Turn your 2.5” SATA Hard Drive into an External

by Rae on October 11, 2011

Pre-assembled and all-inclusive portable external hard drives are expensive. A decent one will run you anywhere from $60.00-90.00 or more on average, depending on the gigabytes or terabytes desired. I decided to make one when my previous laptop’s motherboard fried and was no longer protected under warranty. It’s a relatively straightforward, fun DIY; easy for any beginner to tackle, requiring less than five minutes to put together, and cost-effective.

Here is what you’ll need to build your own:

  • A new or spare 2.5” SATA Hard Drive. I prefer to recycle mine whenever I upgrade, but you can purchase a brand new one if you want to make a portable external and keep your current computer intact. I recommend newegg.com as a retailer with reasonable prices and great customer service.
  • Purchase a USB-compatible hard drive enclosure kit while you’re there. Make sure you purchase the correct SATA size version.* The price ranges from under $10.00-$20.00.
  • A small Phillips screwdriver. I used a #0 sized one with a magnetized tip.
  • A standard sized Phillips screwdriver.
*Most laptops use a 2.5” sized SATA hard drive, whereas desktop computers have a 3.5”. You can manually search for your hard drive specifications online with the model number if you wish to double check before purchasing. Click ‘My Computer’ and right-click ‘Properties’ under the main drive. Look for the Serial ATA Device model number, as shown below:

All set up? Great! Let’s start:

1) Find a dry place with a flat work surface. Shut down your laptop for the final time and say goodbye to it. Then, unplug the AC adapter and remove the internal battery pack. Press on the keypad to release remnant static electricity. Set aside and let it cool down.

2) Is your laptop cool to the touch? Awesome. Now, turn your laptop over. You can watch YouTube videos or refer to your owner’s manual to learn where the hard drive is located, or hey- you’re getting rid of the hardware, so you might as well have some fun and perform a full autopsy.

Remove your SATA hard drive carefully, making sure not to dent or crack the hardware. You also want to hold the hard drive by its sides.

Always consider gutting your machine before you ditch computer hardware; it’s prime real estate and you can reuse or sell the pieces.

3) Open your hard drive enclosure kit and lay out all the pieces. There are usually small screws, extra tiny screws, two pieces to the enclosure, and a couple cables.

4) Turn the hard drive so the port sizes match those of the enclosure. Slide into place (you can directly touch the labeled side without fear). Read the enclosure kit’s instructions for further assistance. It should be simple to do and not require a lot of force.

5) The screws should line up clearly with the hard drive. Use the small screwdriver and secure the hard drive in the enclosure.

6) Line up the enclosure cover. Slide into place.

It's time for the extra small screws!


7) Again, the holes should line up and the case should be closed tightly. Use the small screwdriver again to close the case.


8) Plug in the USB cables and connect them to your new/spare computer’s ports. The LED light (if your kit has one) should light up and should run quietly. Let the driver install. You’re done!

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