Introduction: Recycled Hard Drive Clock - FuneLab

Picture of Recycled Hard Drive Clock - FuneLab

Hello everyone!

This is my fifth project on Instructables & Thanks everyone liked this.

You have a broken hard drive? You would put it in the trash or sell it on Ebay for a few dollars? Oh no!

Get ready to turn your crashed hard drive into a unique clock. This project only requires a little skill, your ingenuity and a little knowledge of electronics.

This work is based on Ian Smith's version of the same. His work is excellent, and his website on this topic will help provide a complete picture for this instructable.

You can search with keywords "HDD Clock" or "POV clock" to see the unique clock from the hard drive.

In this project I have two versions of HDD Clock: a simple version and another version showing the number.

In the simple version, you can see three hands of the clock looks like mechanical watch. Yes! That is the hour hand and minute hand second hand. But you can not distinguish them by short hand or long hand. You must distinguish them by color. Red for the hour hand, the minute hand green and blue for the second hand.

So how a hard drive can be displayed like that?

The platter of a hard drive spins well over sixty times a second. If a narrow slot was cut into the platter to allow LEDs to shine through, we can achieve flicker fusion and trick the eye into seeing a stable image. This phenomenon is known as persistence of vision (POV). There are many examples of LEDs being used for POV, building an image by moving the LEDs or having the observer move relative to them. The LEDs used in this project do not move, and the image is built using the interference of the slotted, spinning platter.

Version clock can display the number seems more complex. You can easily see the time and it also displays the animation, I will present in another project.

Edit: I just launched my HDD Clock project on Indiegogo, it is the Kit and Complete version. I really want to have a successful Indiegogo, so check it out and tell your friends!

The Kit version for anyone who loves DIY (do it yourself). It requires some skill assembly hardware. HDD clock kit will come with all the components and assembly manuals to assemble a complete clock, you will not need soldering or drilling or gluing, simply assemble them together and tighten the screws.

You can check out the campaign here:

If you think you need one, please pledge and support my project.

Step 1: Intro

Picture of Intro

The system works by timing the slot in the platter. The microcontroller uses an internal timer to clock each revolution. It achieves this using an Hall sensor, which triggers a hardware interrupt on every full revolution of the platter. The microcontroller uses the revolution time and phase to schedule a second internal timer. This second timer uses an interrupt to schedule the timing of the LEDs, firing tens of thousands times a second to build a stable, visible image.

For under $ 60 you can build yourself a HDD clock. It is compact and does not cause strong noise when in operation.

Step 2: Materials List

Picture of Materials List

Here is what you need to make your HDD clock:


  • a corrupted laptop hard drive 2.5 "
  • 30-40W soldering iron with small tip
  • Solder
  • Pliers
  • 3mm Screws Hexagon and Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Super glue
  • Hot glue and it's gun


  • 0.5m of 5050 RGB LED strip (Better you should buy one meter).
  • AH175 Hall sensor
  • ATmega8A SMD
  • DS1307 SMD
  • TDA1540AT SMD
  • 3V Battery holder
  • 12VDC 1A power adapter
  • DC jack 3 pin
  • LM2596 SMD
  • 5-way tactile switch
  • 2-pin button SMD
  • Coil, capacitors, resistors, LEDs, transistors, headers, wires, crystal
  • ...(in schematic file)

Acrylic for case and platter.

Step 3: Remove a Hard Drive

Picture of  Remove a Hard Drive

Select a hard drive, and open the top case. Opening a hard drive requires a set of Torx screwdrivers. If you don't have any, you can pick up a set at any well stocked hardware store.

I use a hexagonal screwdriver to open the lid of the hard drive, this is fairly easily.

Next, disassemble all the components of the drive. Once you remove the top case, remove the entire read/write assembly.

Remove the platter retaining collar, and remove the platter stack. Make sure you save the collar, its screws, any spacers and any platters. Note: keep the reader's hard drive is not broken.

In the hard drive magnets have strong magnetic fields, you should leave it away from electronic equipment to avoid potential interference.

Let all the components (except the hard drive bracket) in a sealed box dust because you will reassemble them later.

Step 4: Drilling

Picture of Drilling

Using 3mm and 5mm drill bit to drill holes in the same location as in Fig. You will pull the LED and the sensor wire through this holes.

