Coping: Monday in the Man Cave–Screwdriver Report

imageSay, you want to make $50-bucks easy, right?

That is how Monday afternoon penciled out and I’ll tell you how.  It’s good Depression thinking to learn.

I’m sure some where among your friends you know some people who have either purchased or built-up their own USB hard drives.

And, if you have more than a few friends, a few of their USB drives may have gone Tango Uniform.

Or, if you have an IT Department (there may be one or two that haven’t been blown out in favor of online support from Chennai…) you have have a bunch floating around work.

Since we go through about two drivers per year, my pile of drives got up to four a few months ago.  With Elaine working on a project in the yard, and with me hanging out in the palatial UrbanSurvival office on the promise of spring cleaning…it was time to attack the pile.

A Familiar Rant

There are two things that kill computers.  Bad power and heat.  But of the problem set you’re likely to face, most of the problems (somewhere around 50%) are going to be caused by heat.  And he shows up where?

(all together now kiddies!)

“In the cheap-ass capacitors the sweat shops use in there products.

Yes, that’s right.  If you take apart some of these USB drives, what you will find is either seconds (parts that are almost, but not quite good enough) and capacitors that are under-rated for temperatures of real life. 

An 85C rated component is a penny, or two, cheaper than a 100C-rated capacitor.  I’m sure you’ll remember we talked about this in July of 2014…article here if your memory is gone… and at that time I told you how you can salvage a nice Sceptre 27” wide monitor with a $15 gob of parts you can buy on eBay and apply the parts with about 25-cents worth of soldering iron time.]

You will be pleased to know that even after multiple lightning storms and one of the two floating backup power system inverters dying, all three of my matching monitors are still working totally peach.

I was aiming to do the same thing with the hard drive collection.

Except, it is not worth your time to go looking for the capacitor kit to rebuild a power supply or board in the USB enclosure, and besides, half the time the bearings will have just given up and gone to meet Jesus.  In which case, all the fancy soldering in the world won’t help, unless you can turn that heap of papers into a CNC drivers for your table saw which is (how to break this to you?) er…statistically improbable.

So to play you will need a USB hard drive enclosure and one like the Sabrent USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drive Lay-Flat Docking Station for 2.5 or 3.5in HDD, SSD [Support UASP and 8TB] (EC-DFLT).  This will set you back $23.

I happened to have a spare Antec USB 2.0 empty box around as a spare.  OMG we have spare spares around here…which is why I have to waste my valuable time scrounging hard drives back together instead of finishing my last 10 classes to polish off my doctorate in business.  The way I figure, though, no one would believe it if I finish yet-another-degree, and besides, school would be a) an expense item and b) I’m not a Syrian refugee or an Indian H-1B holder, so take the $50 bucks worth of future expenses hedge and kiss the ground that we could find something to do other than buff up the butt callouses on the Holiday, right? 

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

imageStep 1:  Rip the existing USB hard drives apart. 

I always like to be neat about my messes so this is part of the hardware heap that resulted from tacking apart a Maxtor, an IOmega, some off brand, and a Rock Mobile Disk.

On this last drive, we come to a really keen story that I found while I was troubleshootizing the disk (to no avail, obviously) and I read an allegation on another site that the Rock Mobile hard drive was held in place by two tiny computer screws and to make sure things didn’t rattle, the Rock Mobile Disk I opened (like the others on the net) didn’t have a foam filler piece…they used this high tech material called…

imageSliced up USPS shipping boxes!!!

I could not believe it!

On the other hand, this reminds me of a story I heard about one of the boat yards in Taiwan that used to make high end sail and power boats for the American market.

Word around the commercial workers on boats was that this yard in Taiwan would lay down part of the mold for a deck, or whatever, and would then need to find some “filler material” in order to keep the top part of a deck mold from bouncing down to the cabin top part of the mold.  There is usually an inch, or so and the standards to fill the void are waterproof marine plywood.  And in some well-made American boats, like Boston Whalers, for example, what they will use is a super high density foam and that works as well.

