Hard Drive Clock


My upcycle project began when I decided to use paper as my recycled material. Half way through I felt that using fresh paper wasn’t really considered upcycling, and it was more like crafting something from scratch. So instead, to be more in the spirit of upcycling, I chose to recycle old electronics that have been in my basement for over ten years now, which I haven’t bothered to have properly recycled. I’m choosing electronics as my upcycling focus since it would be possible to make something based on the modern aesthetic.

With some Googling, I decided that I wanted to make use of the hard drive platters and to re-purpose it into a clock. The image below shows a hard drive with its outer shell removed and exposed platters, which are the discs that contain the hard drive’s data. At this point, the hard drive is most likely unusable since the screws used to fasten the back plate onto the shell are precisely torqued to ensure zero vibration, and it would be near impossible to find those torque values without any documentation to go off of. Furthermore, any spec of dust will ruin the platters. Since the hard drive is only 30 GB and was made in 2001, I have no concerns about trashing it.


These platters can be removed, which will allow me to install the clock mechanism. The clock mechanism I’m using is found in pretty much all cheap clocks, and they are from a brand called Quartz.


These Quartz clock mechanisms are super easy to use and all it requires is a single AA battery, the second hand, the minute hand, and the hour hand. The second hand is installed on a tiny brass shaft that connects to the Quartz clock. However, the minute hand and hour hand are connected to the white shaft as shown in the picture above.


The image above is my inspiration for this project. I really liked the industrial look, but I wanted to clean it up in my version so it’s not so cluttered and hopefully more modern.

Design Process

The design process was very much circular. Compared to our discussed design loop, I think the steps that were valuable included

  • Defining the goal
  • Develop possible solutions
  • Prototype and test
  • Refine

For example, one of the project goals was to be able to mount the Quartz clock mechanism through the hard drive motor. The first idea was to drill a hole straight through the motor and insert the clock mechanism with ease. This led to the first problem where the hardened steel was not going anywhere. The largest hole I could drill in the surrounding aluminum was 1/4″, and the next possible solution was to use straws. The problem presented here actually is that the Quartz clock has 3 shafts to transmit rotation of each hand. The diameter of each hollow shaft was only several ten thousandths of an inch different, meaning that tolerances were a huge issue. I spent more than half the project time developing different straw diameters in attempt to make one straw slightly smaller in order to achieve a smooth fit. This process required more than just a few prototypes to finally get right.


I think my design process follows the ideal process fairly well. The only thing that is missing from the ideal process is the amount of time and frustration invested to make these solutions work. Also, sometimes not all the goal requirements are defined at the beginning. Towards the end of the project, I decided I wanted to add a wood trim to make it look more modern.


I started off with a piece of scrap wood and cut a hole in. Towards the refining process, one quarter of it snapped off, which wasn’t exactly the vision. I went with the flow and made the best of the situation to make something more interesting.


The vision for this project was to turn an already modern object, the hard drive, into something simpler and modern. The mirror finish matched with the textured wood would compliment each other in the modern aesthetic. Foremost, the main function of this upcycling project was to make a working clock. Without one, the success of this project in my eyes would not be possible. The functionality comes first, then the aesthetics come after. I think this should be the case in any design work. If something does not serve the purpose for which the author meant it to do, then there’s no reason to have it at all. This purpose can be functional or purely for thought, but it is important for the author to carry out his intention. While aesthetics may be an afterthought, it doesn’t mean that the effort between functionality and aesthetics should be 90/10. There should always be a balance.


After spending tens of hours trying to transmit the rotation of the clock mechanism through a small 1/4″ hole, I achieved the functional goal by having a working clock. The artistic goals of mine were not really set in stone. For example, the wood trim was developed spontaneously, and there was no reason for leaving a quarter of the circle off other than because I had manufacturing issues. This is the beauty of design in that the artistic side of things is not concrete and does not follow a set path. It is possible that the wood trim would not exist had it not randomly come across my mind.


I’m unsure what I will do with this clock. I may consider making another wood trim that uses stronger wood, and I may consider actually using the laser cutter to make perfect circles rather than doing it myself. In the mean time, I think I will hang it up on a wall in my garage. I secretly detest Quartz clocks because of the ticking of each second that becomes really loud if you focus on it. It is distracting sometimes to hear the tick-tock of a clock — and for that reason, it will probably go on the garage wall.

hdd clock
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42 Comments. Leave new

  • I love the wood faceplate here! If you stained it really dark or really light, I think it could embody the contrast in traditional hard drive assembly. Also, if you can find a way to reattach/elevate the read arm, you could vibrate it as an alarm.

