Hardware

How do I... Build your own external hard drive enclosure?

Choose an enclosure

Are you in need of a large external hard drive to use for storing your music collection or backing up your data? As you know, you can go to just about any retail outlet that carries computer components and purchase a large external hard drive. However, if you're the kind of person who prefers the do it yourself approach, you can easily put together your own external hard drive.

In this gallery, I'll show you how to build an external hard drive.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

79 comments
scrapmaster
scrapmaster

Don't waste my time with false titles, this article was and idiot's guide to putting a HD in a store bought enclosure. There was nothing about building a enclosure. You can condense this article in one sentence, "Go buy a enclosure and a hard drive, follow the instructions that come with your enclosure, you are done" Please use accurate titles so we don't waste our time. Thanks

gclifton_BANNED1234567891
gclifton_BANNED1234567891

Not completely accurate but it seems that IDE drives are becoming a thing of the past. I've had to test/get data off a number of SATA drives so I bought the Thermaltake - SATA Hard Drive Docking Station with eSATA and USB Connection. No trays, etc., insert HD (2.5" or 3.5"), power it up, and access it. Not an answer to the question, but works good, and no headaches. I initially needed it when my own computer wouldn't boot. Now I find it's a time saver when working on SATA drives. Seem to recall it was less than $30. The time and effort to build an inclosure is just not worth it anymore.

jemster
jemster

I'm sorry you guys got your BVD's in a bind over the title. I am 67 and have had no formal computer training. I am just trying to learn how (and correct verbage) to capture the information off the HD since my desktop computer died. I dug around enough to discover that I could remove the internal HD and make it an external if I got an enclosure. I did not know how to do that so came here. How else can one learn this stuff? I am sure all of you can recall the day you didn't know Jack about computers......well, that's kinda where I am right now, except Jack and I have been introduced and now I know just enough to be dangerous! Thanks a-hole bunch, Jemster

Brian Bevan
Brian Bevan

In these days I feel a waste of time when many various external drives are now reasonably priced plus you get warranty, hence no risk of fowl-ups! and security is built in too.

rennyg1
rennyg1

I agree with jpimentel@ . The title is off. You are not building an enclosure. You are installing an Hard Drive into an enclosure. Big difference in my humble opinion . Thanks anyway. RennyG1

f1087
f1087

I thought this was an article about how to build an external hard drive enclosure. Turns out to to be a set of instructions on how to assemble a proprietry enclosure. What a waste of time.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

This is the type of information that would work best in a PDF download for later reference.

DalesPC
DalesPC

Great information, well presented.

Sirgwain
Sirgwain

How about putting this (and all) posts in PDF format so we can download them and view later when we're less busy? Thank you.

tntctzn
tntctzn

But then, Why limit yourself to one HD to an enclosure when you can buy a Toaster dock which will allow you to switch 2.5 and 3.5 inch HDs as easily as switching cds in an optical drive?

Cr8ve
Cr8ve

Buy one. www.cr8ve.co.za

hhlben
hhlben

you could by the hdd enclosures from this professional supplier www.szyuanxin.cn, good luck!

Willie11
Willie11

I have a number of smaller IDE hard drives I would like to reuse for backup storage. Can I purchase an external hard drive case and electronics that will allow me to mount and connect several drives? Any suggestions on what to get?

rambrandt1234
rambrandt1234

AGAIN with the 'building your own' HDD enclosure! Where's THAT article?

anthony_v_campos
anthony_v_campos

THIS IS NOT BUILDING...THIS IS JUST ASSEMBLING..A KID CAN DO THIS

jayarmail-personal
jayarmail-personal

Your title is sooo not connected to your topic! You did not build your hard drive enclosure, you just bought it from a store somewhere. My 5-year old could do the same thing without this article! You should change your title to "How to INSTALL a HDD enclosure"

mcgyver
mcgyver

i was hoping that it would show me how to BUILD something, not assemble the parts.

ericmartin.taghoy
ericmartin.taghoy

This is not building "How do I... Build your own external hard drive enclosure? " This may be mislabeled, When I review it..it should be Cracking open the external drive..

