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Data Storage Hardware Hacking Build

What To Do With a Hundred Hard Drives? 487

Posted by Soulskill
from the build-a-hard-drive-cannon dept.
Makoto916 writes "In five years with my current employer as the IT administrator, I've amassed a sizable cabinet of discarded hard drives; just shy of 100, in fact. All of the drives range in size from 20GB up to 300GB. They've all been stored in anti-stat bags, and spot checks of even the oldest ones show that most of them still work. Individually, they're mostly useless for our line of work, which is digital video production. However, the collective storage potential is quite significant. They are of varying size and speed, but the one commonality is they're all IDE. What is the best way to approach connecting all of these devices and realizing their storage potential? On a budget, of course. Now, I'd never use such an array for critical data storage, but it certainly would be useful as a massive backup array to our existing SAN that does store critical data. I have several spare and functioning PCs, but not nearly enough to utilize their internal IDE controllers; even with multiple add-in controllers, it still wouldn't be enough. Not to mention the nightmare of managing a bunch of independent PCs. I've looked into ATA Over Ethernet and there's a lot of potential there, but current 15 to 20 bay AoE cabinets are expensive, and single device enclosures are so rare that they're also expensive. Are there any hardware hackers out there who have crafted their own home-brew AoE systems? Could they scale to 100 drives? Is there a better way?"
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What To Do With a Hundred Hard Drives?

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  • A Thumper or Drivebox RAID system.
  • 2 Words... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ElboRuum (946542) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:22PM (#23785901)
    e Bay.
    • 1 word: magnets (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:49PM (#23786303)
      Hard drives have very powerful magnets. 100 of them could be a hell of a lot of fun.

      You could build a climbing suit for climbing steel, build a generator,....

      • Re:1 word: magnets (Score:5, Interesting)

        by wagnerrp (1305589) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:05PM (#23786519)
        Even better, they're monopoles (Halbach Arrays [wikipedia.org]). Build your own maglev toys.
        • Re:1 word: magnets (Score:5, Informative)

          by Everyone Is Seth (1202862) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:44PM (#23786931)
          Umm, we don't even know if a magnetic monopole exists. Currently, theory is the only place you can find one.
          • Re:1 word: magnets (Score:5, Informative)

            by Rick Bentley (988595) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:29AM (#23788833) Homepage
            (geek)

            There are no magnetic monopoles in theory, either. Maxwell's four equations that define all of Electromagnetism, includes Gauss's Law of Magnetism. This law states that magnetic fields don't in net diverge.

            Its usually written in differential form as: del * B = 0 (del dot B = 0). Note that Physics students from bush-league universities might write the equation in integral form, but that's either a product of their deficient education or maybe some kind of genetic defect.

            More here (wikipedia):
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gauss's_law_for_magnetism [wikipedia.org] and here:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell's_equations [wikipedia.org]

            Yeah, I suppose magnetic monopoles might exist and then we'd re-write the laws, but there's no reason to assume so. There is a natural temptation to look at magnetism the same as electricity (individual charges, like electrons and protons, being analogous to "North" and "South" monopoles), but probably the most useful way to think of magnetism is as a relativistic effect of electrostatics... once you do that, there's no reason to assume any kind of magnetic monopole at all.

            (/geek)
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by papna (1242200)
              GP was correct in claiming "Umm, we don't even know if a magnetic monopole exists. Currently, theory is the only place you can find one." It is correct that the theory regarded as describing the universe correctly (div(B)=0; dB/dt + curl(E) = 0) discounts magnetic monopoles, but magnetic monopoles have certainly been theorised before. Because we've not observed magnetic monopoles, we generally don't use those theories, but I believe they are even fairly well-explored.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward
              (more geek)

              As you write, the fifferential form of Maxwell's equations contains: del * B = 0.

              However that does not make Maxwell's equations entirely inaccurate in the event a (or many) monopoles are found. If you think about the above equation, it states that the total magnetic field through a closed surface is a net balance. In the world as we know it this is a correct equation. But if monopoles exist the zero would be replaced by a variable (say m for the imbalance in magnetic particles). This is similar t
    • by uniquename72 (1169497) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:38PM (#23786867)
      Porn backup.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by iron-kurton (891451)

        Are you crazy?? You need to dedicate at least two, redundant backups, and off-site tape storage for that...

