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Hard Drive Window

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the because-you-shouldn't dept.

Hardware Hacking 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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Usefool (5, Funny)

biocute (936687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213303)

This guy deserves a usefool entry [interneh.com].

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.

Re:Usefool (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213456)

"WARNING: Do not look into laser with remaining eye."

Re:Usefool (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213487)

I'll give you a hint: it's bright and red.

I swear that I opened up my Liteon the other day before the laser shut off. Maybe it's class I, but you'd think that there wouldn't be a reason to have the laser on when the drive is spinning down and the door's actually in the process of opening.

Re:Usefool (5, Funny)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213587)

"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."

Excellent. Maybe this same technology can be applied to a refrigerator so we can see what happens when the door is closed.

Re:Usefool (4, Funny)

Sketch (2817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213623)

> Excellent. Maybe this same technology can be applied to a refrigerator so we can see what happens when the door is closed.

Just wait until you can see all of the bodies in the trunk of my car through the trunk window!

Not the FIRST time... (1)

MikeSty (890569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213307)

... but still a fun mod. I'd like to see one that's clear on ALL sides.

Re:Not the FIRST time... (2, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213520)

I did something on the top side about 5ish years ago, seethis pic [grub.net] of what I called "cleardisk"

Yippy-Skippy. (5, Informative)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#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. (2, Interesting)

imboboage0 (876812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213503)

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 with those drives, try this. It was rather fun.

Re:Yippy-Skippy. (2, Informative)

GatorMan (70959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213515)

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. (2, Insightful)

atta1 (558607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213614)

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.

Re:Yippy-Skippy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213615)

In my college hardware labs is a 4GB drive with a clear plastic window, which also works perfectly. Beat that.

(Of course now this thread's in motion, what's the chances of drive manufacturers getting in on the act?)

People have done this for years!! (5, Insightful)

karlandtanya (601084) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213309)

This is news??

Re:People have done this for years!! (3, Informative)

Janitha (817744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213364)

I have to agree, this has been done over and over and over again. I saw a windowed hard disk in TXGF Austin 2004 and many tutorials online (just google now)

Re:People have done this for years!! (5, Informative)

tgd (2822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213393)

No, its not news, its one of four Slashdot front page stories copied from Digg.

And like the last one (which I pointed out and got moderated as a troll), it wasn't one of the good ones.

There are definitely better ones that could've gotten onto here for the sake of those who don't read both sites, there's some great scuba photography linked on there and a very funny 720p vs 1080i thing.

Re:People have done this for years!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213450)

WOW I can't beleive slashdot doesn't remeber the segment Yoshi did on The Screensavers, before it was run into the group. He put a window in a harddive like 3 years ago. Very ashamed of you all for not remebering =(

Re:People have done this for years!! (1)

doorbot.com (184378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213606)

People have done this for years!!

Actually the mod by Linear (TFA) was done years ago. There isn't a date on the article as far as I can tell, so I can see how someone might assume that if it's new to them, it's new to everyone.

H/D Window (0, Redundant)

greyrax (544575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213310)

Hmm, I seem to remember someone doing that a couple of years ago.

Re:H/D Window (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213576)

I seem to remember hard drives that came with factory windows. CDC's, and IBM's mostly.... Dam... I'm getting old.

Anyhow... I saw a FH 5 1/4" drive with a plexiglass cover back in the mid-1980's. Doing this is old news. I was thinking about building a "visable" webserver out of an old Sun IPC back 1996. I was going to silicone the whole thing to the window in my office door, and then rig it up to the net.

uh huh (4, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213316)

And it still works

For now...

Re:uh huh (3, Insightful)

SandSpider (60727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213348)

Exactly. The problem is not getting it to work at all. The problem is not seriously shortening the life span of the hard drive by opening it up in an unclean environment.

