Introduction: Recycled HDD Rotary Sander for $5

Picture of Recycled HDD Rotary Sander for $5
The new instructable is here. Its ia newer, improved and hugely better version and adresses the disadvantages of this design

 If you are a computer guy, you must have lots of Hard Disk drives piling up. If you want to use these for a good reason, the HDD Sander is just for you.
Because of the high RPM platter motor , the HDD platters have enormous speeds, generally from 5000  RPM up to 15,000 RPM. To make use of this power, The HDD Sander attaches directly to the platter, in a portable and interchangeable design.

A quick video of the HDD Sander in action is below.It was taken in the dark and looks excellent, due to the sparks coming from the sander.

WARNING: The HDD sander is not a plaything. The platters are spinning at a very high speed, making it easy for the sander to rub your finger raw. I am not responsible for any damage you do to yourself or to anyone else near you.

UPDATE 1: Some users have pointed out to me that their HDDs are just not simply spining up. To make them, sometimes you need to adjust the jumper blocks on the back of the HDD.See Step 4, Picture 1 for help.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

 Most of the materials for this project have been recycled to keep the cost down. 

1.An dead HDD - From a old Presario ($0)
2.Sand paper(any grit) - $5
3.A bench-top Power Supply/12v power source - ATX conversion ($0)
(Search for "ATX bench-top Conversion" on instructables)
4.Molex Power Connectors - $0 (recycled from old PSU)

Thats it, thats all you need for the HDD Sander. I expect you to have a few basic tools like a pair of scissors and a wire stripper and a screw driver with a Torx T9 driver head.

You'll also need an compass to make the sand paper template.

Step 2: Dissasembling the Hard Drive

Picture of Dissasembling the Hard Drive

Thats the boring part done, now lets start voiding some warranties.The model we will be dissasembling is an old Seagate.

Firstly, make sure the HDD can spin up by connecting it to an computer and listening to the spin-up.If it spins up, continue, if not, check the power connectors.

Start by peeling off all the stickers on the body of the HDD. Particularly the ones with "WARRANTY VOID IF SEAL IS BROKEN"

This will make all the Torx screws visible.
Unscrew all of them, on the side with the steel shield which protects the HDD. Don't unscrew other side, the one with the PCB. We will require the PCB side for the HDD motor controller.

Even after you unscrew all of the screws, it will seem as if the shield is still attached to the body.Inserting a flat blade screwdriver head into a gap and pry it open, very gently.

After doing this, put the shield away and behold the guts of an HDD.

You will see 3 things. The HDD platter, the actuator head and the powerful rare-earth magnet.Unscrew the magnet from the body and keep it for future projects.Also, slide out the actuator head and also store it.

Now that we've finished disassembling the HDD, you can now only see the dominant HDD platter. That is he most important aspect of the HDD Sander.

Step 3: Cutting and Fitting the Sand Paper

Picture of Cutting and Fitting the Sand Paper

 The sand paper needs to be cut down to the size of the platter so that it can easily fit into its place and can be removed if necessary.

The technique used to cut the template from the sand paper is simple. Firstly, use you compass to find the disance from the centre to the edge of the platter.
Then, use the compass to draw the circle on the sand paper.

Do the same for the inner circle, and find the distance between the center of the steel disk and its outer edge. If you are confused, see the pictures for help.

Then, with a pair of scissors, cut out you template and check if it fits on the platter. Trim the edges as necessary and don't keep too much slack on the center edge.

After trimming, gently ease the sand paper onto the spindle(see video)

Step 4: Finishing It All Up

Picture of Finishing It All Up

To test whether your HDD sander works or not, you will have to cut the Molex connector,strip it and connect it to your PSU/power source. connect the Molex as shown below.

 +5v         gnd           gnd         +12v

Plug the Molex Connector into your HDD, turn on your power supply and watch it spin up.

If you are using an alternative power source, remember that you will need to give exactly 5v and 12v to the Molex.Otherwise, the HDD's controller will not start due to power deficiency.

You will also need to supply about a total of 2 watts to the 5v and 12v lines.The wattage depends on the RPM of the HDD motor.Generally, this rating is printed on the large sticker covering the metal RF shield.

