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Build Your Own External Hard Drive


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External Hard Drive - Choosing a Hard Drive
External Hard Drive - Choosing a Hard Drive

SATA-based hard drives are a good choice when buying a new HD.

Photo © Coyote Moon Inc.

The ability to choose the hard drive is one of the main benefits of building your own external hard drive. It allows you to repurpose a hard drive that would otherwise just gather dust, reducing the total cost of adding storage to your Mac. You can also opt to purchase a new hard drive that meets your specific needs.

Selecting a Hard Drive

  • Use an existing drive. You can reuse a drive from an older computer, or a drive you replaced with a larger model. Repurposing a drive is a good way to both reduce your expenses and recycle your electronics.
    1. Note the drive interface. Your existing hard drive’s interface must match the internal drive interface used by the enclosure you selected.
    2. Check the drive capacity. Drive size is usually listed on the drive’s label, but unfortunately, manufacturers usually code it into the drive model number, making it hard to decipher. If you can’t figure it out, you can look up the size of the hard drive on the manufacturer’s web site. The size is important only to help determine whether it makes sense to use an existing drive in a new enclosure. Small hard drives (60 GB or less) may not be a good choice, both because of their relatively limited storage capacity and their probable age.
  • Purchase a new drive. Buying a new drive will increase the cost of your external hard drive project, but it will also give you maximum flexibility, so you end up with exactly what you need in terms of size and performance.
    1. SATA III drives are the logical choice when purchasing a drive. They are the newest and fastest, and, because all drive manufacturers make drives in this format, they offer the widest selection.
    2. Make sure the drive and the enclosure’s internal interface are compatible. If you buy a new SATA III drive, the enclosure must have at minimum a SATA, SATA II, or SATA III internal interface.
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