Introduction: DIY External Hard Drive

Picture of DIY External Hard Drive

So this is a quick Instructables for all of the people that never have quite enough space to store all of their different files. Are you tired of compressing your images? Don't know how to use the cloud... because nobody understands the cloud? Do you want to go entirely off the "internet grid"? Well I have the solution for you! This recycled laptop hard drive converted to external hard drive for all your storage purposes will give you the space you need with the second hand junk look we all know and love! For just 3 easy payments of 19.... wait, this is an instructables. It's FREE! (Oh and props to my friend Brandon for help with the design)

Step 1: Random Stuff You Need

Picture of Random Stuff You Need

1- 1/8 wood and acrylic to cut

2- Laser cuttable rubber (Optional)

3- Laser cutter

4- 2 Part Epoxy

5- Hammer

6-SATA to usb cable (I got mine of of a spare external hard drive)

7- Computer

8- Laptop Hard Drive

9- Hardcore making skillz! (not really... it's pretty easy)

Step 2: Get the Hard Dive

If you're a cheapskate like me and you really don't want to spend that much (read: any) money, the best way to get a hard drive is to ask around. See if anyone has an old laptop that may not work anymore and see if you can have it. Once you have the laptop you can disassemble it to get all the parts you want out of it. Most importantly the hard drive.

Step 3: Download the Design

Ive included the illustrator designs you'll need for all the parts.

Step 4: Laser Cut!

Picture of Laser Cut!

So you will have to cut twice if you want to use both acrylic and wood. Make sure to know the power settings necessary for your machine. I cut out a full case in both materials so I could mix and match acrylic and wood because why not.

Step 5: Lay Out Your Parts

Picture of Lay Out Your Parts

Each side could have an inlay of the opposite material, but you can choose the lame way too...

Step 6: Gluing the Inlay

Picture of Gluing the Inlay

So if you used two different materials you can now use them to create cool inlays. All you have to do is take the smaller part and add a spot of two part epoxy on the outside of the part and then lay it into the actual base/top piece on a flat surface.

Step 7: Pin It Together

Picture of Pin It Together

Once the glue drys you will need a hammer and you should lightly tap the pins in place. After you have attached the sides and the bottom together slide in the drive that you are going to use. Now that you have your drive slid in you can tap on the top cover. Your assembly is now complete... and glorious.

Step 8: Set Up the Drive

Picture of Set Up the Drive

Start by connecting your SATA to usb connector to the drive and to one of the usb ports on your computer. I used a Mac but the process should be similar on Windows. Once you connect, open up disk utility. In disk utility select the drive and go to the partitions tab. Click on the partition layout drop down menu and select one partition. Then you are given the option to name it whatever you would like. Also you can select the format you want the drive to be in. If you only use Mac then journaled will probably be the best for you but if you are a multi operating system user you may want to use FAT32 the one limitation of this format is that you can only add files up to 4gb in size and depending on what you are doing this may not work for you.

Step 9: Your Done!!

Go use your external hard drive for all your storage space needs. Also don't forget to brag about your cool new peice of hardware to your friends.


suncoaster2 (author)2015-06-11

Or, you could just buy an external sata/pata/ide to USB adapter from Amazon or elsewhere for around 10 bucks, pop your drive into the enclosure provided and plug it in using the supplied cables, like I did.

aalfano1 (author)suncoaster22017-05-29

Unfourtunitly not all 2.5 inch hard drives can use those enclosures like lets say you have a WD external and your case breaks it becomes a pain to find a case that can hold it

JesseJ39 (author)suncoaster22016-10-05

LOL! YES! You're awesome.

p0laris (author)suncoaster22015-06-20

No... No you can't. You have to do it this way.

BigAndRed (author)suncoaster22015-06-11

I agree with you suncoaster, it looks like more money spent on materials and laser cutter than the job is worth. I've recently got a USB3 2.5" enclosure with cables off ebay for $7 and poped a spare hard drive in to it in less than a minute. If you want something a bit fancier, put a sticker on it.

suncoaster2 (author)BigAndRed2015-06-15

Right. Most of the other comments on my post appear to indicate that people mistakenly believe I don't think much of the project. But, you'll notice that I said "Or...".

Throwing away a perfectly good hard drive that you happen to have is dumb, if you can put it back into service for less than 10 bucks and a few minutes of your time. OTOH, spending money for custom laser cutting and so forth is, to me, more than the result is worth, unless you get off on the craftsmanship aspect, as many people do. It's a great project, if that's the case. For me, it's all about the end result.