That is why this project is much easier with a benchtop variable voltage PSU.
The PSU can provide the HDD the current it needs by monitoring the current draw of the HDD.

Picture 1 courtesy of  ''

Step 5: Tests: Grinding

Picture of Tests: Grinding


The sander performs very well and smoothens down the wood quickly.See video for the demonstration.


The sander effortlessly grinds through the steel, although better performance would be reached with specific, black steel grinding sandpaper found here:

Step 6: Tests: Sharpening Knives

Picture of Tests: Sharpening Knives

With the high RPM HDD Platter, you can sharpen knives easily.

The folllowing videos show 3 stages: before grinding, being ground, and after grinding. The end result is quite pleasing.




P.S - The 2nd video shows and good technique of sharpening the knife if you have never sharpened one before.

Hope you enjoyed. Post lots of pics if you decide to build one and don't forget to clean the sander's insides with a fine camel-hair brush, once in a while after using it.

If you like it, subscribe to me for some interesting builds. Rate me too :)



Schotte (author)2016-06-25

I m trying to build one myself, but my HDD spins up for 10 seconds, stops and starts again for 10 seconds. Do I need a jumper somewhere so it continues spinning? I also tried a different power supply, same result.

I got an ide hdd if that matters somehow.

Go JunN (author)2016-05-20

Is there a way to bypass R/W heads to make the HDD Motor to spin without it because I think that the Built-In Circuit Board (Motor Controller w/ Data Interpreter) requires the response of the head, Thank you in advance, Nice Idea thou :D

Treknology (author)2010-04-04

This is a nice little idea that would be fantastic for squaring off the ends of acrylic tubing--but what tests do you perform on the drive before ripping the heads out to make sure that it will keep spinning rather than shut down and register an internal fault?

mhkabir (author)Treknology2010-04-04

 I just ran it continuously for half an hour or so and tried different jumper combinations.

dadu2007 (author)mhkabir2016-04-02

Se para a los 10 segundos,cual sera el problema

chibby0ne (author)mhkabir2010-06-26

Nice experiment. Im trying it myself. I'm using a IDE HD but it won't stay on for more than 10min, I don't know the model nor brand that I'm using, It has 10 jumpers pins and I've tried Slave, Master and Single, only one left is PM2 and some pair that doesn't say anything below. What do you think the problem might be?

mhkabir (author)chibby0ne2010-06-27

Could you please post a picture of your HDD jumper combos. Maybe your PSU has some problem. Some PSUs old PSU pulse the power for a few minutes and then automatically go into standby without a heavy loaad on them. Or the PSU/ HDD Brushless controller maybe damaged. Try the other jumper blocks/get another HDD/ change your PSU. Hope this helps!! Kabir

dream- (author)2010-06-26

Hmmm the HD I tried won't spin, but the motor makes a noise and it vibrates when plugged in. Am I missing something?

mhkabir (author)dream-2010-06-27

Generally this means that the controller/PSU is damaged. I faced this problem with several of the older HDD models I used. What model PSU are you using, ATX? MicroATX and BabyATX have some problems with the HDD sander. Or is it a commercial BT PSU? Try changing jumper blocks and see if that solves the problem. Try using another working HDD with the PSU. If it spins up, then the old HDD is damaged.(Coils burnt out by over voltage, bad controller etc.) Maybe the PSU is damaged and is spiking the power. One of my HDD burnt up after using it with a damadged PSU. So, I used another old Seagate controller from anothjer HDD to solve the problem. Hope this solves the problems. Kabir -- Geek Level 5

dream- (author)mhkabir2010-06-27

Thank you Kabir. The PSU is fine, works with other devices without problem. I suspect a microcontroller problem, since the motor vibration seems pretty strong (which would indicate healthy coils). One thought I had is if the HD made a check of the IO heads controller in order to spin, but then there would not be any motor vibration at all. I will have to try another HD.

mhkabir (author)dream-2010-06-27

I am always here if you need any more help. Hope yopu've rated the instructable!!


dadu2007 (author)mhkabir2016-04-02

Tengo problemas..Se para luego de 10 segundos?