        That's like putting all your savings under a mattress -- you won't need to use it until one day, you get really desperate, but realize it's all gone

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:22PM (#23785913) Homepage Journal
    I doubt its worth using a bunch of old smaller drives.

    between the power requirements and all the extra hardware needed to run them i would just sell them all on ebay and take the $ to buy a couple of huge drives, mirror and do iscsi with them.
    • by ElboRuum (946542) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:26PM (#23785961)
      But d0000000d, yer missing the point. He wants to do something 1337 hAxXoRz with all these drives. I mean, really, selling them on eBay would be what the n0rmLz would do.
      • by julesh (229690) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @04:17AM (#23789941)
        But d0000000d, yer missing the point. He wants to do something 1337 hAxXoRz with all these drives. I mean, really, selling them on eBay would be what the n0rmLz would do.

        Absolutely. My advice: there are open source designs [opencores.org] for processors, IDE adapters and gigabit ethernet controllers that can be loaded onto FPGAs. There's not a lot you need to know beyond this to go and do it yourself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by daveywest (937112)

      I don't think selling them on ebay is a good idea. You never know what kind of data might be recoverable.

      Honestly, if you can't use them in-house, then keep collecting them and let your replacement deal with the mess when you leave for another job.

      • by BigFootApe (264256) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:09PM (#23786555)
        Rebate them with the manufacturer. That way, they're out of circulation (in case of privacy concerns).
      • by dickens (31040) on Friday June 13, 2008 @08:50PM (#23787451) Homepage
        Will they blend?
    • by wtfispcloadletter (1303253) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:32PM (#23786047)
      Yep, just not worth it. The magnets are worth more than the drives. Take 'em apart and sell or use the magnets. Destroy or recycle the rest of the drive.
      • by mangu (126918) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:56PM (#23786385)

        Take 'em apart and sell or use the magnets

        Just keep in mind these are *STRONG* magnets. When you take it apart the magnets may smash into each other. This could send particles flying away in a direction that, according to Murphy, is where your eyes are. I know this by experience, lucky for me I wear glasses. And if some of your flesh is between the magnets, it's painful.
        • by rubah (1197475) on Friday June 13, 2008 @08:02PM (#23787101) Homepage
          since they're strong, they should donate them to the local university physics students so they can build their electric motors!

          I wish we would've had some nice hardcore magnets when that project came up!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pwizard2 (920421)
          Just keep in mind these are *STRONG* magnets. Yep, they sure are. I learned real quick not to put it close to any flat metal surface unless I wanted to pry it off with a screwdriver AND leave a gouge on the metal object. I also found out that these magnets can scramble a 3.5 floppy disk so badly that it won't ever format right again.

          I took apart a old 1GB hard disk (practically less than worthless these days) just to get the magnet out. It now holds my cell phone case closed (the weak magnets that we
      • by wooferhound (546132) <tim&wooferhound,com> on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:14PM (#23786621) Homepage
        Using Your Hard Drive magnets to make a wind Generator
        http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2006/2/9/13128/15117 [fieldlines.com]
        http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2006/10/8/112046/572 [fieldlines.com]
        http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2005/9/24/152446/359 [fieldlines.com]

        How to remove Hard Drive magnets from their mounting plate
        http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2006/10/4/181345/402 [fieldlines.com]

        Recycling parts from Hard drives
        http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2006/11/9/01948/0162 [fieldlines.com]
      • by Lost Race (681080) on Friday June 13, 2008 @08:09PM (#23787151)

        Take 'em apart

        I agree that it's not worth trying to build a hundred-obsolete-drive array, but I strongly disagree with turning them into garbage prematurely. Sell or give away on ebay/craigslist/freecycle/whatever instead. There are lots of people who can make good use of a few end-of-life-but-still-working medium capacity drives. Just make sure you erase them thoroughly first. Realistically 'dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda' is plenty; to be absolutely sure give them one pass with a fast random number generator first.

        If you want magnets you can take them from failed drives.

