A multi-disciplinary journey in music, sound, and field recording.

Hard Drive Guts

Posted: April 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: found sound objects, sound design
Hard Drive Guts

I'm killing this platter slowly with a screwdriver, and it never sounded so good.

Nothing puts Moore’s Law in perspective like ripping an 80 gigabyte hard drive out of an enclosure and swapping with a 2 terabyte drive. 80GB isn’t even big enough to act as a Photoshop scratch disk in 2010.

It’s not new ground by any means, but I did get some pretty interesting results, ranging from IDM-like chirps and squeaks to all sorts of weird drive vocalizations when I slowed the platter down with a screwdriver – much to my surprise, the damn thing came to a stop, jittered around, and then spun right back up again. Most of the sounds were pretty subtle (perfect for the MKH 50), surprisingly, but with lots of surprises. [I shot video of the whole thing, a still of which can be seen above, but really, a hard drive spinning is not that interesting. Trust me on this one.]

I had a great time until Chuck Russom suggested on Twitter what might happen if the 7200rpm drive would have come loose…

These sounds have only been normalized and no sound processing has been applied.

[Sennheiser MKH 50 microphone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

11 Comments on “Hard Drive Guts”

  1. 1 Michael Raphael said at 9:29 am on April 23rd, 2010:

    call up Ae.

  2. 2 Chuck Russom said at 4:27 pm on April 23rd, 2010:

    Another awesome post! I did a similar thing using a contact mic. Your samples are way cooler than what I got. I’ll try to post mine up soon, and we can have dueling hard drive posts!

  3. 3 thehipcola said at 9:31 am on April 26th, 2010:

    Those sounds are very, very cool.

  4. 4 marty said at 11:51 am on April 30th, 2010:

    Whoa… !
    I like the part where it winds down like a robot losing it’s power supply or something.

  5. 5 Colin Hart said at 6:44 am on May 1st, 2010:

    Awesome job! This sounds straight out of a scifi. No processing required. Made me think of Wall-E actually. Surprising that a single drive made such a wide range of sounds.

    How were you powering it and keeping it spinning?

  6. 6 Nathan said at 2:25 pm on May 3rd, 2010:

    Colin, sorry for the delayed response. The drive was still in its case; I just unscrewed the lid. I set it into an enclosure with its own top off, so it had full, normal power. I was basically just fighting the 7200rpm motor in real time by applying pressure to the platter itself. The mechanisms didn’t seem to mind, but I’m sure that disk itself isn’t writeable or readable anymore!

    You think this sounded like Wall•E? Just wait a couple of weeks, and we’ll get even closer…

  7. 7 Nathan said at 2:27 pm on May 3rd, 2010:

    @Chuck: Dueling-topic audio posts, eh? Just wait until my next post, tomorrow, May 4th. All I can say is, “Bring It!” :-)

  8. 8 FrenchSD said at 7:14 am on May 5th, 2010:

    Whoa! Very good sound and good idea.

  9. 9 George Spanos said at 6:13 pm on May 5th, 2010:

    Awesome sounds once again Nathan… will have to try this. I’ve recorded hard drives with a contact mic before but not while touching the spinning platter. Good work!

  10. 10 Nathan said at 7:15 pm on May 5th, 2010:

    Thanks, FrenchSD and George, for listening…so glad you’re enjoying the posts!

  11. 11 Andrew said at 4:00 am on May 8th, 2010:


Leave a Reply