Tutorial: Page (1) of 1 - 09/20/05

Don't Throw Away Those Old Hard Disks!

Wrap them up in a FireWire/USB 2.0 or NAS enclosure

By Charlie White

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Do you have any old hard disks lying around gathering dust? If so, weve found a use for them. You can either turn a disk into a FireWire or USB 2.0 drive, or you can put it in an enclosure that lets it act as network attached storage (NAS). So dont throw those old hard disks away, at least not until youve read about how easy it is to dress them up in a brand new enclosure. Using the ADS Dual-Link Drive Kit, as well as the ADS NAS Drive Kit, we turned lemons into lemonade.

Now dont be scared away if youre uncomfortable dealing with the inside of computers, shy away from tedious configuration, or are harboring any other computer phobias. Those feelings wont be a problem for this exercise. In fact, when putting our two old hard disks into each one of these enclosures, the hardest part was getting the products out of their packaging.

I started with the ADS Dual-Link Drive Kit, which costs $83 on the street. Its claim to fame is that it will let you take a garden-variety parallel ATA drive, a CD-ROM, DVD ROM, or any other flavor DVD drive and put it into an enclosure which will enable it to use either FireWire or USB 2.0. Before we get started, let me just tell you that it wont make a lot of sense for you to buy a new internal hard drive and put it in one of these enclosures?you wont save any money doing that because a garden-variety Maxtor 200GB drive costs around $125, and the Dual-Link Drive Kit costs $83. Your total is $208 for a 200GB drive thats USB 2.0 and FireWire capable. However, a 200GB Maxtor OneTouch USB/FireWire drive costs $219. For $11 more, youd have a drive thats already assembled. So if youre going to buy a new disk, might as well get the one thats already assembled.

Here the Midwest Test Facility we found an old computer from years ago that had been mothballed. Inside were two 40 GB Western Digital discs that were still perfectly good. Extracting those two discs from the old computer, we set out to enclose them and make one of them FireWire capable and the other one network-ready. Using the ADS Dual-Link Drive Kit (?dual-link means you can hook it up either via a FireWire or USB 2.0) was as easy is it could be. It was a simple matter of sliding open the enclosure, placing the drive inside, and then plugging in the ribbon cable and power cable. I secured the drive inside the enclosure with four tiny screws, but noticed that I could probably just leave the drive sitting inside the enclosure without securing it, since it would be stationary, anyway.

But I didnt do that, because I thought it would be bad form. I must say at this point that I was not too pleased with the workmanship of the ADS drive?it seemed cheap and flimsy and looked rather prosaic, but since it would be hidden away in my server closet, that didnt make any difference to me. Also, the noise of the Western Digital drive along with the subdued whine of the cooling fan inside the ADS enclosure resulted in a din that was just short of cacophonous.  

After quickly putting the enclosure back together, I plugged it in and began its quick configuration routine. I had to make a trip to the Computer Management utility within Windows XP, which can be reached by going to the Start menu, then Administrative Tools, and then clicking on Computer Management. Once there, I clicked on Disk Management and created a new partition for that old drive. After a quick format, it was ready to go. Hey, that was easy. How did I feel? Well, to give you an idea, I named the drive Scavenger. Elated, I realized that I had just gotten myself a working FireWire drive for less than $90.

I had other plans for that other 40GB drive. Using the ADS NAS drive kit, my next mission was to turn that drive into a unit that I could attach to the network and could be easily accessed from any of the networks computers. The procedure for installing this disk inside that NAS enclosure was almost exactly the same as it was for the FireWire enclosure. Incidentally, I noticed that this enclosure had much better workmanship and higher quality materials than the ADS Dual-Link Drive Kit. After plugging in the ribbon cable and the power cable, it was easy to put the box back together again, plug in its power cable and then plug connected to our network via the included Cat5 cable. Using ADSs simple configuration application included with the package that runs on Internet Explorer, I was able to format the disk and set a new password for it on the network. And there it sat, on the network just like any other computer, with about 37 GB of storage available. The system runs on Linux and uses software called Samba, which allows it to talk to all the other Windows XP clients on the network. It works beautifully?that old disk has found itself a new life.

Here's how a network attached storage (NAS) drive works.

So look around your home or office, and maybe youll find an old computer lying around that has a disk or two inside that you might like to use again. Either one of these ADS products can fit the bill nicely. After about 10 minutes of setup, youll have yourself a brand new drive enclosure that can give your old disks a new lease on life. Even if youre not technically adept, go ahead and give it a try?its easy to do and practical at the same time.

Related Keywords:hard disks, FireWire, USB 2.0 drive, enclosure, network attached storage, NAS, ADS Dual-Link Drive Kit, ADS NAS Drive Kit, lemons into lemonade

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