        • by Christophotron (812632) on Friday June 13, 2008 @09:49PM (#23787921)

          I strongly disagree with turning them into garbage prematurely. Sell or give away on ebay/craigslist/freecycle/whatever instead. There are lots of people who can make good use of a few end-of-life-but-still-working medium capacity drives.
          First reasonable comment I've seen here yet... WTF is wrong with you people, thinking that these drives are useless and "the magnets are worth more than the drives" ????? I still have abundant uses for any drive 40GB and above. Several of my systems run their OS on a 40GB drive. Hell, that's even enough for Vista! And 300GB is nothing to sneeze at! I run my RAID array of pr0n on 2x300GB Maxtor PATA drives. I first started to use Linux seriously on a computer that was pulled out of a dumpster (P4 1.7Ghz Prescott, 256MB RAM, 40GB HDD, crappy POS Albatron motherboard). By all means, sell them on eBay and if they are cheap enough I will snap many of them up. So will many other people. Just because you are 'privileged' enough to have modern hardware doesn't mean people can't appreciate the stuff you treat as 'garbage'.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by fireboy1919 (257783)
          I would second that, except that instead of that, you should pass it out to friends. In fact, I suggest putting them all on a big shelf on your wall.

          You can have friends come over, and starting with 100 harddrives, just take one down, pass it around, and before too long you'll have 99 harddrives on the wall.

          Why does this sound familiar? Hmm...
    • by Idaho (12907) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:22PM (#23786707)
      Indeed. The correct answer is "throw them all away and buy 10x1TB drives for $1000" or something to that effect. Unless your time really is worthless, that will save you time, trouble and money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wagnerrp (1305589)

      The drives alone will consume close to 1000W. It's probably another 1000W for the equipment to run them, plus whatever the hardware costs are. When you add in A/C costs, thats going to come to around $8-10/day, and depending on the average drive size, you're going to end up with less than 10TB of redundant data.

      Now the alternative is 12x1TB RAID6. It will consume around 250W, and cost around $4000. That's around two years before before the power budget catches up assuming you already have all the nece

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo (196126)
      If storage is not a problem, there is no reason to use all the drives now or discard them simply because they are old.

      RAID controllers with 12 or 16 channels are dirt cheap on eBay now. Jeantech make some really cheap cases with good cooling and room for 12-16 drives. That would make an excellent NAS, if not for you for a charity or user group, and you have an endless supply of redundant drives to keep it going.

      Just because a drive is old, does not mean it is unreliable. Drives do not age much when not in u
  • by mytrip (940886) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:24PM (#23785925) Homepage Journal
    spin around in a circle and see who can throw them the greatest distance
  • Play dominos (Score:5, Interesting)

    by r_jensen11 (598210) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:25PM (#23785951)
    Granted, you have a few less than others, but it's worth giving a shot [youtube.com]
  • AUction them off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:27PM (#23785981) Homepage Journal
    to other employees, give the proceeds to Charity.

    There really just a waste of company space and time.
  • Free Geek (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paroneayea (642895) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:27PM (#23785989) Homepage
    Would be a super generous donation, but if you honestly don't have a practical idea, perhaps donate to your local Free Geek chapter [freegeek.org]? Good drives at that size could help in the fight for bringing technology to those who couldn't afford it otherwise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drspliff (652992)
      I'm going to have to second this, but probably more towards the charity side.

      It's quite easy for computer recycling charities to get working computers, but because of data security policies at a lot of companies they are not allowed to recycle hard-drives. This means that a disproportionate number of computers to hard-drives float around until they're finally scrapped (which overall costs the charity more time, effort and money).

      For example, I have a 9gb and a 26gb drive in my main development machine - wit
  • by artifex2004 (766107) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:27PM (#23785995) Journal
    Ebay and use the revenue to buy a few very large size drives. Running a ton of tiny drives on standby all the time just makes no sense from both a power and heat standpoint.
  • by voss (52565) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:28PM (#23786001)
    http://www.thementoringctr.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.Digital& [thementoringctr.org]

    Im sure you could donate the hard drives to them and get a tax writeoff...or
    find something similar in your community
  • by NoobixCube (1133473) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:30PM (#23786033) Journal
    With almost a hundred hard drives, the gold leaf discs inside them must really add up in weight. What's gold trading at now? $850 or something per ounce.
  • freeNAS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:32PM (#23786055) Homepage
    freenas + old motherboard + all pci slots full of cheap IDE cards.

    works great, dont bother with IDE drive size versus Motherboard/Bios as freenas does not use the bios.

    I have made a couple of 2TB arrays from less than a couple hundred bucks and a bunch of free 250gb hard drives.

