A Preparedness Use for Old Hard Drives. Expand Your Digital Library & Resources!

SATA Drive1If you have an old computer, desktop or laptop, that is not working and just sitting gathering dust, then this article is for you!

Preppers believe in redundancy.  Most usually have backups to their backups.  At least, this is true when we are talking about water, food, medical supplies and ways to defend ourselves.  But do you have redundancy with your digital files?

Over the years, I have acquired a great number of free PDF’s and ebooks, like The Preparedness Review. I have also made digital copies of important documents, just in case something happens to the originals.  I usually save my digital files to my hard drive and then have a back up too.  With the low cost of USB thumb drives or flash drives, this should be a no brainer for all preppers.

However, if you have an old computer or laptop collecting dust, you can use the hard drive that is in those old machines as a backup as well.  Utilizing these hard drives is super easy and doesn’t cost too much.  Plus, there might be data on those old hard drives that you might want to retrieve.  This short tutorial will show you how to do it!

My computer was gathering dust…literally

When I started Prepper Website, I pretty much worked off my desktop.  Back in the day, it was super fast!  I had it built by a company that provided a lifetime warranty.  What would you know, after working with that company for many years, it went out of business.  So when my desktop started acting up, I moved to my laptop and never looked back.

I eventually moved the desktop to my garage and let it sit there for about two years.  I figured I should do something with it, because it was just taking up space, but I didn’t want to give up all the preparedness data that I had gathered throughout the years.  So, I decided to open it up and salvage the hard drives.  I purchased an enclosure, which will be used so that I can access the data by connecting it through a USB connection with my laptop.  Below you will see how easy this was to do.  I have a lot of pics and I have included some videos that I found on Youtube too.

Salvaging my hard drives for preparedness

I removed the two screws on the right.

Back of the computer

Step 1 – I had to remove the two screws on the right so that I can remove the side panel to get access to the hard drives that were installed in the computer.

Side view of computer.

Side view of computer

Step 2 – Unplug the wires connected to the hard drive.  You might have to remove plugs on the motherboard too.  If you think you might get this computer fixed at some point, make a note of where those plugs are connected.  If you are going to donate the parts or chunk the rest, then don’t worry about it.  NOTE: It is a good practice to ground yourself when working inside your computer.  Simply make sure you are touching a metal portion of the computer enclosure.

Step 3 – Remove the hard drive.  My computer had three hard drives. Each hard drive is secured by two screws.  Every computer is a little different though.  Your hard drives might come out the front and have slides on them.

SATA Hard Drive

SATA hard drive

Step 4 – Identify the type of hard drive you have.  The hard drive above is an SATA hard drive.  It is a more modern hard drive compared to and IDE hard drive.  The documentation on the top of the hard drive would also tell you what kind of drive it is and the capacity.  This hard drive is 500 gigs.  That’s a lot of preparedness resources!!!  For a video tutorial on identifying hard drives – click here.

IDE Hard Drive and SATA Hard Drive

IDE hard drive vs. SATA hard drive

The pic above is of two hard drives stacked on top of each other.  The one on top, with the green slides, is an older IDE hard drive.  The one below is the SATA hard drive that I just removed from my computer.  This is important to know because you need to match the type of enclosure with the type of hard drive you have.

Inland Hard Drive Enclosure

Inland Hard Drive Enclosure

The enclosure that I chose is made by Inland.  It is plug and play, meaning you don’t need any special software to access it.  You just plug it in to your computer through a USB connection and you are good to go.  This one transfers through a 3.0 USB connection, but will work with a 2.0 and 1.1 USB.  As you might have guessed, 3.0 is faster than 2.0 or 1.1.

I purchased mine from Micro Center.  If you don’t have one close by, you can purchase one on Amazon – Click Here.

Inland Enclosure

Inland enclosure with plastic slide out

Step 5 – Unbox the enclosure and slide out the back.  Notice the connection at the back.  This is all the electronics that are included.

Connection on the enclosure

Connection on the enclosure

Notice the connections on the enclosure.  You will want to line these up with the connections on the hard drive.

Hard drive and enclosure connected.

Hard drive and enclosure ‘almost’ fully connected

Here is a pic of the hard drive and enclosure being connected.  Notice that this one will snap when it is completely secured.  Don’t force this.  If you damage the connection, you might ruin your hard drive.

Screw holes in the enclosure slide.

Screw holes in the enclosure slide

Step 6 – Secure the hard drive to the plastic slide.  Each side should have 2 screws. Make sure that the connections are still secure while you do this.

Back of the Inland enclosure

Back of the Inland enclosure

Step 7 – Secure the plastic slide to the outside enclosure by screwing in the 4 small screws.

Step 8 – Connect the USB cord (included) to your computer or laptop and the power cord (included) to the power, turn the power on the enclusre and boot up your computer.  Any modern operating system should identify the connection right away.  Your new hard drive enclosure will act very much like a big USB thumb drive or flash drive.

If you would like to see this done on video, I have included on below.  The main difference in this video is that the hard drive used is an IDE har drive.



For laptop hard drives too!

Laptop hard drive enclosure vs. SATA enclosure

Laptop hard drive enclosure vs. SATA enclosure

If you happen to have an old laptop that is not worth getting fixed, you can pull the hard drive out of it as well.  Sometimes, pulling the hard drive out of a laptop is easier.  It usually consists of one panel on the bottom of the laptop.  If you need help, you can find a tutorial on Youtube.

