A look inside a one terabyte Seagate Hard Drive

1 TB Seagate Harddrive

It was time to destroy a hard drive but instead of venting my frustration with Microsoft using a sledge hammer or giant magnet, I decided a more civil approach of deliberate dismemberment would be prudent.

I know everyone is talking about Solid State Drives these days, but I still find the original hard disk drive absolutely captivating.

The first hard drive was invented in 1954 by Rey Johnson while he was at IBM.  Many people regard Johnson as the “father” of the disk drive.  He was arguably one of the most prolific inventors of his era and when he retired from IBM in 1971, he already had 90 patents to his name.  He was a pretty smart guy and because of his innovative mind and lucid thinking, millions around the world are benefitting from his archetypical hard drive.

Hard Drive Anatomy 101

All hard disks share the same characteristics.

In the graphic below you can see the metallic actuator arm reaches over two 500MB polished platters.  The actuator arm pivots on an axis housed in the upper left corner of my drive.  The platters are usually made of glass or high-precision aluminum and are powered by a motor that spins the platters at a blazing fast 7,200 revolutions per minute.

The actuator arm has read/write heads that hover only 3 nanometers above the platter surface.  As the platter spins, the arm darts the read/write heads around the platter at an extremely fast rate.  How fast?  Well, most hard drives have actuator arms that move from the platter center (known as the hub) to the edge and then back to the hub at up to 50 times per second.  The amazing thing is that the arm is both lightning fast and precise – and it has to be if you think about how data storage works.

1 TB Seagate Harddrive top removed

Data Storage

All your movies, music and photos are stored on the surface of the platter in what’s known as sectors and tracks.

You can think of one track as a thin, circle on the platter that shares the same center as the platter itself.  In other words, hard disk tracks are just concentric circles of various diameters; it’s kind of like the grooves in your grandfathers old vinyl collection except the tracks on hard disk platters are virtually infinitesimal and therefore invisible to the naked eye.

Each platter is divided into equidistant “pizza” slices.   Where a single “slice” meets a concentric circle you have a sector.  Each sector has a set number of bytes and can be collected into what’s known as clusters.

Perhaps a picture will help illustrate:

1 TB Seagate Harddrive  It was time to destroy a hard drive but instead of taking a sledge hammer or giant magnet to the hard drive I decided on the more civil approach of deliberate dismemberment.  I wanted to open it up so I could marvel at the engineering inside.  I know everyone is talking about Solid State Drives these days, but I still find the original hard disk drive absolutely captivating.  The first hard drive was invented in 1954 by an IBM team lead by Rey Johnson.  Many regard Johnson as the "father" of the disk drive.  He was arguably one of the most prolific inventors of his era and when he retired from IBM in 1971, he had 90 patents to his name.  He was a pretty smart guy and because of his innovative mind and lucid thinking, millions around the world are benefitting from his archetypical hard drive.  The anatomy  All hard drive disks share some basic characteristics.   In the graphic below you can see the metallic actuator arm reaches over two 500MB polished platters.  The actuator arm pivots on a actuator axis housed in the upper left corner of my drive.  The platters are usually made of glass or high-precision aluminum and are powered by a motor that spins the platters at a blazing fast 7,200 revolutions per minute.    The actuator arm has read/write heads the hover every so slightly above the surface of the platters.  As the platter spins the arm darts around moving the heads at a extremely fast rate.  Most hard drives have actuator arms that move from the platter center (known as the hub) to the edge and back to the hub at up to 50 times per second!  The amazing thing is that the arm is both lightning fast and precise - and it has to be if you think about how data storage works.  1 TB Seagate Harddrive top removed  Data Storage  All your videos, files, music and photos are stored on the platters surface in what's known as sectors and tracks.    You can think of one track like a thin, circle on the platter that shares the same center as the platter itself.  In other words, hard disk tracks are just concentric circles of various diameters.  It's kind of like the grooves of your grandfathers old Vinyl collection except the tracks on hard disk platters are virtually infinitesimal and therefore invisible to the naked eye.  Each platter is divided into equidistant "pizza" slices.   Where a single section meets a concentric circle you have a sector.  Each sector has a set number of bytes and can be collected into what's known as clusters.  Perhaps a picture will help illustrate this:  l  Hard Drive Tracks and Sectors Concentric Circles

The purple color fill represents one sector on the platter.  In this graphic,  there are only 60 sectors; however, since most sectors are 4,096 bytes (4 kB), you probably have millions of sectors on your hard drive.

The image below is what a cluster looks like.  There are also called allocation units; it’s basically a contiguous group of sectors and is the smallest logical unit that can be assigned disk space.

Hard Drive Cluster

 

Simplicity

Once you remove the platters…

1 TB Seagate Harddrive platters in hand

you’ll see that the hard drive is really a very basic machine…

1 TB Seagate Harddrive platters removed

All the brains are contained in the circuit board and everything else is just a super precise actuator arm with shiny platters.

1 TB Seagate Harddrive I/O Board

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  • Secretsquid

    I love taking stuff apart. Usually after it is dead, like that drive. We just bought 1 TH Toshiba. In my old days I replaced individual components. I even worked on vacuum tube radios and amps.

  • blackbird

    so i was taking one of these drives apart and accidentally “shattered” one of the platters, i’m pretty sure i cleaned it all up but is there any risk from the material its made out of just in case i didn’t get it all? i don’t want to accidentally cut myself of get jabbed by a bit of shattered drive and then get sick or something -_-