Taking Apart A 3.5″ Hard Drive

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to our first non-automotive video. Today’s video involves me taking apart an old hard drive that is no longer functional. This is an interesting task I’ve enjoyed doing since my time working at the IT department of a large University a few years ago. The drive in question is actually the drive I used to store all my thegtstech (and labels I used before that) content on pre-2018. It came out of a long gone industrial computer that was used in a now closed down factory. The computer ran Windows 2000 and had a 32-bit Prescott Intel Pentium 4 processor (the first one that had hyper-threading in fact). I eventually installed a Windows 10 technical preview on it but the power supply died shortly afterwards. I actually had two of these industrial computers, but the other one never worked so I know nothing about it besides it also having the same processor and the same Hard Drive (A Maxtor 250 GB, 7200rpm). Since I no longer have any components from those computers besides these two Hard Drives, my discussion on them will end here.

So onto the drives, the process of taking a drive apart is relatively similar for any drive. The main differences are usually with the type of screw bit you’ll need, for these drives I needed Torx bits pretty much exclusively, others I’ve seen use Philips, and occasionally Allen Key, and it’s usually a mixture of two of them. The other difference is mainly how many of the cover screws the cover label covers. On this drive, and most Western Digital Drives, all but one of them are visible, with the hidden one usually under the warranty sticker. On other brands, such as Seagate (the brand of the 2.5″ drive I allude to in the video), the labels usually cover the entire top of the drive so you’ll have to remove that to see where the screws are. Helium-sealed drives are a bit different still, but I never came across one while working in IT (and I had taken apart at least 100 drives to fill in time during dead shifts) so I don’t really know how the process changes with those. One thing to note is that you shouldn’t ever open a hard drive that you intend to use again, not only would you void the warranty (if it’s still within the warranty period!) but the drive probably won’t work again. Generally, hard drive recovery facilities that take apart drives for the disks to try and salvage data work in clean rooms, the magnetic discs (usually called platters) are extremely sensitive to things like dust and sunlight.

One other thing, and I mention it in the video, is that the magnets, that controls the writing arm (because hard drives work by essentially shifting the magnetic particles between two positions, with one being a binary zero, and the other being a binary one) are powerful rare earth magnets. They make excellent magnets to put on your fridge (though you may need to grind down the aluminium bracket on the lower one). It’s possible to remove the magnet right off the bracket, but it’s difficult to do if, like me, you don’t have a vice you can put the bracket in to get the leverage necessary to be able to pry the magnet off (you also might damage the magnet trying to do this and that generally weakens the magnetic strength of the magnet). 2.5″ Hard Drives and newer drives generally have weaker magnets than older drives, not really sure why that is besides technological improvements made it so that the really strong magnets weren’t necessary anymore. In the case of 2.5″ drives, everything is smaller and in general, unlike resistors and some other electrical components, there’s a limit to how small you can make magnets while still keeping the field strength (that’s why inductors haven’t been miniaturized like resistors and capacitors, as I may cover in the future).

Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy the video. Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel if you enjoyed it, and we’ll see you next time!