DarkBlue made it! (author)2015-11-23

Nice idea, thanks.

jackowens (author)2014-11-08

Awesome idea, I am going to try this!

Alex1M6 (author)2012-03-22

Any idea on how to get a laptop IDE drive to spin up? I applied 5v to +5v motor and +5v logic then 0v to ground but still does not spin up.

ariva1 (author)Alex1M62014-02-04

I tried it too, but the engine does not start, only moves the head

felippec (author)2013-12-28

Great idea

nulldbully (author)2013-08-08

My HDD's jumper pin socket has only 4 columns of pins. Your picture here has 6 columns. where shall I connect my jumper socket? I'm using a Seagate ST340823A and Seagate ST36422A HDD's. I also want to subscribe to you, how is it done? Thanks.

Sir__Walter (author)2012-09-21

I have made one that works quite nicely.
Although when ever I apply too much force, the motor automatically shuts off.
How can I fix this?

Thunder Mlee (author)2012-08-03

This is awesome imma build this as soon as i get the time!!!!

offtherails2010 (author)2012-06-23

Well done for this EXCELLENT & AWESOME 'ible mhkabir !!!

i just didnt know what to do with my collected 12 dead hdd's (Not working as a HDD as-in dead, lol) !!!

So now i'll have 4/5 sanding hdd's with different grade sandpapers, a metal grinding hdd and a polishing/buffing hdd !!!

A true work of inspirational GENIUS !!!

Once again many thanks mhkabir for the 'ible and taking the time to properly document this with really great photos and videos !!!

!!! ***** KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK ***** !!!

poolshark162006 (author)2010-03-23

 i really want to do this, but all i have are those ocz 60gb ssd's i opened one, and was no motor or anything inside of it... maybe ill try the 30gb one

NateHoy (author)poolshark1620062010-04-07

SSD drives work a little different with this project.  What you want to do is cut open each memory chip and replace the each of the electrons with a grain of fine sand.  Then when you want to sand, write all "1" then all "0" repeatedly to the drive, and the sand will move around at great speeds and sand the wood.

The advantage of this approach is that, with proper addressing of the sand grains, you can actually sand patterns into the piece.  You should be able to write a program that can even "monogram" the wood with a little effort (warning, writing the program in lisp will mean every "S" will be replaced with "TH", just so you know).

offtherails2010 (author)NateHoy2012-06-23


LOL X 2 !!!

(ask a silly question & an equally silly answer un-earths itself !!!)

Awesome answer, made me laugh-tears when i read it !!! nice1 NateHoy !!!

egbertfitzwilly (author)NateHoy2011-07-25

Very nicely done....

grank (author)NateHoy2011-03-18

You, sir, win the internets. (author)poolshark1620062010-10-14

and SSD is a big flashdrive, solid-state means its solid with no moving parts

An SSD won't work, because an SSD is essentially a large flash drive. they have no moving parts and are pretty much useless for anything but actually being a hard drive. 

wow, who in the right mind would think an ssd has a motor, i was just kidding about it. an 60gb ssd is like 140 dollars

jules15 (author)ithinkibrokeit2010-06-21

I know right? Hard drives contain all sorts of goodies: powerful magnets, motor.. did i mention really strong magnets?

You really can't take a joke can you brokeit?

I wasn't trying to spoil natehoy's joke, just give poolshark a legitimate answer

drewgrey (author)2011-02-05

Something that concerns me when I take apart electronicsare the exotic metals and chemicals used. I don't know if hand washing is enough protection . Any one know what those platters are coated with?

charlyv (author)drewgrey2012-02-04

They are coated with a platinum and palladium coating, which is atoms thick. It would take hundreds of them to get enough of these precious metals to put a good plating on a ring.

egbertfitzwilly (author)2011-07-25

Very clever, I'll have to try this.

Redgerr (author)2011-07-14

ill be honest.. i've taken apart many hard drives in my day but i never once thought of plugging in a power cord to see if it ran after the inside was open... genius.. ill have to try this when i get home today


Factus (author)2011-05-15

When I plugged my HDD into the molex everything spun up fine. I then removed the acutator and plugged it back in - it did not work.

