How to Install an Old Notebook Hard Drive in an External Drive Enclosure

One use for an extra functioning 2.5-inch notebook hard drive is to put it into external hard drive enclosure. The result is a portable storage solution that can save money when compared to buying a regular external drive. It also makes use of something that is just 001gathering dust and potentially destined for a land fill.

What you will need is a 2.5-inch notebook hard drive, an external enclosure for the drive and a screw driver (usually a Philip’s head).

Be sure to get the enclosure that matches your kind of drive – PATA v. SATA. Most drives today are SATA. To tell the difference look at the connector on the hard drive. PATA has tiny pins while SATA drives have a black connector that has a spot for a wide flat connector to slide into it.

There are a lot of external hard drive enclosures on the market. They cost as little as $15-$25 or as much as $70 depending on the features. In this video, we show you how to install an internal 2.5-inch SATA notebook drive into an Antec MX-25 2.5-inch SATA Hard Drive Enclosure from Best Buy. It is much cheaper at Amazon (as low as $24.21). This model is not necessarily better than others, so look around for a good deal on external hard drive enclosures.

Like most of these external enclosures, this one runs off of USB power but in a few cases requires the user to plug-in two USB connectors to get enough juice to power the drive. It also has a slot for an external power supply, but of the three or four of these I’ve used, none of them had an external power supply. In the case of the Antec and the Western Digital drive I used, I didn’t have to use the second connector. The cable that comes in the box has both connectors in one cable. The red connector is the data connector (I misidentified it in the video) and the black connector is only for power and can be unplugged if the drive used doesn’t require the extra electricity.


The process is simple. With the drive in hand, open the enclosure. It may have just one screw like the MX-25 or there maybe more. If it has good instructions inside, then follow them. The MX-25’s instructions are very cryptic.


The MX-25 only has one screw to unscrew with a Philips head screwdriver. I used a jeweler’s screw driver that I keep at my desk.

Pull the case apart. Some slide apart or as in the case of the MX-25 the top pulls off. Be careful not to lose the screw. One trick I’ve seen but didn’t use in the video is put a piece of masking tap down on the table and put the screws on it to keep them from sliding off the table. This is great if you have a bunch of screws to keep up with.

The MX-25 has a clear piece of plastic meant to be stuck to the smooth side of the drive so that it can be pulled out of the case when removing. After sticking it to the drive, connect the drive to the connectors inside the enclosure. SATA connectors are easier to use, but if you have a Parallel drive and get a Parallel enclosure for it be very careful so as not to bend the pins. SATA drives don’t have pins making them easier to plug into the enclosure. As I said above you have to match the type of drive with the right type of enclosure.


Once the drive clicks into place (only on SATA drives) or is firmly in place (on PATA drives), put the enclosure back together and reinstall the screws. Now the drive is ready to be plugged into a computer’s USB port.


The first time the drive is plugged in, test to see if the USB connector designed to only give it power is necessary. This can be tested by just plugging the connector meant for data (red in the case of the MX-25). If the computer recognizes the drive and it works, then the extra USB connector is unnecessary. Why use up a valuable USB port on your computer draining the battery when it is not necessary.

Since this is an old drive it will likely be formatted already. If it has valuable data on it, the files can now be moved over to the computer. I recommend doing this and then formatting the drive, especially if it had an installation of Windows or some other OS on it. Starting clean is a good idea.

To format your hard drive follow these steps. After removing all of your data you should be able to open My computer, right-click on the external hard drive and choose format. Make sure you choose the correct drive since this action will delete all of your information and cannot be undone.


Now backup all the files you want to keep on the portable drive. One great way to use the drive is install Portable Apps on it. This is a launching software that puts portable versions of applications like Firefox, VLC Media Player, or utilities like virus scanners.

As you can see, this is a very simple project. It doesn’t take a lot of skill so almost anyone can do it.

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