Storage

Cracking open a Maxtor hard drive

Maxtor hard drive teardown

I've always wanted to open and hard drive and take a good look at the insides. So when this old spare hard drive came along I decided to satisfy my curiosity by making a gallery for our Cracking Open series.

The sacrificial lamb in this case is a Maxtor 10GB drive circa 1998.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

88 comments
john.hollenberg
john.hollenberg

take one of the memory discs and put it into your toilet-case. a very good shaving mirror.

whiteneal
whiteneal

I grabbed an old, old, OLD 10 MB full height drive out of a tarminal where I used to work. The drive worked in an XT for about a year before it started to howl and grind - My borther in law sat on the bed smoking, with a dog looking on and cracked the case. Found the top-most head was gouging the platter and snipped off the offending head. sealed up the drive and did a low level format. He got a usable partition of 3 MB and another of 5 MB and ran it like that for 2 years. ANd, no, I would never have believed it if I hadn't been there telling him the whole time "it's not gonna work!!"

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

We opened up a hard hard, not in a clean room, and it worked for several days afterward. I was initially surprised that it worked but we only took off the cover to show users what the drive looked like inside. Tearing it all apart, and scratching it like you did, most likely put the old DOA label on that drive. I've torn apart many a drive to show people what's inside and how it works. They come away with a better understanding of their computer and a little more appreciation too. EMD

DaBigTrain
DaBigTrain

My boss tried to make earrings out of the platters of a dead 2.5" drive- they were still a little big for her taste, however.

brucelparsons
brucelparsons

I have taken apart a good many drives. MANY of which were Maxtors due to their unreliable nature. The little white packet on the ritht of the photo is, as has already been noted, desicant that abosrbs moisture. The little white thing on the left is the filter. One dead drive I took apart recently had many marks ground into the face of the platters and the little filter was black with accumulated debris.

laseramp
laseramp

the main reason for it is to show any filings or chunks that may have formed from the spinning disk. more or less a forensic analyst will use this to see if the drive is destroyed physically or via other reasons :) normally the cloth will act as a filter as well as allow air to pass into the read heads arm area and actuate the movement, few know that theirs an air lock on a hard drive to prevent tampering but now you know :).

ex-military nut
ex-military nut

I've always been one to take things apart (only after I know they're dead!) to see how they physically function. But, I've also noticed that some components are great for other activities. Gently pry off the surface mounted components and use them as details on model railroads. Depending on your scale (mine's N-gauge) and your imagination, the IC's, diodes, etc. become boxes, trashcans, truck loads, etc. Granted, this post is not relevant technically, but it does provide for some interesting diversions. Beats trying to build a railgun!

eajordan
eajordan

I will try it this week-end..

pprstevens
pprstevens

possibly a dessicant gel pack to help fend off moisture from the interior of the unit.

pgorst
pgorst

Is there any way of recovering data from the memory plates?

mugwumpcdn
mugwumpcdn

The photography is wonderful. You did a great job of laying everything out so clearly. I teach computer basics as a volunteer and it's not always easy to carry enough spare or broken parts. I'm putting some of these photos right into the course manual - at least I will if that's OK with you. And CNET networks of course - I see they have copyrighted your work.

info
info

You found the "shell" uninteresting, but in fact it contains important components -- the lower bearing and hub for the disk stack, and the motor (inside the hub). BTW, the major chip components are the read/write channel (Lucent), the disk controller including processor and bus interface (the big chip), and RAM (for firmware, buffers & cache).

zaheer_matrix
zaheer_matrix

Hi this zaheer it will be better to provide other HDD's Details along with MATROX.

SteveHancock
SteveHancock

HDD magnets can be used as excellent shadow board tool holders, some will hold a sledge hammer. Especially useful are the ones whose backing plate have screw holes for mounting them to said shadow board. Magnets with lug holes in the backing plate are ideal for fridge magnets as you can put a loop of cord through them to make a handle for pulling the magnet off your fridge. The strength of HDD magnets can lead to paint/surface damage on your refrigerator. HDD magnets are great for farm gates and other yard applications. Perfect for magnetising your screwdrivers and other tools. Taping them to the back of a CRT is not recommended, or near the screen, nor just underneath out of sight to send your co-workers screen insane. Your co-worker will hurt you and you may permanently damage the screen to boot. Yes, if you have enough of them it is possible to make a stargate ring, no it will not warp time and space. (dialing device optional) They will very effectively erase a floppy disc ... very ... dont do this unless you want to throw it away, most often they floppies are not usable again. If you have any embedded ferous based shrapnel in you .. the magnets will find it .. it will hurt. Not recommended to let your co-workers play with them, one of them is bound to do something stupid and get their fingers caught, they will probably blame you even if you warned them about the blood blisters. When you play with them, do something stupid and hurt yourself you can then show your co-workers and say "See, I said they were dangerous." (the first aid room is down the hall) Rare earth magnets are somewhat fragile, throwing them at each other, however fun will end up with fragments. Laptop HDD's have platters made of glass, yes they break just like glass. The magnets from laptop HDD's are very cute and small. The cuteness of the magnets will not make you feel very good if you were careless with the platters and cut yourself. Do not leave your HDD magnets lieing about, especially if you have a lot of them, they will mysteriously wander off of their own accord. Co-workers will exhibit great shock at the ability of said magnets to wander off by themselves. It may be possible to make a rail gun out of HDD magnets ... just no one has been sucessful yet. Lego is not a suitable framework for making a HDD magnet rail gun from. (a good idea is to know where your home first aid kit is)

