Recycled Hard Drive Desk Clock




Introduction: 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:

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

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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!

5 People Made This Project!


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47 Discussions

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

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

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'

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

1 reply

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 :)

1 reply

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.

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.

2 replies

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.

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

1 reply

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

1 reply

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.

1 reply

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

1 reply

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