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Hardware Hacking Data Storage

Hard Drive Window 380

Xx Shinwa xX writes "This guy has done what was thought to be impossible: he has opened his hard drive and installed a clear acrylic window. And it still works. I would love to try this, if I had the guts."
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Hard Drive Window

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  • Usefool (Score:5, Funny)

    by biocute ( 936687 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:12PM (#14213303) Homepage
    This guy deserves a usefool entry [].

    One day I'll get around to making a window for my CDROM, so that I can see what's going on when there's no CD inside.
  • Yippy-Skippy. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:13PM (#14213308)

    I was impressed with this, until I read the following:
    This is the unmodified hard drive, a Western Digital 3 GB drive (Caviar 33100) made in 1997.
    I hate to be a buzzkill, but BFD. I regularly disassembled these drives for data recovery purposes back in the salad days, when I was a carefree computer repair technician. We had an excellent level of success with any drive smaller than 4 GB, and one 2 GB drive, on which I replaced the head assembly for data recovery purposes, happily ran for over two years after the surgery.

    I thought this mod was going to be performed on a contemporary drive, which would have been duly impressive. Heck...perform this mod successfully on a drive as big as 30 GB, and I'll tip my hat. But 3 GB? Sorry, but no.
    • Re:Yippy-Skippy. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by imboboage0 ( 876812 )
      Just for reference, I am 15 years old. Over the summer, I was bored. So I took a WD 10 gig and did this. works great to this day.

      In an odd coincidence, My friend just asked me yesterday to mod his 7200RPM 80 gig barracuda. This drive is BRAND NEW (still in the static wrap) sitting right next to me as I type this. Personally, I think the hardest part of this whole mod was gluing (Did I spell that right? lol.) the plexi back onto the drive cover. If you have a little spare time and wanna do something crazy
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:03PM (#14213732) Homepage Journal
        Really to be safe doing this you would need a clean room. One speck of dust could ruin the drive. When you install the window you better be sure you seal it will so no dust can sneak in. Kiss any warranty on the drive goodbye.
        I really don't get these case mods at all. All I want to see of my computer is the monitor and all I want to here is what comes out the speakers.
        When a few people did them it was kind of cool. Now that you can BUY a case with a window big deal.
        Want to impress people. Show me an AMD X2 system with SLI and four really fast big drives in a RAID 0+1 that is totally silent and does need to have it's coolant tank filled. Oh and it has to fit under my desk.
        • You DON'T have a case with a window? you must have a small e-penis.
        • Even with a cleanroom it's not trivial: I've ruined two drives trying to do this, using the cleanroom. Twice I managed to get the window too close to a running drive, so that the hub would scrape off some acrylic. From then on, it's game over.

          I should take the time to create a sufficient spacer, so that this doesn't happen again.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:08PM (#14213767)
        " This drive is BRAND NEW (still in the static wrap) sitting right next to me as I type this. Personally, I think the hardest part of this whole mod was gluing (Did I spell that right? lol.) the plexi back onto the drive cover."

        For you maybe, but I suspect the hardest part for most anyone else would be finding a friend stupid enough to ruin a brand new hard drive.
    • Re:Yippy-Skippy. (Score:2, Informative)

      by GatorMan ( 70959 )
      Newer drives with increased capacity won't make this mod any more difficult. They still use the same physical size platters, same physical size casing, still has a spindle, motor, read/write assembly, and circuit board on back. If anything, just the abnormal case design on that series of WD Caviar is more difficult because of how the top cover extends down around the sides of the drive casing.
      • Re:Yippy-Skippy. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by atta1 ( 558607 )
        I hate to burst that bubble, but newer drives have a few major differences that make this mod more hazardous. Specifically, aerial density (more tpi), smaller head size and a lower fly height. All these things make particulates in the drive much more hazardous to the drive and will cause it to fail sooner.
      • My guess is that because there's more density to newer drives, that makes it that much more important to be cautious about dust and particulate matter. A 3 GB disk has a lower density and can tolerate dust better. I guess a comparison woiuld be that (and this is just an example) a particle of dust might cover 10 sectors on a 3 GB drive, but the same particle might cover 100 sectors on a 30 GB drive, making the 30 GB drive much more susceptible to problems caused by dusst. So, that wouldn't make higher ca
  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:13PM (#14213309)
    This is news??
  • uh huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:13PM (#14213316) Homepage Journal
    And it still works

