Introduction: NES Cartridge External Hard Drive

About: I am a Game Design graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Turn your old NES cartridge into an external hard drive, just like this guy did, except with better step-by-step instruction.

I altered the built-in LED so that I could have custom red lights coming out the bottom. This is an optional customization; if you aren't comfortable with cutting some wires and adding your own stuff, don't do it.

Necessary supplies:

NES cartridge (one that you can bear to open up to take away its playability)
External hard drive - a SMALL one (4.5"x2.75" bare, about 5"x3.5" with the case on)
Screwdrivers, of various sizes, philips and flat head
Dremel or other multi-tool
Electrical tape

Might-need supplies:

Pencil & paper
Tin snips

Optional supplies:

2 small LEDs, I chose red to fit with the NES color pallet
Hot glue gun
Soldering iron
Hookup wire
Wire clippers
Helping hands (not your little brother's hands, a stand with clips for holding things while you solder)

Oh yes, and I am so NOT liable if you screw up your hard drive. Perform the operation at your own risk.

Step 1: Open Her Up

Older cartridges have flat head screws. "Newer" ones have custom screws which probably require a "socket wrench" type thing to remove. I do no have this "socket wrench" type thing, so I decided to open up the old, crappy cartridge.

I've heard that melting the tip of an appropriately-sized plastic thing with a lighter and sticking it in the hole to let it cool will result in a little tool that you can use to unscrew the custom screws. I'm not responsible if you end up melting a Knex piece to your hand.

Anyways, unscrew the thing, whichever way you need to do it.

And remember to save ALL of the screws!

Open the cartridge and take out the little circuit board. Smaller than you thought it would be, huh? Keep the cartridge; you might use it in some wacky art project some day.

Step 2: Open the Hard Drive

Now is a good time to stop yourself and ask, "Am I really going to do this?"

The answer should be, "Yes."

If it isn't, then you just aren't cool enough to have a NES cartridge hard drive. It's ok. Not everyone can be that cool. Uncool people are necessary for cool people to exist.

Now then, CAREFULLY begin to tear your precious hard drive open. All hard drives are not made equal, so I cannot tell you exactly how to go about doing this. Hopefully, common sense will guide you. Here's a tip: look for screws; if you don't see any, start prying things up. If there are stickers covering important joints, cut them.

Step 3: Prep the Cartridge

Set your hard drive in the cartridge and mark the parts that need to be cut off. Use the dremel to make the necessary changes. I used a conical sanding tip, but use whatever is comfortable for you. Make sure you sand it all nicely.

It may also help if you trace the cartridge and where the drive fits in it to use as a guide for drilling any other holes if needed. My drive had two screw holes that I used to secure it to one half of the cartridge.

Step 4: Make Sure It Fits

Now make sure that your drive isn't too thick. In my case, the end that housed the USB adapter was too thick. What to do...

I decided to chop off part of the metal housing. If yours is built a similar way, look at the pictures to see how I did it. Not particularly eloquent, but it worked. I hope you've got some tin snips. Or maybe something better. That stuff was REALLY hard to cut.

Step 5: Optional LED Customization

I noticed that the LED/button thingy was too thick to fit in the cartridge. I COULD have just made it fit inside somehow (in this case I could remove the button from the mini circuit board and just let the board sit inside the cart) but I decided to make a custom glowing effect.

Well, it didn't turn out to be particularly awesome at making it look like it was glowing from the inside (though maybe I could have used more LEDs) but I did get custom red lights to fit with the NES theme.

If you don't want to get into cutting wires and soldering, continue to the next step. Otherwise, continue reading.

I figured out which wires went to the little LED on the board and which ones went to the button. I never use the button, so I decided to nix it and focus on the LEDs. obviously, the red wire was carrying the positive current, and the one next to it was the ground for the LED, so it was those I separated from the rest.

I hot-glued my two LEDs in, but I moved them later when they didn't give the right effect.

The pictures are pretty self-explanatory, but basically I soldered 1. red wire to resistor, 2. resistor to positive leg of LED, 3. negative leg of LED to hookup wire, 4. wire to positive leg of second LED, 5. negative leg of second LED to another wire, and 6. other wire to ground wire.

Remember that when soldering, do NOT melt the solder directly with the iron, because that will result in a cold solder. You want the solder to melt onto the wires, so heat up the wires until you see a little smoke, then touch the solder to the wires and it will flow onto them.

Step 6: Close Her Up

Now go find those screws you set aside and close it all up. If you made custom holes, make sure to line them up with the drive and set those first, then screw the rest shut.

And, of course, hook it up to your computer to see if it still works..........

Step 7: NES Drive

The finished product! (Or a useless chunk of plastic and metal, depending on how careful you were)

Now you can use your new NES drive to hold your NES emulator and all of your illegal NES roms.

Or Art School project work, in my case...

Comments are welcome!