PatrickE4 (author)BigAndRed2015-06-13

they point is making it custom to your specifications and having fun creating something that isn't on the market like integrating a usb hub or bluetooth receiver which is what im looking into

jaredtimme18 (author)BigAndRed2015-06-11

The point of instructables is to build things. Congats on spending $7 on a case. Most of the materials can easily be procured for free and if your a maker chances are you have most the materials laying around. The design looks great and it is much nicer than a sticker. Over all well done

stealth6948 (author)suncoaster22015-06-12

I have done the same, cheaper and faster. Plus you are sure of what you got.

GrayAlien (author)suncoaster22015-06-11

When you make something yourself instead of buying it you get a real sense of pride.

Wahda Asso (author)GrayAlien2015-06-11

did you design the cable/adapter for it? Then it is not making it yourself

leon-geyer (author)GrayAlien2015-06-11

I agree with Gray Alien. Sometimes it is about the cost, sometimes it is about being yourself the author. It is not always the same. Here you can build it according to your very own taste, without searching something which get close to it.
Anyway, there are still some things to improve: power is not always given by the USBtoSATA cable, so you have to use one of a computer, or see how to build it. Also, the Disk needs some protection against vibration, to make the enclosure more safe (also own disk vibration), but a material for that is easy to find in your household and adapt.

Wahda Asso (author)suncoaster22015-06-11

EXACTLY...........nothing new, us nerds don't already know about. Anyone who would want to use an external hard drive, has the where withall to know about the "cable". I thought I was about to learn something I didn't

DubMonster (author)2016-04-18

where i can buy that USB to sata

Dardo A.E.P (author)2015-06-21


fishpotpete (author)2015-06-21

Fun Instructable! I think the negative comments are from people that don't understand what this site is about.

JourPT (author)2015-06-20

Thats a nice instructable, I'm not sure why some much flak against a fun project.
Some people around here should read the name of the site and understand that sometimes it's just fun to make something.

primosanch (author)2015-06-20

Very, very nice. Thanks for sharing.

polkijain (author)2015-06-19

Which cable to use please give the link

DaniloB1 (author)2015-06-18

Good design .. dyi power ...

bgunville (author)2015-06-11

because I do not have access or can afford a lazer cutter I will stick to just getting the cables and plugging in the old drives laptop or regular desktop as I have for years. Label them and enter the contained info into a spreadsheet and have a stack on the shelve of old drives converted. Don't really need the case but it is real neat what you did

PatrickE4 (author)bgunville2015-06-13

they case doesnt have to be acrylic can make it out of anything really can even use plexiglass with led lighting with the leds flashing in random sequinces as the drive read and writes

PatrickE4 (author)PatrickE42015-06-13

the damn autocorrect

junits15 (author)bgunville2015-06-13

the case is very useful, constant handling and moving around bare drives is not safe and makes them vulnerable to ESD.

Ajayv2 (author)2015-06-11


MaxD7 (author)2015-06-11

Any good maker would have a couple of inches of plywood and acrylic laying around. Furthermore, last time I checked, DIY projects were as much about cost saving as they are recycling. If @Aidan25 can find the spare parts in his workshop, good for him. He put it to good use. If you cant, that's not his problem.

albertdude (author)2015-06-11

I don't get it. You already had an external HD case (from which you got USB-SATA cable). You didn't need to go through this build to re-use that old laptop HD as an external drive -- just plug the laptop drive into that external case you had.

This project is more about designing/building your own enclosure...

MadxBros (author)albertdude2015-06-11

Actually I don't have a spare case. I just happened to have a spare SATA to USB cable laying around as well as a old laptop hard drive.

HavocRock (author)2015-06-11

Project looks great, but I was really hoping that the electronics will be assembled instead of pulling it out of another device. Still, it looks unique.

sreeci (author)2015-06-11

The engineering and design of your project is good.

I didn't think SUNCOASTER2 was trying to undermine the project.

By looking, reading and understanding your project, for most people, it looked a tad intimidating, than SUNCOASTER2's vision.

Thank you for posting, your idea.

gravityisweak (author)2015-06-05

Nice looking enclosure! People wanting to attempt this should remember that if you are using a recycled hard drive from a machine that is past its useful life, the hard drive may or may not have a whole lot of time left. So don't use it for exclusive storage of important things.

maniacse (author)gravityisweak2015-06-11

Or as I read somewhere: What do not have 4 copies, doesnt exist at all.. (maybe I read it here, I remember something about photoshooting on expedition)

bhermance (author)2015-06-09

Nice! I gotta do this one day!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi! We're the Maddox Brothers, Liam and Aidan. We collaborate so much together, we figured we'd consolidate our work onto one account. Liam ... More »
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