How to build your own external hard drive on the cheap

Portable HDD
Portable HDD

Having the latter handled by online cloud services is all well and good, but should you lose connectivity, or the service goes down temporarily, you will not have immediate access to your files. When it comes to external drives, it's also possible to not only purchase one pre-built, but you can also make one yourself.

We'll show you how to save some pennies by putting together your own external hard drive, using an old laptop drive.

Choosing storage

Portable HDD

Should you wish to purchase an internal drive separately, it's possible to choose a 2.5-inch HDD with your choice of capacity. And 3.5-inch drives are better suited for larger storage solutions that don't require portability.

Depending on just how much space you require from a drive, it's possible to spend as little as $40. Here are some options:

Solid-state drives (SSD) are not recommended due to the cost. Also, should you need more than 1TB of space, you may want to look at a 3.5-inch drive. Already have the drive to spare? All you'll need is an enclosure to create a capable portable unit.

Enclosing the drive

Portable HDD

With a 2.5-inch drive ready to go, you'll need an enclosure to secure the drive and allow for the transfer of files between the disk and a PC. Here are some affordable options:

Depending on which enclosure you purchase, the drive bay may require a screwdriver to attach the drive to the casing. Other, more expensive options usually come with some sort of mechanism that allows for toolless installation and removal of drives. Once the drive is installed, it's then possible to connect it to a PC and format it for storage.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.