June 27, 2017

How to Take Apart an Old Hard Drive And Separate the Rare Earth Magnets

Do you still have that old hard drive that can’t store information and you have kept it aside thinking, “Some use for it will come along?” Well, that use has finally come. You can make use of most valuable part of hard drives — the magnets. All mechanical hard drives contain rare earth neodymium magnets that are expensive to purchase. But how exactly do you take them apart? Here, we will show you the steps to take apart a computer hard drive and get the rare earth magnets from it.

How to Take Apart an Old Hard Drive And Separate the Rare Earth Magnets.

We assume you’ve certainly wiped off your data in the hard disk before attempting this.

What You’ll Need:

Alongside some hard drives to disassemble, you only need a few basic tools to get started.

  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Precision or Torx screwdriver set
  • Vice grips or pliers


First, identify the front and back of your hard drives. The front usually contains a label or sticker. Whereas the back will often contain a circuit board of some sort. And this is not always the case, as it can vary per drive model, but they will usually follow a similar format.

HDD_Front and Back

Now, start by removing the screws holding the top of the case on. You’ll need your Torx screwdrivers here to remove the special star shaped screws. These are known as security screws, designed to stop people from tampering.

special star shaped screws in HDD

There’s normally only 5-7 screws holding the board on and it can be lifted pretty easily. You may also find one screw hidden underneath a warranty sticker. Remember throughout this instructable, if a part isn’t coming out, you probably missed a screw. So make sure you check all over for hidden screws, and especially underneath any warranty stickers.

HDD hidden screw under Warranty

Once all the screws are removed, it should be easy to lift the top of the case off. You might need a flat-head screwdriver to prise the lid off if it’s really stuck.

You should now have something that looks like this – a circuit board removed after unscrewing it.

HDD Circuit board unscrewd

As a last resort, try removing each and every screw you can find. This should not be necessary for the majority of drives. Once the top is off, you can see the various parts of the hard drive, including Platter (round part) and an actuator (little arm). The magnets you want to separate, surround this actuator, one above and one below.

Hard disk Inside

Removing the Magnets

The first magnet should lift off with no problem, although you may need to use a flat-head screwdriver to remove it, as it will be magnetically stuck to the other components. Then after removing the actuator arm, you should be able to see the second magnet. This may be held on by one or two more Torx screws, which need removing.

Hard disk magnets removal

The final disassembly step needed is to remove the magnets from the backing plate. This can be difficult, as not only are they magnetically held on and are very strong magnets, but they are usually glued on too.

HDD Magnets On Backing Plates

The easiest way to separate the two is by using a vice and vice grips, but don’t worry if you don’t own a vice, it can still be done without one. Grip the backing plate with two pairs of vice grips or lock pliers. Carefully bend it in such a way that the magnet will be slightly freed. Once sufficiently bent, it’s an easy task to remove the magnets. Be careful! You don’t want pieces of metal flying into your eyes if it shatters, hence put on eye protection!


The magnet is held onto the actuator by epoxy or some other strong adhesive. This will leave marks on the surface of the magnets or may have removed their nickel plating. Carefully cover the magnet with tape to avoid any metal shards going anywhere.

HDD Exposed Magnet

That’s it! Now you have one super strong Neodymium magnet. You can use these magnets for any task really.

Well now you have these rare earth magnets what do you do with them? Let us know in the comments below!

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