The pic above shows my laptop enclosure next to my new Inland enclosure..  The difference between the enclosure is that the laptop enclosure doesn’t need a power supply.  It is powered through the USB connection.  To purchase a laptop enclosure, click here.


Through the years, I have done my share of replacing laptop screens, desktop power supplies, motherboards, memory, fans, etc…  However, there always comes a time when it is not worth it to fix an old laptop.  At that point, you have several options, one is pulling the hard drive and using it for something purposeful.

Again, the hard drive enclosure that I purchased from Micro Center is a little bit more expensive on Amazon.  However, there are many good options on Amazon to choose from.  Just make sure you choose one with good reviews.  Don’t get overwhelmed, it really isn’t rocket science.  To shop hard drive enclosures on Amazon – Click Here!

Do you have a hard drive that is collecting dust?


This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.

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Todd Sepulveda

I'm the owner/editor of Prepper Website, a DAILY preparedness aggregator that links to the best preparedness articles on the internet. I'm also a public school administrator and a pastor. My personal blog is Ed That Matters, where I write about preparedness and from time to time, education. Connect with me on one of my social media outlets below.

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9 thoughts on “A Preparedness Use for Old Hard Drives. Expand Your Digital Library & Resources!

  1. John B

    I tend to use those old hard drives as “weights”. I pile them up on top of projects, that need glued, but may not require clamping in place. A bit of weight holds things together just fine.

    Sometimes I disassemble the drives and use the very powerful magnets for other preparedness projects (magnetic holster for firearm, etc). I once tied a string to one of these magnets and used it to fish out a metal item from my sink drain (use only with PVC plumbing or non-magnetic pipes). Great post, once again, Todd.

    John (Geek Prepper)

  2. Great Grey

    While a good idea, just remember that they are hard drives and can fail at any time, so don’t depend on just one. Use three or four for good measure.

    1. Todd Sepulveda Post author


      If it’s possible, I don’t know how to do it. I know that if you use a Kindle or the Kindle App, anything you highlight will go to a website page where you can copy it from. But I’m sure there is a limit to how much you can copy.

      The other thing you could do is to search for the book in pdf form.


  3. SlackerSlayer

    Ten to one, your old computers just need a good deep cleaning. The fans slow down with clogged up dust particles allowing extra heat to build up, and it seems like it is just dead. Your video cards fan and CPU’s fans are the main culprits to the death of PC’s. That dust build up can also give the electrons another path rather than the circuits they are supposed to travel on. Of course old HD’s can fail mechanically. If you are (un)lucky and it is completely dead as HD’s do go, you may be able to read the disks if you drop them into a DVD reader. Of course that means opening up the HD case to remove the platters. Create a partition large enough on a new drive to hold that data and copy it all over. Keep your fingers off of the platters surface for obvious reasons. Washing your hands before handling, just touch the edge,,, etc etc.

    Get yourself a nice sized HD, in the tera byte size and copy all of your old data from old drives onto that. After over 20 years of PC’s, I have hundreds of back up CD’s collecting dust now. 5 1/4″, 3.5″, zip tapes,,, on and on with ever media type known to PC’s,,, Keeping your machines clean is the most valuable thing you can do, and nearly impossible with lap tops. If you c an, place the case in an enclosed cabinet when you first get it. (out dated info of course).

    1. SlackerSlayer

      Ps, I forgot to mention a VERY DANGEROUS Note written above.

      In part two of the instructions, NEVER EVER work inside a computers case while it is plugged in. A better practice would be to place your free hand on the opened computer case while the case is still plugged in. Then before you do ANYTHING ELSE, use the other to unplug the computer case you will have your hands in.

      The note written above is a bad thing, like playing with a loaded gun if you hit the wrong circuit and discharge the wrong capacitors.

      Once you do that and you are on a wood table (for the case) or any other nonconducting surface, and you are standing on a nonconducting surface (not on a carpet for example), nor you are sitting in an upholstered or plastic chair, or any other materials that would generally build up a static charge, AND, you are not wearing mixed material clothing like polyester underwear and cotton jeans, then you should be fine to keep your hands working on anything in there without a “Ground Strap”. Just keep those fingers off of any contacts that slip into a slot, as well as any boards circuits.

      I watched somebody destroy an entire studios monitor circuits by plugging in expansion cards in each one by just walking from one unit to the next without any grounding precautions at all. I told him after his first unit what he was risking, but he blew me off. Granted, (in his mind) he was only walking on a concrete floor in sneakers. And the frames they were in were on the same surface, without an actual ground strap to Earth, they had brass feet to ground itself. Not a very good ground, but a path non the less. Well yes it was less than an actual grounding rod type of connection. All he had to do was to touch the frames to balance and release any uneven charge he had on him in relation to the frame he was about to touch, before touching the new card. By not touching the frame first after each relocation to the next unit was the problem. The path the discharge took was through the circuits the card he was plugging in were connecting to.

      Lessons seen and learned.

      UNPLUG it first. Don’t take that note serious on that specific thing alone. The rest is cool. Just remember that each time you remove your hands from the case, retouch that case. Even if you are just picking up another screw.

  4. Recon Prepper

    For the really old hard drives I don’t trust any more I open them up and give the platters out as signaling mirrors to my group. They even have a nice hole in the middle to line up who you are signaling. 🙂

  5. GT Robinson

    Great idea, i did the same when my Laptop no longer functioned due to the power unit failing. I extracted the HDD and bought a £5 case from the internet. Now i have a 160GB External HDD.

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