How to Make a Clean Air Enclosure (for HDD repair etc)
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How to Make a Clean Air Enclosure (for HDD repair etc)

August 26, 2019


Normal air usually has a lot of particles
floating around in it and this can sometimes pose a problem for delicate work like hard
drive data recovery. As I’ve shown in previous videos, hard drives
can be repaired in normal environments with successful results. However, having a clean
environment in which to do the work means that the chances of damaging the drive further
are greatly reduced, and it gives you great peace of mind. So in this video I’m going to show you how
to build a clean air enclosure, which will give you an ideal environment in which to
repair hard drives or do other sensitive work. It costs around £10 to make, as it is made
out of cheap materials such as craft cardboard, and it only takes three hours or so to build.
A bonus of using cardboard is that it can be folded up when not in use, which is great
if you don’t envision using it regularly. Feel free to use more robust materials if
you think you’ll be using it often, however. So, here’s how it works. At the side of the enclosure there is a hole
for a vacuum cleaner nozzle. Once the vacuum cleaner is turned on, all air is sucked out
of the enclosure, which is completely sealed once your arms are in the holes. The air has only one entrance point, which
is through a hepa filter. All dust and particles trying to enter with the air are caught by
this filter, so the air inside the enclosure becomes super clean. You can then turn off
the vacuum cleaner, put the cap over the hole, and begin working! The first thing you’ll need for this build
is a HEPA filter of some kind. HEPA filters prevent small particles in the air from passing
through them, making the air clean. They come in many shapes and sizes, and are usually
pretty cheap. For this build, I recommend using a decent quality vacuum cleaner bag,
and I’ll explain why later. You’ll also need some sheets of craft cardboard,
an empty yogurt container, or yoghurt if you’re in America, and a sheet of clear plastic.
To keep costs low try using some from product packaging like I did. Lastly you’ll need four rubber gloves, a roll
of duck tape, and some glue. So the first thing to do is start cutting
the cardboard to make the enclosure. The measurements I mention are for reference only. Feel free
to change them depending on the materials you have available. Start with the base first. Mine measured 27cm
by 48cm, which should be big enough for most uses. Cut another piece of cardboard for the
front, matching the width of the base. Make sure it’s at least 15cm high as this is just
enough room for the hand holes. Now get your yogurt carton and cut a hole
out of its lid. Whilst you’re at it, cut off the top of the carton as well, as these will
form the frames for the hand holes. Place these new rims on the base and try and
position them to where they’ll give you the most arm freedom when you’re working. When
you’re happy with the positioning, mark them with a pencil and cut out the holes for them.
Make sure you make the hole a bit smaller then the rims as they will need a surface
to glue to later. Now get a strip of duck tape and stick the
front to the base. Do this on both sides for strength. Once that’s done it’s time to cut some cardboard
for the back. So again, cut its width to match that of the base, and its height to be about
21cm. Just like before, stick this cardboard to
the back of the base using duck tape on both sides. Now it’s time to work on the view port. So
get your clear plastic, which in my case measured 18cm by 49cm, and stick it to a piece of cardboard
which forms the top of the enclosure and should be roughly 13cm deep. Use plenty of glue to
make sure that the seal is good. After it’s dried you can then stick the other
edge to the inside of the front panel. So far it should be looking something like
this. Now fold over about 2cm of the top piece of
cardboard so that it hooks over the top edge of the back panel. This is going to be edge
which isn’t permanently sealed, so add some duck tape to these two edges to create a surface
to which you can repeatedly stick duck tape to without damaging the cardboard when you
want to take it apart. For now, stick these edges together. Now place it on one of its sides and use a
pencil to trace around its edges onto another piece of cardboard. Cut flaps about 2cm wide
towards your traced edges, and use a knife to cut halfway through the cardboard on the
reverse side and then fold them to 90 degrees. Cover all the edges with duck tape to keep
it all together, and see how it fits. If it’s all good, do the same for the other side. Now it’s time to make the hole for the vacuum
cleaner nozzle. To do this just mark around the nozzle with a pencil on the side where
you want it to be, and cut it out with a knife. Because it’s not necessary to have the vacuum
on all the time when you’re working, it’s helpful to be able to seal this hole so that
you can turn it off. To do this, cut the bottom off a cardboard
cylinder and cut this edge into many little tabs, and bend them inwards. Now glue these
tabs to the side panel over the vacuum hole. To make sure it’s properly sealed use some
glue or calk on the outside edge. Now that’s done it’s time to work on the filter
