How To Make An External Hard Disk From Your Old Laptop

My laptop was recently termed unfixable, so I bought a new Desktop. My old laptop is now labeled ‘trash’, so my first thought was ‘What can I scavenge from this?’ One interesting thing I decided to do was take out the old HDD and make a portable external HDD out of it. The following is a step by step guide on how I did it and how you can do it too.

Things you will need: #

  1. An old laptop that you are about to throw away
  2. A 2.5 inch External Enclosure for Portable Hard Disk

My old laptop is an HP Pavilion dv6-3162. The guide assumes you have a similar laptop but the general procedure is applicable to most laptops. If you want specific instructions on how to dismantle your laptop, I suggest The second item on the list is a casing that will hold your old hard disk and provide a USB interface to it. I bought a Samsung one for Rs.500 ($5). I assume they are readily available at most computer stores.

Step 1: Remove the Battery #

This step is pretty straightforward. Unplug the laptop, unlock the battery and remove it.

Step 2: Remove the Service Cover from the Laptop #

On the underside of the laptop, there is a small section of the cover separated from
the rest. This is the service cover that lets you access the key components without having to dismantle the entire thing.

Carefully unscrew this and take it off. This should provide you access to:

  1. The Hard Disk Drive
  2. The Wireless Card
  3. Both RAM Modules
  4. CMOS Battery

Out of this, we are currently interested in the HDD.

Step 3: Remove the Hard Disk Drive #

Carefully unplug the HDD from the cable connecting it to the motherboard, and then remove it.

Personally, I wasn’t expecting it to be this small. Partially because moments before, I was looking at my huge Desktop HDD and figuring out if there was room for another one in there.

Step 4: Remove the HDD Cover #

The HDD has a cover that is made up of two metal pieces and a black film. We need to remove this in order for it to fit into our Portable HDD casing. The metal parts are screwed to the HDD.

Unscrew these are remove the cover.

Step 5: Prepare the External Casing #

This is the casing I bought.

Now we’ll remove the top and bottom cover. The bottom reveals soldered circuitry. The top reveals a connector for the HDD.

the three parts

Step 6: Insert the HDD into the Casing #

Place the HDD inside the casing. Align the port of the HDD with the casing’s connector and carefully slide it into place. Make sure the connection is tight.

Now place the top cover over this and press it in until it clicks in or is tightly shut.

Step 7: Screw the HDD in Place #

Holding carefully turn the casing over. Your HDD has built-in screw holes that should now align with the slits in the casing.

The casing also comes with this nice little Ziploc bag of screws of varying sizes.

From these, take out four of the big screws.

Now hold the HDD in place and apply these screws.

If the top cover doesn’t keep the HDD in place, you can attempt this with the top cover off and holding the HDD in place with your hand.

Step 8: Close the Casing #

Now press the bottom cover (and top cover if you removed it) in place and press it in until it clicks or is tightly shut.

There should be screw holes on the sides for the tiny screws in the Ziploc bag. These can be used to make sure the top and bottom covers don’t come loose.

I was too lazy to apply these tiny screws. Instead I simply put the whole thing in the pouch that came with the casing. It’s a snug fit and holds everything tightly in place.

Your Portable External HDD is now ready to be used.

Step 9: Connecting it to the PC #

The casing should come with a USB data cable like this one.

Protip: Don’t throw away the wire bind. Instead, wrap it around one of the ends so that you don’t lose it and can use it in the future when you put away the cable.

Locate the port on your HDD casing.

Now simply plug the relevant end in to the casing port and the USB end into the computer. An LED light should come on and blink rapidly as your PC discovers the new media and accesses your old HDD.

What if it doesn’t work? #

The first time I plugged it in, the light remained a solid ON and the computer didn’t detect anything. If you face the same problem, don’t panic. Most probably, like me, you didn’t push the HDD all the way into the connector. So simply open it back up and make sure the connection is tight. Don’t be afraid to put a little force into it, as long as you don’t break anything.


Now read this

Mentor Program

A Little About Me # Hi! I am FASTian Syed Musa Ali (09-Batch). You may or not may not have heard of me (if you have, I am flattered!). I graduated as a Bronze Medalist. I am also studying Actuarial Science formally and have completed... Continue →