Except that is expensive and near as I can figure, that is what happened in the yard.  They would literally sweep out the woodshop and toss scrap of anything handy that was “wood” and would keep the glass layers apart…smeared it with gobs of resin, join, and who would be the wiser?  Until the deck got rotten or the chain plates holding the mast up blew out in a 10 knot winds.

I didn’t laugh at that Taiwan yacht story…but I see that the tradition is still going strong…and I have the cut-up strips of shipping boxes (which we paid for, didn’t we???) being used to fill up this product.

2.  Let’s not lose sight of this morning’s adventure, shall we?  Back to point…

Once I had my four hard drives lined up, I mounted each of them in my new USB enclosure and figured out which ones worked and which ones were those bearings gone to the Pearly Gates.  (Would have been a great name for a Bill and Melinda offspring, that, but where were we?)

The good news about the Rock Mobile Disk was that the hard drive in there was actually in workable shape.  It isn’t a particularly fast drive (since my drive case is USB 2.0 they should get along well).  Still, it is a reformatted and check-disked 1 TB 5400 RPM drive ATA 300 with 16 MB of cache.

The hard drive label said it was recertified by Magnetic Data Technologies…

A little sniffing around Tom’s Hardware dot com here resulted in learning this is a recertified and relabeled drive that didn’t make it past WD or Seagate inspection…but it does work.  It just won’t be used for anything other than one-time use/non-critical kinds of data.

imageThe other good drive was a Seagate Barracuda 1 TB 12mb but 7200 RPM drive.  This one seems to check out in really good shape…so this is the one that goes in the cheap housing and becomes yet-another backup drive.  Like I said above, power supplies will kill you.

This is just prior to buttoning up..and frankly, I was pretty happy with the results.

As for the other drives?  Well, sometime this week or next Panama and his 2-be missus will take them out to the shooting range and he’ll teach battle sighting one of the SKS’s while permanently ensuring that the dead drives are way past recoverable.  With half a dozen rounds through the disk, I’m guessing that it won’t be too easy to recover whatever was once on them.  And then off to the land fill.

Sure, this is questionable economics…or is it?

This is exactly the kind of reuse, recycle, repurpose that we should all be doing.

Or, if it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the hassle, you could just buy a Transcend Military Drop Tested 1 TB USB 3.0 M3 External Hard Drive (TS1TSJ25M3) for $55 bucks and call it good.

I suppose I could have done that, but this way, once drive wipe is applied I have a couple of moderate reliability drives and when they fail, off to the range with them.  For $22 bucks instead of $55, it’s sort of like fishing.  And he gets the mind thinking about how to get through hard times when they eventually get here…

There…all better now.  Go to work like a good wage slave and enjoy Peoplenomics tomorrow…we weigh the chances of government ever “calling” gold and silver again.

And only one carryover for the to-do list:  Clean up the resulting scrap heap on the office floor.  Or, is that what next weekend is for?

As we age, the thought creeps in that we should do as much recycling as we can before it’s our turn…

Write when you break-even,


2 thoughts on “Coping: Monday in the Man Cave–Screwdriver Report”

  1. That wonderful Windows 10 computer you bought for a pittance is filled with those substandard components. Usually they dump that stuff off into second and third world countries. I have actually seen defective Bosch components out of the box here in Ecuador. When you buy an appliance here, like a blender, the good stores take it out of the box, check for missing parts, and then plug it in and test the controls. All light bulbs are tested before purchase as well.

    Of course if you have second world repair shops, they will have the skills to replace components on circuit boards, and do it for less than $50/100 an hour. We recently salvaged a high end Casio keyboard with a failed on off switch for which no repair parts are available.

  2. I’ve salvaged a couple of drives with valuable data on them using the USB SATA or ATA boxes. I usually copy them off to a new drive and that box is used as a low grade spare, just as you did.

    The shooting range is one option for end of life, but I prefer to use the old drives for practice art using my plasma cutter. Trust me, it works!

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