secau Security Research Centre

Edith Cowan University

Overclocking Competition

CPU overclocking is old school, and GPU overclocking isn't much newer. Memory overclocking? Been there done that. For all of you hardware modders looking for something else to let the white smoke out of, have we got a challenge for you! Hard drive overclocking! Why do you want to do this? Because you can! And, in these days of really big™ hard drives, getting data off the things can take a long time. So much time that it has created somewhat of a challenge for the digital forensic boffins – some of their lab coats are starting to get cobwebs from standing around waiting for so long (Have you ever tried dusting off a forensics boffin? No thanks). So, what we want to know is, can you modify a traditional mechanical hard drive so that we can pull data off it more quickly than those conservative hard drive manufacturers want us to. So, for example, if it currently takes 2 hours to read an entire 500GB hard drive, we want to be able to do it in 1 hour. Your job is to come up with a method which allows us to read data as fast as possible, which can be reversed afterwards. Oh, and did we mention the prize?

Prize of $10,000

Conduct a once only read for an entire 500 GB hard drive in the maximum time 1 hour.

Western Digital Caviar Black hard driveMaterials:
Western Digital Caviar Black 3.5" SATA 500GB hard drive (WD5002AALX).

The method used to modify the drive must be reversible, and the drive itself must not be damaged. It is acceptable to build a "magic box" to put the drive in to make it go faster if that is a viable solution – the drive doesn't have to be plugged into any particular PC. Flashing firmware, increasing voltage, magic cradles are all possible solutions.

Due Date:
3rd October 2011

Please send all entries to we will organise alternate submission methods for uploading of video or other evidence as necessary to verify the entry.

Other information:
We are interested in any viable method which can be found, so even if you don't hit 1 hour, we would still like to hear from you. In the event that we don't get any entry below 1 hour we will consider awarding money to a method which completes a once through read in a time faster than the default "fastest" time. Also in the event of low entries, we will consider an extension to the due date.

The fine print…

The prize will be awarded to the highest viable overclocking method which can be achieved at the closing date of the competition.

The method must be verified by ECU and its employees as being viable, and less than or equal to the 1 hour time as stated. A prize of $5000 will be awarded to the entry which achieves the otherwise fastest read time in the event that no viable method under 1 hour is submitted.

Only one grand prize will be awarded.

ECU retains the right to withdraw or end the competition at any point prior to the end date, and also to extend the end date if necessary.