Step 5: Wiring the BLDC Motor

Picture of  Wiring the BLDC Motor

The motor is mounted hard drive BLDC motor (Brushless DC Motors). This motor has 4 pins include: COM, MOT1, MOT2, MOT3.

I used 4 small wires to solder into 4 pins of the motor. They will be connected to the motor driver IC.

The weld is very small and easy to break, so I fixed it with hot glue.

Step 6: Hall Sensor

Picture of Hall Sensor

Hall sensors are important components, you have to put it near the edge of the platter where the magnet attached to generate a signal to the microcontroller.

Hall sensors AH175 has 3 pins: one for GND, one for VCC and one for Signal pins.

Using a pull-up resistor 10k Ohm to ensure that inputs to microcontroller settle at expected logic levels.

Solder sensors on a small circuit board with a hole drilled to screw fixed position.

Step 7: RGB LED Strip Testing

Picture of  RGB LED Strip Testing

In order to achieve the best effect, you will want to fully encircle the underneath of the platter with the LED strip.

I use 5050 RGB LED strip, you will easily buy it on Ebay for cheap. There are 60 RGB LEDs per meter.

If you are using a standard 2.5" drive, then your platter chamber should accommodate 12 LEDs.

The LED strip can be separated into groups of three. Cut out one section of three groups. Do not separate the tape into three groups. You want one piece of tape with 16 LEDs. This should leave a reasonable gap for the platter sensor, where the read/write assembly used to sit. Make sure you cut the tape on the line between copper tabs, or else you may severe internal traces rendering the affected section useless.

If you don't have wires pre-attached to the section you wish to use, you will need to solder on wires. Identify the red, green, blue and 12V lines, and solder four wires to the copper tabs. It's best if you tin the copper pads before soldering the wires. After you attach your wires, be mindful of the stress you apply to the solder joints, they can easily break. Test your work using a 12V supply.

Step 8: LED Ring Attached to the Hard Drive

Picture of LED Ring Attached to the Hard Drive

Before installing the LED strip on the drive, you have to put wire through the holes first. Then solder the wires to the LED. Be careful to not breaking the copper contact points.

When affixing the LEDs, you shouldn't trust the sticker backing provided by the manufacturer. It just isn't strong enough. Get some super glue, and slowly glue the strip to the chamber wall, pressing firmly as you proceed. It's imperative the LEDs are affixed as straight and flush as possible, so work slowly and carefully.

Step 9: Make Your Clock White Background

Picture of Make Your Clock White Background

Most hard drives are finished with a black matte. It is not a conducive background for our LEDs, so we need to make a more reflective backdrop.

Grab a piece of thick, white paper (Photo Paper for Inkjet Printers) and trace the outline of a platter (both the inside and outside). Cut out your paper platter, and widen the central hole a few millimeters. Slip this over the spindle, and push it down to the floor of the platter chamber. You might need to trim the paper a little so it doesn't rip. This will serve as a white, reflective backing, making the color in your LEDs shine more vibrantly.

Once the backdrop is positioned, make sure the spindle can still spin freely. If it can't, trim the center hole of your backdrop.

Step 10: Attaching Hall Sensors to Your Hard Drive

Picture of Attaching Hall Sensors to Your Hard Drive

Once you have your sensor ready and wired, test its position before you attach it to the hard drive chassis. An oscilloscope is ideal for this, but a volt meter can work just as well. You want to make sure that the sensor position provides a high fidelity signal when its index (magnet) passes by.

Once you are happy with its placement, just fixed it by a hard plastic screw.

Step 11: Power and RTC and Buttons

Picture of  Power and RTC and Buttons


Because HDD clock needs a large current to supply the motor and microprocessor, should I use IC LM2596 5V 3A.

You can easily design a simple circuit with a current source power by LM2596 and a few other components.

LEDs require 12V voltage, you must use the 12V DC adapter for LEDs operate with maximum brightness. 5V supply output for microcontroller and motor activity.


I have used a 5-way switch. You can see pictures of it above, this type of switch is compact so it's flexible so I can design a circuit board easily. It has all 10 pins, including four pins Common, two pins Center to press down and four pins left for the remaining four directions (right, left, up and down).

