visit our group: GEEK-TO-YOU

Please vote for this Instructable if you deem it worthy!




  • Make it Move Contest

    Make it Move Contest
  • Oil Contest

    Oil Contest
  • Casting Contest

    Casting Contest

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.




Hi all, those magnets are strong, very strong. I use them in my workshop screwed to a toolboard. Stick your tools up there. or screw them to the roof of your garage & park the car up out of the way.


I have an almost Identical 6.4 gig harddrive that I just took apart to see for myself how it worked .

1 reply

Haha, funny that they were almost the same.

Your kid friendly statement in step 4... I want to facepalm but it was so good :P

How many more of these have you been hiding up your sleeve?

13 replies

Oh ya, haha! Did you look it up? I was working on this a few months ago, but never finished it. I just finished it up, added the last step that "wrapped it up". The other one I whipped together for the Back-to-School contest after I got the debate idea from the lock Instructable. Did you get the connection between the Starwars photo and the step titles? I thought that was pretty funny. Unfortunanty, because they are not my own photos, I have to get permission from the owners WITH citation (to enter the contest)...good luck getting that from Lucasarts :(

Oh, and for some reason this Instructable was rejected for the Hands-On Contest?! I don't really get why, the other submitted one's are kinda weak...maybe it's the "kid-friendly" statement, or the humor is too sarcastic. I'll try to fix it.

Maybe you need to clearly state the learning objective? At the moment you're showing how to disassemble a hard drive, but if you added a reason for doing so (maybe examine the air bearing mechanism or try to show just how quickly the actuator arm moves) it would seem to fit the contest better.

I think I included a LOT of information about a hard drive that could be applied in a teaching environment. After all, I did learn all of that from the Intro to Tech class at my high school.

Hm, interesting. Where did they get the hard drives for you to dismantle?

I think (if I remember right) it was an old hard drive from a computer my tech teacher was getting rid of...I just felt like taking it apart. Actually, I don't think that was it, but it's all I can remember, haha. I remember it had to do with me getting an extra from one of my computers, and one was given to me from my one of those two was the one I sacrificed.

Oh good, as long as they were out of commission before being destroyed :)

Oh ya, haha...they were.

Maybe..."learning objective explicitly stated in the introduction." Did I not do that well enough?

I have to eat to you later :)

Haha nah, I'm going to be a mechanical engineer. I better know the definition of a screw :P
And that's too bad about the pictures. The titles were clever though.

Oh, ya you better know! My favorite picture was the storm troopers jumping, that was funny. Thanks for trying to help me :)

Yup, mine too! And no problem, happy to help. Good luck!

Oh, time to return the favor...

Add your Instructables in this group, if it is accepted, you get a free 3D print...I think you get one for each accepted Instructable!