Dave51
Dave51

Not all enclosures allow you to format the new hard drive, I had to install the new drive in my machine first to allow me to format it.

pobstar1
pobstar1

I personally build all the external HDD?s that I own with the best hardwares available from parts suppliers stores in my region. I choose the external enclosure that comes with a SATA Hot Swap connection and USB2 connection because one of the PC that I use is SATA Hot Swap compliance and the other PC in function use USB2. Many manufacturers that sell external HDD enclosures will put inside there unit old HDD products with there price. Be sure before buying such materials that the HDD include is SATA II or 3 generation. That way your investment will come alone with PC evolution in the future. Same thought with the SATA Hot Swap connector. When I compare the price of manufactures products and what they offer in that field and what it cost me building them my self in terms of quality, very easily, there are no hesitations to recommend doing so. My cost are always lower than a manufacturer product with better quality in the enclosure and the HDD that come with it.

jestarr
jestarr

Since your title limited the project to "building" or is it "buying parts and assembling" an external hard drive enclosure you didn't address the technically challenging area of designing and implementing a backup plan including recovery from a catastrophic loss. What you have produced is informative and straight forward, now provide what I really need!

ccr47
ccr47

I resently built my own, using an inclosure from Tiger Direct ($19.95) and a sata seagate 500G hard drive, also from Tiger Direct ($98.95). By shopping around I was able to build it for $118.90

hypnotistb
hypnotistb

Why is this called Build your own external hard drive enclosure? I think the instructions should say take out your credit card and buy this enclosure and add a hard drive - DONE.

rb
rb

I thought this would be a good article on connecting the IDE drive to the motherboard. How about article on powering from PSU in PC and connecting the mobo IDE so can install OS to this hard disk. Now that would be DIY :o)

rickmccain
rickmccain

What I really need is an external enclosure for a 5.25" floppy drive. I'm old enough to have stored a lot of data on those things, and I'm still finding them in my files. I can't even worry about file compatability until I figure out a way to read the media.

pcomputerpro
pcomputerpro

Obviously the term "build your own" is used very loosely - should be "How to Follow the Manufacturer's Directions".

vittorio_todisco
vittorio_todisco

Building an external box toa save a hard disk from a PC not in use any longer, was very easy indeed. I saved a HD of 20 GB from ab Aspire and I stored it inside an aluminum box, complete of cables, USB connector, light green/red. Don't forget that the HD needs a setup as slave to be recognized by the PC. So you must insert a jumper in the correct site before operating this emergency HD. Best regards. Vittorio Todisco Taranto, Italy

rorth
rorth

This is how to install a store-bought hard drive enclosure, which I think would come with instructions. I want to know how to make my own enclosure. I have several HDs that I just want to get info off. But I don't want to crack the case and install.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet moderator

If you are going to wake zombies, at least say something that contributes to the discussion. Thanks

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

A USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE Cable is the most useful Service Tool as it will accept most of the current HDD in use, has it's own Power Pack for 3.5 inch Drives and it also provides sufficient Power for the 2.5 inch drives that may normally be underpowered and it's cheap. Comes in around the $25.00 mark and other than some of the really strange Toshiba HDD Interfaces it works with every drive type that I've run across. Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

I need a unit that can run for a long time so it needs to be Actively Cooled and I've yet to see one of those as a Buy Off The Shelf. It also needs to be Big at least 2 TB and that's even rarer. But use a Antec MX1 Enclosure and a 2 TB Drive and the whole thing comes in cheaply and it's reliable without the chance of Overheating the Drive. Cheap Insurance and a working unit for my needs which can not be got in any off the shelf unit. ;) Col

