One of the easiest ways to give your laptop more hard drive space or back up all your important files without burning them to CD or DVD is to build your own external hard drive. This hard drive can be connected to any computer via a free USB port. You can easily and quickly transfer large files between computers, and also have a form of backup in case something happens to your computer. This external hard drive will work on computers running Windows 2000 / XP, OS X, or Linux.
Step 1. You must purchase an internal hard drive (now called HDD)
The first step is to determine one of the standard physical sizes for any hard drive. If you already have a spare HDD for this project, skip to step 2. There are basically 3 HDD sizes: 1.8 ", 2.5" and 3.5. 1.8 "2.5" is the standard size for laptop hard drives. The laptop HDD can be powered by a USB cable, so there is no need for an AC adapter. Laptop hard drives, however, are more expensive than internal PC HDDs, so if you're not worried about size or other power cords, desktop HDDs may be the method to move around.
Step 2. Select and purchase a compatible chassis
Take into account the physical size of your hard drive as well as its interface (ATA100, ATA133, Serial ATA150, Serial ATA II, etc.). Determine the type of connection that meets the needs of all computers that will be connected. USB2.0 is currently a good standard and will work on any computer or laptop with free USB access. FireWire (IEEE1394) is even faster, but it is not yet so common in all computers. Remember to also compare the fan noise levels (if it has a fan and if the noise level is displayed). For a hard drive that will run when your computer is on, a fan is a good thing, most likely a must-have, while hard drives used primarily for backups will usually not be needed. Also check to see if there is a power switch on the 3.5 "case. Without it, you will need to unplug the adapter to turn off the drive. For backups it doesn't really matter, but some people using their drive for secondary storage may find it annoying. when to connect and disconnect it every time you start and shut down your computers.
Step 3. Expand your case and hard drive
Step 4. Follow the instructions on how to open the case properly
Step 5. Install the hard disk with the Master setting (or Master / No Slave, if any)
This jumper is located between the Molex power connector (4 large round pins) and the ATA / SATA connector. You will see 2 rows of four or five small pins and a small clamp (jumper) connected to the 2nd of them. Pull out the jumper using a tool such as tweezers or a pencil and place it in the Master position if it is not already there. The various jumpers are usually located right on the top label of the hard drive.
Step 6. Connect the power connector of your Molex chassis and the ATA / SATA ribbon cable to your HDD
While it would be very difficult to accidentally reconnect them in reverse order, take a moment to make sure the ribbon cable and power connector are properly aligned before inserting them.
Step 7. Screw the hard drive to the chassis
4 or more screws were supplied with the case. There will be 4 holes, 2 on each side of the HDD, and corresponding holes inside the case.
Step 8. Take one last look at the inside before closing it
Make sure you don't forget to plug anything in. Read your instructions (you read them too, didn't you?:) And make sure you cover all the steps. You will be disappointed to open it over and over again because you forgot to change the jumper to Master or something else.
Step 9. Close the case
Step 10. Connect the power cable (if necessary) and the USB or FireWire cable to the drive
Step 11. USB and FireWire are Plug-and-Play, which means you don't need to turn off your computer before plugging in the drive
Connect the other ends of these cables to your computer and a surge protector (you are using a surge protector, aren't you?:).
Step 12. Turn on your computer, if you haven't
Open My Computer (or Computer for Windows Vista or Windows 7). These icons are most likely found on your desktop, but can also be found in the Start menu.
Step 13. You should see the new device under 'Devices with Removable Storage'
Step 14. Right click on it and select Format (about halfway down the list)
Step 15. Format the disk with NTFS for use in Windows (ext3 for Linux) as the file system
For reading and writing on both Linux and Windows, use FAT32. You can give it a volume label if you like. Example: External, Secondary, Backup, and so on. Be sure to check that Quick Format is not selected. This will allow you to recognize any bad sectors and "fence off" any data that will be stored in the future. …
Step 16. Wait for the end of the formatting process
This may take longer for large disks.
Step 17. Good job
You have successfully created your own external hard drive.
- This article can also be easily applied to the process of adding Zip disk, CD ROM / Burner or DVD ROM / Burner. CD / DVD ROM's / Burners will only be supported in 5.25 "enclosure. This enclosure size is special because it also supports hard drives. The zip drive is 3.5" so you will need a bezel (sometimes comes with the enclosure, but otherwise it only costs a few dollars) to fill the void around the smaller drive and secure it to the case. The drives mentioned here can all use a variety of ribbon cables and power connector sizes, so make sure your chassis is compatible with the hardware you will be inserting.
- If your new drive has both USB and FireWire, use only one (the fastest, compatible with your computer (s)). If you are using USB, connect the cable to the USB High Speed (2.0) connector on your computer. If you do not have a High Speed connector, or use it incorrectly, it will only mean that you will transfer data more slowly between the drive and the computer.
- Never strain the ribbon cable! There should be some resistance when plugging it in, but if it doesn't go in, the pins may not be lined up correctly. If you choose to bend the pins (hopefully not too many of them), it will take time to straighten them out with a pair of pliers.
- Hard drives can be damaged very easily if dropped onto a hard surface. Read / write heads can “bump” into the platter (s) and cause physical damage to the platter, rendering that disk space useless and also making the device as a whole quite damaged to use.
- Keep movement of the actuator to a minimum while it is on. This once again leads to unnecessary vibrations.
- Formatting the drive as ext3 will make it unreadable on Windows, and formatting as NTFS will make it read-only (you cannot copy files to it) on Linux systems without the proper software. FAT32 (called VFAT in Linux) will be read-write on both operating systems.
- You should always use all 4 screws when adding a hard drive to any computer or chassis, and fasten them tight. High RPM rotation and vibration can occur if the drive does not meet safety requirements. These vibrations can cause annoying buzzing noise and even damage to the drive over time.
- Remember that when the hard drive is outside the enclosure, it is not static-safe. So try to keep it from static discharge and their causes.
- Make sure your case does not have a hard drive capacity limit (no more than a certain number of gigabytes (GB)), or that this limit does not conflict with your drive capacity. Unfortunately, some older cases may have a somewhat lower limit (say, 132GB), and do not advertise it. Be careful! And if you try to use a larger HDD, format it to this limit or lower, or you are more likely to run into sector read errors or something:(
- Drivers are required when connecting an external hard drive (using USB) on Windows 98 (and 98 SE)
- Be sure to use the "Remove Hardware" icon on the taskbar before removing the disc from the USB port. Failure to do so may result in the drive not working properly.