    You can do a software raid5 which gives you some peace of mind.
  • Give them away (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WinkingChicken (559148) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:33PM (#23786069)
    I can't imagine the storage is worth the time to set up something that can use them all given new 500GB drives They are probably most useful in cheap USB to IDE enclosures as additional external storage - nice for convenient system backups, offsites, and extra storage.
  • Unpopular choice: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:35PM (#23786099)
    Destroy them. If they stored what you describe, you do not want proprietary information leaking out. Especially, if you are the one that is in charge of "doing something with said HD's". Safer to destroy them.

    Of course, all slashdotters would say either build an array or donate. In reality, the company should keep the biggest for desktop usage and shred the rest.

    Safer for you and the company in terms of liability.
  • by cunina (986893) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:36PM (#23786115)
    Pry them open, remove those awesomely strong magnets, and stick them all over some douchebag's Hummer.
    • by denzacar (181829) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:49PM (#23786311) Journal
      Why would you give away perfectly good magnets to a douchebag when you can just as well key his hummer?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:16PM (#23786639)
      Make it a true geeks trick. Put the magnets on the inside of the fender spelling out "Very Small Penis". Then shake some iron filings over it. It'll keep trying to reform the words as he wipes it off and each day when you walk by it just sprinkle some more filings over the spot to keep the joke going. See how long it takes him to figure out they are on the inside or he sells the Hummer. If you can get inside the Hummer you could also stick a fist full inside the drivers seat cushion so they demagnetize his credit cards. Once again the gift that keeps on giving as it keeps demagnetizing each replacement set of cards.....In short magnets are useful for tormenting yuppies.
      • by cunina (986893) on Friday June 13, 2008 @08:05PM (#23787113)
        I stand humbled by your brilliance. If there were a Nobel Prize for malicious pranks, it would be yours.
        • Make it a true geeks trick. Put the magnets on the inside of the fender spelling out "Very Small Penis". Then shake some iron filings over it. It'll keep trying to reform the words as he wipes it off and each day when you walk by it just sprinkle some more filings over the spot to keep the joke going. See how long it takes him to figure out they are on the inside

          It seems to me, intuitively, that this will not work due to the ferromagnetism of the fender, which is presumably metal. That very property which

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:38PM (#23786129)

    What To Do With a Hundred [old] Hard Drives?
    Get ahold of a .50 cal Barret and use them for target practice while calmly singing:

    A hundred old hard drives stood up on a wall!
    A hundred old drives on a wall!
    BANG!
    Ninety-nine old hard drives....
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:39PM (#23786155) Homepage Journal
    I got a $20 enclosure with 17 drive bays in it, and a 300W power supply. I've got a dozen SATA drives, each drawing under 10W, and 5 EIDE, drawing under 20W each.

    At first I just got a dozen SATA/EIDE USB slaves for $10 each, and plugged them all into a USB hub, with just the single USB cable stretching out of the case over to another full PC's USB socket. But that is so slow, especially when copying big music or video files between drives (and through the single USB cable to the CPU and back). Playing multiple media files to different terminals in my house is too much bandwidth for the single USB, too. Running 4 USB from the big enclosure to the 4 sockets in the server PC isn't much better, because it all goes through the same CPU and PCI bus.

    So I got 3 Sabrent SBT-SRD4 [google.com] 4xSATA controller PCI cards, because they were $25 each. But when I tried to boot them in a few different motherboards (pre-HP Compaq P3/1.2GHz, IBM P4/3.2GHz), none of them got past the POST to even start booting the OS. I want to use them with Linux, but with the failure to even boot I'm not hopeful about driver support, either.

    I bought them from CompUSA (still alive, online only), which hasn't replied to (email only - no phone available) tech support requests. Nor has Sabrent itself. I'm not hopeful that they'll refund my money, since everything else about this transaction has sucked.

    So what I want to know is what cheap motherboard (no need for graphics or anything else other than at least 3 PCI slots and 100Mb-1Gb ethernet) will work with these SATA cards? If they're really duds, what is the cheapest way to get 12 SATA drives controlled, even if they're not that fast, over to 100Mb/Gb ethernet? Either SATA cards + motherboard, or even a fat mobo with a dozen SATA ports. I'd even settle for just 4-8 SATA ports to get started. I'm talking under $200 if possible.

