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External hard drives are handy and portable, but occasionally it might be nice to move all that storage into your PC. You probably can.
Is it possible to use my external hard drive as an internal hard drive? I have an XTRA DISK external hard drive with a Western Digital WD300 enhanced IDE hard drive. I would like to make it an internal hard drive.
In most cases the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, I've done exactly this myself.
However, there are a few caveats to be aware of.
Most external hard drives are simply standard hard drives in a box with an additional circuit board that converts their SATA or IDE interface into a USB or Firewire interface. Add an external power supply, or "brick" and it's very simple, and a very handy use of the technology.
So yes, you can open the case, and you'll likely find a standard hard drive that you can then install directly into your PC.
Some things to be aware of, though:
This voids the manufacturer's warranty. After you break the seal and open the box, you're on your own.
Be sure it has the interface you expect. I recently opened up one of my external hard drives to find out that it had a SATA interface, rather than the expected IDE interface.
It won't be one of your faster drives. My expectation is that drive manufacturer's use their slower drives in external boxes. Not only because the drive speed is typically no longer the limiting factor when placed behind a USB or Firewire interface, but because slower drives run cooler, and external drive boxes rarely include cooling fans.
With all those caveats in mind, this is exactly what I did when one of my external drives went bad. I removed it from the USB enclosure and installed it into a PC where I ran several disk recovery tools in an attempt to avoid data loss. Once completed, I decided to leave it in the PC and simply shared it out for use by other machines on my LAN.
Note that the reverse is also true: you can purchase external hard drive kits without the hard drive. This is another great way to lengthen the life of a hard drive should its hosting machine die or become obsolete for other reasons. By extracting the hard drive and placing it in an external enclosure, the drive becomes portable and easily usable on any number of other machines.
As a side note, as you move hard drives from external enclosures to an internal installation, or vice-versa, the formatting and contents will likely be preserved. Having done this a time or two, in each case the data that was on my hard drive was preserved and immediately available in its new configuration.
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