On this switch, I press in the center to function Set /OK, press to the right to go to next setup, press the left to go to previous setup, press Up to increase the time/date/month, and finally press down to decrease the time/date/month.

Real Time Clock (RTC):

What is an RTC? A real time clock is basically just like a watch - it runs on a battery and keeps time for you even when there is a power outage! Using an RTC, you can keep track of long timelines, even if you reprogram your microcontroller or disconnect it from a power plug.

The RTC I'll be using is the DS1307. It's low cost, easy to solder, and can run for years on a very small coin cell. As long as it has a coin cell to run it, the DS1307 will merrily tick along for a long time, even when the the clock loses power, or is reprogrammed. You MUST have a coin cell installed for the RTC to work, if there is no coin cell, you should pull the battery pin low.

Step 12: HDD's BLDC Motor Controller

Picture of HDD's BLDC Motor Controller

TDA5140AT is dedicated IC to control the BLDC motor. You have to design the circuit with the correct parameters to the manufacturer's datasheet, it's a little of my experience of the BLDC motor. You can buy this IC on Ebay for under $ 7.

I have used this IC some time and realized that it was noisy when you put the device aired too close. When you call, motor may stop spinning and sounding "ek ek ek ...", controller chip is also heating up quickly after that. The solution is to add the filter capacitor close to the IC power pins.

Step 13: Schematic

Picture of Schematic

I finished the schematic and saved as .pdf files

You can download this pdf file, or use Eagle software to view.

Step 14: Eagle Board

Picture of  Eagle Board

I've designed two-layer printed circuit to fit it when attached to the back of the hard drive.

You can see by Eagle Software version 6.4 or higher.

Step 15: Order PCB Board Online & Wait

Picture of  Order PCB Board Online & Wait

After the design is finished printed circuit, I send the file to a printed circuit machining company in China. Wait about 3 weeks to get the circuit back, looks really great quality. about $ 45 for this.

If this is your first online ordering of printed circuit, it seems complicated when choosing the parameters of the PCB and you will not worry if the waiting time is too long. However, just trust that your order will arrive on time. Be careful when you set up the parameters of the PCB, if there is any mistake, you should email the PCB company to fix when they could.

Step 16: Soldering Components Onto the PCB

Picture of Soldering Components Onto the PCB

Most of the components on the PCB are SMD type, so you'll need a good soldering skills to do this.

Remember to use flux when welding to weld looks perfect, clean the excess flux with water to wash the PCB.

You should solder LM2596 power block first, then check the output of 5V to avoid short-circuit.

Step 17: Laser Cut & Carving

Picture of Laser Cut & Carving

I have also designed a case for HDD clock by acrylic. The design is simple with Corel Draw, but I have to carefully calculate the size to fit panels circuit board placed in the case.

I used 2mm and 5mm thick acrylic sheet to make the case for HDD clock. This is necessary to prevent noise from the drive motor, the case also protects you in case your hand touching the rotating disk.

Here are a few pictures of my acrylic sheets after laser cutting at a store.

The cut is completely accurate and smooth, looks very nice.

If you have a laser cutter, this is done with relative ease. If not, please send your file design to a rental shop for laser cutting machine, you will get the case soon after. Note carefully measured the dimensions of case design to fit in your hard drive

Step 18: Mounted Acrylic Disc to Hard Drive

Picture of Mounted Acrylic Disc to Hard Drive

I have black paint the platter, this increases the contrast of the display area, so you can clearly see the LED strip inside. Carefully assembled it on the spindle of the motor drive. You should try to place the platter was calibrated before tightening the screws. If the disk location is skewed too far to the spindle, when motor is rotating will cause a very unpleasant sound.

Step 19: Reassemble the Parts in the Hard Disk

Picture of Reassemble the Parts in the Hard Disk

Now take the components of the hard drive that you removed from step 3, assemble it back together. You can leave the magnet to look better.

These components are easily oxidized, so make sure you dry your hands before touching it, sweat in your hands can make them worse.

Make sure you tighten the screws so they do not fall out when the motor is turning.

Step 20: Fixed PCB

Picture of  Fixed PCB

I use a plastic hexagonal screws for fixing the hole printed circuit boards snails available on the hard drive.