wrgriffjr
wrgriffjr

Now I know why as a kid I tore up everything I could get my hands on to see how it worked. Fascinating!

lythan
lythan

This was an interesting article. Over the years I've been meaning to crack a HD, but never got around to it. Very Informative. Now how about cracking a Flat panel monitor? (LCD)

rpr.nospam
rpr.nospam

After you have disassembled the drive, it would be possible to recycle the metal parts as they are made of steel, aluminium or copper.

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

Don't get your fingers in between 2 of them. You WILL get a nasty blood blister if they pinch you.

lucien86
lucien86

There are a thousand and one uses for a dead hard drive. The platters and hub would make a perfect Tesla turbine - never tried it yet though - need some way to link them to a more powerful motor. Another use for the platters is as wind chimes - they hold a lovely tone. Or they make wonderful coffee platters. Their extreme precision also makes them very useful as instrument flats in model making. You can even use them as first-surface laser mirrors or other science mirrors. 1001 uses. :)

ali40961
ali40961

http://www.pcinspector.de FREE utility I am currently using on a failed hard drive. WORKS GREAT if windoze can see the drive, but can't access. BEST OF ALL it is FREE and WORKS GREAT! Recovers DELETED data also!

craig.lawson
craig.lawson

Not on their own! It all depends on the nature of the fault as to the course of action from a dr point of view. Are you current having a problem? If so, what symptoms are you experiencing?

hcgriffith
hcgriffith

That particular model is relatively recent, the magnets are small by comparison with some early drives, those were .625 in. thick. Two of those, held just far enough apart to begin to feel the attraction, then released, will result in catastrophic destruction of both, resulting in a mess of magnetic powder. On the model shown, if you grip the ends of the steel mount with vice grips (Mole spanner to the Brits), and bend away from the magnet, you will hear a click as the adhesive releases and you have a more useful magnet. Sometimes this causes the plating to separate, sometimes you get a clean magnet. Small plastic containers, like the ones holding DB25 connector pins make a handy addition to the fridge-magnet, it gives you something to get hold of and the extra thickness slightly reduces the grip of the magnet. Before the introduction of degaussers strong enough to wipe the platters THROUGH the outside case without disassembly, we had to crack the case and sand the platters to destroy sensitive information. And if you remove the armature and the few steel pins from the cases, those and the platters will be accepted for cash from any non-ferrous recycler, though it isn't worth the trip unless you collect aluminum on a serious basis. One last comment, hard drives ARE airtight, that is why many screws have tape over them. I put a drive on a factory-level tester and made a very small cut in the tape sealing the lid. (The drive had previously passed all tests) Within 10 minutes the drive failed and disassembly showed circular 'head-crash' scratches.

sgt_shultz
sgt_shultz

ah those were the days when i had time and inclination for such things. but thanks to you i can now say i've seen the insides and heard all about it. many thanks to the article author and the commment posters. darned if i don't seem to always learn a few things! i appreciate your efforts, it helped me. regards, Sarge

ex-military nut
ex-military nut

I had the honor of sitting in on a Boy Scout Eagle board. A friend of mine had some magnets and "stuck" them to the underside of the metal-framed wooden table. When the scout entered the room, we ask him how it was oriented. After a couple of minutes of turning this way and that, he replied that the compass was either broken or there was some unusually strong magnatism in the room. Smart kid! Humor! The thirteenth point of the Scout Law!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

A lego rail gun - now that's a geekend project.

halibut
halibut

I especially liked the parts about the lego rail gun and the practical jokes to annoy and frustrate your fellow workers!!!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

We have a list of potential crack open projects, many suggested by TechRepublic memembers, and an LCD monitor is on the list. ;)

GOC
GOC

If you have any sensitive data on the drive I'd suggest your COMPSEC folks will take issue with recycling the HD platters without their blessing (I think they have a secret Voodoo dance they want to do first...) In any case we take drives apart and engrave the platters, mount them, and give them away as plaques for people (we like) who leave the facility. None of us are as smart as all of us.

jknowles
jknowles

I use 2 of these magnets stuck together to find studs in a wall. They are powerfull enough to find a nail through about 3/4" of sheetrock...they just stick to the wall.

