Introduction: Turn Your Old 2.5'' or 3.5'' Hard Drive Into Portable/External

Picture of Turn Your Old 2.5'' or 3.5'' Hard Drive Into Portable/External

You have an old Hard Drive 2.5'' or 3.5'' left from your laptop or PC and you don't know what to do. Then turn it into portable, that can be plugged-in every device that has an USB port.


Step 1: HDD Interface Types

Picture of HDD Interface Types

The most common interfaces are SATA and IDE

SATA - Serial Advanced Technology Attachment is most common in the newer PC and Laptop interfaces it is a hundreds of times lot faster than IDE and its been used since 2003.

IDE - Integrated Drive Electronics aka PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) is mostly used in PCs and Laptops between 1986 and 2003.

Check the photos above to see the difference between them !

Step 2: You Will Need:

Picture of You Will Need:

An HDD enclosure and a hard drive (SATA or IDE). And 12v 3 W power suply If you hard drive require higher power to work.



The links will take you to, but if you want something else check at or

Step 3: Put the HDD in the Box

Picture of Put the HDD in the Box

First plug the Hard Drive in the SATA / IDE to USB board and then put the Hard Drive inside the enclosure, turn the screws.

Step 4: Connect to PC

Picture of Connect to PC

Connect the hard drive with your PC and wait for a few seconds to boot, and you are done !


DinoD12 made it! (author)2016-09-19

First I want to thank everyone for their helpful replies !! Thank You.

I did get it going but I had to do the Full Format before my LT would see it. It's working great now 300GB/296gb active.

AlistairW7 (author)2016-09-17

Thanks for this instructable, some of us are not computer wizards and need step by step guides and explanations of everything. Great to know old HDD can be re-used. For those who are techno geeks please don't knock Instructables like this for us simple folk who want to learn - you don't have to read it and instead of criticising it, maybe you can do some of your own instructables for more advanced people.

neopolitan (author)AlistairW72016-09-18

unfortunately he left off the one piece of information that would frustrate learners from all walks.

when you enclose a 2.5 drive, most 500mA USB outputs will struggle to power the drive and give problematic or not working issues. you need to use a usb bridge.

without this information the beginner user will at best be wasting their time, at worst their time & money!

fixfox (author)2016-09-15

Okay a noob question.... whats the power source for this drive?

Treknology (author)fixfox2016-09-15

Depending on how much power is consumed by the HDD, a single USB connection will usually suffice. In some heavy current situations, you may need a "double headed" cable which has two USB Type A plugs to draw the extra current from the Host Computer.

headslant (author)Treknology2016-09-18

If you get a good enclosure with USB 3.0, you get faster speeds, but also nearly double the current. USB 3.0 can deliver up to 900ma, vs the measly 500ma of USB 2.0

ImiC (author)fixfox2016-09-15

There are two types of the Desktop PC HDD in general, the 2,5" and the 3,5" one. The first are drawing power via the USB it self, the later usually need extra juice whice come from from another power brick/adapter that's why their external enclosure is usually bigger or come with the power brick.

dhostetter (author)fixfox2016-09-15

Most enclosures like this get their power from the USB connection, so that's typically the only cable needed.

JosiahC5 (author)2016-09-17

I cannot find a USB connector anywhere, meanwhile I try to get the hard drive open in my PC (I am using my 2 in 1 for this)

JosiahC5 (author)JosiahC52016-09-18

I've just never seen it before, I use windows XP(5 months since I ran this), 7(2 years ago was most recent usage) and 10 (10 is currently being used by me)

giedrius.dyra (author)2016-09-17

you don't even need enclosure - there are so many usb adaptors on ebay or amazon for few quids... Bt for safety reasons enclosure is good :)

cybericius (author)2016-09-17

Oh, I can buy a SATA-USB adapter without instruction... I though this would be about how to create an adapter. ;)

JosiahC5 (author)2016-09-17

Is that Linux?

