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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!


KrishnaK153 (author)2017-04-16

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

ecogeeco (author)2017-03-17

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.

bowtie1980 (author)2016-10-24

can this be made to work with iphone

zacker (author)2015-11-12

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.

CameronS58 (author)zacker2016-07-16

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.

zacker (author)CameronS582016-07-18

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

CameronS58 (author)zacker2016-07-18

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

zacker (author)CameronS582016-07-18

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

zacker (author)CameronS582016-07-18

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

vegeth1985 (author)2016-02-11

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 :)

MerlinO1 (author)2016-01-31

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

MerlinO1 (author)2016-01-31

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

TJG2 made it! (author)2015-05-25

Absolutely loved this instructable! Fun and easy to make, works great. Now I have an extra just in case : )

larry.rivard made it! (author)2014-12-23

This was fairly simple. I left the connector on the board and cut the unnecessary wires. I had a spare USB cord lying around. I stripped it and connected the usb wires and the sheilding/ground. so my soldering joints on the wires didn't make contact woth each other I used hot glue as insulation.With the zip ties the wire is secure independently from the board. Great instructable. Thank you.

mfrontuto (author)larry.rivard2015-02-06

nice ! I have an old reader that I will be replacing/retiring soon. I was thinking of bending up some plexi glass to make an enclosure/case for it

pappy.smurf.22 (author)2014-12-11

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.

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

SirR (author)pappy.smurf.222014-12-15

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.

BigAndRed (author)2014-12-09

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.

Bowtie41 (author)BigAndRed2014-12-09

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

BigAndRed (author)Bowtie412014-12-10

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

im throwing everything out.

Bowtie41 (author)BigAndRed2014-12-10

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

BigAndRed (author)Bowtie412014-12-10

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

Bowtie41 (author)BigAndRed2014-12-10

Well,I also got 2 old boats(they do float,so guess I'll build a catamaran with the trailer,lol.

BigAndRed (author)Bowtie412014-12-10

that will make an interesting 'Instructable', you could use recycled plastic bags for sail and beer as ballast then it wont matter where you end up.

by the way, our 'mid west' is all desert. and we measure distance by 6packs needed to get there.

Bowtie41 (author)BigAndRed2014-12-10

Where I live is as flat as a desert.I would give a left "certain body part" to see the Great Barrier Reef,guess it all depends on your prospective.By the way,I'm only about 7 miles from Anheuser-Busch,so the 6-packs come easy,lol.Have A Great Day!

Bowtie41 (author)Bowtie412014-12-09

Oops,forgot the good 'ol laser discs,dictaphone machines,and CART tapes from an old radio station too(Anyone remember those?),lol

bryan3141 (author)BigAndRed2014-12-10

$10 for a usb cable? Hie thee to a Dollartree (or whatever dollar store is in your area but won't rhyme) where you'll find various and sundry USB cables for a buck or less.

BigAndRed (author)bryan31412014-12-10

There is nothing like that here, best ive got is a computer shop a half hour drive away. Bought some cables from ebay a while back and all arrived faulty so wont bother with cheap cables again, not worth the hassel when i get a dud. got a room full of old computer parts to salvage from with plenty of dead mice.

lathe_makeatio (author)2014-12-05

Nice idea of recycling those stuff! Unfortunately 90% of the slots are obsolete due the reason the SD card finally has won the race of media standards.
But I remember Smart Media cards with 2MB.
Also an older device like yours may not read sdhx SD cards.
Anyway good job :-)

BigAndRed (author)lathe_makeatio2014-12-10

a friend of mine just recently bought a Nikon 800E 36 mp camera that uses a CF card.

bought a cf-SDHC adapter and saves heaps on getting modern tech cards now.

lathe_makeatio (author)BigAndRed2014-12-10

Very interesting, didn't know about it. Sorry if i declared that CF cards already for dead :-( My last cam with CF is years back..

BigAndRed (author)lathe_makeatio2014-12-10

trust Nikon to use obsolete tech in its 'top of the line' camera, the CF to SD adapter works well and SD cards are 1/4 the price. Im using 32gb micro SDHC in most of my cameras and vids.

Gelfling6 (author)lathe_makeatio2014-12-07

True, But there are still plenty of DSLRs which still use the CF standard, because of multiple data lines. (SD/MMC uses a SPI interface standard,).. My only gripe, a lot of older internal readers I've scavenged, still use the <=2GB limit. SHort of buying a new one from someplace like B-Buy, nothing will use the >2GB, and it's a bear trying to get info xfered between various cards. I used to have a working Compaq iPaq 3970 pocket-PC (monstrosity compared to today's Smart Phones.) It had an internal SD/MMC socket, and I had the external battery/PCMCIA holder, which I could put a CF to PCMCIA adaptor, to extend out 2x 2GB drives for the device. (I used it for Geocaching notes, and carrying a copy of the HTML web page, as well jotting down field notes.) (alas, the poor thing fell, and smashed the screen & plastic face for the speaker/mic/on-Off button.) Great instructable!!

ac-dc (author)2014-12-09

Doesn't make sense. You can get a USB2 external card reader the size of a small match box for about $1 on eBay.

larry.rivard (author)ac-dc2014-12-10

Sure they are cheap but tech is the largest waste we produce as a society around the world. Using existing supplies is smart for the environment. ;-)

vargasmas (author)2014-12-09

All we need now is a simple plan for an affordable 5.25" external drive enclosure.

BigAndRed (author)vargasmas2014-12-10

refer to coments about steam.

sakko303 (author)2014-12-09

Hey whoever suggested the steam powered computer, that would be an awesome instructable! :)

This is a cool ible, because I really don't like looking at my card reader drive bay slot. Instead of buying a portable one, I can make one instead, and keep it in a non-garish location :) Like a drawer.

BigAndRed (author)sakko3032014-12-10

just a thought about steam driven, have you got plenty of coal and a few slaves with shovels?

flubbersaurus (author)2014-12-05

also, im going to do this with a floppy reader,

floppy drives ftw!

BigAndRed (author)flubbersaurus2014-12-09

still using a floppy disk!!! is your computer steam driven as well?

Spokehedz (author)BigAndRed2014-12-09

I work in a place that uses floppy disks for the big CNC mills/laser machines that we own.

Nothing is outdated if it still works for what you need it to do.

oppie (author)BigAndRed2014-12-09

Once or twice a year, folks ask me to copy a floppy to a current format. I keep around a 5.25 and 3.5 drive just for that. Got rid of my 8" floppy drives many years ago.

BigAndRed (author)oppie2014-12-09

Havent seen a floppy in use for years but I do get customers wanting vhs tape to dvd conversions, so I sell them a usb video capture device and tell them to read the book. Time is money and I have very important fishing to do.

satibel (author)flubbersaurus2014-12-09

sadly, internal floppy drives don't use usb, so if you want a floppy drive, you'll need either an arduino, or a pre-made adapter, which would cost more than an external floppy drive

tlorson (author)2014-12-09

Hi been trying to do this myself, My card reader has 6 wires though

Green Black Blue Orange Red White

What do i do with the rest. Can you give me some more direction I have a TEAC CA-200.



booga007 (author)tlorson2014-12-09

Without re-inventing the wheel, this guy does a good video tute on it:

PhillipS1 (author)2014-12-09

Wouldn't it be just as simple to cut the existing connector off the cable and splice the male USB connector on there, instead of soldering it on the board?

Kasm279 (author)PhillipS12014-12-09

My thoughts exactly- plus then if you ever needed another internal one in the future you'd have it.

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