    Ideas? If it works, then 8-9 of them should support the 100 HDs the original question was asking about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by The Cisco Kid (31490)
      Dont try to boot from the drives on the funky addon controller. Connect a drive to the mobo's standard built-in controller, and boot (Linux) from that, then use the additional drives for other mounts- Linux doesnt need the bios in order to access drives for storage.
  • by MiniMike (234881) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:43PM (#23786203)
    I think this is how Google started. Throw in some other random hardware and wait for the VC to come rolling in!
  • Rail Gun (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WeirdJohn (1170585) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:43PM (#23786209)
    Pull them apart, and use the magnets to make a magnetic rail gun. Or some other fun game. There has to be a lot of fun (and destruction) in 200 ceramic magnets.
  • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:45PM (#23786233) Journal
    But you could make a hard disk generator [theworkshop.ca] I've seen several designs and some are better than others, but there isn't a great way to string out hundreds of IDE drives without a cluster and multiple processors. After weeding out a number of the large drives for storage, it may be a fun project to mess around with.
  • by Zorque (894011) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:48PM (#23786283)
    I'll put them to the best use there is: porn.
  • by Loualbano2 (98133) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:50PM (#23786321)
    I would call your local data recovery service as they sometimes are interested in buying old drives of no particular size to use the controller cards on them.

    Apparently, a lot of failed hard drives are not bad because of their physical platters, but because of the drive logic. These places need old drives for replacement controllers that you probably can't buy from the manufacturer.

    ft
  • by IcephishCR (7031) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:52PM (#23786349) Journal
    Pick the largest and buy up as many usb or firewire interfaces and drop them in a tower case with a psu for the HD's (get bus powered usb/firewire interfaces) and have a decent sized external array...

    or use the larger ones as customer throwaways - when the video needs to go to the customer and its really big - ship them a cheap usb/firewire enclosure with a disc in it loaded with their video - if it doesn't come back then you've got more to spare....
  • by holophrastic (221104) on Friday June 13, 2008 @06:57PM (#23786415)
    I'm actually thinking that it's a waste of effort. If they average, say, 100Gb each, then 100 drives means 10TB. 10TB these days is worth what? $2'000.00 worth of 1TB drives? Even less? More like $1'700.00 or so -- and that's for brand new drives, faster, better, more reliable, modern technologies, SATA, etc etc etc. Power consumptions too.

    By the time you're done connecting all of these, and powering them, and cooling them, and dodging the broken ones, and finding a good use for it, and controllers to run them all, I can't imagine you'll be saving many dollars for storage, if any. Not to mention your time -- although it would be fun to spend.

    So in the end, you'll have all of the benefits of a massive raid solution, but it'll be expensive to build, expensive to run, and take up a rediculous amount of world space (the real storage requirement).

    I don't think they can compete as functioning hard drives. I think you should use them for some other purpose -- like art, or coasters, or to hold up your table.

    For example, I have about 500 issues of national geographic from the 80's. They even have those file volume collection thingies so ten get held tegother as a set. I have some rediculous number like 50 sets. These things are totally useless to me -- unlike my nintendo power issues from the '80s that my mother sold about fifteen years ago -- so I got a piece of nice glass, and now have a coffee table that sits on these magazines instead of on legs. It's a nice piece of furniture from which you can reach in a pull out a blast from the past as you sip that coffee.
  • by merreborn (853723) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:00PM (#23786445) Journal
    Why not just use the largest 10 or 20, and leave the rest of 'em in the closet for now?

    Either your 10-20 drive pilot project will be a raging success, and your boss will be beating down your door to get the other drives plugged in, or it'll prove to be a huge waste of time, in which case you'll be glad you didn't bother with the smaller drives.
  • Laptop Backup Drives (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:03PM (#23786503)

    These sizes are still useful for putting in external USB enclosures and using as a laptop backup drive (with something like Ghost).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Skal Tura (595728)

      These sizes are still useful for putting in external USB enclosures and using as a laptop backup drive (with something like Ghost).

      Ghost is useless nowadays, when symantec bought norton, they screwed it up. Remember to take an very old version :)

      How they screwed up?
      A) You can't even easily do full drive images with it anymore
      B) Where's the DOS based tools?
      C) Even recovering from it's "backup" is a doomed failure without installed OS + Ghost.

      Ghost is a ghost of itself from back when it was usefull.

