Recycling a PC Internal Card Reader - Make It External & Portable





Introduction: Recycling a PC Internal Card Reader - Make It External & Portable

I had a bunch of these left over from some older computers that were faulty and being disposed of, so I thought I 'd make them useful again as a "portable usb device" These units are designed to be fitted inside a computers case 3.5" bay - I know you can buy something 10 times smaller for a couple of dollars online from PRC, but this exercise was 15 minutes of fun which will hopefully leave you feeling good knowing that you have saved something from the bin - for now...

Step 1: Pry Open the Unit!

Using a flat screwdriver pry open the four metal tabs that hold the lid closed

Once open you can see it has a short length of cable fitted with a standard USB header plug.

Fortunately the color coding for the power and data lines on this cable were standardised making the adaption to a USB cable easy! - this will become obvious later once you cut up the new "donar" cable.

Tools needed:

Phillips head screw driver
Flat blade screwdriver
Soldering iron
Side cutters

Parts needed:
A "donar" USB cable with "A" type pug on one end
A small cable tie to secure the new USB cable

Step 2: Preparing the Board & Removing the Existing Wiring

Remove the board from its chassis - two Phillips head screws

Make note of the colours and which pins / area of the PCB where they are routed to before removing the original header pins and cable.

I used my cutters to help with the removal of the header pins, these could be left and you could solder the new cable directly to these but I went for a "direct" connection to the board option - see photo in next step..

Once you have chopped the headers off square to the board, gently heat up each solder pad on the PCB and gently tap the board on the bench to dislodge the excess pin.

Step 3: Preparing the New USB Cable

Once you have sourced a suitable USB cable - in my case an old 1 metre extension "A" Cable, Cut the female / socket end off and strip back a least 30mm of the outer insulation to allow you to work with each conductor with ease.

Strip and twist the strands of each individual connector colour together with your fingers.

Then using a soldering iron "tin" each conductor (5 in total) individually ready for insertion into the PCB

Red - (+5v)
White - (data -)
Green - (data +)
Black - (Ground)
Shield - (cable shield - connect to ground)

Step 4: Attaching the New USB Cable

Push each wire through the solder pad holes of the PCB (note: when working on the underside of the board the colour code first noted will be in reverse order)

Solder each wire in place onto the pads

The shield wire can be connected to the chassis or a spare ground pad on the PCB

Using a cable tie secure the cable to the chassis to prevent the cable and connections from being pulled from the Printed Circuit Board.

Step 5: Check Your Work and Re- Assemble

Before attempting to plug into your computer ensure that you have not created any solder bridges across pads on the PCB.

Check that your wiring follows the same "code" as the original header cable and that all screws and wiring are well secured.

when i plugged my unit into a PC running Windows 7 it took a bout 30-60 secs to install a driver and I was away!

Happy Soldering!

3 People Made This Project!


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does it completly works as it is connected to motherboard with 9pin connector ?

Thanks for sharing! I plan to print an enclosure next. My only drawback is that the USB cable has to be unplugged before i insert a card then plugged in or it won't recognize the card. Not sure if this is the readers fault or a driver. but it still works. I twisted the connections and taped them to make it faster too.

sd card reader.jpg

can this be made to work with iphone

I just tried this with a 19 in 1 + Bluetooth card reader from a Dell XPS desktop running win XP pro. I cut the original cable and attached a USB cable onto it. the original cable had 89 wires, two power, 2 ground, 2 Data + 2 data - and a shield. since I didn't need the blue tooth, I used only one of each (Except the orange shield wire.., I didn't use that one) now when iplug it in to my new Alienware running win 7 ultimate, it sees the reader but doesn't recognize it. I downloaded and tried to install the driver for it but it wont install because in on win 7 not vista, or xp. is there a way to make this work? its the Dell P/N: HY306 Teac P/N# CAB200 reader.

