SPINmaster, a DIY staggered hard disk spin-up manager

Computers & Mobile Technology
SPINmaster, a DIY staggered hard disk spin-up manager

Spotted in the MAKE Flickr pool:

Bryan Levin was apparently having problems with cheap computer power supplies that couldn’t handle turning all of his drives on at the same time. Rather than just buy a beefier power supply, he decided to build this SPINmaster device to turn them on one at a time. He’s got a few more photos of the project on his Flickr page. Looks great!

24 thoughts on “SPINmaster, a DIY staggered hard disk spin-up manager

  1. Jason says:

    I once worked in a place where we had servers with RAID arrays of 5 2 gig SCSI drives ($2500 per drive at the time), and about 20 such servers in the room. Turning them all on at once overloaded the building power service and actually destroyed about half the drives (about $125,000 damage for those keeping score). We had them replaced under on-site warranty, where they powered them up again and had the same problem right in front of the repair tech who looked ready to jump out the window. The warranty didn’t cover the second replacements.

  2. charper says:

    I used to work for a company that made ruggedized computers. We found that purposely delaying power to a harddrive with a stock BIOS was usually bad – the on-board controller expects to see the hdd almost immediately on power-up. For us the fix was a custom BIOS, for the hobbyist you might have to wire into the reset jumper and reset your system right after all the drives have power.

    1. charper says:

      Sorry, after reading the article I see he did that.

      1. linux-works says:

        yes, I was trying to think of how to ‘insert’ this delay chain before POST and then thought that if you press and hold the reset button, every pc I’ve used hangs until you actually release the button. and holding it for long periods of time seems to do no harm. so this is the plan (in theory).

        think of this like a ‘chip enable’. bring reset down for the duration of the ‘dialog’ and then bring it up when all drives are spun-up. just like releasing chip-enable, so to speak.

      2. linux-works says:

        this is on my sample intel NAS box (SS4200-e).

        it is meant as an ‘appliance’ and so it has a 4second power button but no reset button! there is no easy way to suspend boot with this box ;(

        however, reading the ATX power supply spec, I see there is a grey wire in the bundle that, if you break it, the power supply will not ‘tell’ the motherboard that ‘power is now ok, you can boot now’. this is the key wire I needed!

        I tried it and it works. cut the grey wire on the atx bundle and insert a relay there. open the connection to suspend boot. short wire to make the motherboard start POST. it works! a poor man’s reset button if the mobo has none ;)


  3. linux-works says:

    hi guys, linux-works here.

    top level of my public ftp area for this project:


    under there you’ll find the essential parts of the schematic, higher res pics and the source code for the arduino.

    its not a formal write-up yet but its only been a project for a few days, now. still evolving quite a lot (just today I gave it a crude read/write command line interface that you can connect to via the tx/rx serial lines).


  4. linux-works says:

    just thought of a neat app for this. since the TTY line is active (via the arduino) almost immediately, this kind of becomes an ‘out of band’ management port for which drives get powered up.

    suppose you are remote and don’t have an easy way to pick which of the OS drives you want to boot from. if you modem-in to this arduino port and type your ascii commands, you could setup the right drive then begin (allow) the boot.

    ie, a poor-man’s “service processor” for this function.

  5. Sean says:

    Back in the day, we had three of the big Winchester 5 1/2 full height SCSI drives in a server. We ran sequenced start as the drives had a pretty nasty start current. It was like listening to a three engine jet, first one would light, come up to speed which took about 30 seconds, then the next, and with all three it sounded like it was ready for takeoff. Don’t really miss the noise, and the expense. As I remember, the drives and the controller were about $2700 apiece, but they ran like fire when compared to the other technologies available. And all that expense for what now is a ridiculously small storage capacity.

  6. Chris W says:

    We used to have six CDC 9760 disk drives with 300Mbyte removable disk packs which were as big as a small washing machines. The operating system had to stagger the spinups because the spindle motors were as big as washing machine motors. You could activate a head positioner test sequence which would cause the drives to slowly move across the floor.

  7. linux-works says:

    here’s the demo shot:


    its installed in my intel NAS box (a suitcase looking NAS system that is videocard-less and intended to be a simple NAS but many of us have installed ubuntu or freebsd8 on it with great success).

    I used the ‘grey wire trick’ and it works just fine! you can see the grey wire from the atx bundle is cut and my switch relay (black one on the corner/top/right of the pc board) is the thing that holds up the mobo boot while the drives sequence, then the grey wire is allowed to connect, which lets the mobo think that its now *finally* stable enough to boot. in fact, I think that grey wire now have the PROPER semantic (lol).

    it works. next phase is to make a pc board and get some samples made.

  8. linux-works says:

    here’s a short (1minute) demo of the bootup sequence:


    note, 30mb file.

    when the fans go WHOOSH toward the middle, that’s when the drives are fully spun up and the system was just ‘let go’ and allow to start POST.

  9. wasutton3 says:

    Hey i saw this not too long ago and i was looking at doing something similar for my computer. (im looking to upgrade to 8 or 9 drives now) Could this be adapted and expanded to deal with 8 or 9 drives? or would that overpower the poor arduino?

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).