Step 21: Wiring

Picture of  Wiring

Next, I wired into the motherboard include:

  • Motor cable
  • Sensor cable
  • LED strip

You should note the wires connecting the right position so as not to cause a short circuit.

Step 22: Mounted LED Background

Picture of Mounted LED Background

To clock looks classy and eye-catching evening, I added the LED backlight behind the hard drive.

The lights will illuminate the bottom floor where you place the clock.

I take advantage of groups of three LEDs from the unused portions of the LED strip and solder the wire to it, then fixed to the LEDs on the back of the hard drive.

Step 23: Upload Firmware to Board

Picture of Upload Firmware to Board

The source code is provided below. Download the code, and compile it in your local WinAVR environment. The code for the firmware is heavily commented, which should make it easy to hack.

Step 24: Assembly HDD Case

Picture of Assembly HDD Case

Step 25: Special Edition

Picture of Special Edition

The special edition of HDD clock with digital display, it can display the day, month, year and temperature. Alternatively, you can write the words on it.

Step 26: Enjoy!

Picture of  Enjoy!


PavelT1 (author)2014-11-11

Only if I had the parts :(

funelab (author)PavelT12014-11-15

If you think you need one, please pledge and support my campaign here:

DominikH18 (author)2017-07-05

Love the clock! Can I still get one on the indiegogo campaign? Seems like some people still didn't get theirs..

funelab (author)DominikH182017-07-05

Hi, the campaign closed, I'm still working to finish lot of clocks for contributors. Thanks for intested in my project. Best!

fosheimdet (author)2017-03-01

Did you use 2 or 5mm acrylic sheets for the platter?

kimvellore (author)2016-11-10

This created started an Indiegogo scampgain and disappeared.

funelab (author)kimvellore2016-11-23

I know it's very long time to wait, but hope you enjoy with HDDClock. I just shipping out your clock, hope you get it soon. My campaign on Indiegogo is need alot time to finish all of the clocks and shipping, it never scam. Thanks!

muaboka (author)2016-02-09

So Im thinking of buying it from ur indiegogo.... but I have seen some comments from backers saying it never arrived what guarantee is there for me?

Rolf98 (author)muaboka2016-09-04

indigogo never is 100% secure

edge5566 (author)2016-06-08

I have been trying to get an answer from you for the best part of a year now on when I will get what I pledged for on Indigo.

On 31st March you wrote ' I will contact you on the next week for confirm shipping address'

Guess email, contact, or product.

I think you have stolen my money and have no intention of ever sending me anything. Please provide a definite delivery date or refund the $100+ I have paid you as I am not prepared to wait any longer.
jleslie48 (author)2016-03-13

I absolutely love this. but I'm wondering, how can it be scaled up the the bigger HDD?

I'd like to do this with the 5.25" drives.

Jonathanrjpereira (author)2016-01-20

One of the coolest looking clocks I have come across.

LimA7 (author)2015-11-08

hi,i just pledge and support your campaign,how i get it ?how you send send to me?

DallasR (author)2015-11-03

Late to ask, but what magnet are you using and where is it mounted? I want to build one of these for my new office. :)

cuongcoco (author)2015-10-23

Hi guy, i love it and i want to buy this kit. Have you it

StevenB60 (author)2015-10-05

Can you give more pictures of the rotating disk (front and back) from the special edition. I would like to make this project for school and those pictures would help a lot.

StuartD1 (author)2015-07-13

Would you be willing to sell the circit boards fully assembled?

jschibel (author)2015-03-22

will this still work if the hard drive size is not 2.5 inches?

alex.grgorov (author)2015-03-06

Do you think I can get all the parts but the hard drive,

SerialQ (author)2014-12-15

very nicely done, i´m really impressed! thanks for sharing

funelab (author)SerialQ2014-12-23


Dashing Rainbow Dash (author)2014-11-16

Awesome! I need to do this, just got to find a junk drive to use

Just need to find a broken laptop is built with the hard drive, do not try with SSD. :))

I have an old 80 GB hard drive from an old tower so that area is taken care of

DangerousTim (author)2014-11-18

Awesome dude!!! ;-)

funelab (author)DangerousTim2014-11-19


aleksandar1000 (author)2014-11-17

What is the total prize for all of the components used in this awesome project?

funelab (author)aleksandar10002014-11-19

All components and PCB panels, hard disk drives and acrylic case cost about $60-$70.

