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Creative Ideas on How to Recycle Hard Drive

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/26/2011

A hard disk drive is considered one of the most expensive components in a computer and it is made up mostly of aluminum and other non-biodegradable materials. Find out from this article about some creative ways on how to recycle hard drive components.

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    The Benefits of Recycling a Hard Drive

    Hard drives or more commonly referred to as HDD or a Hard Disk Drive is the primary device for storing all your data. These are the devices that store mostly everything in your computer from the operating system up to your regular files. A hard disk drive is considered one of the most expensive components in a computer and it is made up mostly of aluminum and other non-biodegradable materials. Hence, by knowing how to recycle hard drive that is about to be discarded will not only lessen the wastes that go back to the environment but can also provide us with highly reusable materials.

    Besides, part of the high costs of a hard disk drive is attributed to the laborious process by which the whole unit is assembled including the treatment of platters in order to attain a “mirror finish". The whole process aims to give better integrity and accuracy when storing data on the magnetic disk. Part of the processing involves ensuring that not even the minutest dust particle can enter the special compartments where stored data is kept. Knowing how to recycle hard drive discards using some creative ideas enables us to recover a portion of the costs.

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    Purging the Hard Drive Before Recycling

    Purging is the process of removing all of the stored data in the platters of the hard disk drives. This is absolutely different from deleting or formatting a drive. As deleting and formatting will only remove the way to access the location of the data, but the stored data can still be retrieved given the proper expertise.

    What you need to do is to purge it; a non-intrusive way is to use software to overwrite the disk with blank files over and over again. This way, the data previously stored will be overwritten with blank files. There can still be ways to recover some of the stored data but only a slim chance. For that, the only sure way for the platters to make all stored data unusable is to physically destroy the platters using a hammer. Another method of purging involves bringing it to a recycling establishment that specializes in hard drive destruction.

    Some precautionary measures may have been implemented to secure sensitive information which include requiring license to transfer data. There are also those that were encrypted wherein it can be very difficult to decode the data if you do not have the key for decoding.

    After the hard drive has been purged or cleansed of all information contained therein, one can now proceed with the task of recycling a hard drive. Anyone who is skilled enough in using simple basic tools can take apart a hard drive to extract the highly reusable materials found in each unit.

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    How to Recycle the Hard Drive’s Aluminum Content

    HDDs are manufactured differently and have different components per unit. So, not all of them have the same aluminum content. The parts that are surely aluminum are the stack of shiny platters and sometimes the inner casing of the HDD.

    What you need to do is to disassemble the hard disk by removing all of the screws in its primary case. Some screws are under the stickers so you’ll have to feel for the indents on the sticker. After locating all of the screws, just pierce the stickers and remove the screws underneath.

    Cash-in on the aluminum – as mentioned earlier, aluminum can be sold at material recovery facilities. As a fact, a single hard drive uses more than a pound of aluminum found in the hard metal magnetic disk which serves as protective casing for the stored magnetic data. Aluminum is sold by weight and a regular HDD can be quite heavy. However, there is no definite answer as to how much a material recovery company will pay for a pound of aluminum. There is the matter of classifying the aluminum as dirty which means it has other metals present in its composition or clean if what you have is plain aluminum.

    Based on information gathered from forum sites, the price range for selling a pound of aluminum at recycling centers is from 25 cents to 90 cents and will also depend on your location. What is suggested is for you to canvass from different recycling centers in order to get the best deal.

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    Used as housing for an Arduino Controller- An Arduino is a computing platform supported by a microcontroller board and often used in developing interactive objects like Christmas lights, traffic lights, motors and other robotic and mechatronic ideas. Some users of the inexpensive and hand-assembled Arduino unit constructed a protective housing for their stand alone Arduino controllers by using the discarded panels of a hard drive case.

    Converting the Hard Drive into a Small Power Tool- The hard drive’s tiny motor and its platters were converted into a mini grinding/ sanding power tool for small projects that require minimal grinding or polishing. To reinforce the strength of the platters, the innovator of this mini-power tool stacked several platters on top of each other with the use of epoxy glue. Thereafter, a piece of sandpaper was fitted and attached to the center platter.

    Creating an Elegant TimepieceAn exposed hard disk serves as the clock face while some circuit boards will rotate the disk and the read/write head as medium for telling time with the aid of an old laptop power supply.

    Make Wind Chimes - Some made use of the little rings that separate the platters; they utilized wires and an S-hook for hanging it up as a decorative wind chime.

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    How to Recycle the Hard Drive’s Magnet Components

    There isn’t much information in the net about the viability of magnets at recycling centers but if you were to go into full time business of recycling scrap metals, magnets are handy tools to have when scavenging for metals. Below are some creative ideas when recycling a hard drive magnet.

    Tool holder – since magnets are incredibly strong. Super glue the magnet onto a piece of wood, then nail the wood underneath your workbench. There you can let the metal tools hang freely. This is best recommended in areas where there are no PCs and TVs that are likely to get affected by magnets.

    Most recycling ideas for magnets include refrigerator magnets, magnetic bumper stickers, ribbon magnets for promo materials and other similar objects.

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    How to Recycle the Hard Drive Motor

    Make a USB fan – with basic electronic skills you can easily make a USB fan out of the hard disk’s motor. What you need is a stripped USB cable with the male plug intact, a cork, some hard plastic or card board, some stiff wire or a coat hanger and some glue. The stripped cable should only have the red and black wires. Make propellers out of the cardboard or plastic pieces then glue the pieces to the cork. Now insert the spinning end of the motor into the cork and secure it with glue. Then you will need to test which way it should spin. Plug in the USB to a powered on computer, then touch the red and black wire on each terminal of the motor. Once the air is blowing towards you, permanently solder the wires on the motor. You can now create a stand using the wire coat hanger material.