Introduction: Recycled Hard Drive Desk Clock

Picture of Recycled Hard Drive Desk Clock

This is an idea that I came up with while taking apart old hard drives for fun. It turned into a regular thing and now I've got the process down to a science. Here's how I do it. I also sell them at

For this Instructable, I'll be using an old WD Caviar hard drive. Drive designs differ, and some are better for this project than others.

You will need:
Torx-6 and Torx-8 screwdrivers
X-acto knife
Phillips head screwdriver
Drill and bits
Machinist's vise
3/4" clock movement
Soft cloth

Step 1:

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Next, undo the screws around the edges that hold the cover down, but don't go tugging yet. There is at least one more screw hiding under the stickers. One in the center, and one off to the side. Refer to the pictures to get an idea of where it'll be. Feel around and then cut through the stickers to get to the screws.

Once you've gotten all the screws, you can cut through the tape around the edge and open it up.

Step 2: Disassembly

Picture of Disassembly

Now it's time to free up the actuator. To do this, remove the two screws securing the top magnet, and remove it with a pair of needlenose pliers. Don't try it with your fingers. It won't work. Place the magnet far away from anything electronic.

Then, remove the single screw keeping the actuator retainer in place. Work the retainer up and out. The arm should swing freely now.

Step 3:

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Now, undo the screws holding the platters down. You may have to hold the edges of the platters to keep them from spinning. Once the screws are off, turn the drive upside down on a soft cloth and the retainer, platters, and spacers will fall out neatly. Leave them alone, in that order.

Next, unscrew the motor assembly and pop it out.

Step 4: Pre-modification

Picture of Pre-modification

Now it's time to make sure everything is in order to make your modifications. Line the drive body up on top of the cover, and mark where the mounting holes are. 

It's also a good time to spray paint your hands, if you don't want them the stock color. I went with black.

Step 5: Modification

Picture of Modification

Time to break out the hammer.

Place your motor assembly upside-down in a vice (preferably padded) with the spinning part hanging freely. Place an old screwdriver or something of the sort in the center and tap it with the hammer. Eventually, the whole spin assembly will fall out. Sometimes this step takes two taps, sometimes it takes ten minutes. Be patient.

Once you've picked up your motor, place it back on the vice, this time right side up. Repeat the previous step, and the spindle will pop out, along with some bearings. Make sure to get all the bearings out. If the top piece (edged by some blue adhesive) stays in, don't worry about it.

Step 6: Modification

Picture of Modification

Now, take a 5/16" drill bit and ream the motor base. 

Reattach the motor base to the body, and use the hole as a guide to drill straight through the circuit board on the back.

Switch bits for a moment and use as 13/64" bit to drill two holes on your marks in the cover.

Step 7: Reassembly

Picture of Reassembly

Now the clock begins to come together. Screw the motor base back into the body of the hard drive, if you haven't already. 

Reassemble the platters and spacers on the mount, and screw them back in. 

Place your reassembled platter assembly back where it belongs, and move the actuator heads back into place.

Affix a 3/4" clock movement (I use Walnut Hollow) through the hole in the drive, and tighten the nut. 

Step 8: Reassemble & Finish

Picture of Reassemble & Finish

You're almost done. Flip the drive over, and use two hard drive mounting screws to secure the cover (now the base) to the bottom.

Make sure your movement is set to 12:00 and attach the hands as directed.

Put in a battery, take some glamour shots, and you're done!


meldzus (author)2016-05-12

Love it! I will definitely try to build one :)

Lucovitch (author)2016-02-10

Il me reste un ancien disque Bigfoot qui fera merveille transformé en pendule !

UglyBarnacle made it! (author)2016-01-11

Thanks alot! now I can get something useful out of that JBOD, haha (though some of the old hds have a ugly case)

Tatarigami made it! (author)2015-11-21

Thanks for the Idea!!

basic flair made it! (author)2015-08-25

Had an older 5.25" hard drive so it required a few modifications to the posted plan. I ended up using an L-bracket with holes drilled into the base and the motor mount for stabilization. Thanks for the idea and instructions!

jhowey1 made it! (author)2015-03-11

It took me two months and two hard drives but I made it.

fstop570 made it! (author)2014-02-13

I had a great time getting this together. What other DIY projects do you have? You can reach me at


Robert T. (author)2013-04-16

I cannot tell you, Aloew, how much I dig this clock! On the other hand, I can't see myself building one of these... I tell meself, argggarhghgjhh! where do I what! If you have one, would you sell it to me? I'm not wealthy but I would be happy to pay you for whatever you have invested, as well as your time. Thanks, 'Doc Robert'

supreme creator (author)2013-03-26

i think this idea is totally awesome so now im going to try to make one

korosh.baradaran (author)2013-03-10

Hey aloew! I just finished mine last night:
I couldn't get the motor to behave so I ended up just knocking everything out

aloew (author)korosh.baradaran2013-03-16

It looks fantastic. Really great job.

534n (author)2013-02-26

I made one with some nice gold hands, check it out

How much did you pay for the clock mechanism?

Getting the motor/bearing out was a real pain :)

aloew (author)534n2013-02-26

I pay $5.39 for each.
That looks like it was a WD Velociraptor. They can be rougher. Sometimes I have to start by drilling into the bottom of the motor.

Exocetid (author)2013-02-24

Sort of disappointing, although nice in an artsy-craftsy way. Basically all you did was take a disk drive and add a clock module to it. Here's my challenge (to you or anyone else): take the two moving parts, the disk and the head actuator arm and make them the clock. The disk could rotate once every hour to show the minutes while the arm shows the hour. Easy enough to drive the disk with the clock module, you might need a Stamp or Arduino to position the arm.

