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HDD Window Mod
I know what you are all thinking, "Whats new with this mod, a lot of people have done this before", well, thats true a lot of other modders have undertaken the task of disassembling their HDD's to put a window on top. I want to try and be one of those lucky ones who actually have a working HDD after I am done!

I started out to try and do a much larger capacity than what I have seen done, the largest I found was 30Gb, (I'm sure someone probably has done a much larger capacity one than that, but who has time to search the net??) So I went out and got a brand spanking new 80gb Seagate Barracuda! Just so I can void the warranty as soon as I get it home!!
The materials needed for this mod:
1 Expendable HDD ( The larger the capacity the more delicate it is, the bits are packed together more on the disc, makes the drive more susceptible to dust and other foreign materials!!) I used/sacrificed an 80 GB one.
1 Large enough piece of 1/8" thick Plexiglass to cover the area to be cut out.
Some Silicone Sealant/Adhesive (Clear is my prefference, use whatever color you prefer.) or your choice of adhesive, I used silicone since it is easy to clean up the excess once it has cured. (And also because I had seen another HDD mod where the person used a liquid adhesive and it seeped inside his cover, and he had to spend EXTRA time cleaning it all up once it cured!!)
1 Large Freezer Ziplock bag, (and maybe a small snack one for the screws.)
Some bright LEDS, or a LED Drive activity meter module...
Tools you will need
Torx head screwdriver, one that fits the screws on the drive cover. (Or like me, and use a 2mm flathead screwdriver and a pair of medium sized needle nose pliers to use for leverage when turning the precision screwdriver.) be carefull not to strip the screws!
A Dremmel type rotary tool, or comparable tool with some kind of cutting disc to use to cutout the "window". I used a 3" pneumatic rotary cutting tool, I tried my dremmel, but the cover was stainless steel, and I went trough a couple of discs and barely cut a couple of inches.
A painters Tack Cloth
Some lint free cloth (dry)
Some Isopropyl alcohol, or some alcohol rubbing pads.
Compressed air.
And most important when working with power tools, Safety Glasses!




Start off by removing the label to expose any hidden screws on the cover, trust me, there is always one screw under there to stabilize the drive motor spindle or the reading arm.
You can use a heat gun to slightly heat up the glue holding the metal shield plate, and slowly pry it off with a flat head screw driver, slowly, trying not to scratch up or marr the surface of the cover you want to keep in tack. Or, you can just do like I did and keep it on and use it for a guide to cut the top cover!! (Almost had you doing some extra work! Maybe you should read all of this first before you try to follow it, IF you are trying this on your own, you are doing it at your own risk, this is just for educational purposes only, you damage your drive, thats your problem! Sorry... no exceptions.)

Since we are going to need an edge or lip of some sort to attach the Plexi to the cover, it is best to leave atleast an 1/8" to 3/16" around the edges of the cutout, that way once all the filing and cutting is done, you are guaranteed some left to attach the window to.


Since I didnt have a Torx head screwdriver that would fit the drive's screws, I used a flat head 2mm pricision screwdriver instead, the flat head just fits accross the Torx opening, with some patience and a little help with a pair of needle nose pliers ( to turn the screwdriver), I managed to get all the screws out.




Once all the screws are out, I suggest putting them in a plastic sandwich bag or something to keep them all together in, you will need these again later on when you put the top back on the drive.

This part gets a little tricky, this is where failure of the drive could very well happen at this point! Most modders have done this in a bathroom, by running the shower as hot as they can get it, for atleast 20 minutes to build up steam, once the steam is built up, turn off the shower and close any  air vents in the room (I have never seen anyone mention this before), we dont want the air conditioning or heat kicking on and blowing dust into the room, since we are trying to eliminate it as much as possible. I suggest having all your tools that you will need, such as the large ziplock bag and flat head screwdriver, in the room before you begin, so you wont have to keep running in and out, remember we are trying to create an almost dust free atmosphere. Once you are pretty comfortable that all the dust, steam and any minute airborne particles are neatly resting on something and not floating around, move on to the next step. Some other modders would wear rubber gloves at this point, if you do, do not use the ones with talcum powder in them or any other kind of powder! REMEMBER, NO DUST!!!



GENTLY, pry up on each corner of the cover to release it from the bottom half, you might have to peel off the "Warranty Void If Removed" sticker, since thats what you are doing anyway. Be carefull not to push the tip of the screwdriver in too far, you may damage the rubber seal if there is one, like the one in this drive. Once you get the top off, quickly, but gently place the opened drive into the ziplock bag and zip it closed. Now place the drive in a very safe place until we need it again, we are only working on the top cover so we do not need the rest of the drive for now.
The green tape you see is painters tape I used to protect the rubber seal stuck to the cover, I want to retain that to keep the drive sealed up once I get the window in place.