    Have you considered using the platter as a reflector? I think back lighting it has some potential. When light reflects off of it, it will illuminate the wall, offering some backlighting to the black clock hands.

    Also, your choice of wire frame clock hands looks very clean and modern.

  • Shawn Sprinkle
    February 9, 2016 10:08 pm

    Cool use of old tech. I have some old HDD’s hanging around that I wasn’t sure what to do with. Now I’ll probably make a clock or two!

  • Jason Mcgrath
    February 9, 2016 7:52 pm

    Interesting re-purposing of old technology.

  • That’s really cool! What made you pick wood for the base of the clock instead of a metal or black plastic. I feel like that might look more modern. That’s a great way to use an old broken hard drive though!

  • Christopher Coffman
    February 8, 2016 8:55 pm

    Really impressive work here, love the asymmetry and excellent job of giving it a modern look.

  • Peter Brunsgaard
    February 8, 2016 7:30 pm

    The wooden finish on the clock gives it a classy appearance. A straw may not be the best choice for transmitting torque from the clock motor. Maybe some kind of metal sleeve would help to extend it?

  • Cool idea that adds a great touch to a workspace. Going with the semicircle wood cutout finish adds a sleek element by giving the hard drive a presence.

  • Really cool idea of recycling old computer parts. I think your project brings a different aesthetic than the other examples you found online with the wood trim; you have somewhat of a steam punk industrial look contrasted with the natural wood tones. I love it.

  • Nicholas Flood
    February 8, 2016 2:39 pm

    The plastic straws seem to work fine, but I wonder how long they will last. I think using hard drives for upcycling is really neat because they are so well polished and durable. The clock turned out really well. Good work!

  • Samantha Maierhofer
    February 8, 2016 2:37 pm

    Good job! It is an interesting contrast between the wood in the clock and the old hard drive. Maybe consider incorporating more of the electronics to give it a more technology feel? Overall though great job.

  • Really cool looking clock. I feel that you really captured your inspiration and aesthetic. When attaching the straw, did you glue it or anything in any way? or is the press fit sufficient? Your design is really simple. Would you consider staining or decorating the wood to add to your design?

  • Ashley Zimmerer
    February 8, 2016 1:45 pm

    I really like that you used wood to cover up the electronic bits of the drive, it definitely gives it a modern looking aesthetic. I appreciate your dedication, just filing the wood until it was the right dimensions. Did you design the clock hands yourself, or did they come with the old clock?

  • I really like the tech look. Try shorter arms or a movement with a longer shaft (neither should cost too much in time or money) and you will have an amazing piece that works to keep and know you created.

  • Jacob Mccormick
    February 8, 2016 12:53 pm

    It seems like clock-making is always a challenge, nice way to work through it and come out with a good looking finished product.

  • Great aesthetic, I wonder if you could use a stronger clock mechanism so that it can support the weight.

  • Meridith Richter
    February 8, 2016 12:45 pm

    It’s nice idea to turn the old hard drive into a clock, it would definitely fit in with a lot of contemporary decor. I kind of like the hand-filed wood look combined with the technology, it’s an interesting contrast.

  • Sreyas Krishnan
    February 8, 2016 12:42 pm

    Nicely upcycled Dennis. The clock that inspired you to make yours looks incredible too – that’s probably your next step!

  • Joseph Yoshimura
    February 8, 2016 12:41 pm

    I feel like I would see this at somewhere like apple or another technologically advanced place. I know that it is just a clock, but looking at it makes it seem like it is so much more because of the aesthetic you focused on.

    I also feel like it could be used in a movie and it would allow you to travel in time, but it got broken (I like the fact the wood isn’t necessarily complete) so the main character is only able to travel through time in bursts or something.

  • I think for the next iteration of the project, I would look into making the wood go all the way around. I also think that doing a nice dark stain to really make the reflective disk stand out and create contrast. Also if you did some sort of dove tail or finger joints to make the wooden box that went all around the entire clock it would look really nice.

  • Really interesting idea and aesthetic.

  • NIce clean aesthetic. The broken part gives it an asymmetry that works well.