AJMansfield (author)Exocetid2013-02-26

Etch the disk with radial markings for the minutes and circles for the hours, and then have an LED that flashes as the disk is quickly spun around so you get a POV effect with the etching. You would need to attach a black dot or something to the back of the disk, with a photo transistor and a shielded LED, in order to make sure that the POV flasher stays synced with the spinning disk.

Exocetid (author)AJMansfield2013-02-26

Now you are talking!

Mihsin (author)2013-02-21

I love clocks projects. This looks neat enough to give it a try.
Thanks for the good thought.

aloew (author)Mihsin2013-02-26

I'd be thrilled to see how it turns out

goodforcatfish (author)2013-02-21

i always found this to be the most difficult part, sometimes depending on manufacture they can be almost impossible

aloew (author)goodforcatfish2013-02-26

Me, too. I avoid using certain brands for that exact reason

rongleblanc (author)2013-02-24

I've been thinking about doing this for a while, but it never occurred to me to leave the motor and just drill through it. I like it! Gonna give it a try. Thank you.

aloew (author)rongleblanc2013-02-26

I'd love to see how it turns out

essextwo (author)2013-02-24

Pretty Clever. I think I'll try my hand at this as I have a plethora of spare hard drives.

aloew (author)essextwo2013-02-26

I'd love to see the results. Post some pictures with a link here?

spin498 (author)2013-02-25

I like it, just had a hard drive die coincidentally.

aloew (author)spin4982013-02-26

If you end up making one, I'd love to see how it turns out

bluumax (author)2013-02-24

Good instructable! I would know, I've made & sold literally hundreds of HDD clocks.
I got them from a recycler for $0.25 ea and movements from Klockit  by the 100's for like $1.50 ea. (This was back in 1998-2004)
I still have cases of big 5-1/4" HDD's
Laptop HDD's are really popular clocks. If you can still find 5-1/4" floppy drives they have a nice motor for clocks.
Some of the 3-1/2" FDD's have a nice motor coil on the circuit board on the back, you can do the same kinda thing as shown here.

aloew (author)bluumax2013-02-26

I sell them, too! I've sold about 27 since July 2012. I get my drives for free from a friend who works in a warehouse that handles computer recycling (they remove the drives to crush them, and I intercept them), so the drives are essentially free. Every so often I come across some cool old ones.

Treknology (author)2013-02-25

I am intrigued as to where you sourced a clock movement with long enough reach to penetrate the depth of the platter shaft?

aloew (author)Treknology2013-02-26

I use Walnut Hollow clock movements for 3/4" thick surfaces.

bluumax (author)Treknology2013-02-25

Most art & craft shops have them.  I bought mine from when I made clocks.

foobear (author)2013-02-24

Tres geek chic. It'd be fun if the actuator arm could tick off the seconds

Treknology (author)foobear2013-02-25

Because it has now been exposed to the environment, the actuator head would leave unsightly marks on the platter. I would also suggest spraying the platter with a clear-coat before it acquires any finger prints.

bluumax (author)Treknology2013-02-25

NO!! Clear coat makes it look like it's been dipped in clear plastic goo. It looks like crap. Window cleaner or 99& Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol are good cleaners. I used to make & sell 100's of these, I tried a lot things.. The heads will not mar the surface as long as they are reassembled carefully the way they were.

Treknology (author)bluumax2013-02-25

a) I have platters that are permanently stained by finger prints (just like blue-metal) and
b) I meant very fine clear coat as is used on cars (where they use the minimum possible amount but charge you for a six-inch thick layer).

The heads ticking off the seconds would not be floating on their cushion(s) of air and would cumulatively rub at the surface of the disc.

TheMainMan (author)2013-02-25

Took me a second to realize that the hands you were talking about spray painting were not my own... but rather the clock hands ;)

londobali (author)2013-02-24

real neat piece of work!
Thanks for sharing!

rgershey (author)2013-02-24

When I first read " it is time to spray paint your hands" I thought you were being funny.

fred_dot_u (author)rgershey2013-02-24

I read this particular line as though the author knew how mechanically capable I am and how things would end up anyway. His suggestion therefore would simplify the project.

schumi23 (author)rgershey2013-02-24

Yeah... it took me a few moments to understand that too

It's an interesting idea... if I find another HDD in the trash, and manage to find a clock, I might do it.

steve6221 (author)2013-02-24

Nice Job

agis68 (author)2013-02-24

good work!

David Catriel (author)2013-02-24

Very neat idea. Thx for sharing.

raphael1988 (author)2013-02-24

Muito bom Goste desse relógio ;)

stuuf (author)2013-02-24

any idea where to get 24-hour analog movements easily? i can't stand looking at clocks that are 12 hours off half the time so there's no way i could make myself build one

didgitalpunk (author)2013-02-24

also, this step is not always useful as the reading heads and the actuator arm can turn more, but yours was held in place by the actuator retainer, but on most drives I have taken apart which is about 10, I have sen one of those actuator retainers only once.

didgitalpunk (author)2013-02-24

there are some HDDs that have no screws to hold down the motor, the stator is the entire HDD assembly. to get these out, just take a hammer and a nail/ metal rod and hit the motor on the back where the brass/steel round piece is. you should see the rotor pop out a bit each time you hit it.

didgitalpunk (author)2013-02-24

those are neodimium magnets. extremely powerful and sometimes dangerous. they can pinch veeeery hard if you are not careful.

Pat Pending (author)2013-02-23

A very elegant project - well done!

ptolmachev (author)2013-02-22

Absolutly very clever!

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