Introduction: Rare Earth Magnets From Old Hard Drives

Picture of Rare Earth Magnets From Old Hard Drives

It happens to all of us eventually.

You've upgraded your laptop from that ancient cinder block to a sleek new light weight model.

You got a new desktop PC to replace the one that was so old the keyboard was in Sanskrit.

You have moved over all you family pictures, every song you've collected since high school, all those movies you download ... completely legitimately .. *cough cough* .. no really ... OK ... moving on

So what do you do with the Hard drives you removed before sending the rest of your old computers to be recycled?

I'll tell you what to do .. You grab your tools and gut them for the glorious rare earth magnets (As well as a few other goodies) that are hidden inside.

Step 1: Tools

Picture of Tools

Hard drive dock / Hard drive USB adapter - If you haven't already transferred your data off of the Hard drives, now would be a good time.

Screw driver / Torx drivers - depending on the manufacturer some screws will be phillips head. Most will be torx, usually between sizes T6 - T10

Pliers - for those parts that need to be "encouraged" out of their original positions.

Step 2: Those Sneaky Buggers

Picture of Those Sneaky Buggers

I have yet to find a manufacturer of Hard Drives that doesn't hide at least one screw under the label or some other sort of sticker.

Some will even hide a screw under a sticker ... that is hidden under the label. WTF!

It's like they don't trust us or something.

Once you have all the screws removed you can lift off the top cover. Some manufacturers will use a sticky gasket under the lid so you may need to apply a little force to get it to pop off.

Step 3: Just Like Playing Operation

Picture of Just Like Playing Operation

Once you take the top magnet off the reader arm, you can now swing the arm far enough out of the way so that you can remove the platter(s) after you take off any screws securing it in place. Typically there will be one to three screws securing the platters, but I have seen as many as ten screws on a hard drive from a raid array.

The reader arm is typically press fitted into place so you can pry it out with a screw driver or encourage it to relocate with your pliers.

Now you can unscrew the bottom magnet from the Hard drive case.

You should now have a top and bottom magnet, as well as one or more platters and possibly some aluminum spacers.

Step 4: Laptop Vs Desktop

Picture of Laptop Vs Desktop

The Hard drives from a desktop PC will have similar parts to those found in laptops. Right down to the fact that they love hiding screws under the labels and stickers.

The major differences will be that the magnets will tend to be larger and stronger, and the platters will be slightly larger in diameter.

Step 5: What to Do With Your Salvage

Picture of What to Do With Your Salvage

Typically I will leave the magnets on the metal plates that they are glued to for several reasons:

It makes them easier to handle in my opinion.

The magnets are relatively brittle and can break easily once off the metal backing, especially if they smash into each other.

These magnets are ridonculously strong and if they are flat on a metal surface (like the side of the fridge) the odds of you lifting them off are slim at best. Most times you will need to slide them off an edge to get enough leverage. The backing will usually keep the magnets from sitting flat on a surface so your odds of lifting them off is fairly good.

**CAUTION** When handling these magnets there is a very real risk of damage to your favorite body parts (fingers, toes, other protruding bits) if they are caught in between two of these magnets during magnet mating season (whenever two magnets get close enough to attract each other). I have been careless in the past and my life lesson was a wicked pinch that drew blood on one of my fingers. Fortunately it was a set of the smaller magnets. Had it been the big ones from the server hard drive it is very possible I would have had a broken finger, or a chunk missing.

I have found a few uses for the platters

They make a great mirror. The hole in the center makes them easy to hang up in a cubicle with one pushpin.

You can hang them up to twist in the wind in your garden to help keep birds and small animals from wrecking your crops.

They make great precision targets. See how many shots you can land in the hole in the center. If your aim is not true you will see one of two results depending on what the platter is made out of. If you have an aluminum platter you will hear a distinct ring as you make a new hole in the platter. If you have a glass or ceramic platter with an aluminum coating .. it's time to head down range and hang up a new platter.

Use one to make a head reflector for your physician's costume for the next Halloween party.


For many years I collected and stored many electronic parts from these digital electronic devices. They aer so excellent for many many scientific and electronic projects.... Congratulations colleague!!!