Dave51
Dave51

I would go for an old PC case no Mainboard but a PSU big enough to handle the power ratings and connect the IDE ports to a USB hub with USB to IDE connectors. I the UK Maplin.co.uk sells these, I have not tried this but it should work and use some old equipment as well.

tony
tony

I BOUGHT AN ENCLOSURE INCLUDING ALL POWER SUPPLY USB CABLE ETC ON E-BAY IT COST ?1.98 PLUS ?6.95 POSTAGE IT TOOK THREE DAYS TO ARRIVE AND CAME AIRMAIL FROM HONG KONG TONY

duckles10
duckles10

I believe it's not the enclosure that matters for formatting the new drive, it's the operating system. I had to preformat one but I was attaching to aa old win 2k system.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

P4 system around with a 5.25 Inch Floppy in it. Works well on the few occasions a year I need to use one of those drives. Unfortunately as the Interface for the 5.25 drives are not IDE there are no USB Interfaces available though if you are prepared to gut a 3.5 Inch External Floppy you can plug a 5.25 floppy into that interface and have it work. May look a bit messy thought. I suppose you could do some surgery and fit the Interface Card from a 3.5 inch external drive to a external CD Rom case and use it that way. Be a lot of messing around though. ;) Col

dminder
dminder

It is easy enough to filch a power supply from an old computer to get power to the drive and setting jumpers...well duh...how do you connect a drive externally without purchasing an entire enclosure?? What hurdles are there getting a machine to recognize the HD that is not connected directly to the MB?? Thanks!!

apete
apete

I do what you need to do all the time. Forget the enclosure, not worth the trouble. Go to CablesToGo.com and purchase their hard drive adapter for 35 bucks (Product #30504). Has interfaces for laptop IDE, desktop IDE, and SATA. Has its own 120VAC power supply with all power interfaces, and connects to the PC through the USB port for data transfer. I use this both at home and at work, where I'm constantly attaching various hard drives for various reasons (including cleaning infected drives). Just place the drive down on a non-conductive surface such a piece of stiff cardboard shaped for that purpose.

jon-paul_fegan
jon-paul_fegan

Cables to go makes an IDE to USB adapter kit that comes with a power connection so no need to use a PC power supply. All you would need to do is build your own enclosure around the cables and HD.

james.hoppe
james.hoppe

If you go to computergeeks.com they have the cable with power supply for $9.00. Link is http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=USB2IDE-N I have bought several the latest includes SATA drives and Laptop Drive connector, beat building and the are small and fit in a tech bag, for about $16 just google it

robertswork
robertswork

so, let me get this striaght, you "don't want to crack the case and install", but you want to know how to build your own "mini" case for your hard drive in order to connect it to your pc, when all you have to do is unscrew some screws on the back of your desktop unit (which btw, I don't ever screw in in the first place, as soon as I do, I have to 'crack the case', but when I don't screw them in, I never need to go in there :-) remove said cover, pull out some wires and plug them into your old drive. here's another thought for you - get yourself some interhcangeable HDD cases, where all you have to do is turn a HDD key and unlock said case, pull out one HDD and plug another one in. http://shop3.outpost.com/product/3555114#detailed

thomsonk
thomsonk

If I understood your post, it sounds like you're looking for a drive enclosure with a swappable disk tray. I've used these things and they work pretty well for what you're needing to do. Check out Athena Power or iStarUSA enclosures. Hope this is of some use!

