Old hard drives can present you with quite a lot of trouble. There is hardly any computer professional or casual laptop owner who does not have a few old hard drives stored away.
Once the time comes to inspect them before disposal, it can present you with a big headache. Sure you can open up your computer casing and hook the drives up with your current existing hardware. However, we like to avoid rummaging around the inside our cases (which risks causing an electrostatic discharge during the process) unless we are doing serious work such as upgrading the components.
That does not mean that plugging in those older SATA drives in the SATA headers present on your motherboard (and drawing a fragment of power out from your PSU) will not work. However, there are much more efficient solutions available these days.
What you will need
As well as more expensive options, you can always get a hot swap dock. The only issue being that nowadays hardly anyone manufactures a dock that supports both SATA and IDE connections. Only if you are doing a good amount of work with the bare SATA drives does the dock make sense. For most home based users, the dock is overkill.
What you need is a converter/adapter cable which allows you to mount the drive like you are just attaching a portable hard drive or flash drive to your computer. In the past, these adapters were not very efficient, but subsequent improvements in both the hardware and Windows itself has resulted in dependable functionality at really affordable prices.
Choosing the right replacement drive
All hard drives are not the same. For instance, if you have an older computer, the connector for the hard drive may not work with the newer hard drive models. Similarly, you will need to make sure that the drive you purchase will fit in a proper manner into your desktop computer bay or laptop.
To figure out what type of drive you need to buy, do a search on the web for your present drive model and manufacturer in order to get the thickness and size as well as the interface (e.g., 2.5-inch, SATA drive with 12.5mm thickness. Most laptops these days use a 2.5-inch drive, but you will want to check by yourself in order to make sure–the information is present upon the drive label itself).
What you need to do
The trickiest part lies in acquiring the hardware. Once you have procured the hardware, you will need to use the suitable side of the adapter (it has a side for SATA, 2.5 IDE, and 3.5 IDE). You need to make sure that the drive jumpers are set to Master (if the drive happens to be old enough to use a jumper system that is, modern SATA drives hardly use jumpers).
You must then plug the adapter into a USB port on your computer, connect the power by means of the Molex unit adapter, and then switch the command cable on to give control to the drive.
As soon as the power is switched on and the drive starts spinning up, it should be visible in Windows as a removable drive in the same manner as a brand new external hard drive would. No separate software or drivers are needed. If you look inside the drive, along with the old Windows desktop drive, you will be able to see all of the old folders. These are easily accessible.
Something that you might face
While opening the folders, especially those folders which are on old hard drives with a previously installed version of Windows, you may be faced with a message telling you that you do not have permission to access the folder.
You will see this error/prompt message when you try to open a folder/file that had file permissions allocated to it by the earlier operating system. However, valid permissions no longer exist for such files/folders. You should only need to click on the “allow access” button just once in most cases.
Leaving this aside, it is as simple as plug and play. By spending a very small amount of money, you now have a trouble-free method to check your drives, retrieve/wipe the old data, compare it with your backups, and interact with the hard drives as if they were mounted right inside the computer case.