  • by WarJolt (990309) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:12PM (#23786583)
    I saw this a while ago, but never got bored enough to try.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp4jQNa_9sY&feature=related [youtube.com]
  • Donate? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pluther (647209) <pluther@nOSpam.usa.net> on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:22PM (#23786705) Homepage
    Drives that size would be an awesome donation for a charity such as (blatant plug) Geeks Without Borders. [gwob.org]

    A lot of our donated computers don't come with hard drives, so we're always in need of hard drives more than just about anything else.

    We wipe all drives to DoD standards before ever putting them in anything, too. (Well, anything other than the machines we use to wipe 'em.)

    If you don't want to ship them all the way to Eugene, there's lots of other charities that do the same kind of thing, and probably have the same disproportionate computer to hard drive donation ratio.

  • Screw Ebay (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Deliveranc3 (629997) <deliverance AT level4 DOT org> on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:26PM (#23786745) Journal
    Send them to one of the services that recycles systems from businesses for schools and disadvantaged families.
    A lot of corporations are afraid that their systems contain priveledged info but since yours had large chunks of decompressed video, most of which has liscencing attached and has been released, you are in a unique position to provide HDs.

    500 GB Hd's cost $100 buy 4, donate the smaller drives, and save the recyclers thounsands of dollars.

    -D
  • by Allnighterking (74212) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:26PM (#23786753) Homepage
    Sorry but if you are serious your steps should be.

    1. Call a recycler and dump the drives. smaller than 200GB (keep the largest ones to give out to other employees for their home systems)

    2. Buy 2 or 3 1TB HDD's

    3. Install them in a box.

    4. Done.

    Start with the shear cost the additional equipment, then add in the cost of the electricity to run the drives and their controller. then add in the cost of HVAC to keep the room they are in cool. Will by far exceed the cost of 2 or 3 1TB drives. Not to mention the cost of your time to build, deploy and maintain.

    In short. Nothing you can do with these drives will save your employer money. However proper recycling might bring in a buck or two. Not to mention the good will when you hand the largest drives to fellow employees to use at home.
  • by jurgen (14843) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:44PM (#23786929)
    One hundred drives, drawing 10W or more each (older drives were a bit more power-hungry, nowadays they're a bit under 10W) makes for 1000W. At $0.10/kWh that's $876/year. Add the power consumption of the other hardware you'll need to attach them to, and you'll surely be over $1000/year in energy costs, not to mention the purchase cost of said hardware.

    You said 100 drives ranging 20-300GB... that doesn't tell us much about the total capacity, but let's say it's 10TB. A terabyte disk costs less than $200 these days, a 4-port SATA PCI card can be had for $40, so with two of those and the 2 SATA ports on any cheap mobo you have a system that'll serve up your 10TB for $2000, two years of just the energy cost of your 100 disc system.

    And that's not counting the headache of building your 100 disk array, the maintenance cost, and the reduced capacity due to inevitable failures with such a large number of older discs.

    In short, although a cool project in theory, in practice it's not worth it today. A few years ago it would have been, but the price of storage has just dropped too steeply in the last couple of years.

    I work with a group that "recycles" old machines in a developing country to provide access to young people who couldn't afford it otherwise, and even here, with free (donated) hardware it's hard to beat the falling price/performance curve of computer hardware these days. Although we could use your discs... discs (and memory) are shortest in supply. If you want to donate them to us, drop me a line. :j

  • by bencyberedge (1307407) on Friday June 13, 2008 @07:47PM (#23786957)
    You know, you could provide a great service with those drives.

    We refurbish computers and put them in the homes of low-income people, nonprofits, churches, senior centers, etc. We always need drives, and late-model computers to keep our refurbishers busy. We are a nonprofit and feel that this is an important way to bridge the digital divide.

    I don't know where you're located, but we would love to have those drives, and will wipe them to Mil-spec and reuse them. that keeps them out of landfills (good for the environment) and puts good computers into the homes and tech centers of low-income communities (good for our communities and your kharma). We'll pay shipping if you would like to donate them to us.

    Check us out on the web at www.ReliaTech.org. and give me a call at 510 236-7000 to discuss donating those drives and/or computers.

    By the way, that donation gives you a tax deduction, too.

    thanks!

    Ben

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Friday June 13, 2008 @08:15PM (#23787191) Journal
    If you've got a bunch of old cases that you can get your hands on then you might be able to do something useful.

