External Storage: Convert an Old Hard Drive

External Storage: Convert an Old Hard DriveWhen you get old, it seems like senior moments are just something you have to live with. There isn’t any currently known way to clean up or to replace that forgetful part of the brain, or even to alter it to serve another purpose. However, for anyone who has torn apart a desktop or laptop computer, you most likely have the old internal drive just sitting in a bin somewhere collecting dust. Well, for you there is an option that will allow you to breathe life back into the old drive; you can modify it for use as a backup drive. If this is not something of interest to you, what about using it for additional storage or for anything else you choose?

The first thing to determine before ordering an external case for your new external drive is whether the hard disk is an IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) or SATA (Serial AT Attachment) drive. Below is shown both types of connectors. If you opt for converting an old hard disk to external storage, the process is basically very simple — even for the non-technologically inclined among us.

External Storage: Convert an Old Hard Drive

[1] IDE/Pata hard drive connector is shown on top and a SATA hard drive connector on the bottom.

The next thing one needs to determine is the size of the hard disk itself. As a general rule, most desktop computers use 3.5″ hard disks and laptop computers use 2.5″ hard disks. Below is a picture I took slowing the difference between the two hard disks, The middle unit is of a 2.5″ portable enclosure.

External Storage: Convert an Old Hard Drive

Starting on the left is a 3.5″ hard disk, a 2.5″ portable enclosure, and a 2.5″ laptop hard disk.

Once you have determined the connector type and the size of the hard disk, you are ready to order the desired enclosure in which to house your hard disk. When making this decision, you will find that it is better to opt for the metal case over the plastic one because it will dissipate the heat better. Also be aware that your choice of enclosure will depend on which type of USB connector you have on your system since enclosures are offered with both USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 support.

If speed is a factor for you, note that the USB 3.0 is generally going to be faster than the USB 2.0.

After the ordering is accomplished, it comes down to waiting for your hard disk enclosure to arrive on your doorstep. Once it arrives and you get your new toy out of the box, you simply have to slip your hard disk into the enclosure. Either of the enclosures that you selected will come with several screws to lock the hard disk into the case. Then, once you ascertain that all is secure, you are ready to connect your external hard disk to an available USB port. The good news is that your system should immediately recognize the new drive.

However, before using your hard disk for storage, I would recommend that you format the drive to clean off any older files or operating system codes. To perform this function, merely right click on the drive letter that represents your external hard disk and select the Format command. Once formatted, your new external hard disk will be ready to use.

While I think that this process is simple and a means of saving an old internal drive from the scrap heap, there is a word of caution that I think you should consider. Like with our brains, the older an internal drive is, the less dependable it can become. So, if using an older hard disk, there is always the chance that it could be subject to failure. If it were to have a brain freeze or just totally give out, there is the possibility that you could lose all of your valuable data. To avoid taking this risk, I am sure that I don’t have to remind regular LockerGnome viewers of this: remember to store your information on more than one backup storage device. These storage areas are not limited to — but may include — additional external hard disks, CD or DVD backups, imaging programs, and/or cloud storage (all of which will help to ensure that you do not lose the data you have worked so hard to create and save).

Don’t forget… er… Oh, well, like I said earlier, this external storage is possibly a better means of keeping your memory — at least your computer memory — intact. However, I can’t guarantee anything about those times when senior moments come your way.

Comments welcome.

[1] Picture source courtesy of andrexituh.wordpress.com

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Cosdis

    I have some old harddrives just laying around and collecting dust but they have so little memory, like 4 GB.

  • Alex Perkins

    The picture is upside down, so from left to right is: 2.5″ laptop drive, 2.5″ enclosure and then the 3.5″ desktop drive. Just letting you know. 😉

  • http://twitter.com/BobBell69  Robert Bell 

    Yes I keep old drives and put them in a usb case usually. Just waiting to buy an ssd for the macbook then I’ll have another once I’ve cloned it.

  • http://twitter.com/BobBell69  Robert ⌘ Bell 

    Yes I keep old drives and put them in a usb case usually. Just waiting to buy an ssd for the macbook then I’ll have another once I’ve cloned it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kslingo Kyle Christopher Slingo

    I have been looking at ways to do this because I have a few hard drives lying around and would like to know if they work or not

  • Matt

    This was actually really helpful because back when I didn’t know what i was doing I removed an old hard drive that was perfectly fine when the laptop stopped working. Thanks to you Ron Schenone i can now get all of those pictures back!.

  • http://twitter.com/Saphant Frank Nydam

    Have so many drives laying around my home office, so thank you Ron!
    Was really helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ibozzzy James Ozburn

    Where does a person find these cases and do they come with the usb cords?

    • JarrodSimpson

      I buy all of mine from a TigerDirect/CompUSA outlet store near where I live. I really only buy the off brand ones which are random in name, but all of them so far have included USB cables.