  • Thomas Brunsgaard
    February 8, 2016 12:39 pm

    It would be really cool to integrate more components of the hardrive on the front of your clock. This would add to the tech/electronics aethetic (even if it doesn’t add any functional value. If you end up remaking the wood piece, you could even etch images into the surface.

  • Nice job engineering your way around the too-short clock shaft with the straws!

  • It turned out very attractive and the surface of the hard drive is very pretty because it reflects light well. In the future, it might be interesting to add number or something to show the direction it is meant to be hung.

  • Ryan Yankowsky
    February 8, 2016 12:38 pm

    Like the simplistic approach, good use of the wood to clean up the design from the original inspiration. The hands match aesthetic being smooth simple. One note hobby/ craft stores sell the clock mechanisms with different shaft lengths alone so making it function properly may just be a small investment.

  • I like the reflective surface of the rotating hard disc – I never realized that they were polished to a mirror finish. With a little additional refinement (so it ticks in the upright position) this would be a nice addition to an office or other work space.

  • Great design. Thanks for giving credit to your aesthetic inspiration. Instead of straws you might want to 3D print the shafts. Great project.

  • Brittany Warly
    February 8, 2016 12:37 pm

    I like the clean, simple look of your clock and that you didn’t just duplicate your inspiration, but you went by your own design. Great job on getting it to be functional too!

  • The wood trim is definitely a nice touch. I would recommend shorting, or using a lighter material for the different hands to lower the moment created so the clock can stand up. Overall the project is very pleasing to the eyes and looks great!

  • Anfal Abdulrahman
    February 8, 2016 12:37 pm

    I like your project it does have a sense of “modernism” to it. I think it would be cool it use maybe class instead of wood to show the internal part of it, that would look modern I believe.

    Thank you

  • David Holliman
    February 8, 2016 12:37 pm

    Love the idea of hacking electronics to create an aesthetic household piece… great job!

  • Looks good. I wish you added some numbers to the clock. Cleaver use of leftover electronics. Could you use a lighter paper disk and paint it so it looks nice and does not weigh down on the shaft?

  • Using a straw to transmit power is a really unique solution! Do you know what needs to be changed in order to avoid the problem of the clock not working when vertical?

  • Rachel Grosskrueger
    February 8, 2016 12:35 pm

    I love the simple wood trim look you went with! I think it would be super cool if you added numbers around the face or the wood portion maybe made with a laser cutter or burned on. Very beautiful design!

  • Clock looks great, simple and clean. I like the wood trim. How would you fix the hand not wanting to come back up?

  • Awesome idea. I really like the modern look of it. I would suggest using a clean metal sheet or something gold or copper colored to give it a clean modern look.

  • Chip Bollendonk
    February 8, 2016 12:34 pm

    Any idea why the clock hands aren’t supported enough to tick while its hung up? This is a cool enough project, and you did a good enough job, that I think it would be worth fixing so you could hang it up!

  • This is a cool project idea, although it would be better if it could work and hang on the wall. I like the aesthetic of it and think it is a really nice design with the wood.

  • Good job on your project! It’s fresh, and it turned out well. Anything round makes a good background for an analog clock, but I hadn’t seen a hard drive being utilized for this purpose before. It certainly has a modern look and aesthetic to it seeing as it’s a computer part, and I really like how you prioritized function over form. It’s great that you got the clock to work, but that said if I were to do anything different I’d do a couple of things related to form. I’d create at least a marker of some sort to indicate the 12:00 position, and I’d center the hard drive disc in the middle of the wood instead of offsetting it. But that’s just me. Enjoy your clock!

  • You did a great job! The clock looks professional and clean. The only suggestion I would give is that decorate a little bit more on the clock. At least, you could paint something on the clock to make it look more aesthetically pleased.

  • The project looks great to me. It looks professional and complicated. The only suggestion I would give is to decorate the clock more. At least you can paint some color on it. In general, this project looks great. And you did a really good job!

  • Your project looks great, I’m really impressed with how it turned out. I like how slick the hard drive disk looks, it really gives the whole thing a modern look. I would suggest, if you were going for the modern aesthetic, not to use wood. I’m sure with the difficulties you had getting it to function and perhaps some budget constraints that wood was the easiest option. However, in order to really achieve that modern aesthetic I think that a glossy white acrylic would have served much better. If wood was the only option I feel it could be improved a lot if you painted the wood, or stained it to achieve a glossy finish. Overall I think you did a great job, it looks very clean and professional.


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