The need for an external hard drive can be many and building your own is a pretty quick process if you follow a few basic steps.
You may want to take the drive with you when you are away from home or office. Backups are also a good reason now that hard drives have become much larger then even a double sided DVD. Or you may just want to add a hard drive and don’t have space in your current computer.
Whatever your reason is the first choice you need to make is whether you will purchase a pre-assembled hard drive or build one out of parts.
Pre-assembled drives are easy to deal with. You simply purchase the drive bring it home and partition and format it. Some drives come pre-formatted with a single partition which is even better.
So, where is the benefit of building your own?
First most manufacturers make it pretty difficult to open and change out drives in molded enclosures. If you can get the drive out it won’t be pretty. So, this means once the drive has been filled it will mean buying a new one and not simply adding a larger one to the same enclosure.
The next reason and our reason for this HowTo is that you are likely to have an extra drive laying around that you are not using. Or you may take your current drive out and install a larger one in your computer when you do this upgrade.
What Features should you look for?
In this HowTo we will be building a single 3.5 inch drive external usb enclosure however there are many options out there that you may want to take advantage of.
You want to make sure that the enclosure you are buying can support the type of drive you have. Some support IDE drives and others support SATA drives. Most enclosures will support Hard Drives but some can be setup with a DVD drive.
Most enclosures are USB 2.0 with a fallback to USB 1.1 which means most computers will be able to connect to your external drive. Some enclosures may be ESATA external SATA Type and this will require either a connector on the back of your computer or the addition of a PCI Card. SCSI is also an option as is Firewire but they are a lot less common.
Some External Enclosures are network ready and this type of enclosure usually takes more then one drive. Network ready enclosures usually run the os off of a eprom and do not require that one of the drives include space for an operating system.
If your enclosure is Network Ready you will need to take precautions to secure it on your network by following the setup procedure that the manufacturer recommends.
You will be able to access your NAS by FTP, HTTP and Mount the drive on your local computer so it acts just like it is inside your PC.
The External Drive Enclosure Kit
The Drive Kit that we purchased is pretty easy to assemble in just a few minutes.
The Kit includes
The enclosure box
The Motherboard or Controller with USB and Power Connector
Two sets of screws One for the Drive and one for the Cover
A USB Connector Cord
A 12volt Power Supply and Cord
Driver Disk that is not usually needed for Win98 sp2 and above or Macs
Assembling The Drive Enclosure
1) The first thing that you need to do is prepare your hard drive by setting its pin block on the back of the drive to Master with no Slave present.
This is important because the drive controller will only see one drive. If you set your hard drive to be Cable Select or Master with Slave it is likely that when the USB connection is made between your computer your drive will not show up.
Most Hard Drives will have a label on the top side with directions how to set the drive to Master with no slave present.
2) Once the drive is ready you want to match it up with your controller card and make sure the screw holes align with room for the connectors. Flip the drive on its back and place the controller card on top.
3) Before you mount the drive to the Controller card you want to make the cable connections for power and data. Insert both connectors and make sure not to crimp the data wire ribbon. The data wire ribbon needs to bend in a round loop and not be bent so it won’t be damaged (there are a lot of tiny fragile wires in it).
4) Now connect the hard drive to the Controller card using the 4 included screws. Tighten the screws so the drive will not move and it is secure but do not over tighten as you could damage the controller card. Make sure there is space between the connectors and the drive and that everything is fitting correctly.
5) Slide the controller card and drive into the enclosure making sure that you fit the card into the groove in the sides of the shell of the enclosure box. It is important that the card is in the groove so that the connections on the card will not come in contact with the metal casing of the enclosure housing and short out.
6) Place the front plate on the drive enclosure and fasten it in place with the provided screws.
Connecting the External Drive To Your Computer
You should first connect the power and USB Data cables to the external drive and then power up the drive to make sure it is operating. You should hear the drive spin up and you may see a blinking or steady green light on the front of the enclosure.
With your computer running and booted into windows you can now insert the USB Cable into one of your USB ports on your computer.
The operating system should identify that a drive has been connected and provide you with a dialog box similar to when you insert a CD / DVD.
If there is data on the drive Windows will attempt to identify it and ask you what you want to do.
Sometimes you will find windows will simply see the drive and not bring up this dialog. In this case you will want to open your windows explorer and look for the drive in your my computer.
If this is a new drive that is not formatted and partitioned you will need to do that before you can store files on it.
Often the USB ports that are on the back of your computer connected directly to your mother board are 2.0 while front case connectors can sometimes be slower 1.1 USB connectors. If you get a warning that the drive would operate faster on a 2.0 USB port then try using the rear case USB port.
You will also get this warning when you plug your drives into USB Hubs.
Now that your drive is running and ready you can store all yours stuff on it.