    For now...
  • this is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by davez0r ( 717539 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:13PM (#14213319)
    i thought this had been done before...and indeed it has []

    from 2002

    and that was just the first result on google for "hard drive window"
  • A long time ago, a friend of mine and I took the lid off the top of a 10g full-height MFM hard disk. We used some disk-testing software to get the heads to flip back and forth in some sort of testing pattern. While it was doing this, we managed to pour lighter-fluid into the unit, and set it on fire. I still have the video somewhere, I should dig it up -- I recorded it using a parallel-port B/W Quickcam. Ah, good times, good times.
    • Re:Video (Score:3, Funny)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      "10g full-height MFM hard disk."

      • Re:Video (Score:3, Interesting)

        Sorry, it's been a while! I did mean to say m, not g, as in megabyte. Here's the vid. It is in a format of which I have no idea: []
        • Now *THAT* is newsworthy!

          - but - it won't play for some reason. (WMP/Quicktime)
          • This is a valid AVI file.

              The filesize is 964 KB (or 987,136 bytes). This file has 458 bytes of extra "garbage" at the end that is not part of the data yet is not marked as "junk" either. This is not usually a serious problem, however, and is unlikely to cause a problem.

            Codec: H.263
            Runtime 57s - 128x96 @ 20fps (136 Kb/s)
        • Search for a utility called -- no joke -- "gspot" (for windows). It will tell you the codecs required for most .avi files.
        • Re:Video (Score:3, Informative)

          by flatface ( 611167 )
          WOW, that's bad video quality. Yes, I know it's old. Takes a bit of a hack to get it working, though:

          For mplayer, edit codecs.conf. On my system (Ubuntu), it's in /etc/mplayer/. Search for ffh263 and add the following line:

          format 0x3336324D


    • Re:Video (Score:3, Funny)

      by frdmfghtr ( 603968 )
      While it was doing this, we managed to pour lighter-fluid into the unit, and set it on fire.

      And after a good slashdotting, he'll get the same effect sans lighter fluid.
  • Cool... but (Score:5, Funny)

    by swilde23 ( 874551 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:14PM (#14213326) Journal
    Where's the blue LEDs???
  • This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:14PM (#14213327) Homepage
    People have been doing it for years, just do a Google search for "hard drive window" [] or better yet an images search [] for the same string.
  • by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <shadow,wrought&gmail,com> on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:14PM (#14213328) Homepage Journal
    Next comes painting a swirl pattern on the platter with magnetic ink so it looks pretty when it spins.
  • Vacuum? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RedACE7500 ( 904963 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:14PM (#14213333)
    I thought the inside of a hard drive was a vacuum.. am I wrong?
    • IIRC hard drives won't work in a vacuum since the read heads 'float' on the air. Any that I've seen have a ventilation hole somewhere in the case anyway, usually with a 'Do not cover' sticker by it.
    • It isn't a vacuum, it's just nearly dust free.
    • Re:Vacuum? (Score:3, Informative)

      Yes, you are wrong.

      The inside of a hard drive is at atmospheric pressure, but must be kept extremely clean. The tiniest particle of dusr/smoke/whatever can cause a head crash.
      • yes. somewhere on the drivecase, there's a teeny-tiny little hole for the purpose of allowing interior pressure to stay equal to the outside atmospheric pressure. (Look for a label saying 'do not cover this hole' or something to that extent. most older drives have one)
        • And the hidden vent hole is actually connected to the drive interior space through a HEPA filter of some type.

          Most drives have an additional HEPA filter inside, which traps any particles that might be shed internally, to prevent them from crashing the heads.

          An old hard drive is a pretty fascinating device to disassemble. Lots of precision manufacturing to ogle, and a pair of NdFeB magnets to play around with when you're done...:)

    • You mis-understood: They meant that Brand-X really sucks.

      (No, I don't want to be sued out of my last $.02)
    • Yes.

