"Repurposing" external hard drives

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"Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:00 pm

I have a diskless NAS on order (LaCie 5Big Pro) and I need to put some drives in it.

At first, I thought I figured that I would have to buy some new ones, but then I realized that I have 4 3tb drives already. They just happen to be in USB 3 enclosures. Has anyone cracked open these external drives, taken it out, and used it as an internal drive? I don't think there would be any real problem with this since they are just standard drives. The NAS will work with mixed SATA drives. Assuming these drives are on the compatibility chart, does anyone see a problem with this?

I'd like to avoid spending a boatload on drives and if I can just open these things and use them, that would be a lot better.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:09 pm

I've done it on eSATA enclosures, but not USB. I imagine the drives are pretty bog standard.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:23 pm

I've done this with several off-brand external drives (most ended up having Samsung internals), a few WDs, and a few Seagates. Just be careful popping the case open (many of them have fragile clips holding them together), and they're standard SATA drives inside.

Just be aware that most warranties only cover the entire, intact external drive. When I put in a few serial numbers from my repurposed drives to test, none of them had proper warranty info on the Samsung/WD/Seagate/etc sites.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:07 am

tu2thepoo put it well, especially about the warranty. It's very straightforward.

I've cracked open several drives so far. Check reviews on Amazon for individual drives since some manufacturers (I think just Seagate? Or was it Western Digital?) are trying to combat this by using proprietary connectors instead of a SATA to USB enclosure. Most enclosures are just plastic clips now so it's very easy to get them open with a flathead screwdriver, and maybe a credit card or similar. If you're still unsure you can often find a tutorial on each drive series on YouTube (ex: search for "open WD Elements" and you'll find a bunch of detailed videos).

As a sidenote, if you're trying for a 2.5" drive, some of them might be 12mm instead of 9.5mm, so make sure you know what your laptop can support before you start cracking things open.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:30 am

tu2thepoo wrote:I've done this with several off-brand external drives (most ended up having Samsung internals), a few WDs, and a few Seagates. Just be careful popping the case open (many of them have fragile clips holding them together), and they're standard SATA drives inside.

Just be aware that most warranties only cover the entire, intact external drive. When I put in a few serial numbers from my repurposed drives to test, none of them had proper warranty info on the Samsung/WD/Seagate/etc sites.

I had this with a Samsung Story Drive as well. It even had "warranty void" stickers on the inside of the enclosure such that I couldn't remove the drive without voiding the warranty. Of course, I did it anyway - the enclosure aggressively spun down and if the computer went to sleep, the drive would disappear on waking up, so it was the only way to make the dern thing useful to me, but warranty is a big reason to not do this.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:40 am

This is basically what BackBlaze, the cloud storage provider, does.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:22 pm

People have been taking disks out of external USB enclosures for many years, it's a common practice. Especially when the HDD inside tends to outlast the cheap little connector board attached to it that does the USB to SATA conversion.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Sat Jan 25, 2014 1:42 pm

I saw a 4-drive diskless NAS at my local Tigerdirect about a week ago. Looked interesting, but I was already dropping $500 on a 960 GB SSD and so there was no way I had the budget for a NAS too. But like you, I can probably scrounge up 4 or 5 homogenous drives from the old spare parts bin.

By the way, it's tough to beat a reusable USB 3.0 external hard drive enclosure, especially if purchased by itself and it allows reasonably fast exchanges. But enclosures that you've cannibalized from can be useful too.

I have been making heavy use of my Vantec NexStar external 2-drive bay, which seems to work better on USB 3.0 than on eSATA. It's nice to be able to slide old drives in and out to be able to quickly look for files or install directories on systems that I used to run on different hardware, or to retrieve old product keys/serial numbers that might be stored there.

Going forward, as I build new systems, I will try to buy cases that already have hot-swap capability or to add that capability, either by front-panel drive bays or by external devices such as these.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Sat Jan 25, 2014 1:49 pm

Duct Tape Dude wrote:Check reviews on Amazon for individual drives since some manufacturers (I think just Seagate? Or was it Western Digital?) are trying to combat this by using proprietary connectors instead of a SATA to USB enclosure.
Stuff like that is what gets me really irritated with a manufacturer. What does it matter to them? Once you've opened the enclosure, you've voided the warranty, so it's no longer their problem. All this does is make it impossible for people to recover their data if the enclosure fails.
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Re: "Repurposing" external hard drives

Postposted on Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:34 pm

I think I have seen 2.5inch external drives listed for less than their internal brethren. Crazy that they can include an enclosure and still be cheaper. I guess proprietary connectors will stop people snapping these up and re-purposing them as internal drives.
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