How to Use an Internal Hard Drive as an External Hard Drive

It’s almost a year since I upgraded my computer from a desktop to a laptop. As much I was enjoying the experience of computing on the go, I was struggling to find space for all my downloads.

I had explored a number of external hard disc options. All had sufficient storage space to satisfy my need. But they were crazy expensive! And no vendor offered deals on these external hard drives.

That’s when I heard someone remark about turning an internal hard drive into an external. Seriously? Can it be done? That would save me a lot of money and still take care of my large file downloads.

I set out to confirm what I heard. I approached a few computer hardware engineers to help me and this is what they had to say.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle

Internal hard drives of older computers can indeed be used as a portable storage device. We just have to make sure a few technical specifications are taken care of.

Advantages of the transition

Why should you opt for using an existing internal hard drive?

  • It’s cheaper than the external storage devices available in the market
  • You have control over the driver quality
  • You can retain the existing data without the worries of transferring it to another device
  • You are helping the earth by recycling stuff and reducing your carbon footprint

Specifics matter

You need to plan your purchase before buying it. This is extremely true with storage device purchases especially external storage drives because you won’t be investing in another in the near future. So make sure you prepare a checklist including the following:

  • Determine your file size and utilization
  • Make sure your internal hard drive has reasonably good drive health
  • Know your drive’s form factor – Is it a 3.5” SSD hybrid or a 2.5”SSD or laptop drive? If it’s a 2.5” SSD, then is it 7mm or 9.5mm or 12.5mm in height?
  • Know your drive speed as it determines the wear and tear of your drive. Is it a normal USB 3.0 connection or a higher performance RPM drive?
  • What driver interface does your internal hard drive prefer – PATA or SATA?
  • Decide on the enclosure – plastic or metal, depending on the type and duration of storage device usage
  • Do your external and internal hard drive interfaces match each other?

Assembling your gadgets

Once you’ve got all your specifications for the external portable storage device sorted out and all enclosures and cables have been bought, it’s time to put them all together.

Most enclosures now come tool-less. Therefore, it is easy to mount your internal hard drive into it. These have no screws but rather compact SATA data and power connections. You just need to snap open such an enclosure, slide the internal hard drive with the right face up and snap it close. And your device is ready for use.

If the enclosure has screws, it still is not that difficult. You just have to unscrew the mounting to allow for some space, position the internal drive and secure the screws into place. Now that wasn’t too difficult.

Remember the simple things

Sometimes we get so caught up in the vortex of excitement that we forget a few simple logical things.

When there are numerous versions of hardware available, always opt for the latest and newest version. It is better to shell out an extra few bucks to get an upgraded product rather than settle for a cheaper alternative which you may have to upgrade sooner.

Don’t try to overdo the whole process by trying to transform all the internal hard drives gathering dust at your home. Sit down and take your time to decide which is the best amongst the ones available and how best can it serve you for the next two to three years with all the new enclosures and cables.

Though you may be tempted to opt for a high-performing high-speed drive, it is better to settle for a slower one if you are going to use it continuously. The former holds good if you plan to use the device only for backing up files once or twice a month.

Some older internal hard drives may not support the new hardware options available in the market. It is considered better to leave such outdated products alone than to experiment with them.

Now it’s time to inspect your internal hard drive and assess it for transforming it into a useful external storage device for your laptop.

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