I plugged the acutator back in and it works fine.
The acutator then got damaged at the end and it no longer works either way.

Any suggestions? I tried messing around with the jumper leads but I had no idea what to connect to what.

mhkabir (author)Factus2011-05-15

You could try to short the pins on the actuator leads to check if it works, but if it gives off smoke or anything, your HDD might be busted.

igna94igna (author)2010-12-05

Good work.
I'm going to build one now.
Thanks. (author)2010-10-14

All the HDDs I ever open up never run constant, they power up, power down, up, ext. could I adjust the jumper thing to fix this

LetsExplodeSomething (author)2010-08-17

have you tried putting a metal grinding disk in there in place of the platters?

egbertfitzwilly (author)2010-07-13

Pretty good. You've got a nice little collection of instructables in place. Excellent work.

k192p (author)2010-07-10

Safety comment: Older disk drives use Aluminum disks. Newer ones (especially 2.5 inch drives) use glass disks. It is not safe to spin a glass disk in the open, since if it breaks the shards become projectiles. If the clamp is steel, it is probable a glass disk. Or you can check by using a file at the will chip, aluminum will make filings.

v3l0 (author)2010-03-30

I wonder how did you "jump" more current into th motor because i have a HDD grinder and the controller kept warming pretty bad when I was working with it and I superglued a aluminium piece to the chip.
I got a little more power/torque by removing the extra platters.
Also, if instead of pushing the sand paper into the small disc securing the platter you decide unscrew the screws, remove the small disc, use it as a template for holes in the sandpaper, and mount the sand paper by securing it with the screw that secure the smal disc and platter in place... than the whole assembly will not vibrate and will not be off center (be careful to cut the sandpaper as raound as possible) and this is good for speed, torque, power.

mhkabir (author)v3l02010-03-31

 I gave more CURRENT to the HDD by attaching all the 12v power wires together in series to get the currrent.

Post pics of the sander if possible.

EmmettO (author)mhkabir2010-04-01

 The thought occurs to me, if a strong enough flywheel was attached to the motor shaft, it would offset the torque problem.

Shiftlock (author)EmmettO2010-04-01

Perhaps a little, but that poses two problems.

1.  Because HDDs use high-speed/low-torque motors, it may not have enough torque to move the flywheel.

2.  It would dramatically increase the complexity of the project, to the point where that much effort would be silly instead of sourcing a motor designed for this type of high-torque/high-speed application.

EmmettO (author)Shiftlock2010-04-02

 I'm not talking about attaching a millstone to the HDD motor. Even a few ounces would buffer the power drain of the friction.

If a suitable object were found, not fabricated, it would still remain a simple project.

Yes you can buy a motor that is better suited for this project but the idea here is that you are.

1. Using something that would have been thrown away and therefore extending it's lifecycle. A large number of instructibles are about recycling.

2. Providing yourself with a tool that some people cannot afford.

Arx (author)EmmettO2010-04-09

Flywheels only help for transient load variations.  The torque going to the motor is still the same.

If you want to easily add some load, just take a bunch of hard drive platters and put them in one drive, after removing the spacers that are usually between the platters.

The problem you'll likely have is that a lot of hard drives controllers are built assuming a specific load for acceleration.

once they're up to speed, they may check phase currents to know when to switch, but usually during spinup they just ramp up the switching at a rate they know the motor can achieve.  When you throw some extra weight on it, you might lose steps, and have the motor go out of sync.

Sometimes they'll just get confused and burn up, etc.

It really just depends on the drive.

I agree, as to the purpose.  I think that this could also be useful for doing extremely fine grit sanding where you'll have very light motor loads, and sanding discs for a commercial sander might not be easy to find.

Sharpening exacto knives, etc..

EmmettO (author)Arx2010-04-09

 I understand, it would only help for a moment as the inertia of the flywheel is used up. In this case it would be a split second.

I'm bypassing the controller entirely and putting power to the motor itself. For this a controller isn't needed.

About This Instructable




Bio: M.H.Kabir is a green geek who likes recycling and loves instructables and DIY among other things such as microcontrollers, embedded systems and photography ... More »
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