Use A Hard Drive Magnet To Find Studs In Walls

If you need to locate studs in a wall, you can buy a special gadget for the job. But if you have an old hard drive, you can get the job done for nothing.

Picture by Knick Flanigan

Reader Justin wrote in explaining how that worked for him:

Just a quick tip for those who have experienced issues finding the studs in their standard walls like I have: Rather than using an electronic stud finder which was off by approximately 10cm (I spent $15 on for a basic one, then later $95 on a more advanced one which gave the same results), I realised there are nails holding the plaster onto the wall studs. I ripped one of those powerful magnets out of an old hard drive and ran it across the wall. To my amazement I was able to find the nail right away which was in the centre of the stud.

We've mentioned a similar technique quite a while back, but it definitely seemed worth revisiting. If you've got another neat trick for stud-finding, tell us in the comments. Thanks Justin!


    Neat idea, only really works if there is a nail in the stud or joist though.

    There's an app for that... I have an app on my Android phone which reads the magnetic field disturbance. Who needs more junk lying around when you can do everything with your phone?

    Your stuffed if they used glue though

    Good idea but I am not ready to break my HDD

    A pic of the actual magnet would be handy :)

      @LG, They looks a bit like this

      When they are 'joined' they might look like this

      Go for a full 3.5" drive, rather than the notebook ones if possible. I am not sure if the little ones have big enough to be usable magnets.

      Just be careful with these suckers. These are scary strong magnets. If you get two of them close, and let them snap together they can shatter into heaps of itty bitty pieces that are a pain to clean up (especially if they fall on something metal)

    Magnets are a good substitute for a stud finder, in fact, most entry level stud finders use them to detect studs, or rather the metal screws and nails that are anchored in them. Just remember, magnets detect metal not wood. In the United States most homes are built using stick construction with wall studs placed on 16" centers. As long as you can locate at least one stud, you should be able to measure out the rest with a tape measure. Of course, not all homes are built to code, and not all wall studs are placed on 16" centers.

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