dallen-t_republic
dallen-t_republic

Com'on, do a little thinking. The magnets' shape and location make their function perfectly obvious, even to a non-engineer: pole pieces against which the armature coil reacts to swivel the heads into position. Angular displacement (depending on applied coil polarity) is most likely sensed by a rotary encoder, a similar encoder on the drive spindle providing the coordinate for determining location on the disk. In fact, the precision and delicacy of the mechanism frequently is underestimated, if rarely overstated. The real beauty of the design is the apparent simplicity.

edjcox
edjcox

This was an interesting article and informative. Wished it was a newer drive as the subject but I guess they might still be spinning in your system... Thanks.. Saves me the trouble of just randomly looking and destroying a drive for the insight..

halibut
halibut

All those pictures from the kids, and with the HD magnet nothing falls off the fridge!

pgorst
pgorst

This was an external hard drive with USB connection that simply stopped working. There seemed to be no action out of the hard drive itself. The only option was to take it out of its case and piggyback it onto another computer to try to retrieve the data, but still could not retrieve the data. I wondered if there was a way of getting the info off the memory plates once the hard drive was disassembled.

2rs
2rs

Most end users have no clue as to why they shouldn't move the tower while its powered on, not to put sweating soda cups on the tower, STOP kicking! I've frequently told myself to remember to find pics of the inside so they might understand WHY. Thanks for giving us all a great resource!

ogfixit
ogfixit

i'm surprised no one mentioned this, but there is another curious property of these magnets. they are powerful enough that you can place one on the top and one on the bottom of your extended fingers and they will "stick" there, but the backing plates on these magnets are, i guess,non ferrous and if you put the backs together, even if they are touching each other, they do not exert enough force to stay together.

SteveHancock
SteveHancock

I used to have a good deal of HDD magnet art on my work bench but co-workers kept playing with it and breaking it / hurting themselves. After rebuilding Magnet Man four times and the Stargate mock up two times (and replacing a broken magnet) Magnet Man became fridge magnets for all and sundry and the stagate went home for safety. I really must try to make that rail gun again, any excuse to buy more lego ;)

plandok
plandok

Thanks for the hard-drive stuff. Having done that to use old 20 MB harddrives as "active art" I never had any idea how the heads actually moved without motors (I'm not a physicist). Having "cracked" a malfunctioning laptop screen (Toshiba Satellite) to repair it, I can attest to the tape tricks and the "gentleness" of using an Exacto knife around the bezel edges to disengage the click tabs. The malfunction was the illumination component and the contacts on the inverter board. The opening and closing of the cover moved the connecting wires and slowly disengaged the contacts allowing them to oxidize. The whole process was scary due to the fragility of the bezel clips and the potential for high voltages on the inverter board (inside the frame). Also the potential for an extremely expensive and lengthy professional repair. But I did it and it still works many years later. Won't quit so I can justify a new one. Thanks for all the cracks. Love them.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

These magnets will be great for the fridge. The magnets I get now from the local pizza joint just don't hold enough coupons and other paper stuff I have plastered all over my Frigidare.

contact
contact

How important was the data that you lost? What country are you based in? If you need some assistance in recovery data from a faulty/damaged hard drive let me know as we specialize in this area. We can recover formatted and deleted data, damaged partitions, damaged hard drive sectors and can even repair some hard drive hardware faults. www.adamkirkbride.com

craig.lawson
craig.lawson

I would reduce the chance of dr down to 10% if you open the drive... If you need the data, get in touch with a specialist company. If the drive is not spinning up it sounds as if you have an electrical problem with the PCB, however, if it was a power surge that caused this it can also lead to head faults aswell... If you require further assistance, please feel free to message me over the private messaging system. Craig

whiteneal
whiteneal

The drive magnets are so strong because they have many flux lines. They need many flux lines to allow for positioning the heads in the correct area of the platter - in ever smaller and smaller increments.

lucien86
lucien86

The magnet backing plates are made of a special metal called mu metal. It is used everywhere because it shields magnetic fields. Look it up on Wikipedia. The really interesting thing is why are these magnets so strong? I'm guessing that its simply so that they can achieve very high forces and accelerations in the heads.

drwho
drwho

I've been stripping old hard drives for years. I noticed the curious behavior. I think the backing plates are ferrous since the magnets stick to them. However, they also appear to be able to keep the flux on one side of them. If you leave the magnets attached to the backplate and approach magnet to magnet, you'll get a ferocious pull, but if you put the magnetless side of each backplate together, you'll find no attraction at all. I was amused by this because in all my experience, magnetic items either attract or repel, but they are never indifferent.

SteveHancock
SteveHancock

Thats the property that I'm going to use to make the rail gun. :) More attractive force on one side than the other.

wizardofJ
wizardofJ

I use the platters ( very carefully use drill press to put 4 holes in each compass point) to make deer scarers - hang them together in a line or as a panel, makes hi-tech window covering

halibut
halibut

Sometimes they are hard to get off the fridge but boy does the stuff stay on. In fact sometimes the paper's rip long before the magnet moves. :)