I took the screenshot on Ubuntu linux.

ManuelA9 (author)2016-09-16

I have done that several times, with old drives given or used. In Fact, some of my backup drives I have are dealt up this way. One of them is a minimal Linux Os distro I sometimas use when off, bootable, 32.bit, to get mail or enterin social net . No traces, no host modification, and 32.bit because you don't always know what kind of pc you are to find wherever you go, safer 32-bit than 64. Another I plan to windows it same way.

KarimB22 (author)2016-09-15


(like the brits would say it :D )

Steamingdave (author)KarimB222016-09-15

Only if from the East End or Essex!

Yeah ! :)

Kevanf1 (author)Steamingdave2016-09-15

If from Staffordshire (in the UK) it would be something like excellent, brilliant, very good :) We don't all speak as though we were extras in Mary Poppins :)

Yeah, thanks !

JUANKERR (author)2016-09-15

What you describe as IDE is, in fact PATA; both SATA and PATA have integrated drive electronics.

Yes thats true but some people know PATA as IDE. :)

kklamb (author)2016-09-15

It's probably useful to mention that 3.5" drives normally require an additional power source, so are more accurately defined as 'external' rather than 'portable' drives, as you'll probably need a power brick along with the enclosure.

It's better to stick with 2.5" drives; you could also include some simple instructions as to how to reformat drives (perhaps covering how to securely erase data if you're thinking of passing the drive onto a friend or even selling it).

Yeah, you are right. That is something I've missed in my instructable and I will edit it and add this to it. And I will edit the title as well to something like - .........Hard Drive Into Portsble/External.

DaveB101 (author)kklamb2016-09-15

I've found modern 3.5" drives to be fine. I'm running a 4Tb one right now with no problems.

Mike04301959 (author)2016-09-15

You can pick them cases up at any place like Best Buy and other computer stores. As little as $5.

skylane (author)Mike043019592016-09-15

You don't really even need a case. Just the proper connectors. :)

Yeah, I saw that they are sold for over 3$, Its just the board that adapts the SATA/IDE to USB.

paintrich (author)2016-09-15

I have an old iMac that died; will this work with its internal drive?

I think It should work, go ahead and try !

HenryU7 (author)2016-09-15

One problem is that even though this is a good instructable unless
there is a hard drive that can use 5V 500mA USB simply isn't enough to
power the device although I there is a usb cable which takes 2 usb 2.0
ports and merges them into a usb type a mini port.

Maximum power from a usb (USB 2.0) is 5V 500mA = 2.5 Watts

The power requirements for a full desktop hard drive (say a western digital blue 2tb) is 12VDC with 1.73A peak.

BL4ckf0x (author)HenryU72016-09-15

thats why 3.5" has 12v power adapters... but 2.5" works fine on 5V, and some cases has dual usb to get extra mA... ohh.. and some computers like macbooks give 1000mA, not only 500mA, so dual cable means 2A.

Yeah, you are right. That is something I've missed in my instructable and I will edit it and add this to it.

jmaniac (author)2016-09-16

All of a sudden I lost hope on Instructables :(


First why, cause you saw one instructable, and you already lost hope. There are other much interesting than mine. Second change your profile pic, you look like a pedophile.

blyamur (author)2016-09-15

Feeling like a captain obvious wrote. For these purposes and sold outside the boxes for HDD. And there is clearly missed time, often even for 2.5 need a separate power supply is needed for accurately and 3.5. Opening straight as ready to connect with a ready, and it is doing already 10 years by millions of people. (I apologize for not always correct text, written by the translator)

Most 2.5'' HDDs require over 500 mA, and most, maybe all new, devices can provide that current trough the USB ports and yes most 3.5'' require higher than 500 mA current, something I missed to add to my instructable. (No problem, still I could understand you !) :)

arthurpl (author)blyamur2016-09-16

You're 1000% right.