    1) Don't expect to use the smaller drives - turn the platters into coasters!
    1) (a) If some of them are 7200rpm drives (or raptors), you could roll them out to individual workstations as swap space
    2) Get all the 3.5" enclosures out of the old cases, attach together, put into some sort of sturdy frame. Voila, lots of 3.5" drive space. Find a motherboard which has 2 IDE connectors and as many PCI slots as you can find. And get stuffing them with IDE controllers. Now, you need a motherboard with a pci-express slot as well, and either onboard graphics or onboard gigabit LAN. Try for the former as onboard network adapters are notoriously flakey. You then get a PCI-express dual, or quad, channel network adapter.
    With 4 PCI slots and the onboard controllers, you now have 10 IDE controllers = 20 drives (+1 new SATA drive for the system to run on). Pick the 20 best drives and fit those to your shiny drive rack. (If you don't fancy that, buy a new case, though I can't find any that will fit more than 18 drives (a Lian-Li), don't forget to get internal enclosures to fit extra drives in 5.25" bays). You'll also need to get a beefy power supply.
    3) Do some totting up an realize that the whole scheme has cost substantially more than buying a bunch of new drives.

    A few of the bigger drives may be good for medium storage requirements; see if you can buy your employer out of them if you want to build a MythTV box at home; but other than that, I'd say that you've saved yourself a turkey. Which is the basic rule of thumb when saving any consumer-grade hardware
  • firewire (Score:4, Informative)

    by dissy (172727) on Friday June 13, 2008 @08:16PM (#23787193)
    You can get a bunch of firewire to ide bridge boards, and run scsi over firewire.
    Keep in mind this will be noticeably slower than native ide once you get more than a certain number of drives on a single bus, but for some applications, fast disk access isn't as important.

    Technically speaking, you can use USB for this too, however there are many more downsides.
    Many times slower than firewire, due to the method usb uses to communicate bidirectionally.
    Its not that much cheaper, and also you cant use nearly as many drives per bus.

    As an example, try http://www.fwdepot.com/ [fwdepot.com]
    Their prices are a bit high i admit, but you can build a shopping list there and look around for best price.

    4 BUS firewire cards. Note that a 4 -port- card is not at all the same. That will be one bus, with a 4 port hub built in. The less drives on each bus, and the more buses you have, the more bandwidth is available to each disk, and the speed up is exponential.

    One bridge board per hard drive, a few hubs and some cabling, and spread them out over your few spare pcs.

    Then run something like http://evms.sf.net/ [sf.net] to cluster the machines together and create one giant pool of storage space out of all the drives over all the machines.

    It's probably as cheap as possible for getting use out of them storage wise. Any other 'better' solution will cost a lot more too.

    Of course, useful for storage and just plain useful are two different metrics.

    A lot of others already mentioned donating them.
    Just remember to hook 4 up at a time to a spare pc and run a good HD wipe app like http://dban.sf.net/ [sf.net]

    But there are many options to get rid of them to others with.
    Charity donations for a tax write off, local community projects in need of hardware, friends, family, stocking stuffer for the staff, make a craigslist post and offer them for free (or next to), buyer comes to get it or pays shipping, do the ebay dance, etc etc

  • by Gnavpot (708731) on Friday June 13, 2008 @09:20PM (#23787709)
    ...turn the lot into a bulky and noisy 1 kW room heater. Remember to have an air gap between all drives to allow for air circulation.

    1 kW may not be enough to keep you warm during winter, but it may help you survive if every other heat source fails.

  • An Idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Plekto (1018050) on Friday June 13, 2008 @10:04PM (#23788013)
    Make a bunch of chess sets out of the various parts.

    Something like this.
    http://www.novica.com/itemdetail/index.cfm?pid=121771 [novica.com]

    The platters of could serve as the white squares maybe?
  • by Arethan (223197) on Friday June 13, 2008 @10:32PM (#23788193) Journal
    Disk based backup solutions are worth the effort, so I can see why you're leaning this way. Unfortunately, trying to utilize ~100 PATA drives for this is going to give you nightmares for ages. Find a way to reclimate them for cash, either directly or indirectly. Hell, you can donate them to charity for a tax writeoff if you like (just make sure you DoD wipe the disks first). Take the reclimated capital and buy yourself a new data-deduplicated VTL, or a NearStor, or similar. Backup solutions need to have some level of trustworthiness to be useful, and I doubt you'll find that in a pile of aged PATA disk.

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