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The many functions of useless hard drives...

This article was originally published on September 13, 2008.

I’m a bit of a packrat. When something electronic finally craps out, I tend to keep it around, just in case. Dead hard drives fall into this category, at least for me.

If you’ve never taken apart a hard drive, you should. The platters are unbelievably reflective, since they’ve never been touched by anything before being installed in the drive’s casing. I have a large collection of hard drive platters at the moment, some of which have interesting radial patterns due to being scratched into oblivion by a misaligned head. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

Another handy component in a dead hard drive is its magnets. Hard drives have two extremely powerful neodymium magnets in them. You want to be careful when playing with these – you could injure yourself if you got some skin or a finger caught between two magnets as you snapped them together.

I use some magnets on my fridge – the ones that have prongs on one end work well for this, since it keeps the magnet itself from touching a surface. Hard drive magnets are strong enough that they’re pretty difficult to pull off a magnetic surface.

So, in addition to my wide collection of hard drive platters, I also have around twenty hard drive magnets of varying sizes and styles. Today, I found a good use for one of them.

I live in an old historic house in downtown Lafayette, IN. All my walls are plaster. Today, I bought a cheap Black and Decker laser level at Menards. It comes with a magnetic wall mount, but the mount requires using a small pin to attach it to the wall. This pin only really works with drywall – if you’ve ever tried to push a pin or nail into plaster by hand, you know how difficult it is. So, I needed to find an alternative. Because of the design of the wall mount, I couldn’t just stick it to the wall with a piece of double-sided heavy-duty tape. The solution? A hard drive magnet!

It worked perfectly. I used my favorite 3M indoor/outdoor double-sided tape to mount it to the wall. You need to be careful when using this tape – if you remove it too quickly, it will rip off a layer of paint. I would imagine that other types of adhesive mounts would work equally well – 3M’s Command Adhesive tape would probably work, since the level isn’t very heavy (at least, my $15 one isn’t).

At any rate, think twice before dumping your trashed hard drives – they may still be useful for other geeky (and non-geeky) sorts of projects.