Re:uh huh (1)

kinzillah (662884) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213352)

Seriously. what are the odds that he managed to do this without getting any dust in there? Eventually things are going to collide in a very bad way.

this is news? (4, Informative)

davez0r (717539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213319)

i thought this had been done before...and indeed it has

http://www.overclockers.com/tips821/ [overclockers.com]

from 2002

and that was just the first result on google for "hard drive window"

Re:this is news? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213439)

I like his innovation of using a bathroom as a cleanroom. Maybe it could be combined with the RSS toilet from three stories ago? Look out, Intel!

Cleanroom? (1)

itomato (91092) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213469)

What's the lintiest room per square (cubic, even!) foot in your house?

The bathroom.

Toilet paper fuzz, towel lint, bellybutton lint, hair, bah.

(#3800? I didn't think you guys bothered anymore!)

Re:this is news? (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213545)

Even as far back as 2002, the only place I have heard mentioned to do this in, is in the bathroom.

Video (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213321)

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 (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213362)

"10g full-height MFM hard disk."


Re:Video (2, Interesting)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213415)

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: http://www.zhrodague.net/~drew/images/fire2.avi [zhrodague.net]

Huzzah! (1)

itomato (91092) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213507)

Now *THAT* is newsworthy!

- but - it won't play for some reason. (WMP/Quicktime)

Re:Huzzah! (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213607)

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)

Re:Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213531)

$ mplayer fire2.avi
MPlayer dev-CVS--4.0.3 (C) 2000-2005 MPlayer Team

Playing fire2.avi.

AVI file format detected.
AVI_NI: No audio stream found -> no sound.
AVI: No audio stream found -> no sound.
VIDEO: [M263] 128x96 24bpp 20.000 fps 134.6 kbps (16.4 kbyte/s)

Exiting... (End of file)

~$ vlc fire2.avi
VLC media player 0.8.4 Janus
[00000271] main decoder error: no suitable decoder module for fourcc `M263'.
VLC probably does not support this sound or video format.
[00000261] main playlist: nothing to play
[00000261] main playlist: stopping playback

~$ rm fire2.avi

Thanks for trying.

Re:Video (1)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213543)

Search for a utility called -- no joke -- "gspot" (for windows). It will tell you the codecs required for most .avi files.

Re:Video (2, Funny)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213397)

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.

OMG (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213322)

This is amazing!!!

Oh wait, it gets dust/grime into your hard drive, reducing the life span drastically

And this was first done in 1995?

Did he put a plexiglass window in the side of his case with a neon light too?!?!?!?!

It would be better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213323)

If it was a glass window

This is only the first step (3, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213328)

Next comes painting a swirl pattern on the platter with magnetic ink so it looks pretty when it spins.

Vacuum? (5, Interesting)

RedACE7500 (904963) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213333)

I thought the inside of a hard drive was a vacuum.. am I wrong?

Re:Vacuum? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213368)

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.

Re:Vacuum? (1)

MondoMor (262881) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213373)

Yes, you're wrong. It's normal air at ambient pressures.

The heads "fly" over the surface of the platters. Without air, they wouldn't fly. Google around for articles on how hard drives work.

Re:Vacuum? (2, Informative)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213391)

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.

Re:Vacuum? (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213425)

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)

Re:Vacuum? (1)

amcdiarmid (856796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213399)

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

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

Re:Vacuum? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213418)


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. Plus there is a safety aspect where a person punctures the drive and cause it to implode.

HDD would never work in a vacuum.... (4, Informative)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213475)

The heads actually "float" above the platters on a tiny layer of air. Remove the air, and the heads would never lift off the surface, and would be destroyed in seconds.

Re:Vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213441)

yes. In fact it's aerodynamics that keeps the head above the platter.

Re:Vacuum? (2, Funny)

Esion Modnar (632431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213506)

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 (2, Informative)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213529)

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 (3, Interesting)

mary_will_grow (466638) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Old news (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213340)

I remember a guy doig this a couple years ago. It voided his warranty.

Cool Yes, Difficult Yes, Impossible No. (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Cool Yes, Difficult Yes, Impossible No. (2, Informative)

hazzey (679052) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213489)

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?

Definately nothing new. (1)

wolrahnaes (632574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213351)

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.