After reading this 'table I think my waiting for "How to boil a water in a teapot" is almost over...

Sgt-D (author)2016-09-15

I got a kit for the 2.5, put it all together & plugged it in and watched the lite go from red to green. Nothing shows up on my LT screen ? I'm running windows 10. Any ideas...... anyone?

The HDD is spinning I can hear & feel the disc spinning. It sits there with the green light on??

LorenzoR16 (author)Sgt-D2016-09-15

Hit the windows button+R on ur keyboard.

type 'cmd' and hit enter

a black window with white text will appear.

now type 'diskpart' and hit enter

another black window will appear.

Now type: 'list disk' and hit enter

a few disks will appear, take a look and figure out which one is the one that is plugged in to your usb port. You can recognize it by looking at the size.

now type : 'select disk 1' and hit enter if u want to select disc 1, replace the number with the number of ur usb disk.

now type: 'clean' and hit enter.

Then type: 'create partition primary' and hit enter

then type: 'format fs=fat32 quick' and hit enter.

i hope this helps!

here is a link to a better guide.

Sorry for my bad english!


Kari BethK (author)Sgt-D2016-09-15

I have this happen a lot on my laptop, actually. For some reason the "default" drive letter is already assigned to something else, so for many USB devices I have to go in and manually assign an unused drive letter. I can't tell you how I do it, because I need help every time! But it was a huge mystery what was happening until one of the IT guys helped me figure it out.

JaredE (author)Kari BethK2016-09-15

Also be sure to check device manager for any issues. You will see either a yellow exclamation or question mark next to the device with problems. Double click it to see detailed error information.

Usually these external boxes work well but usually windows does not.

MarkN97 (author)Kari BethK2016-09-15

Windows assigns drive letters on a first come basis. Whatever they did it wasnt that.

DaveB101 (author)Kari BethK2016-09-15

right click on the windows button (bottom left)

select Disk Management

Right click on your drive and select to change the drive letter.

If this is your problem, it should now appear on the File Manager.

MarkN97 (author)Sgt-D2016-09-15

Go to: Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Storage/Disk Management and double click. In a minute all your connected drives will show up. See if its there. If not its not connected properly. See if its active, healthy, primary or what. If its (the drive) all green theres no data on it. If you just see the drive # its probably not formatted as a Win drive.

Dont do any actions except Rescan unless you know what your doing. Study up on using Disk Management or try the drive on some friends computer.

ErikS93 (author)Sgt-D2016-09-15

Download and install Minitool Partition Wizard...

its free and works well in recognizing drives formatted in many different formats that may not show up under windows. Once found and is proven to be operational, format it to something like FAT32, NTFS for MS Windows systems or if you have a Mac or Linux system there are options for the corresponding file system.

ChrisC203 (author)Sgt-D2016-09-15

Trick question...It may not be initialized. It may not have a drive letter assigned to it or it might be failed. You might need to ask your favorite geek for a little help.

colinmcc (author)2016-09-15

Google HDD toaster, these are boxes that look like a baby toaster, but
you can just drop your bare HDD into the slot. They usually plug into
the USB port and each (slot, some have more than one) appears as another
drive. Some also act as stand alone HDD duplicators with a copy button
on them.

oppie (author)2016-09-15

One thing to look out for is that older drives, especially IDE types, will draw more current than the typical 500 mA that a USB connector will supply. These may require a Y cable to capture the data from one USB port and the current from two USB ports.
As with any USB connected storage devices, ALWAYS use the "Safely remove devices" function before unplugging. This closes any open files. Also, unplugging while the computer is in sleep or standby, will risk corruption of your external drive as files may still be open.
That said, I didn't want to get a drive bay for my laptop (fits a hard drive in place of the DVD rom), I velcro'ed the external drive to the laptop's lid.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a dreamer, maker and an engineer making and sharing interesting projects here at Instructables. Follow me @ instagram: @the_gadget.boy
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