Salvage Neodymium Magnets from an Old Hard Drive

Computers & Mobile Energy & Sustainability Science Technology
Hard Drive Magnets
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Scavenging parts from old, discarded electronics is a skill every maker should hone. Old hard drives in particular are stuffed with useful components and greeblies that you can incorporate into other projects. They’re also just plain fun to open up (at least once you find those hidden screws manufacturers hide under their labels to prevent tampering).

The folks at iFixit have a great teardown worth checking out that walks you through the process of opening a hard drive. The critical tool you’ll need is a set of Torx drivers or bits (typically T4, T6, and T8).

If there’s a pearl to be plucked from a hard drive, it’s the large, super strong Neodymium (rare earth) magnet. Manufacturers typically tuck these magnets under a permalloy bracket in the corner of the drive nearest the actuator arm that moves across the disc.

In the video shown here, you’ll see where to locate the magnet, how to remove the bracket, and how to use a vise and wrench to get a purchase on the strong magnet and remove it. A standard 3.5” internal hard drive should yield two crescent-shaped magnets.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.46.25 AM

What can you make with the magnets when you’re done? Two projects that spring to mind are a magnetic knife rack, or this magnetic tablet holster. As shown in the video, the magnets also offer an easy way to collect stray nuts and bolts off your workbench.

14 thoughts on “Salvage Neodymium Magnets from an Old Hard Drive

  1. John Daniels says:

    This is great! I’ve got 3, YES THREE, Western Digital drives that have all stopped working within a month or two of purchasing them. Since I’m in Japan, trying to get them serviced is going to be a hassle and cost a lot on shipping, so I’m just sitting on them until I get around to salvaging the data on them. THIS is a great idea for using those drives after they’re salvaged. I never knew there were neodymium magnets in there. I’ve tossed far too many hard drives without sufficiently salvaging from them. Oh well, live and learn. Now it’s time to start looking for old hard drives in the recycle areas of my apartment building. =)

    Oh, and word to the wise: avoid Western Digitial. I bought a 2 greens and a red and they all were faulty. The red is supposed to be the business class model. Well that’s a load of BS because it failed the fastest.

    1. kohlmannj says:

      This is really surprising to hear. Usually WD have the best in the biz, especially the Red drives, which are specifically made for high-uptime use in RAID arrays for NAS units.
      I’ve had terrible luck with Seagate drives over the years, but have never had a WD drive fail yet. Knock on wood, because I’ve got 8 or 10 of them running in various computers! I do tend to buy their Black drives, but have several Blues and a couple Greens.
      Sorry to hear about your luck with them.

  2. beardy241 says:

    …and if you can find really old hard drives, the magnets are HUGE!

    Beware, they will bite you!

    1. brucej says:

      Two points:

      1) I salvaged some from old IBM SCSI drives that are insanely strong. My kitchen ‘recipe book’ is one of those holding about 30 pages of paper to the side of the fridge, and it’s still a struggle getting it off.

      2) be very careful prying them off the backing. If they shatter, the parts are beyond razor sharp and cling tenaciously to any steel surface, leaving your shop littered with tiny rare-earth fangs to bite you.

  3. Karl Troll Rosenqvist says:

    I love these magnets. I’ve used them for everything from building electric motors to temporary attachments.

  4. old_school says:

    I’ve been using these magnets for years. I have some on the inside of the lid for my toolbox, they are perfect for hanging screwdrivers and pliers.

  5. KeithFromCanada says:

    Huh. I have a box of a few dozen in my garage. I was considering cutting the platters into wedges to make ‘Mithril Scale Mail Armour’, but forgot about the magnets. Thanks, Makezine!

  6. alrui says:

    One day we’ll be mining these electronics from landfills to retrieve the precious metals and other needed resources since so many people simply toss such useful and recyclable items into the trash.

    1. Lloyd Paschal says:

      We at San Angelo Friends of the Environment, aka SAFE Recycling Center send all of our electronics to ECS a certified electronic recycling firm located in Mesquite, TX, they also have a facility in Stockton, CA, so none of the electronics that are dropped off at our facility end up in the landfill.

      1. alrui says:

        Good to know, I was referring to the end users who for the most part simply toss stuff.

        1. Lloyd Paschal says:

          Yes unfortunately too many people don’t recycle or dispose of items properly.

  7. yetanothermike says:

    Two thoughts: It goes without saying- but that won’t stop me- that you should only do this to a drive that is dead, and you’ve recovered any needed data; Also, rubbing screwdrivers and ball bearings against these magnets will magnetize them, which may prove problematic later on.

  8. Greg Bos says:

    You can just buy Neo magnets if you want in any size at I do a lot of projects with them.

  9. Paul says:

    I know it’s an old thread but, maybe someone will catch this. Are these hard drive magnets strong enough to erase 4mm DDS-150 backup tapes?

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I make stuff, play music, and sometimes make stuff that plays music. Fan of donuts, Arduino, BEAM robotics, skateboarding, Buckminster Fuller, and blinking lights.

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