DiscipleN2k
DiscipleN2k

"How to Build Your Own Hard Drive Enclosure" Step 1: Buy hard drive enclosure from Newegg. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit!

jpimentel
jpimentel

Not sure how this one made it past the editor. The title is way off. You are not building an enclosure. You are installing an HD INTO an enclosure. AND, I'm not sure this actually warranted a post in the first place. This task is pretty straightforward and even the worst enclosures have enough instructions to get you by.

bruce_skipper
bruce_skipper

instead you should look for data recovery methods that allow you to retrieve data from a drive without initializing/formatting. you will lose "old data" with the process in this "How To". Google is a good thing, try and find you some recovery software and use their method. Once recovered, you can then convert the extra drive(s) to external storage...

ccw
ccw

there is a usb --> hard drive connection cable available and you can use a power supply from an old computer.

d.s.williams
d.s.williams

You could use an old tower case as an impressive HDD server :-)

Dave51
Dave51

When I tried to format a 200Gbit drive with 8Mbit cache over the USB, all it could see was the 8Mbit cache...

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

...check around to try and find one of the early 3.5 USB externals. The current compact externals have an interface that looks incompatible with the internal FDDs.

blairs
blairs

Any enclosure that can also accept a DVD/CD burner or reader can usually accept a swappable drive drawer. I combined the two a few years ago and it has worked great. It has been of great value, particularly since I swap hard drives the way I used to swap floppies. I used Startech components.

IT_Godson
IT_Godson

This is the item I was talking about in my post above. Works great!

CliffMcC
CliffMcC

I have to agree that the title inspired me to take look at how to build an enclosure. But that was not the case. I've "built" my own external HDs by going to eBay or the local store to purchase an enclosure. In a matter of minutes I had an external drive. In fact, I did just that for my sister last week because her computer laptop screen cracked and was no longer functional. I simply removed the HD and installed it in an enclosure. Still, this is good information for those who may not know how to do this.

#1 Kenster
#1 Kenster

Post this author's name or picture next to the article's link, then forewarned, I would not have been sucked into reading this. Building an enclosure or advertising? There is certainly no building involved. I would much rather have seen the space taken up by TWO enclosure articles used on the actual build of the polycarbonate PC.

Brownshoe Sailor
Brownshoe Sailor

Amen!! More text and images spent on this almost trivial task compared to that spent on building that neat black Lexan PC+LCD case. Disappointing.

laurence
laurence

I actually expected to get the soldering iron out by the sounds of the title. Then sadly realised it was nothing about building and external enclosure but all about installing a drive into one. This must be the poorest article to date.

Synthetic
Synthetic

I know we are deviating from the initial blog/how-to, but if the above post concerning getting data from old drives and the drives are not bootable there are quick and easy methods for getting that data. Slave the drive first to see if you can just drag and drop into your current bootable drive. If you can not access any data, or if this is your primary drive, you can use the low level tool commander.exe to do a simple bit copy and upload to another storage device. Ok, I say simple, it does take a few steps if this is a primary drive and your transferring the data to an external drive. Maybe I missed the point. I hope this helps. I would also like to point out that commander.exe is freeware, but is driven by donations and if one uses it, one should contribute to this brilliant tool. Cheers!

mmsx
mmsx

You can purchase a hard drive enclosure from TigerDirect or Radio Shack for under $20 so why bother?

IT_Godson
IT_Godson

I use one of these usb--> to hard drive converter cables and they normally come with a power supply. Very handy for working on laptop drives and other hard drives if you don't want to break open your main machine's case everytime you want to work on a hard drive. I also use the same external drive enclosure that the author uses, awesome for what it does highly recommend. Installed a 750GB Seagate :)

jpimentel
jpimentel

I would imagine you could cut off the power connector from an old power supply (or anywhere else you might have one) and use a 12V power adapter. Plugging in the 12V adapter to the 12V input on the hard disk may provide enough power and not be too bulky. Perhaps someone could comment on which incoming wire would carry the 12V positive power, and what the required amperage would be for the potential power supply. That would give you a smaller power supply to keep the overall size of this thing down. And it might cut down on overall electrical use since the PC power supply would be using much more electricity. The PC power supply would certainly give you a level of safety in terms of not shorting out the HD if you didn't know how to hook up a smaller power brick, and if you don't have a smaller brick, it would definitely fit the bill.