5 replies

Not sure if you ever got an answer to your question but if you're still interested I might have a solution. The most likely way to get this to work without a driver straight from the manufacturer would be to see if windows has a built in driver that it can default to for card readers. I honestly don't know off the top of my head if it does but you can test this. Start by going to device manager under the control panel then right click on the device (since it doesn't have a correctly installed driver it should show up as yellow designating an error) and select "update driver software". There will be two options: "search automatically for updated driver software" and "browse my computer for driver software", select the second option. Here you'll see a drop down menu and a browse button to select where the folder is for downloaded driver software, ignore these and instead select the option below these that says "let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer". A list of common hardware types will pop up and you can select drivers from these different types that relate to the device you are trying to install. Find one that closely matches the type of device and try installing it. If there are more than one type that seem like they could be the correct one try the first one on the list and if it doesn't work simply uninstall the driver manually and repeat this process until you find one that works.

Thanks for the reply.. yeah I tried most of that then thought, "you know what? its easier just to go buy a multi card reader and be done with it!" lol

Yea that is easier lol, some projects just don't work out the way we want them too I suppose. But hey it's still a good general purpose troubleshooting step that helps alleviate a decent amount of problems so it's still good info to share

...sure is. Hopefuly it will help someone else out of a jam!

Thanks for the reply.. yeah I tried most of that then thought, "you know what? its easier just to go buy a multi card reader and be done with it!" lol

is possible recycle an notebook cam and connect on a sd card reader? or there is another kind of method?

i want that an my recycled cam take from a notebook can record video on a sd memory.

and if is possible i want install it on a mini drone :)

Or you can skip all wiring to a board by taking the wire that connects to the socket and wire it to the usb

Or you can skip all wiring to a board by taking the wire that connects to the socket and wire it to the usb

I'm very interested in this recycling. making something external. I have a question could this be done to internal hard drives. I want to make them External. If this can be done, I could recycle my old hard drives. Then I wonder how many could you correct in series.

2 replies

look into usb hard drive enclosures. Thats what you would need to accomplish what you are talking about.


You can not recycle an internal Hard Drive using these steps (Unless for some reason it's connected via USB instead of SATA/IDE/SCSI)

However, assuming that the hard drives are still good, you could pick up an external Hard Drive Enclosure on a site such as Newegg, or Amazon for about $10-20 bucks for a simple one hard drive unit.

However, if you want to connect them in such a way to "Pool" the Available space you could Either decide to go with an enclosure that would support RAIDing 2 or more hard drives together (though the drives have got to be of the same capacity, and the same speed (both in terms of bus speed, and in terms of RPMs), not only that but they cost somewhere between $70-200), or you could get one of the drobo units (which are not cheap ... as in $600+)

Also, please keep in mind the type of hard drive you are connecting to one of these things, if it's an IDE/PATA drive Then it probably isn't worth hooking up, unless you need to get data off of it, or if it's bigger than a large flash drive (as in bigger than128 GB). However if it's a SATA drive then go for it, assuming the size is right.

Nice recycle job but instead of wasting a perfectly good usb cable worth $10, recycle an old usb mouse cable worth $0. I used to do stuff like this but now use a SD/microSD card reader that is smaller than a thumb drive and cost nothing with a 32GB microSD card.

The 2GB limit is the operating system not the card reader.

If you are still using any type of card other than SD/microSD its time to upgrade, welcome to the 21st century.

4 replies

Nah,Sometimes old is still fun.I still have(but rarely play with)8",5-1/4",3-1/2" drives,a VIC20 system,Atari PC setup with printer and all,A couple green monochromes,Reel-to-Reels,cassettes,8-Tracks out the wazoo.33,45,78RPM,hell I even got a bag full of Edison Cyl. records(for the new kids,they look like toilet paper rolls),I suspect I MAY be a hoarder,lol

come over to my place and you can have all the old tech you can carry out.

im throwing everything out.

Don't s'pose you're anywhere the Midwest?I'll start hitchin' the trailer!

I'm at Perth, Western Australia, so I hope you got floats on your trailer.