In “Taming The Sheet Music Tiger, Part 1”, I started exploring the possibilities of converting my entire sheet music collection into a digital format. (See https://blog.musicteachershelper.com/taming-the-sheet-music-tiger/). The process of digitizing my collection to save space and improve searchability has been going very well. The process takes time like any large archiving project. It is similar to ripping a CD collection to MP3. However, the benefits are already presenting themselves. I do have more space in my apartment. I can easily mail a PDF file to a student which can be viewed or printed on their computer at home. I’ve already seen a saving on toner and paper costs.
I have had to invest in hard drive storage for my digital sheet music collection. This was mainly to create plenty of backup copies. I also needed to backup tens of thousands of MP3s, photos, my web page, and my home project studio files. I wanted copies of my data stored offline, to be protected against power surges that could damage the originals on my main computer drives. External drives seemed to be the answer. To save money on drive storage, I learned how to build an external hard drive.
One TB (terabyte) drives have been hovering around $70-$90 (or lower at times) on sites like Tigerdirect.com, Geeks.com, CompUsa.com and Newegg.com. Another site that is worth checking out for competitively shopping tech purchases is www.DealsofAmerica.com. So I competitively shop the internal hard drive to get the best possible price, and then put that drive into a compatible external enclosure. The enclosures start around $20, and go up from there.
The ability to build an external drive has also proven helpful when a computer has had a serious failure. It has permitted me to retrieve data easily without a third party, usually within minutes. I simply open the computer up, extract the needed drive, mount it in a compatible external enclosure, and then retrieve my data with a different computer. These drives are small and portable, so changing computers is easy. Best of all, a DIY external drive is easy to do.
So first thing, is it important to understand that most hard drives are IDE or SATA. This refers to the style of connector that the drive uses to transfer data.
IDE looks like this.
From the rear of the drive:
Viewed from the bottom of the drive:
Here are two photos to help you identify a SATA connection.
From the rear of the drive:
And this is what the SATA connection looks like when the drive is flipped over:
SATA drives are newer, with faster data transfer times than IDE. 1 TB internal SATA drives are very easy to find on any of the aforementioned web sites.
IDE is an older connector. Prices have been rising on IDE drives, but they are still readily available. I usually purchase SATA drives now, but I do have some older IDE drives that have been pulled from computers that have been recycled into a second life as external drives. (By the way…IDE and SATA external enclosures are usually similar in price, so it makes sense to put an old drive back into use if all that is required is a $20 enclosure).
So to summarize, you want to put a SATA drive in a SATA enclosure and an IDE drive in an IDE enclosure. And some drive enclosures now offer both connectors in one case, like this enclosure from Geeks.com:
Notice the 3.5 designation with this drive? This is the physical size the enclosure supports. 3.5 inches is a standard sized (desktop) internal hard drive. 2.5 inches is a laptop hard drive. Make sure the enclosure and a drive housing you order match in size.
To find an enclosure, just go to some of the aforementioned sites and type “external drive enclosure”. To find a drive, try “Internal Hard Drive:” as a search. There will be dozens of search results that can then be sorted by SATA or IDE, size, price…whatever is needed. Mix and match the drives and enclosures based on budget and preferences, just make sure sizes and connector styles match.
Once the drive and enclosure is in hand, assembly is simple. I’ll demonstrate building an external SATA drive first, and then demo an IDE drive build.
Open the enclosure:
As you can see, there usually isn’t much inside one of these enclosures, except for a tiny bit of breadboard and some wires.
This is the connector for the SATA drive.
Mount the drive to the connector. Make sure the drive fully seats onto the connector.
At this point, this particular model enclosure requires that I need to replace the cover and bolt it into place:
And now I bolt the drive in place to keep it secure:
Note: some drives will require you to bolt the drive in place before closing the cover. We’ll see this shortly during the IDE drive build.
Place the enclosure into its’ stand (if it came with one).
Then hook up the power and connect the drive to your computer. All finished! So let’s repeat that process for an IDE drive.
Open the enclosure. You can see that this one opens differently than the last enclosure we built:
In this case, the IDE connector is on a short yellow ribbon:
There is a second white connector that supplies power to the hard drive. It looks like this:
And the power connector hooks in next to the IDE connection on the drive:
Now connect the IDE port. Make sure both the power and IDE cables are well seated.
Bolt the drive down:
Replace the enclosure cover:
Both the cover back into place, hook up the power and the proper connector cables and you are ready to go!
As you can see, there are different styles of housings, so assembly is generally the same, but it is not ALWAYS the same (a little like assembling drum sets). The IDE enclosure in the demo was made by Rosewill. The SATA enclosure is the Metal Gear Box Substance. I really like the Metal Gear Box Substance enclosure as it is held together with thumbscrews, making assembly and disassembly a little easier. I also love the light show when this drive fires up. This drive always gets a few positive comments from students and parents.
Consider how the external drive (the housing) actually connects to the computer. There are USB, Firewire and eSATA connectors.
USB tends to be the slowest connector of the group, meaning backups will take longer. This may not matter if backups are done in the overnight hours while one is sleeping. Firewire and eSATA are faster. (For the more technically savy among you…I’m not going to nitpick the speeds of USB 2.0 vs Firewire in this blog, so please accept that these are just generalizations). Just make sure the connector on your external drive matches the desired available port on your computer.
And one last thing…unless the internal drive comes preformatted, it will have to be formatted before it can be used. This is easily done on PC systems with the tools included in the “My Computer” toolbar.