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

...I did a search for 'external floppy disk drives' on eBay. (Note: No spec of size or conn. type.) In addition to the obvious plethora of 3.5 USB types, there were several retro/vintage sorts, including Apple II 3.5 & 5.25, and a couple aftermarket ones for the Commodore 64 & 128. I did pick up a 'Cumulus' 1.2MB device sans interface card. I shall attempt to figure a way to adapt it to the parport using the ASPI drivers for my Iomega parport Zip 100. Not much hope at the moment. :)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

Have the NB Interface and work off 5 V DC not the 12 V DC that internal Desktop Drives work off. Hence you'll need one of the ones with a Power Pack to have the correct connection. ;) Col

robo_dev
robo_dev

The article should have at least pointed out which type of enclosure to buy... internal power supply versus external, ball-bearing fan versus no fan, versus sleeve bearing fan, etc.

dryd
dryd

Me two, and meanwhile thinking, well I have a few old AT PSUes, 40gig HDDes, 4 way HDD racks, IDE and USB cables, even extra fans. So all I need do is build a cute little circuit board to hang it all together, and hay presto! It may end up half the size of a bessa (breeze?) block, be about as heavy, and sound like a jumbo jet. But hay, who cares. It would be fun and functional. Anybody know how to build such a board?

sykandtyed
sykandtyed

I still don't know why the editors continue to accept articles from this author? Must be a family member out of work.

andrew.h.payne
andrew.h.payne

There are two articles like this now? 1. "How do I? Build and configure an external hard drive enclosure?" 2. "How do I... Build your own external hard drive enclosure?" Both of these are just installing drives into bought enclosures. I wanted to make something! Oh well.

marablac
marablac

Where do I get access to commander.exe. It sounds like what I need. And I would be happy to make a donation. marablac@aol.com

jemster
jemster

Thanks Hal! I didn't have a clue about the power required. I would have wondered why it didn't work but that makes sense. Jemster

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

You need a way to connect it whatever the NB has available this is most often USB. So you connect the Drive to a suitable USB Adapter and after the NB is running plug in the USB Plug tot he NB and then when the Drive is Recognized read the Data off it and copy to some place where you can store it. Just remember that if the Drive came out of a Desktop it requires 12 V DC to power it and USB only has 5 V DC available at the Socket so you need a External Power Adapter to plug into the HDD or the Enclosure that you are using. Without this Adapter the drive isn't going to work. Even with a 2.5 Inch NB Drive it's possible that the NB that you have doesn't have the full 500 Milli Watts available at the USB Socket so you may also need a External Power Supply for that type of Drive. Also never forget to Safely Remove/Dismount the Drive from the Task Bar before unplugging or turning off the Computer. Col

jemster
jemster

I have that problem right now. My Win XP doesn't want to boot up. I put in a new power supply and it worked for about a week and now won't boot up again. I bought a case for the HD but haven't done anything with it yet. How do you slave the drive? I am now using a Win 2000 laptop.

number15
number15

Are you saying that you can add extra hard drive into your mac just like we do with the old tape deck?

dreamtheaterdrums
dreamtheaterdrums

I've got an old Apple Powermac G3 Blue and white, which has the lever on the side for easy acess to the inside of the case, and i only have one HD in it so i can easily test and get info off HD's instead of unscrewing a case and taking it apart just get to the IDE cables.... Now im not trying to start (nor do i want) a Mac Vs. PC fight, im just saying that for me it's easier for me to get to the HD's in my case...

techrepublic
techrepublic

It's easy to tell which wires go where on a drive's power connector. The yellow wire is +12V, the red wire is +5V and the two black wires are ground. So you idea to use a 12V power adapter won't cut it as you also need +5V. Also to be on the safe side you might want your supply to handle a couple of amps for each rail. All of the USB to IDE/SATA adapter cables that I have seen come with a power adapter for this purpose, For a quick way to access a drive without having to open an external case or your PC, these adapter "cables" are great to have.