sghosh21 (author)2014-11-17

Awesome st video i have ever seen............

funelab (author)sghosh212014-11-19


Mad Fox (author)2014-11-16

why don't you write more about the special version? I really love that, and I'd be more than happy to know how to build one like that, too.

funelab (author)Mad Fox2014-11-19

I will make an Instructable for HDD Clock special edition as soon as possible. There should be lots of pictures and videos so you can understand the principles of its operation and build one. Thanks!

eplato (author)2014-11-11


funelab (author)eplato2014-11-15

Don't understand your language, but thanks.

chiao (author)funelab2014-11-16

He says it's cool and he really wants to make one since he has tons of broken hard drives lying around.

funelab (author)chiao2014-11-16

Thank Chiao!

matas1 (author)2014-11-11

Excelent work!

What changes would be required if you only had 3,5" hard drives?

funelab (author)matas12014-11-15

Hard Drive 3.5 "require a motor controller chip with a larger capacity and a suitable case. In addition, you will have to redesign the circuit board to fit your hard drive. Thanks!

matas1 (author)funelab2014-11-16

Thanks for the reply!

Raphango (author)2014-11-12

Awesome project! Congratulations!!!!

funelab (author)Raphango2014-11-15

Thank u!

4yk4a (author)2014-11-11

Yeah, I realized Special Edition compiled quite differently. Implemented mechanical image scanning. This 8 discs with different depth of cut holes and 8 LED strips installed at different depths + necessarily need balancing. Hence cut holes on opposite sides of the disc and implemented dual scan. To reduce the thickness you have used SMD LEDs. Author I correctly guessed? :) Existing work deserves respect. This project is much more complicated and requires a different software and a different scheme. Immediately you misled me. I apologize for my poor translation .

funelab (author)4yk4a2014-11-15

You look great. Because version clock can display the number seems more complex, I will present in another project. Thanks!

RichardBronosky (author)2014-11-11

The project looks amazing! Great Job.

I do, however, have a few problems with the instructable. First of all, I didn't realize that the Special Edition was made completely differently so the whole time I'm reading the instructable, I'm thinking, "how in the heck does this design produce those results?"

There's a whole bunch of stuff missing between "Step 16: Soldering components onto the PCB" and "Step 18: Mounted Acrylic Disc to Hard Drive". You neither show nor say anything about that round PCB we see get a glimpse of in "Step 15: Order PCB board online & Wait". At which point I decide to check out FuneLab. Maybe they sell fabbed kits.

At this point I realize that the website link in your profile goes to a non-existent FB page: That's a real shame. You've had a few projects featured. You're really wasting a great opportunity that a lot of companies pay for. (I really hope you aren't paying to be featured!)

Then after clicking the "Show All 11 Items" button in "Step 25: Special Edition" I see the exceptionally complicated design that produces the results I was looking for.

Don't get me wrong. I love the project. There is a LOT going on here and you worked very hard to explain it all. I'll probably never have the patience to create an instructable with 26 steps. I just wanted to point out a few things I noticed.

You at least need to fix your URL.

funelab (author)RichardBronosky2014-11-15

I appreciate your comments. Because my Instructable too long so it may happen a few mistakes. Thank you very much! I just fix URL.

jumpfroggy (author)2014-11-11

The video shows so much about the pixel-based clock, but the instructable only has info on the segment-based one. Where is the info about the pixel-based clock? I see a few pics, but not enough to understand how the segmented display disk works. Thanks.

funelab (author)jumpfroggy2014-11-15

Version clock can display the number seems more complex. You can easily see the time and it also displays the animation, I will present in another project. Thanks!

jdisco (author)2014-11-11

Would it be better to use the old platter as the backgroud instead of the white? Or does the perfect mirror surface of it cause too much "noise" from the other LEDs?

jdisco (author)jdisco2014-11-11

Im also thinking some type of rubber gasket in the case could further reduce audible noise. Maybe even just a rubber band

funelab (author)jdisco2014-11-15

The use of the old drive can be the light that is reflected and you will not be able to see them clearly.

The rubber gasket is needed only in the case when the platter is skewed and generate vibrations. I was balancing the platter many times and motor control with low speed, so the noise is not audible even at night.

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