side. So get the other side panel and cut a hole in it for the filter.
Now that’s done it’s time to work on the hepa filter. Now originally I foolishly thought
that a single pane of filter would allow enough air through to satisfy the vacuum, but unfortunately
it caused the enclosure to implode due to too little internal pressure. The simple solution
was, as you know, to use the entire bag as it has a much larger surface area for the
air to pass through. This is also why I recommended the vacuum cleaner bag earlier – standard
hepa filters will also cause this issue, unless of course you use more rigid materials to
build the enclosure out of. So the first thing to do is to take off the
cardboard tab and cut the hole to be a bit bigger. Now cut a matching hole in the side panel
and stick the bag to it. Make sure the seal is good so that the only entrance for the
air is through the bag itself. Use some glue between the bag and the cardboard if you like
to be extra sure. The bag needs some support to prevent it from
also imploding under negative pressure, so make some kind of frame to insert to support
it. It doesn’t need to be anything special. For the next section of the video you’ll notice
that the original attempt at the filter remains unchanged. You’ll have to excuse me on that
one and imagine the bag in place until it magically reappears later. So now its time to stick some duck tape along
the sides of the enclosure. Again, this is to prevent the cardboard from being damaged
when you want to disassemble it. So now the enclosure is really taking shape,
and the next thing to do is add the arm holes. So the first thing to do is wash off any powder
from the rubber gloves. This makes them hard to take off, but it does mean that there won’t
be any chance of powder getting inside the enclosure. Once the gloves are dry, take two of them
and cut off the fingers. Now stretch these cut edges over those yoghurt carton rims you
made earlier. You might want to smooth off any hard edges on the rims first, so that
the risk of the rubber being punctured is minimised. Now you can glue them onto the front of the
enclosure. Again, use plenty of glue to make a nice seal, and finish it off with caulk
on the outside. Now it’s time to add the finishing touches.
I found out that the back panel was pulling inwards when the vacuum was on, making a gap.
So to fix this I just added a little lip of cardboard for the top to slot into. Because you’ll want plenty of light to see
what you’re doing, you might want to add some leds to the inside. I just used some sections
from a 12v LED strip, and had the power wire go through a small hole, which I later sealed. The final thing do to is make a small access
hole so that you don’t have to remove one of the sides to put something into the enclosure.
To do this, simply cut out a rectangle, leaving the bottom edge intact. Add duct tape around
its edges to, again, have a reliable surface to which you can add and remove tape from
without damaging the cardboard. So now your enclosure is complete! As you
can see, when folded up it’s pretty compact, which is handy if you don’t have a lot of
space. To set it up, first tape the top back edge
together, making sure you get a good air tight seal. Do the same for the side panels, and
also the access hole once you’ve slotted in the items you want to work with. So now it’s time to test it out. Put your
vacuum cleaner’s nossel into the hole, and turn it on. Now put your arms through the
holes, and check for any drafts along the sealed edges. The only place air wants to
be coming from is the filter, so if you find any unexpected drafts, seal them up with duck
tape. Before you use it, give the inside a wipe
down with a damp cloth to get rid of any dust. It’s also very important to thoroughly wipe
down everything that you want to put into the enclosure, otherwise you may introduce
unwanted particles. So, just how well does this clean air enclosure
work? Well, it mostly depends on the quality of your hepa filter, which is why it’s important
to use something decent. Note that decent doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. To stress test mine, I opened up a hard drive
inside the enclosure, and had someone beat on an unusually dusty cushion next to the
filter. After a few minutes, I took a photo of the platters to check for any dust. During the whole test the vacuum cleaner was
on to test the system to its limits, however it is generally a good idea to have the vacuum
cleaner on for a minute, and then turn it off and put the cap over its hole, after which
you can begin working on the drive. This method just means that it’s less likely
for anything to be sucked into the enclosure whilst you’re working.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Interesting video. One thing you can do that would make things easier, is to use positive pressure, instead of negative pressure. When you do this, you don't need to be as concerned about sealing all the edges so much. Using positive pressure, guarantees that you don't suck dusty air in from anywhere, the only air going into the box is through the filter, any openings would serve to exhaust the air. You still want to minimize any openings, so you maintain positive pressure, but you can be more relaxed about it. With this construction, a simple PC case fan could be used as to provide the pressure.

