Tutorial: Building an external hard drive


Posts: 666   +2
Sick of backing up all your data on to CD's and DVD's? Not enough dough to buy a portable hard drive? Then this is the perfect solution. You can build your own portable hard drive for about 50% cheaper than you can buy it. And best of all, it is one of the easiest things to do and takes about 5-10 minutes. This tutorial will show you exactly how to.

Step 1: Preparation

Get a Hard Drive (naturally):
I recommend getting a good quality, high capacity 7200RPM IDE hard drive. There is no huge price difference between a low and a high quality drive, and a high capacity hdd will not cost that much more than a low capacity one (unless you're buying a 750gb Seagate raptor:p). 7200RPM because they are significantly cheaper than 10000rpm ones - and in practice there is no noticeable difference. An IDE drive because once again, there is no noticeable difference between IDE and SATA + the case will be a lot cheaper. IDE also because IDE is compatible with all systems meaning there is no chance that you will need to buy a eSATA port. The cache, should be 8mb, since - once again - there is little (if any) price difference. Something like a Western digital 200gb drive is very good (see:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822144129.
Also you will need to buy an external case.
I recommend an aluminium USB 2.0 one - aluminium due to better heat disapation, and USB2.0 since there is no significant speed difference between USB 2.0 and Firewire + USB 2.0 is a lot cheaper and compatible with all computers. Cases range from $20 to $100 (for a cheapy look on eBay). Naturally you need an IDE case, if your making an IDE drive and SATA for a SATA Drive. Also I recommend one that supports plug and play and hotswap, to make use that bit simpler. Something like the i-rocks IR-9400C is a very nice case for a reasonable price (see: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817201012. The case will come with all cables etc, so you shouldn’t need to purchase anything else. Make sure you have a good workplace and all the needed tools (probably will only need a screwdriver). Make sure you ground yourself just in case.

Step 2: Assembly

This is the easiest part. The exact assembly instructions will vary with the manufacturer but you simply need to open the case, insert the drive, connect all cables and close it back up. Make sure you read the user guide though.

Step 3: Formatting

Ok, plug in your hard drive (make sure the wall socket is on:p). And your computer should automatically recognize and install it. Please note the following instructions are for Windows XP, I'm not familiar with other OS's and would appreciate someone to post instructions for other OS's. Follow the next steps:

1-Click on Start
2-Right Click on My Computer
3-Click on Manage
4-Click on Computer Management (local)
5-Click on Storage
6-Click on Disk Management
This will bring up a block representation of your hard drives, including the new external hard drive. Right click on the Unallocated block on your external hard drive and you will see an option to create a partition on the drive. I recommend that you create a logical partition and not a primary partition on the drive. Once the partition is created, you will need to format this partition before it can be used. This is done simply by clicking format.

Your external hard drive is now ready for use.
Good luck to everyone who decides to build one.

I hope this thread helps some people.



Ps: Let me know if anyone has any problems.


Posts: 7   +0
Sounds good mate, really does. I have never really looked into external hard drives but burning abckups to CDs or DVDs is getting old, this soudns like an effective method, and it cheaper:) nice one.


Posts: 666   +2
Thank you for the compliment.
This is my first tutorial so I hope it makes sense. I hope an Admin will sticky it since it took me a long time to make and I will be making more in future.




Posts: 666   +2
haha, no:p Outa luck here buddy. How do you plan to create one yourself then?




Posts: 666   +2
Just wondering if anyone decided to build an external Hard drive. If so, how did you go and did you find this tutorial helpfull?




Posts: 149   +1

I think this is great! Nice job.

I had no idea it was that easy, and much cheaper.

I will definitely archive this for when I need it.

External drive

Hi this is my first time on a forum,I got help and build my external hard drive,
and it works great.Next i am going to try fomatting my machine.
I am new to the computer world,I am retired and I am enjoying learning new stuff,hope to spend time reading the forum its very interesting.
Keep up the good work.Paul
Building an External Hard Drive

Thanks for the post, Korrupt. It is exactly what I was looking for! I am new on partitioning and formating hard drives. You mentioned on your post that you recommend that we use a "logical partition" instead of a "primary" partition. I know what the types of partitions are because I have read about them. Can you tell me why you recommend a logical partition? I assume you mean an extended partition with a single logical volume spaning the whole drive.

Thanks Again.


Posts: 232   +2
Mictlantecuhtli said:
There are some relatively cheap USB-ATA bridge chips available from Texas Instruments, Philips, Cypress, Indigita etc.