: D

SyedM64 (author)2017-02-26

Thankyou with all the Best wishes to you all. 73. This is VU2VIZ

BernSh (author)2017-02-08

Another use for the magnets is to stick one on the side of your drill press to hold the chuck key.

igorpkc made it! (author)2017-01-04

Those magnets come with holes on their back plate, making them easy to attach to, for example, your tool board. And they hold stuff so good! Super practical :)

Lorddrake (author)igorpkc2017-01-07

Nicely done.

cyberrod (author)2016-07-21

FYI, I have used a heat gun to loosen the glue that holds the magnets to the brackets. I can usually get them of the bracket without breaking them. Then i can glue or attach them to my project. :)

These are great magnets

Lorddrake (author)cyberrod2016-07-21

the heat gun is a great tip. thanks.

jimvandamme (author)2016-06-22

I reuse the cases. They're sturdy and conduct heat well. I also save the PC boards to pull components off them. You should be able to run the motors using the drivers on the board.

I haven't found too many uses for the bearings, which is a shame.

You can get cheap torx screwdrivers from Harbor Freight.

Lorddrake (author)jimvandamme2016-06-22

I want to build a propane forge (just haven't gotten around to buying the parts i need)so I can smelt down the cases and use the aluminum for other projects.

you can get cheap torx from HF .. but I would recommend spending a few extra dollars and get a higher quality set only because when you are dealing with torx as small as 5 or 6 the cheaper drivers will shred to uselessness fairly quickly. Once you get up to size 9 or 10 the cheaper driver has enough bulk to last for quite a while.

n8hfi (author)Lorddrake2016-07-04

I melt them down. The 3.5" drives yield about 12 ounces (340g) of good quality casting alloy, and it's a very secure way of erasing data from the platters. I disassemble them first, it avoids contaminating the melt with copper, and I get the magnets intact. Sometimes, I need to use a pin punch to drive out the main motor hub. However, there are usually a couple of small, pressed in steel pins or bushings that are hard to get out; they just sink to the bottom of the crucible when the rest melts.

2.5" drives have much less, maybe 50g of aluminum. All the 2.5" drives I've dismantled had glass platters. Some were rivetted, rather than having screws. I just cut them in half on a bandsaw, then shake out the innards.

Dispose of the electronics bits responsibly, not just in the landfill.

JackB64 (author)2016-06-19

I have lots of these,a pair from a old 10 thousand rpm SCSI drive ,hold the door shut on my snow blower shed

Lorddrake (author)JackB642016-06-19

and he hasn't been able to use his snow blower ever since .. lol

JackB64 (author)Lorddrake2016-06-29

too funny,, it was close a few day had to get the wife to help me get it out ,lol

donhunt (author)Lorddrake2016-06-22

And his snowblower always points to the North!

bruce.desertrat (author)JackB642016-06-21

Those old IBM scsi drive magnets are insanely powerful our household 'cookbook' recipe collection is about 40 sheets of paper hed to the side of the fridge with one. I recently hung a 5 lb bag of limes from our metal wire-rack shelves with one.

The DIYinventor (author)2016-06-29

These magnets are useful for every thing

zotoffsv (author)2016-06-18

А теперь обратно собери.

MrFixit1954 (author)zotoffsv2016-06-21

And the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga...

Lorddrake (author)MrFixit19542016-06-22

I don't get that reference

MrFixit1954 (author)Lorddrake2016-06-22

It's a nonsense song from a Leave It To Beaver episode - sung by Gus the fireman when Beaver was hanging around the fire station...

I just felt it was as constructive as the russian comment I was replying to and couldn't make sense of because I can't read russian.

Lorddrake (author)MrFixit19542016-06-22

ok gotcha. according to google translate, zottosfv said "and now back to gather" .. I guess he is planning on collecting magnets :)

BeachsideHank (author)Lorddrake2016-06-29

Still though, I was unaware that monkeys in Zamboanga are tail- less; I learn something new every visit here.

RockeyD (author)2016-06-22

wait, are you saying your killing working drives for this? my laptop i use for running SONY DAS had a 600mb drive in use no problem. ait using dead drives enough? i don't know about you but i usealy loose a hard drive every 2 months. its is a problem because i loose them more than i gain them so over all i only have about 20 drives while 5 years ago i had more like 45. the only way i would kill a working drive is a large bad sector count.

Lorddrake (author)RockeyD2016-06-22

I get alot of spare computer parts from repairing equipment. Most of these drives have had one sort of critical failure or another so they are junk. Two of the 3.5" drives that came out of desktops were technically still functional, but they are IDE connections and I use SATA connections in the desktop I have now, so I had no use for them.

