At one point in the '90s, about fifty percent of the CDs produced worldwide had an AOL logo. About fifty percent of the CDs in my home still have that AOL promise of 500 free hours on them. Though they never got me to join their internet service, I did get a lifetime supply of coasters.
Thanks to the rise of high-speed internet access and bigger and better hard drives, there's no reason for companies to snail mail any more of those obnoxious plastic discs.
However, cloud storage is threatening to make your hard disk drives at home a thing of the past, too. Your data is safe in the cloud, away from things like burglars and Coca-Cola, and you don't have to worry about hardware failures.
So, what can you do with all of those internal and external HDDs filling up your house? They're not really good for drink coasters, but there are some other clever ways to repurpose them into something useful. Here are just a few DIY project ideas for those old HDDs.
One of the most popular ways to reuse an HDD is to turn it into a clock. Hard drives make great desk clocks because of their shape and sleek looking design.
The recycled HDD clock pictured above is a pretty basic project, with few modifications and a simple installation of a clock mechanism with a ¾-inch long shaft, which you can get from pretty much any hardware or hobby store.
Want a different twist? Try this vertical HDD clock that uses computer keys to display the hours.
Get creative. There's no shortage of examples you can check out for inspiration.
It may sound strange, but with a few tweaks, you can turn a hard drive into a speaker. HDDs use some of the same technology for that's used in a traditional loudspeaker, specifically the arm.
All you need to do is apply the right waveform and sound will be produced. To turn your HDD into a speaker, you'll need to solder a wire to the hard drive's terminal and another one to its spindle motor terminal. The final part is connecting the wires to the speaker output of your stereo and voilà, you will have sound!
You can also flip it on its side to make a vertical speaker and give it a cooler look.
If you want to keep your project low-key, try your hand at this nifty hard drive safe. The project is fairly simple, using a few tools to empty out the HDD completely, which leaves room to stash valuables such as money and jewelry.
If you still have the computer from which the hard drive came, you can put it back into the computer for even better security.
They'll never know.
One of the more unique projects from a HDD turns it into a laser oscilloscope. The hard drive's voice coil circuit is hacked in order for it to be connected to a stereo output, like with the speaker project.
Mirrors are then placed around the HDD, which reflect the light to create an awesome laser show. This project is a little more difficult and requires some soldering skills, but the result is well worth it.
Made from several hard drive platters, this project puts together a bunch of different parts to create a wind chime. If you can get your hands on this many hard drives, you can easily grab some string, drill a hole in each platter and create yourself a pretty interesting outdoor decoration.
Not only does it chime out, but it also creates strange glimmers when the sun shines through it, making it infinitely more awesome than your neighbors' boring old regular wind chimes.
For something that's easy to make and functional, why not turn an old HDD into a grinder?
All you have to do is rearrange the platters so they're directly on top of each other, then cut a piece of sandpaper to the right shape and glue it on top.
It won't spin fast enough to do any real damage, but it does have enough torque to sharpen a knife, so watch your fingers!
Want something a little faster? This hard drive turned Tesla turbine runs on compressed air and spins up to 15,000 rpm.
You will need a few less common tools, including a milling machine and a lathe. The process consists of drilling ventilation holes in the hard drive platters, then making a shaft from a piece of aluminum. The platters are placed onto the shaft with spacers between them to create a rotor.
When fluid is pumped into the chamber, it makes the platters turn, which causes the shaft to rotate. This one may not have a huge output, but a larger version can generate enough power to run a car or plane.
If your hard drive still turns on, you can use a soda can, six bicycle spokes, a plastic bowl, and a flat metal tin to turn it into your very own cotton candy machine. Granted, it's probably not totally sanitary, but it's still pretty awesome.
You build it by using the bicycle spokes to create legs for the metal tin. The soda can is placed on top of the spindle to hold the fuel, and when you fill the tin with sugar, the spinning motion of the hard drive turns the sugar into threads of cotton candy.
If you record a lot of videos or audio tracks, a hard drive makes a pretty good mic stand. After taking out all the internal parts of the hard drive, the wires from the mic are soldered onto the switch and output jack so it can be connected to any recording device.
The mic is held by a clamping pipe hanger that's bolted to the hard drive. It's powered by a 1.5 volt AA battery that lasts quite a while, and the whole project costs about $10, assuming you've already got the mic and recording equipment.
And finally, the project that most of us are more likely to actually use: a hard drive turned cell phone charger that also functions as an LED desk lamp and hidden flash drive.
This project is a lot more involved, but most of the parts are pretty simple. You can find more details and a downloadable schematic here.
What's your favorite new use for old hard drives? Let us know in the comments below.
Keep Your Connection Secure Without a Monthly Bill. Get a lifetime subscription to VPN Unlimited for all your devices with a one-time purchase from the new Gadget Hacks Shop, and watch Hulu or Netflix without regional restrictions, increase security when browsing on public networks, and more.