What to do with an old laptop hard drive

So you replace the hard drive in your laptop with a bigger model, or better yet, an SSD. What do you do with the old drive if it still works?

It’s good to keep the drive for storing backups or for extra storage when you’re working on storage-heavy projects. It’s a lot more convenient for both if you put the old drive in a USB enclosure.

USB enclosures are cheap these days. A basic, no-frills SATA enclosure costs around $5, and IDE enclosures are even cheaper. You can also buy a costlier enclosure if you want more durability, but for casual use, the cheap enclosures are fine. I have two of the SATA enclosures I just mentioned. They keep the elements off your drive, and since they’re made of metal, they don’t let the drive get too hot. They won’t give you much protection if you drop the drive, but the costlier enclosures might not either.

Assembly is pretty straightforward. Typically the back of the unit contains the circuit board, which you plug into the drive, then slip into the metal case. Then you secure the back of the unit to the case with two screws. The procedure takes a few minutes, at most.

To use the drive, just plug it in like any other USB device. Most of them come with two plugs on one end. The end with one plug goes to the drive, and the two-plug end goes to the computer. You don’t necessarily have to use the second plug on the computer side. Try it with just the plug with the thicker cable coming out first, and if it doesn’t work, plug the second one in. The second one just provides additional power for the drive.

The nice thing about 2.5″ laptop hard drives is that they don’t need any additional power, other than what they get over USB.

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