      They have air in them. It is just free of dust. Dust really big compared to air particles. Putting a harddrive in a vacuume would make it a lot more expensive, Because they will need to be reinforced to take the pressure of the earths atmosphere, difficult for humans to view and perhaps manuplate the process in a vacuume. It will add time where the drive batches will be in a room and wait for all the air to evacuate. It is much easier and cheaper to keep it dust free then build a minitature vaccume.
    • Re:Vacuum? (Score:5, Funny)

      by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:29PM (#14213462)
      I thought the inside of a hard drive was a vacuum.. am I wrong?

      Only if it is by a brand that really sucks.
    • I thought the inside of a hard drive was a vacuum.. am I wrong?

      Inside your hard drive, no one can hear you scream. (Um, how'd you get inside your hard drive?)

    • Air (Score:3, Informative)

      As the others have said, the head needs air to float. In fact, last time I checked, hard drives actually list a maximum operating altitude, I think only 15,000 feet usually, not all that high. But I could be wrong about the actual altitude.
    • They need the air (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mary_will_grow ( 466638 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:41PM (#14213549)
      Disk drive heads ride on a blanket of air over the media. With a vacuum, they wouldn't have this air and they'd ruin the media. Thats why they have filtered vent holes.

      Some drives even control the ability of the heads to move with a wind-driven interlock mechanism (sort of like the governor on a lawnmower engine), forcing the drives to stay in the proper area when the drive isn't spinning.

  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:15PM (#14213337)
    cos when I go to the page its blank
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:15PM (#14213347)
    I wouldn't do it in a dusty basement but if you are in a relatively clean area, and don't leave the drive out facing the elements (The guy who did it put his drive in a zip lock bag.) A clean room would be preferred but just a "clean" room with little dust should work for most cases. Companies that do this a lot (Opening Harddrives/creating harddrives) will use a clean room because have say 10% failure due to dust but for a modder who is using an old drive, it would a 10% chance of dust is pretty good. You could probably make your own clean room with some clear plastic, DuctTape, Rubber Gloves, and coat hangers, Some felt and a vacuum cleaner. Hmm I may have a new SlashDot article for the future.
    • One article I read with regards to modding a harddrive said to do it in the bathroom. The idea was that turning on the shower to make the room steamy, also worked to remove floating dust. You have to wait until the steam is mostly gone though to do the work.

      Does anyone know if this would actually work?

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:16PM (#14213349) Journal
    will the acrylic melt if he uses the drive in his server and posts the link to Slashdot?
  • Hard drive windowing was done in a homebrew fashion back in the late '90s/early '00s when casemodding was just making it big.

    Hell, there's a 20GB Western Digital with an acrylic window sitting on my floor right now, as a result of my roommate getting bored last year after he upgraded the drive in his Xbox. It still worked until he stepped on it.
  • by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nk@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:17PM (#14213365) Homepage
    This seems cool and all, but I can't imagine that there would be much to see. First the discs, in any of the hard drives I have cracked open and destroyed, never had any markings on them that might look cool when they spin. and second the only part you might be able to tell if it was moving is the read head this would be cool to watch, but the odds of screwing up your hard drive seem far too high to justify watching a read head move back and forth.
    but I have never seen the need to add neon lights and clear view windows to my case either.
  • MTBF (Score:2, Informative)

    He must have seriously reduced the reliability of the drive doing so. It still works, for now. Give it a few months, though and it'll start to wither.

    A friend had once removed the entire sealing rubber strip around his HDD (circa 1995) because it was coming off by bits anyway and we were all very impressed that it was still working! But after a few weeks, he started to lose more and more data.

    With hard drives, errors are not as black and white as with CPU or other "live" components of the computer. Most of
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:24PM (#14213420)
    ...IN REAL TIME!

    Microsoft will be suing for patent infringement for putting windows on hard drives.

    Just for fun, a hard drive undone: /9/0,1425,sz=1&i=93587,00.jpg []
  • by impactdni ( 937320 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:26PM (#14213432)
    I did this a while ago... Worked nicely... Quite nice for a PVR box (watch the needle go to town on the platters) - []
  • "Finally, I would also like to say thanks to my roommates Mark and Ben, because with them they made this mod a whole lot easier. Originally this was Mark's idea, and he got some ideas from someplace online that isn't there anymore [NOTE: [] did this awhile ago], so I would like to give credit to my roommate and whoever has done this before. If you have any other questions, feel free to Email me."