  2. disculpa soy de colombia y queria saber que materiales utilizas para realizar esta gran herramienta

  3. What about the bare uncovered arms inside the box? Most dust in a home is from clothes and skin, right?
    If setting up a large removable filter you could use that to stuff hard drive in and out, no need to have vacuum cleaner at maximum suck force either.
    Neat tutorial though, I would have added longer gloves fixed in the box.

  4. coulda used a 9V battery case with switch for the LEDs and then there's no need to poke another hole and you can turn our on/off from the inside…making it truly portable and no need to be near a power source….mobile hard drive repair from the trunk of your car lol…

  5. Good work Matt!. Although I have a feeling had I patented some of my ideas, you would be paying royalties for some of yours 🙂 5*

  6. Can you make one that has a vacuum environment? This is going to sound dumb but, I'm trying to sleeve cards and the undersleeves are supposed to go in the OPPOSITE direction as the layer on top, but air gets trapped between the layers, so I want to remove the air. I don't need a total vacuum but if I could have an extremely low pressure environment I could do this without damaging the cards.

  7. great DIY project I have a problem that you might be able to help with I have a 5TB Seagate less than 1 yr old, was accidentally dropped and now the power supply plug wont connect all the way in like it is supposed to can i fix this somehow

  8. In real "cleanroom" there is a little bit higher pressure, not lower. So you can deliver filtered air inside and it goes out using also small holes and leaks. Then there is no risk to absorb little dust particles from the air if the enclosure is not hermetic enough 🙂

  9. I work in a clean room. No paper is allowed. Including cardboard. That being said your enclosure is a pretty good attempt at the basics of what can be achieved by a layman in his home spending no money.

  10. this excellent you can create a box with this principle of video is an excellent project friend I congratulate you from temuco chile a hug

  11. What do you mean with Craft Cardboard??? When i type it into google.co.uk i see only normal carton??? Is there another name for it? Sorry, i don't life in GB and english is not my motherlanguage…

  12. Matt your awesome! I made one similar in 2003. During the western digital good old days and reset the heads. It was fun!

  13. Hold on a second…you acknowledged the very slight and subtle difference in pronunciation of yogurt, that I didn't even realize at first, as an, "If you're in America" thing…yet you said nothing about the pronunciation of HEPA?! I have never heard it called He Pah before. Ever. I've always heard it called HehPah. THAT, if anything, is when you should have used the "if you're in America" line. Not over the hardly noticeable difference in pronunciation of Yogurt.

  14. Awesome idea. Finally I can install a screen protector without dust! The lengths I’ve gone to are ridiculous. I should have just done this!!

  15. Excellent tutorial and design! I have had many hard drives die on me because of the dreaded stuck heads and I never thought I would be able to fix them because I don't have a clean room. Now that I know I can make one of these I can get new heads for my hard drive that just died and replace them myself. This is so awesome, you should definitely have way more subscribers. I saw another video of yours over a year ago where you built a wallpaper TV and I should have just subscribed right then and there, but I was foolish. Anyway, thanks again for the great tutorial, I'm gonna get going on this right away 🙂

  16. The only thing that would make this better is if there were a list of everything needed in the description.

  17. Hey can you make thin with no oxygen like nasa im try to see how it workswith no oxygen with water ..??

  18. i made one of wood finished it yesterday! i somehow turned it into a vacum room instead of a dust-free enclosure lmao

  19. Do you consider a different approach : so called laminar flow chamber built similar but hepa filter is behind a strong fan, mounted on rear wall of the chamber (filter side to inside). Draft of filtered air will exclude incoming dust particles, so no glovebox style interface is required and the chamber can be continiously opened from the front.

  20. I wanna modify this design to help me with making bath products. My issue though is that I don't want the dust coming out into the room :p

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