RockeyD (author)Lorddrake2016-06-27

what about older pc's and ps2's? there ide only. most my computers only take ide.

rino66 (author)Lorddrake2016-06-25

There are adaptors from IDE to usb and with a computer supply, u can use 'em as a external memory drive

Lorddrake (author)rino662016-06-25

you are correct .. as a matter of fact I have one of the IDE to USB adapters (it is the smaller one in the picture .. blue with a silver cable). I have a few external drives already .. these drives I am taking apart are either broken, or the space on them is too small to warrant making them into an external storage device

Sekretmastera made it! (author)2016-06-21

I made from parts of a HDD servo motor for RC boats

Amaey (author)Sekretmastera2016-06-22

Wow!! Superb!! Can you please tell me the voltage and amperage for your 'servo' motor and the 5000 RPM platter motor?

Sekretmastera made it! (author)Amaey2016-06-26

servo motor 0.15 Amps. Fan conventional motor from a toy, but it's a good idea to use the motor of the hard disk

Amaey (author)Sekretmastera2016-06-26

Okay,I see that's for servo motor and what about the main motor which spins the platter?

Thank you,

I appericiate your reply.

Lorddrake (author)Sekretmastera2016-06-22

very cool

Sekretmastera (author)Lorddrake2016-06-26

Thank you

Alex 2Q (author)2016-06-26

Cool Instructable,

I harvested a few magnets from broken hard drives in the past. I also kept the motors, screws & plates.

An interesting use for the plates is to use them as signal mirrors for survival kits.

Cheers Alex

Lorddrake (author)Alex 2Q2016-06-26

Thanks Alex,

I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on an IBLE for a signal mirror from the platters. look for it in the next few days.

Alex 2Q (author)Lorddrake2016-06-26

That'll be cool!

RockeyD (author)2016-06-22

wait, are you saying your killing working drives for this? my laptop i use for running SONY DAS had a 600mb drive in use no problem. ait using dead drives enough? i don't know about you but i usealy loose a hard drive every 2 months. its is a problem because i loose them more than i gain them so over all i only have about 20 drives while 5 years ago i had more like 45. the only way i would kill a working drive is a large bad sector count.

RockeyD (author)2016-06-22

wait, are you saying your killing working drives for this? my laptop i use for running SONY DAS had a 600mb drive in use no problem. ait using dead drives enough? i don't know about you but i usealy loose a hard drive every 2 months. its is a problem because i loose them more than i gain them so over all i only have about 20 drives while 5 years ago i had more like 45. the only way i would kill a working drive is a large bad sector count.

qewt (author)2016-06-22

Love it! And so many nice suggestions in the comments as well :D

Lorddrake (author)qewt2016-06-22

glad you liked it. One of the things I like most about the Instructables community, the positive feedback and ideas they always have to offer.

IncognitoA (author)2016-06-22

Thanks dawg, these parts will surely come in handy. ?

Lorddrake (author)IncognitoA2016-06-22

you're welcome :)

Amaey (author)2016-06-21

I loved those last few paragraphs.Nicely done! I will now salvage one of mine.

What you did with that 5000 RPM motor? If you used it can you tell me amperage and voltage for that motor?

Lorddrake (author)Amaey2016-06-22

I'm glad you liked it. If you think of other uses for the parts feel free to leave a comment

Lorddrake (author)Amaey2016-06-21

I did not get the motor. Next HDD I gut I will attempt to remove the motor. I will let you know if I get it out without mangling it.

Amaey (author)Lorddrake2016-06-22

I see.Thank you!

dlemke (author)2016-06-21

I have used these magnets to remove metal shavings in my hands or skin that were too small to grab with a tweezers. You can use the small ones from optical drives to locate metal shavings that get embedded into your skin from grinding, etc, as they will cling to your skin. It makes the metal easier to locate.

Lorddrake (author)dlemke2016-06-22

I had not thought of that ... probably because the last time I had to deal with a metal sliver was when I worked in a machine shop about 15 years ago

mblazer (author)2016-06-21

Also a great way to protect you data. Once the platters have be removed, the chance of recovering any data is almost nil.

Lorddrake (author)mblazer2016-06-22

It is almost as much fun as using a hammer/drill/high explosives to destroy the drive :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Jack-of-all trades, master of some. I would probably be much more modest if it wasn't for these delusions of granduer that I suffer from.
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