    News? C'mon guys... i even recall seeing a story about a HD window right here on Slashdot not
  • What are the odds... (Score:3, Informative)

    by digid ( 259751 ) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:39PM (#14213541)
    What are the odds that an old story be posted on the front page of digg and slashdot on the same day. The only difference between Digg and Slashdot mirroring each other now is that the so called "digg effect"(I wonder where they got that name) didn't even put a scratch in their server. 5 minutes after it hit the front page of slashdot grand daddy "slashdot effect" finished the job.
  • Mirrors! (Score:2, Informative)

    by demon411 ( 827680 )
    well mirrordot only has a mirror of the first page so here is a mirror of the 4 pages, skip to the last one for the finished product ;)

    1 [] 2 [] 3 [] 4 []

  • Yeah but the drive is paranoid and confused now. It keeps asking for privacy software.
  • When I would have been about 14, a friend and I disassembled an ST-225 MFM Hard Drive, which we had running on an RLL controller to get however extra MBytes out of it. (not many)

    Anyhow, we pulled the top off, since it had so many bad sectors, it was amazing... and did a low-level format while it was open, worked for awhile...

    Until I sneezed on it. :)

    Thought I'd share that one as a playful warning to not be an idiot with a drive open.
  • you've got roughly the same amount of guts as the other guy. We all have about 7 meters of small intestines, on average...
  • by fdiskne1 ( 219834 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:56PM (#14213675)
    Our intern was messing around with old hard drives and decided to take off the cover of one, plug it in and let it run. It worked fine, so I touched my finger to it. It still ran, so I licked my finger and touched it. Oops. Blue Screen. I didn't think the heads were close enough to the disk to get a good read so I put some pressure behind it. Let me tell you, the noise that makes isn't nearly so annoying to the person doing it as it is to everyone else in the room. The hard drive platter now looks quite similar to an LP record's grooves. Cool. Okay, I didn't put a window on the drive. So what? This was more fun.
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:58PM (#14213699)
    I don't think I would do that with my HD [] It just is too expensive to corrupt.
  • Though this was familiar []...

    Then quotethed said same Taco: Besides inspiration, the site features practical advice, like why not to window mod hard drives.

    Course, pointing these things out only serves to help one reflect on exactly how much time one has wasted reading /. in the first place...
  • Why has no HD manufacture made windowed w LEDs Hard drives? Is it the shielding? I have seen clear materials that provide EMI shielding! That would be sweet. Then all the case manufacutres would start rearanging their drive bays so you could take advantage of them. I think something like a comercial windowed HD would sell like crazy.
  • A nice laminar flow hood with better than 3 micron filtration should do the job nicely. Wash an clean then dry the drive. Make sure everything is fresh and there is no linty things around - then work in the clean air stream.

    Laminar flow hoods are not that expensive. You can buy one for about $500 or less and make one for a little over $100. Any good biology/mycology lab should be able to provide leads. Or just take a class in biology and mod the drive in the lab. It'll give new meaning to the idea of
  • You buy a hard drive for 50 bucks, try it, if it doesn't work you're out 50 bucks.

    This is what is considered "guts" now, putting down 50 bucks on a whim? Man you need to get out a little.

    This is "Guts" [], not some nonsense with a hard drive window.

  • by yeremein ( 678037 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @05:27PM (#14213954)
    I was writing a disk imaging utility for my company and I had to deal with bad sectors properly. Couldn't find a drive with bad sectors so I decided to make one. I pulled the cover off an old hard drive and hooked it up to my machine, figuring the dust would cause bad sectors soon enough.

    The blasted thing ran just fine for a week.

    Eventually I tried writing on the platter with a dry-erase marker while it was spinning. That didn't even kill it. But a little scratch with a screwdriver killed it dead.
  • by MSTCrow5429 ( 642744 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @09:06PM (#14215559)
    Only idiots think that opening a hard drive will somehow destroy it. Hard drives can be opened, left that way, and run for quite a long time. It's not recommended, but having a running hard drive in the open air is nothing special. It's even less special if you cover it back up again.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama