Disassemble Seagate External Harddrive Enclosure





Introduction: Disassemble Seagate External Harddrive Enclosure

This instructable is for the safe disassembly of Seagate 3.5-inch Pushbutton Backup External Hard Drives as seen here:


First of all, why would anyone want to take this thing apart? I personally love the design. It looks great, it's quiet, reliable, stackable, and portable. Sure, it needs an external power source, and it's becoming a bit large for today's external hard drive standards, but other than that, this thing is pretty well designed, IMO.

But for whatever reason, you want to open the enclosure up. After many exhaustive hours of research, I was surprised to find that there was absolutely no information on the web about taking this thing apart. I had imagined it to be a pretty prolific piece of hardware, but maybe I was wrong. Several people in forums told me it was impossible to take apart without breaking the enclosure, but that is simply not true. In fact, the internal design seems to even facilitate disassembly to a certain degree. Whether this was intended or not, I don't know. In any case, let's get started:

You will need:

Some sort of flat, sturdy tool like a flathead screwdriver
1 Phillips head screwdriver
1 2.4 m/m flathead screw driver OR 1 2.5 m/m Hex screwdriver OR 1 Torx screw bit
1 2.0 m/m flathead screwdriver OR 1 small Torx bit

Obviously, make sure you only work on the hard drive and enclosure while it's unplugged. Also, as is true with all computer electronics, you should try to maintain a non-static environment while working. Use proper safety precaution and go slow. If you get stuck, use the photos as references.

Finally, this WILL void your warranty.

(I apologize ahead of time for the dark photos)

Note: You might also read through the comments for additional help - there are a lot of good tips and insights which can further aid your disassembly.

Step 1: Removing the Outer Enclosure

The first step is perhaps the trickiest. What you're looking to do here is dislodge the bottom cover (the one without the rubber circle) from the rest of the unit. This is made difficult because there are six plastic tabs inside the unit which hold it down. One method you might use would be to life up the cover on the back of the unit just enough to slide in some flat, sturdy object. Don't try to do this from the front because those tabs are not springy and use a sliding interlock mechanism. The three tabs at the back of the unit are about 1 inch in and spread evenly from left to right (use the pictures to help guide you). Take your time and go slow. In theory, you should be able to remove this without breaking anything if you work slow and take your time. I actually ended up just pulling on the back corner until one of the springy tabs snapped. From there I was able to dislodge the rest safely. If you do break something, don't panic, as the cover is purely aesthetic and not necessary for function. You've now completed the most difficult part of the disassembly.

Step 2: Removing the Inner Enclosure

You will now see a black casing with four screw holes at each corner. Some things you should know about these holes:
1. They use special parallel Torx screws which require a special bit to unscrew. If you don't have that special bit, don't worry, you can use a 2.4 m/m flathead bit or a 2.5 m/m Hex bit instead.
2. The half of the casing closest to you isn't threaded - once the screws come out the far end, you can pull them out.
3. The two halves of the casing have a rubber grommet between each connection.
4. The plastic legs at the back of the case are longer than the front of the case. This should help you keep track of which way it goes back on. (The side panels are uneven as well)

The grommets on the legs stick a bit, so you may have to do some wiggling as you pull this part of the casing off.

Step 3: Remove the Unit From the Remaining Casing

Now you can see the metal shielding that presumably covers the controller board for the hard drive. You can open this if you want, but it's not necessary to remove/replace the hard drive.

Now, let's take a look at the sides. There are three screws total, though four holes, so your model might be different. You can take these screws out now if you want (they are normal Phillips screws) but don't try to remove these plastic sidings just yet.

What you need to do now is pull the back of the case a bit and pull up on the back of the main unit. Your power switch, USB and firewire ports should just clear the space. When you do this, be aware of the plastic legs that go up through the side plastic panels. Next, you want to slowly and carefully wiggle the front of the unit out. Once the unit is free of the other half of the outermost casing, you'll see why you didn't take off the plastic side panels yet. You will now have access to the hidden screws that you couldn't reach before. Go ahead and take out all these screws, and peel off these plastic side panels. They are adhesive, but not so much that any force will be required.

Step 4: Remove the Drive From the Board

When you turn the unit over (the board shielding face down) you will now see the hard drive. If you didn't already know, you can now see that the hard drive is one of Seagate's Barracuda drives. So all you have to do is unplug this thing and go, right? Not quite yet. First, you need to unscrew those four screws on the lips of the shielding on the opposite side of the hard drive. After that, there's a bit of shielding screwed to the top of the hard drive with two more of those damn Torx screws. These ones are a bit smaller, but you can use a 2.0 m/m flathead screwdriver here if you don't have the right size bit. Take the screws out, but save them because they need to go back in when you're done. Now, if you try wiggling the hard drive out under the shielding, you'll notice that there are small metal ridges on the corners of the drive that hold it in. If you go slow and careful, you should be able to wedge the shielding above these wedges just enough to pull the drive out, but I found the shielding to be extremely weak and ended up just bending it to unhook the hard drive - it's easy enough to bend back when you're finished.

IMPORTANT: Be careful as you pull the hard drive from the shielding as the power plug is still connected and wired. If you pull hard or jerk the drive, you may very well rip the cables out, which would make the enclosure useless for future use. Don't worry about the IDE connection - it's solid, not cabled.

Once you have the hard drive out, don't forget to put those two Torx screws back in.

Step 5: Utilize the Hard Drive

Congratulations, you now hold in your hand a hard drive Seagate probably didn't want out of its encasing. Nonetheless, it's a standard IDE hard drive and can be used as such. The enclosure should also be usable for future use. Just put your hard drive of choice in and put the enclosure back together.

EDIT: A good point has been brought up in the comments - if you do decide to put a different drive in the leftover enclosure when you're finished, be aware that you may run into compatibility issues. Besides the fact that the power source in the enclosure probably won't be sufficient to run higher capacity/rpm drives, you may run into problems with the board recognizing the drive, etc.



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    22 Discussions

    wow thanks but no thanks i wanted to now i see the hard drives not worth scrap being ide and only 160gb how lame

    Torx Plus screws are used here (as noted by another commenter) and are also called pentalobe or Torx security. I am fairly sure these are TS10 though the screwdrivers I bought in a kit were not individually labelled.

    Very useful post though.

    1 reply

    Torx Plus Tamperproof/Security and pentalobe screwdriver bits are not the same.

    Caution when installing a new drive in this external enclosure:
    The drive-side of the metal box shield has some tabs that make contact with circuit board screws on the drive - a different drive may have board screws in different locations and you do not want the tabs contacting any circuitry.  The tabs are easily straightened inwards to avoid unwanted contact.

    There are three slots just under the cover lip that lend access to the springy tabs.  A very slender screwdriver or a dental probe will reach them, just push slightly until you feel the release on each.
    The four screws holding the inner case together were Torx size 10 on my case.

    my hard drive had a pretty serious hiccup. after talking with some computer 'know-it-alls', i found the cheapest way to save some important files is by switching the hard drive from my laptop to the seagate hard drive, then extracting the documents that i need, before rebooting windows. this guide is making that possible, so thanks! all i'm waitin on now is the tool to get those damn tamper resistant screws to ship in

    Please change the title to a more accurate one: "Disassemble External Hard drive CASE". I was hoping to find a guide to disassembling a drive. I don't need the data. I simply want to see what goes on inside one.

    1 reply

    Good point, the title has been changed to more accurately reflect its purpose. For the actual drive disassemble, you will likely need a good Torx bit (or if you're not picky, a good hammer/thermite/drill bit for the screws), and probably a flat head (for prying this open/apart... you'll see). The visible screws holding the plating on are really your only obstacle to getting inside. Also, I'm assuming that you know doing so will void any warranty you have and will likely damage the drive beyond reasonable recovery. Other than that, the magnets are fun, but be careful not to get your fingers pinched ;-)

    I didn't need to remove any more Torx screws here, as noted by MightyYar on the intro page. The only Torx screws visible in this step are the 6 on the hard drive itself. Don't remove those unless you want to kill the HD!

