April 25, 2008

How to Salvage a Laptop Hard Drive
Los Angeles, United States

Tatiana's laptop died about two months ago, just a few days after I'd returned from traveling in Ecuador and northern Peru. At the time I concluded the system's motherboard had gone belly-up, and that we'd have to wait until we got to the U.S. for me to recover all her photos (none of which had been backed up) from last year's travels through SE Asia and the Middle East.

After some research, I'd uncovered a Canadian company that stocked a very small number of motherboards that were made for her model of laptop (an often-expensive proprietary component that can be likewise hard to come by), but we decided that the US$250+ dollars wasn't worth the price of repair (since she would no longer be traveling with it anymore—the weight in her pack replaced with Aidric's gear and the such).

During all this, I'd been watching the space of my own laptop's hard drive begin to diminish. I thought about purchasing an external drive to transfer some information onto (and keep backups), when I came across a wonderful solution to both our needs: A $15 hard drive enclosure that would connect to the drive via USB.

This is essentially the same product I'd be buying if I purchased an external drive—a little case just barely bigger than the 2.5" hard drive, and a USB cable to connect and power the device. I simply removed the hard drive from the laptop, popped it in the enclosure, and connected it to my system—instant 80GB travel drive.

I think this really makes an ideal solution for people who have a dead laptop hanging around, or someone in need of recovering information off a system that's been damaged. Best of all, Tatiana gets her photos back, and we both get a pocket-sized drive to toss our photos, music, and movies onto.

Note: Since 2002 I've used NewEgg.com almost exclusively as my source for computer gear. A combination of great customer service, speedy shipping (often free), price, and selection has kept me a happy, returning customer.

There are many hard drive enclosures out there, but the one I selected was the Rosewill RX234 Aluminum 2.5" USB 2.0 External Enclosure - Retail for $14.99 with free UPS shipping at the time of purchase. Data transfers have been fast and reliable.


The United States

Erik Heinz

May 4th, 2008

And the most important part of any portable enclosure purchase - it came with the USB Y-cable. Since some laptop manufacturers don't provide enough juice to the USB ports, the cable uses the second port solely to help power the drive.

Ideally you'll be able to stick a solid state drive in the enclosure once they become affordable. Solid state is definitely a traveler's long-term storage friend. They've even got hacks to turn several high capacity CF cards into a RAID array with a single USB or SATA interface now too.

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