Sat Jan 18, 2014 08:29
Turn an Old Hard Drive into an External Hard Drive
Odds are you have spare hard drives lying around from old computers. Instead of tossing them out or letting them collect dust, you can easily turn them into DIY external hard drives and use them to backup your important files. Basically all you have to do is pick up a cheap hard drive enclosure, stuff the old drive inside, and connect it to your computer.
So you finally replaced that overstuffed 80GB hard drive with a half-terabyte data warehouse. The question is, what do you do with the old drive? Stick it on a shelf? Toss it in the trash? Leave it in the machine?
Nah. The best possible fate for an old internal drive is to become a super-handy external drive, which it can do with a small investment of time and money.
An external hard drive can serve countless uses: moving large files from one PC to another, backing up data, rescuing files from an unbootable drive, and, of course, expanding your available storage space. It can also act as a holding tank for your data while you perform a hard-drive wipe and OS reinstall. Here's how to turn any cast-off internal drive into an external drive with a new lease on life.
Choose an enclosure
Your hard drive needs a new home, a small case that supplies power, protection and a USB or FireWire interface. Prices for these enclosures range from as little as $10 on up to around $100, though I wouldn't pay more than $20-30 for one. (Some of the pricier models can connect directly to TVs for video and audio streaming, and even come with wireless remotes.)
The key consideration is size: If your hard drive came from a notebook, you'll need a 2.5-inch enclosure. Desktop drives require a 3.5-inch enclosure.P
Next up, consider your interface options. Most enclosures are designed to work with IDE drives and supply a USB and/or FireWire external interface for connecting to your PC. However, some enclosures support newer SATA drives and include an eSATA interface—though not many PCs or notebooks have that kind of port. Thus, if you're relocating a SATA drive, make sure the enclosure includes a USB interface so you'll have a place to connect it. (Not sure how to tell an IDE drive from a SATA drive? It's all in the interface: an IDE connector measures about two inches wide and has two rows of pins; SATA connectors are much smaller and have only one row.)P
That's really all you need to know about choosing an enclosure. If you're into eye candy, look for a see-through chassis or one with LEDs or other decorative elements. As for where to buy, I've found excellent selection and low prices at Newegg.com, though that is by no means the only place to shop. (If you have a favorite store for enclosures and other accessories, talk it up in the comments.)P
Install the driveP
Once you've settled on an enclosure, it's time to install the drive. There's nothing difficult about it—you probably won't need anything more sophisticated than a screwdriver. But the usual electronics-handling rules apply: Make sure you're working in a static-free environment, handle everything with care, don't force the connections, etc.P
Connect the driveP
If you purchased an enclosure for a 3.5-inch drive, it no doubt came with an external power supply. Plug it in and power up the enclosure; you should hear the drive spin up (and see a little LED activity if the enclosure has LEDs). Notebook-drive enclosures are usually powered by their USB or FireWire connections, so no external adapter is necessary.P
Plug the enclosure into your PC's USB, FireWire, or eSATA port. Mac and Windows XP/Vista systems should automatically detect the drive and load any necessary drivers. Windows 98 and Me systems will probably require a driver CD, which should have come with the enclosure. Follow the provided instructions to install the drivers.P
Get to workP
Like any new drive, the enclosure should get its own drive letter. From there you can copy files to and from it like any hard drive. Copy a few sample files to make sure everything's working properly.P
One final word of advice: Don't unplug your drive while it's reading or writing data (meaning the activity light is flashing). Doing so could damage the drive and/or corrupt your data.P
Mac users can eject the drive by dragging it to the Trash or Cmd-clicking and choosing "Eject" as usual; Windows users should click the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the System Tray, then choose the "Safely remove USB mass storage device" entry that corresponds to your external drive. A message will appear notifying you that it's safe to unplug.P
Here's how to change a drive's letter in Windows. Mac users with lots of external drives might be interested in the free Ejector utility.P