I did this with my refrigerator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213358)

I had my doubts as to whether the light really did go out when the door was shut.

Up next, purple neon refrigerator undercarriage.

Not really new.. (0, Redundant)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213361)

Except for cases of "hey look, I'm running my old harddrive without the lid on!" sort of things the first time I saw a guide to doing this was around '00-'01 on a website dedicated to the Abit BP6 Dual celeron motherboards, it was a lot more impressive five years ago, now it's really just old news..


/.'ed (0, Offtopic)

mrhandstand (233183) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213363)

Done. Finis, toast ,cooked....

And best of all..the message in Firefox...

"The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few moments." Um...OK...sure :-D

I can't imagine you would see anything (2, Insightful)

Nf1nk (443791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213365)

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.

sh17 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213366)

bben the best, like I should be right now. I tried, balance is struck, culture of abuse lagged behind, reformatted troubled OS. Now is perhaps consistent with the every chance I got (7000+1400+700)*4 Metadiscussions committerbase and already aware, *BSD *BSD but FreeBSD revel in our gay of HIV and other that he documents Mutated testicle of said. 'Screaming

Kudos. (1)

CronicBurn (316845) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213367)

Well even though it has been done before, and we've all read about it before... how many of them have made it into slashdot infamy? :) Not so many.

So for that, I say: Great job kid. You did something I haven't done... but then again. there's a lot I haven't done. So... um... yeah.

All in all, it's a neat little thing to do, for cool-points. However, with a newer, larger harddrive it would be MUCH cooler, and worth way more points. ;)

MTBF (2, Informative)

Massacrifice (249974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213394)

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 what you need (and what can be damaged) on a HD is dormant and thus, hard to know the exact moment of failure.

I've done this with NO LID (1)

maxrate (886773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213403)

I've opened my drives lid, ran windows etc with it opened for a couple of days. The drive was 120g maxtor. Works fine, low dust environment. It's just about the dust level, that's all.

Re:I've done this with NO LID (1)

burwaco (936760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213519)

Bullshit, a pc is like a vacuum cleaner, it sucks up any dust around it, that drive wouldn't last an hour.

Eh? (1)

gmerideth (107286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213408)

I have to agree, whats the big deal? Hell I ran a 20MB WD drive one afternoon with *no* cover on it what so ever and the damm thing worked just fine for about 4 1/2 hours then started developing a nasty little 'tick tick tick' that I can't say wasn't just the fact the drive was ancient and was dying anyways.

Funny how the last three posts.... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213413)

were all from digg.

Now refrigerators? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213431)

Now if only we could apply this technology to refrigerators to see if the light really does turn off when the door is closed!

Bzzzzt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213460)

Nothing new... Several guides exist in the modding community.

I just heard about a poor little girl dying of cancer and wanted to receive a postcard from every state. It's such a good cause. If you can spare a minute, please send her a postcard...

Do the same thing with your brain. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213492)

Just remove the top of your skull, a dremel tool with a 1 inch circular saw blade will work nicely, cover it with a lettuce keeper turned upside down, and you too can look like a martian from a bad B movie (as opposed to a martian from a bad A movie starring Tom Cruise). Plus you will be eligible for a Darwin award (all geeks being eligible on the first qualification, no children).

It was first on Digg, but.... (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213502)

I know that by my ID number I'm not a "seasoned veteran", but just thought I'd add my two cents. I'll still be at Slashdot because I don't have to search through n00b postings to see the decent ones. Theres nothing better than browsing at 4.

As far as this article goes, it would be even cooler to paint glowinthedark-glue on the heads. Then disable the top platter (if this is even possible) and install a row of LED's perpendicular to the circle. You could display the time, the latest slashdot heading, etc...

From TFA... (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213536)

"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: BP6.com [bp6.com] 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 that long ago!

What are the odds... (3, Informative)

digid (259751) | more than 8 years ago | (#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! (2, Informative)

demon411 (827680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213552)

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 []

Memories of the Old Days (1)

Egonis (155154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213593)

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.
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