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Computer DIY: How To Remove An Old Hard Drive & Use It As An External Hard Drive

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By Joshua

recycle-hard-driveEver wondered how to recycle hard drive parts from your computer?

I had to find this out for myself after a very sorrowful incident one night.

I had a mug of coffee in one hand and my trusty Dell laptop computer on my lap. I went to take a sip from the mug of coffee, and my right elbow seized up (probably a cramp due to overworking at the computer).

Well, let’s just say the computer was about to see its last moments as a functioning piece of equipment, as the cup then titled, and I spilled 16 ounces of Folger’s goodness all over my poor computer. The same computer that helped me get through my last 2 years of college. Helped me fully launch my career as a freelance writer. Saw many a long night as I began authoring my first book. Gone.

It died a slow, painful death, actually. That is, despite my best efforts to sop up the wet, caramel-colored mess.

First, the keys no longer worked. Then, upon restart, my screen stayed black and the computer wailed a strange beeping sound. So, I was forced into buying a new computer – and salvaging more than 500 Microsoft Word documents, 2,000 photographs, and countless other documents from my old laptop.


How I Recycled My Old Hard Drive

I may be a longtime computer user, but I’m a novice at best when it comes time to opening one up and doing something with the parts without breaking anything in the process.

So, after watching a few YouTube videos that showed how to recycle hard drive parts and reading up on how to retrieve information from my old computer hard drive, I learned that I could actually salvage the old hard drive and use it to store files externally from another computer – kind of like an elaborate thumb drive or external hard drive.

Excited about the prospects of getting hundreds of millions of bytes of data external drive data storage essentially for free, I learned that doing so would in fact be a really simple process.

For less than $10, I purchased a hard drive case to house the old hard drive so it won’t get damaged. The case even includes a handy USB port so I can easily connect the external hard drive to whatever computer I want.

I ended up ruining my Dell Inspiron 1545, a 2009 model that gave me few, if any, issues. It is very easy to remove a hard drive from this model of laptop — because it’s removed from the side after loosening 2 small screws from the computer’s underside.

Before removing your old computer hard drive, make sure the computer is unplugged and that its battery has been removed! Otherwise, you could shock yourself and potentially ruin the hard drive.

Every computer has a different configuration, so I recommend you consult your computer’s operating manual, a computer repair discussion board, or a YouTube video for detailed instructions on finding your computer’s hard drive and how to safely remove it.


How To Use A Recycled Hard Drive

So, you’ve ordered a hard drive case on eBay or Amazon and carefully followed the packaged instructions on how to install your hard drive in the case. Now what?

Using a USB cord (one may have been shipped with your hard drive case), connect the hard drive to your computer.

If you are using a PC, you can access your recycled hard drive by clicking on your Start button on the lower left side of your screen and then clicking on Computer or My Computer. You should find the recycled hard drive listed as Hard Disk Drives. Be sure you recognize which name is attributed to the recycled hard drive (such as OS F).

Click on the drive in the Computer (or My Computer) window, then start looking for the files you want. You will likely need to look for the Users file, then click on your name (or Public, Family Account, or another name under which you stored the data you want to retrieve).

You can also save files on your computer to your external hard drive by right clicking on its desktop icon, choosing Send To, and selecting your external hard drive as the destination. Or, you can click on Save As in the document and choose the recycled hard drive.

*I am not a professional computer repair technician. I wrote this based on my own experience and knowledge. Should you have any doubts about your ability to safely remove and recycle a hard drive, please consult a trained computer tech.