So, I'm considering an Artsy Fartsy project with hard drive platters. Being mildly aware of the world around me, I've come to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't grind up modern (or any) electronics and drink it for tea. To that end, is there anything in hard drive platters that is significantly toxic, or are they fine lying around the house? I don't intend in grinding them or anything, I'll be using them whole, so dust inhalation presumably isn't a big issue.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that you're safe. The core is aluminium, on which several layers of metallic material are sputtered. Are you planning to spin the platters at high speed (microcontroller + ESC)? The worst thing that can happen is a platter that breaks loose and starts flying around ;) $\endgroup$ Apr 15 '15 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I've got a handful from a dead server. I'm making a set of coasters. Thanks for the answers. :) @KlausWarzecha , can I ask why your comment isn't an answer? I'd go ahead and accept it. $\endgroup$
    – Sidney
    Apr 15 '15 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Sidney My first comment simply was a bit too short for an answer. It might be more fitting now. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 '15 at 5:07

I never opened a newer 2.5" hard disk, but I've read that these may contain glass platters.

However, I've seen and touched stacks of platters from old 3.5" hard disks - a friend of mine makes clocks from hard disk cases.

These platters have an aluminium core, on which another metallic layer, that serves as a kind of primer, and the magnetic material are applied by sputtering. The surface is covered by a protective polymer layer.

Platters have been drilled or cut in a lot of electronics projects, e.g. to make hdd clocks based on the persistence of vision effect. Apart from the usual safety rules for metal works (protect your eyes, don't touch the hot drill, etc.) one only has to make sure that the rotating platter is properly mounted and doesn't start flying around!

When the platters aren't mechanically altered and only painted, there is even less danger. The platters are not toxic and do not even have sharp corners - it is safe to keep them around in the living room.

On a side note, the magnets from these hard disks are more dangerous. These magnets are pretty strong and when playing with them, you can easily jam your fingers between them ;)

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    $\begingroup$ I can verify about getting my finger caught between some of the magnets...ouch! $\endgroup$
    – user15489
    Apr 15 '15 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ @santiago Yeah... I did that the other day! XD $\endgroup$
    – L.B.
    Apr 15 '15 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ I have opened my old HDD with many bad blocks. After opening it, I learnt about its workings, and then I took a pair of tongs, and then I tried to bend the platters... It just broke off like a glass (with very sharp edges, but so smooth thet you can't cut your fingers with it). The glass was so thin but hard that I thought it was just a strong metal. You can't break it by simply dropping it from 6 feet height. So I would say it's not always aluminium plates... $\endgroup$
    – S.Goswami
    Aug 17 '19 at 17:28

Discs from 3.5" drives are perfectly safe. They are made of a majority of aluminum, with hints of platinum, palladium, and other precious metals (not a lot though — the Pt coating is only a few atoms thick).

Stay away from 2.5" drives though. Their platters are made of some sort of glass, and if you put too much pressure on them, they will shatter with razor-sharp chunks of glass flying everywhere.

  • $\begingroup$ If you're thinking "This post is a few years old, and these discs from my 2.5" drive really look like metal" you are wrong - they are glass. Do not test them, they will shatter and cut you. $\endgroup$
    – Origin
    Jun 27 '20 at 16:08

I think you're OK if they're just lying around.

Some drives, maybe only older ones, do contain nasty stuff such as beryllium, so I'd be wary of opening them up or crushing them in any way.




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