I found this project (italiano):


The parts are so cheap it probably wouldnt be worthwhile.

korrupt said:
This will bring up a block representation of your hard drives, including the new external hard drive. Right click on the Unallocated block on your external hard drive and you will see an option to create a partition on the drive. I recommend that you create a logical partition and not a primary partition on the drive. Once the partition is created, you will need to format this partition before it can be used. This is done simply by clicking format.

Make sure you do this step, or your HDD will not show up in My Computer menu. When I installed a new SATA drive, it did not display in my computer and I had to work this step out for myself which took ages.

another note: A large hdd (mine was 500gb) will take a fair amount of time to format for the first time (took about an hour). So please be patient, and probably not a good idea to use or turn off pc during this time.
I need help :(
I sent you an email, but I'll write it here again, just in case you don't get the email.

Hey Korrupt :)
I fully read the tutorial for the external hard drive,
(at techspot.com's forums) yet I have one problem..
the drive is not being detected in 2 computers, my
own, and my mom's. When I bring up the device manager on either computer, it is not listed there,
We both use XP Home edition.

I bought a Nexstar 3 Case for the hard drive, and the
hard drive is a Western Digital 80GB.

Is there any help that you can offer? I have been
reading up on this exact issue for about 5 hours now, and
have found no help!

You said you wanted to know if anyone has done it, and I'm almost there, except for this problem :(
Thank you.
Mandy Emlay


Posts: 326   +13
works great

i did this same thing a little over a year ago.
backups are easy. Low-cost especially if you have some old drive around that you are not using anymore.

especially like this example:
when i moved from my most recent job to my current job, i just brought in the hardback novel-sized external drive, plugged it in a usb slot, copied and pasted all files (all legitimately mine), left for lunch, and was done.
i copied all those files to my home comp as a backup.
then, simply took that drive in to my new work, plugged into a usb slot, and copied the files with all their same directories right to my new computer.

i have recently helped my Dad with a couple computer problems. I said first you need to be backed up. We took an old hard disc he had, and I found one of these external kits, and had him order it.

so, we got his computer backed up for like $25, then I went and continued with the computer help: new ram, and a couple other things. No worries about damaging anything because he is backed up, and can easily do it himself.

He recently went on a trip out of town, and he just handed me the external drive so it is stored at my place as off-site backup. -Row1
Hard Drive not showing up under Disk Management

I set up a brand new Maxtor HD (6A200V00 using the tutorial described. I got a Nextttech external HD enclosure.
But my hard drive is not being detected. I mean, it is detected because I can hear a beep when I connect the USB but does not show up in Windows Explorer or Disk Management. I looked under USB devices in Device Manager and I see a USB Mass Storage Device keep appearing and disapperaring. On clicking it I get a message to install the driver but the driver used is MS usbstor.sys which is already installed and hence there is no update for the driver.
I am at my wits end to make this work.
If I can view it under Disk Managment then only I can format it.

Please help!!!!!


Posts: 326   +13
maybe bad external case?

it sounds like you have done everything the correct way.

the first time i tried to set up an external drive using an enclosure, i bought a really cheap enclosure, and used a drive pulled fro man older computer of mine. so i knew the drive was formatted and working.

the enclosure was bad. i was able to exchange it, and the replacement worked.

i don't know nexttech - if it was really budget, there may be low quality control. if you are not desperate for time, maybe do an exchange.

when i set one of these up for my dad, i spent more $ to get a name brand to avoid the budget-low quality problem - he is not very computer savvy, so i didn't want him trying to figure out why it wasn't working.


Posts: 20   +0
I have two of these, both SATA 160g.

I do have a minor problem that rears it's ugly head.

on occasion they quit admitting to XP that they even exist.

Since one is a seagate and the other a WD, I wonder just where the blame truly lies.

Both act exactly the same. The indicator light turns red- indicating busy- when they are not being accessed. Then windoze exploder notifies me that they have disappeared from radar.

It takes numerous power cycles before I can feel the heads moving, which is when explorer magically finds the errant drive again.

They have never both quit at the same time, nor has one returning had any effect on the other.
External hdd is not detected

the hdd is detected in device manger, but not getting detected in my computer or in the disk management
pls help me out...

I wiped out my hard drive complety and I am trying to make a portable hard drive is there any necesary files I need
I have an external hard drive installed as stated in the tutorial post, but somehow the computer does not let me disconnect the drive. If I manually unplug it and plug it back in the computer doesn't recognize it anymore. How can I solve this problem?


Posts: 26   +0

That really neat, i was getting bored of burning things on cd's anyways. Saves a lot of time.