Saturday, January 08, 2005

Recycle a laptop hard drive

I guess I ran my Gateway laptop into the ground. Considering it was on 7 x 24 for about 2 years, I suppose I shouldn't complain. So, do I just give a respectful memorial service and then dump it or do I hack it up for parts? I'll give you one guess on that one... ;>)

The Gateway had a nice 40GB drive that was roughly half full. Most of the data on it is my music collection; I've ripped all of my CD's to the Gateway only to then move the files to my Dell DJ. I would love to get at those files again, though and not just the music; I had bunches of data like old e-mails, contacts, etc... on the drive. Since the laptop drive is a standard 2.5" sized drive, I picked up an aluminum hard drive enclosure with USB 2.0 at my local CompUSA for $20.

Click "Read More" for the simple steps involved.

Here's what you need:
1 Hard Drive enclosure kit
1 very small Phillips head screwdriver
1 inquisitive 7 year old son (optional)
30 minutes

I thought this would be a good project for my son, so Tyler and I opened up the box together. In fact, some of the digital pictures you see were taken by him!

What's in the box?

Inside you will find the lightweight aluminum enclosure, a small travel bag for it, necessary screws, a USB 2.0 cable, a driver CD, and instructions. Unless you are running Windows 98 SE, you won't need the driver CD. Once we reviewed all of the parts together, we pulled out the old Gateway and turned it upside down.

The picture above highlights the area where the removable hard drive is. Each laptop is different of course, but you should generally find your hard drive access door on the bottom of the laptop. In our case, there were two screws to remove so that we could slice the access panel out. The access panel slid out easily and revealed the hidden treasure to Tyler: our 2.5" hard drive & data.

The drive itself was attached to a small case which in turn was attached to the panel as shown below.

For us, it was a simple removal of four screws; two on each side, and our little hard drive was free. Remember to be careful when handling hard drives. You don't want to accidentally drop them or shake them. This could damage the delicate platters inside.

Once our hard drive was completely separated from the panel, we then placed it inside the new enclosure. To do this, we had to remove the top and bottom covers of the enclosure:

Note the pins on the top end of the hard drive. These pins get inserted into the slots at the top of the enclosure. You literally "plug in" the hard drive to the slots on the enclosure circuit board. The result of that step looks like this:

Once you've connected the hard drive to the circuit board, you screw the hard drive to the case, using the four provided screws. Note the four screw-holes in the picture below.

After the hard drive is attached via the screws, you just take the top and bottom covers of the enclosure and replace them onto the case. Use the included eight screws to secure the case and attach the USB cable for the final result:

Once completed, you just connect the drive to your PC. I'm including before and after pictures of Windows Explorer to show how the device appears:



That's all there is to it! For $20 and 30 minutes of your time, you can regain the data on your old laptop hard drive. Since the device is powered through the USB interface, you can take your new portable drive anywhere there is a USB port. My Dell DJ is great for music when I'm on the move, but now I can plug my new portable drive in to my work PC and use it to listen to all of my music.

For any additional questions on the simple process, drop me a note.


At 1/09/2005 6:22 PM, Blogger Kevin C. Tofel said...

Got a question from Bruce via e-mail on the CompUSA part number I used. Thought this would be helpful to all, so I'm sharing my response here:

"Glad to hear that the article was useful. I just searched the CompUSA website, but it doesn't appear that they sell the exact same enclosure I used. Strange, because I just bought the unit last weekend! However, you might find the same unit I used in their store.

Here is the most similar item they show now. It's $28.37 on their site; I paid $19.99 for something extremely similar:
That part number is 50490827. Unfortunately, I already threw away the box I had, so I don't have the exact part number of what I used. It was branded as CompUSA, however, so if you call the store and tell them you want a 2.5" USB hard drive enclosure, they might have the same deal.

Another site I would recommend (to save you a trip) is Just do a search for "hard drive enclosure" and you will some models for as low at $14.99."

Thanks for the question Bruce!

At 1/10/2005 4:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also put an old 30gb laptop hd into a usb 2.0 enclosure. It works a treat! One thing i found out recently tho; When i brought the enclosure it came with a usb cable and a usb power cable (to draw power from a spare usb port!). I put the usb power cable to one side and forgot about it, while i happily used the drive on my laptop usb 2.0 ports... Recently i decided to use the drive on an older laptop (usb 1.0). After a bit of head scratching i finally figured out that it needed the additional power cable to work! I'm still happy with my shiny purchase! Jez

At 1/30/2005 8:41 AM, Blogger Kevin C. Tofel said...

Just noticed a nice bunch of traffic from the users. Thanks "diggers"; I had planned for a story on the concept, so this served a good reminder! I hope you folks liked the tutorial; if you have a few extra minutes, browse some of my recent posts and let me know what you think. I'm always looking for feedback, postive or negative, to help make the site better!


At 1/31/2005 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just pickup up an 2.5 enclosure for $13.95 after shipping from here:

At 4/05/2005 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried using an 2.5" portable enclosure for my Dell Inspiron 8100 laptop hard drive last night. I was befuddles when I opened the enclosure and found two rows of female end fittings, where as my laptop has only one row of male fittings. Did I understand your article correctly, do I plug my hard drive inj to the top row only, and ignore the second row??

At 10/31/2005 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, thanx! My laptop won't recognize the hard drive, however. Is this a problem with the actual hard drive, ie is it damaged? Is it a driver problem? Windows will not autodetect it nor will it accept the drivers that came with it.

What do you think?

At 12/11/2005 8:43 PM, Blogger J said...

Usually, you need to put the HD jumper as master.

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