Mod: Recycling Old Laptop Hard Drives

First off, this isn’t much of a mod. It’s just a case of getting busy with a screwdriver. But some people might be wary of cranking open a laptop, even an old one that they don’t use any more. So I thought I’d throw a quick blog together to show how easy it is to remove the hard drive from an old laptop and turn it into a portable drive. For fifteen quid. Bargain.

Turning this:

Into this:

There are a couple of reasons you might want to do this:

  • The first reason I can think of is that your laptop has just gone *pop* and you need access to your data.
  • The second one is that you just fancy doing something with that dusty old laptop sitting in the loft doing nothing.

I have several old laptops in my loft. Some from work, others that I’ve bought myself. At some point they get replaced and then the old one goes into the loft to gather dust. At least with a desktop PC I can upgrade individual components. I guess I don’t like the idea of old laptops going into landfill. I’m certainly paranoid that some git’s going to scoop my credit card details from my hard drive. And yes I know I can scrub the drive (I use Eraser).

So, I keep all my old laptops.

To create an external drive I just bought a ‘HDD Enclosure’ from Maplin:

But make sure you buy the right one! There are two types of laptop hard drive – SATA and IDE – and two types of enclosure.

SATA (left) versus IDE (right)

You can tell the difference from the connector: SATA has a flat connector (on the left) whereas IDE has pins (on the right). Like I said at the start of this post, this is an easy mod. All you need is a screwdriver. Just remove the hard drive from your laptop, slide it into the enclosure, screw on the lid and plug the USB cable into your PC.

I documented the whole process, including plenty of photos and screen shots of using the Disk Management tools in Windows 7 to format the new drive. You can read the step-by-step guide here.



  1. This is a really good way to turn your old laptop hard drive into a portable hard drive. People are quite hesitant to open up their laptops in comparison to their desktop PC’s from what we have found.

  2. Recycle!
    Save the planet (and cash) 😉

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