I went trough a couple of cutting discs on my dremmel and that didnt really work that well since the cover is made of stainless steel! So I switched to a 3 " pneumatic cuttoff tool.

 After the window was cutout, I used a variety of jewelers type files to clean up and smooth out the window cutout. I then ran some 400 grit sand paper around the opening to make sure all sharp edges are rounded off.

The cover was then cleaned with some alcohol to prepare it for the Plexiglass window.
It wasn't easy maneuvering the 3" cutoff wheel around the tight corners and turns, but with a little patience, (man, I should have been a doctor, the I wouldn't mind dealing with patients!) and a few minutes of filing the opeing looks smooth enough to fit it for the plexi.


Once the plexi was cut to fit and I was satisfied with it, I ran a bead of silicone adhesive around the ledge for the window and pressed the plexi down onto it, I then smoothed out the silicone around the outside edges of the window with my finger to give it a nice finished look. ( I placed the plexi on top of the cover, instead of inside, I have seen it done before in the inside on another modding site and the person had to go through the trouble of shimming his cover or the spindle would drag on the plexi!) Once the silicone cured I used a razor to run along the inside edge of the metal cover to trim off any excess silicone, it is easier to wait for the silicone to cure before cleaning it up or you will end up smearing it all over the place!
Once all the excess silicone is cleaned up, the finshed edges of the window should look something like this. You can barely see the adhesive, a little patience goes a long way when modding!
Now, just clean the inside of the window with alcohol to remove any excess grease and dirt, then use the painters tack cloth, to make sure that the cover is completely dust free. Now blow it off with the compressed air, once you are completely satisfied that it is dust and particle free .... Now you want to go through the whole bathroom thing again...... but this time to reassemble the drive.
Your window's inside should look like this if held at an agle to the light.... this way you will be able to see any visible dust or particles still on the window or cover.
 
And there you have it, a window on a hard drive, now to check to see if it still works we will do an initial power up test just to see if it powers back up with out a hitch.... then on to formatting.... I will have Videos of these tests posted here and on You-Tube....


Here is the video for the initial Power up test...

Now on to adding some LED's to it... almost all HDD mods that I have seen are usually just lit up, I want to go a step further and tap into the Disk activity header on the Mainboard or the Disk itself to use the signal to drive the LEDS for this mod...
I was actually thinking of using my Audio VU meter circuit to come up with a 10 LED activity meter..... so that being said I have some work to do on the lighting aspect of this mod.....
The Disk activity connection header on the mainboard is usually misunderstood, most people think that the +5 is supplied to turn the LED on, but in fact, the +5 going to the LED is always on, it is the Ground that is being switched on or off, since the Disk activity LED output on the disk is actually an Active Low output, and the signal comes directly from your Disk, the Mainboard just has a pass through connection to the Disk activity LED on Pin 39 of the IDE/PATA Cable (it OR's the outputs of multiple disks! to monitor a single disk activity, you will have to tap into it via pin 39 on the IDE Cable!), so taking that into consideration lets get this thing going!

One thing I wanted to try and do is to not have a visible PCB, so I thought about making my own PCB out of some scrap Plexi! All I need for this is some copper "tape" I get this from the stained glass supply store, they use it to adhere to the edges of the glass so they could solder the pieces together, in my case I am going to use it to free hand a circuit for my LED's. I wanted to use 3 differrent colored LED's for this part but all I had in SMD (1206) LED's were Green and Red, so for now they will have to be all red :(
I started out by cutting and bending the "PCB" to size. I actually had to hand bend the Plexi so I didn't end up with a "square" bend.
I then used a straight edge to cut strips out of the copper "tape".
I made them about .063" wide (approximately!!)
I then slowly and PATIENTLY laid out my traces on the plexi.
I used a pair of tweezers to hold the SMD LED's in place and tacked them on one side, once I had them "in line" I went ahed and soldered the other end down.
I did a point to point PCB of the controlling circuit consisting of the LM3916 VU Meter IC and a couple of 741 Op-Amps, basically I took my VU Meter circuit and added the Op-Amps to it....
Now to connect the LED's and the Control PCB together and do a few tests.... I used a piece of a HDD cable (black in color) and soldered them onto the copper traces, the other end plugs into the Control PCB.
Now to mount the Activity Meter to the Modded HDD.... Not too shaby I must say...
Now to connect this thing to a PC to partition and format it, then its just a matter of time to see how long this window Modded HDD lasts.....


Activity Meter Test Video


That's it folks, hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I did. Having the satisfaction of something you've created or modded come to life and function cant be replaced by just looking at other peoples Mods.