    1 reply

    This must be due to differing revisions in the design, as mine definately had Torx in the enclosure itself. But as a general note, yes - NEVER REMOVE ANY SCREWS FROM THE HARD DRIVE ITSELF!

    I haven't seen any comments in this guide regarding HD compatibility. Mine came out with the Cable Select jumper selected (second from left), yours seems to have come out with Master (left-most jumper position). Trying all three of Master/Slave/Cable Select may help debug any problems.

    1 reply

    Once you've removed the hard drive from the enclosure, it should function the same as any other desktop internal hard drive - simply set the jumper to whichever setting you need (but definitely don't assume that the jumper will be a given setting).

    lol, I've used that solution with tricky screws before too - I just didn't have to with my enclosure as I had a strong bit I was able to wedge in the torx

    Do note that external enclosures that originally held drives smaller than 128GB (137GB Decimal) will likely not work properly with larger drives.

    3 replies

    For what it's worth, I upgraded my 300GB external to a 500GB external after the 300GB drive died, and everything seems to be fine. I've written and read every bit as a test. The replacement drive was also a Seagate. Oh, and I didn't have to take out any torx screws on the drive to get the sheetmetal off of my drive - it just had cutouts around the torx screws and everything popped free. The only torx screws that I had to deal with were the 4 big ones holding everything together. Thanks!

    since you started out already over the 128GB hump, you should theoretically be able to pump in upto a 2TB harddrive, and still be ok.

    Each drive will probably be similar, though revision changes do happen. Dissassembly is half the fun!

    If it's already broken, the fear of breaking it is gone, so hack away! :-)

    (blatent editing copy of http://www.dewassoc.com/kbase/hard_drives/hard_drive_size_barriers.htm)
    In order to avoid previous disk barriers and limitations, other than those imposed by the operating systems themselves, today's hard drives no longer rely upon discrete geometry (specific cylinder, head and sector numbers) and instead use logical block addressing and a sector number. Unfortunately, even when we move away from bit addressing in favor of head and sector numbers, we still reach the limit of our ability to address all of the bits when taken together. Let's take a look at the ATA interface. There are 28 bits used for the sector number interface with the operating system, BIOS and the hard disk. This means a hard disk can have a maximum of 228 or 268,435,456 sectors of 512 bytes, placing the ATA interface maximum at 128 GiB or approximately 137.4 GB.


    A few years ago a number of different proposals to expand ATA addressing from 28 bits to either 48 or 64 bits were made, and over those few years the committee examined each very closely. Either of these technology changes would permit huge drive sizes. The first to surface, however, was 48 bit addressing and delivered in the form of a hard drive at 160 GB by Maxtor. Using 48-bits like Maxtor takes drive sizes 100,000 times higher than current limits


    While it is true that the ATA/ATAPI-6 standard defines a method to provide a total capacity for a device of 144 petabytes, the next limit will be imposed not by the ATA devices but by many of the popular operating systems in use today. This limit will be at 2.2 terabytes (2,200 gigabytes). This barrier exists because many of today's operating systems are based on 32-bit addressing. These operating systems include many flavors of Linux, Mac OS 9.x, and Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4, 2000, and XP (Windows XP/64-bit also has the limit because of leveraged 32-bit code).

    First - thanks so much for posting this - you allowed me to take this thing apart without breaking it by showing me the guts! Let me add one thing: The clips on the lid are actually quite easy to disengage, because there are 3 access holes on the back of the unit (below the firewire/USB ports). If you push something skinny through them, biasing towards the cover, the little hooks will pop off provided that you pull on the cover a bit. Thanks again!

    This is probably a very stupid question, but is this hard drive small enough to be used internally? I have a Seagate sitting right next to me that I never use, and it just so happens that my desktop hard drive completely and utterly failed. And from the pictures, they look to be about the same size. Same ports and everything. I guess a better question would be, how physically large is the barracuda drive?