Don’t throw out that old hard drive from your computer! Yes, even if you got a fancy new solid state drive (SSD) or if your hard disk drive (HDD) finally gave up. Whether it’s functional or not, your old drive still has some cool uses.
What you should do depends on whether the hard drive is working or dead. But surprisingly, a functional old HDD has fewer uses than a dead one. So roll up your sleeves and check out some of these DIY projects to recycle, reuse, or repurpose an old hard drive.
For Working Hard Drives
If the drive is still working, don’t waste that space. It is still valuable storage for your data. The thing is, you don’t need to use it inside a computer any more.
1. Turn It Into a Portable Drive
Once you upgrade your laptop’s drive or run out of space on your PC, you have a functional HDD in your hands. Put it to use again by popping it into an external hard drive enclosure.
Depending on the drive and the enclosure, you’ll be able to use it with or without a power adapter. As a rule of thumb, power adapters are helpful for desktop (3.5-inch) hard drives, while adapters aren’t usually needed for laptop (2.5-inch) drives.
You will find plenty of enclosures and cases on Amazon. You might even want to look at a docking station for multiple hard drives. The coolest DIY solution, though, is building your own HDD enclosure with cardboard.
2. Build a NAS
In case you already have an external drive or don’t have use for one, it might be time to build your own network attached storage (NAS). Basically, your hard drive’s contents will be accessible across any device connected to your Wi-Fi.
There are different levels of NAS. If you’re fine with spending some money, you can buy a NAS box like the TerraMaster F2-220 where you will have to do nothing but pop in the drive. If you’re on a budget and a little adventurous, you can turn a Raspberry Pi into a NAS box.
For Dead Hard Drives
If the hard drive doesn’t work any more, data storage is out. But the drive’s physical parts are still valuable. For any of the projects below, you will need to open it up and strip its parts, which is a pretty easy process. Here’s a quick DIY video:
3. DIY Magnetic Knife Block
Hard disk drives contain large neodymium magnets. We have a full guide to remove HDD magnets safely. Each drive will net you two strong magnets.
Instructables user tzhy shows how to use two planks to create such a magnetic knife block. You won’t need any special tools for this, but if you don’t have wood glue or other simple hardware tools around, your local hardware shop should have it.
Once you’re done, you’ll get a neat magnetic knife block that you can hang above your kitchen. Knives will stick to this block like magic, making it super convenient.
4. Cubicle Rear View Mirror (or Other Mirrors)
The platters inside a hard disk drive can act as perfectly polished mirrors. Be a little gentle while dismantling them, you don’t want chips or scratches here. But if you get it out whole, it’s the perfect mirror.
You can get creative in your cubicle by turning this into a rear view mirror. All you need is a large thumb tack. Mount it on your cubicle, place the thumb tack in the center, and you will always see who is trying to sneak up on you from behind.
Platters can also turn into signal mirrors (i.e. a mirror that reflects sunlight to show your location). Apart from being handy in survival scenarios, it can also be a decent safety tool for bicyclists.
In case a simple mirror is all you want, then platters can double up as pocket mirrors too. It’s a nice arts and crafts project.
5. Turn Platters Into a Geeky Wind Chime
If you have several old drives, harvest the platters and turn them into a wind chime. It’s an easy DIY project that puts your geek cred out there for the world to see.
Most of the project uses the parts you dismantle from a drive, like the base plate and the mount ring. You’ll need a strong line to hold all the plates, of course. Run the lines through the ring and into the corners of the plate. Attach a platter to the end of each line. There you go, your personal geeky wind chime. It’s one of the most creative upcycling ideas for drives.
6. Make a Hidden Safe With Hard Drive Case
Once you remove all the parts inside, what do you do with the hard drive case itself? Instructables user bobert610 says it makes a fantastic safe to store your stash where no one will suspect it.
It’s also the easiest safe to construct. Take out all the parts, then insert one of the screws in the corner. Your “hard drive safe” will act as a swivelling case to stash your emergency money.
7. Fancy Hard Drive Clock
An old hard drive’s parts are perfect to build yourself a brand new clock, complete with LEDs and other cool bits. You’ll need to buy clock movement and hands separately.
DIY guru kipkay, host of one of the best tech channels on YouTube, has a wonderful video guide for this project. Kipkay’s method is more refined and the end product looks fantastic.
That said, he uses several parts that DIY beginners might not have, or would need to go to their local hacker-space for. Here’s a simpler version for a vertical desk clock, which looks mighty cool when you add the keyboard keys.
For Working or Broken Drives
Whether it’s functional or not, if you don’t have any use for the drive, sell it. Heck, even if you stripped the parts of a dead drive and used some, you can sell the rest.
In case you’re selling a functional disk, make sure you completely and securely erase your hard drive – just formatting it isn’t enough. You don’t want any confidential data falling into the hands of the wrong people.
How Big Is Your Oldest Hard Drive?
Right now, the oldest hard drive I have is over 15 years old. It has a capacity of an incredible 20 GB — less than what the pen drive in my pocket has.
What’s the size of the oldest hard disk you still have today?
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