Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

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.

"Most external hard drives are simply standard hard drives in a box ..."

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.

Article C3121 - August 19, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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24 Comments
Ken
August 22, 2007 6:40 AM

I have taken many internal drives and placed them in external USB enclosures, and they have always kept their contents. (Or, at least, they didn't lose anything else. Several of these were from non-booting Windows systems, and nearly all the data was recoverable once moved to another computer.)

Whether one can move a USB drive between Windows and Macs, on the other hand, I have no clue.

William
October 15, 2008 8:49 AM

How about the reverse? I have a removable internal IDE HD (D:) but when I replace it, I have to reboot. Can I make it a USB plug and play?
Thanks

Arjen
December 4, 2008 12:17 PM

Leo,

The power adapter (ad6008) of my WD harddrive has shut down. This adapter supplies 5V and 12V to the drive by a din plug. Is it still possible to use the drive internally?

Thank you for the reply.

Karl Krautscheid
January 12, 2009 12:27 PM

Leo,
I have a cable to convert an IDE HD to USB.
I would like to put this into my computer case and power it with the computers power supply.
My question is:
Can I cut the 5 volt cable and ad a toggle switch to turn the drive off when not in use?
Will My Computer see the drive when I turn the power back on?
Thanks for the reply.

chris
February 2, 2009 12:57 PM

i have a Maxtor SATA external HDD and i wanted to convert it into an internal...how can i do this? as the slave connector port is on a seperate board, i dont see any way to connect this? plz help!

Rob
March 13, 2009 10:19 AM

I have a WD5000aajs external hard drive that has about a hundred gigs of music on it and my fiance plug the wrong power adapter into to it on accident. Was wandering if there is any way to hook it up to my desktop so I can atleast get my music off?? Would appreciate any help you can give me!
Thanks Alot

It depends on how comfortable you are playing with hardware, and exactly what's been damaged. Inside the external hard drive box are two components: a hard drive like any other, and a USB interface. If it's just the USB interface, then you migh have luck removing the hard drive and installing it into a computer directly. You'll just need to make sure that the computer has the correct interface for the hard drive - I did this and found that my WD500 had an eSata interface, which only one of my machines at the time could support.
- Leo
14-Mar-2009

anirudh
May 17, 2009 5:24 AM

hey,I want to make my USB hard drive an internal one because it keeps getting disconnected.Its a transcend storejet 25p USB hard drive.So can you tell me what the problem is and please tell me whether games can be run on a USB external hard drive.

Ignis
July 21, 2009 10:52 PM

Recently my external hardrive off 1TB wasqnt detected by windows anymore so i opened it and inside where 2 SATA drives off 500GB each, so i hooked them up to my pc to try and recover the data but it seems that only 1 drive has the filesystem on it from both drives.

Do you know of any way i can still recover the data from both cause datarecovery programs only manage to get around 5% off data off the second drive cause they cant detect the system (wich is FAT32)

Lobo
August 4, 2009 6:45 PM

Yes you can connect a USB as an internal drive. I used a seagate 320Gb laptop drive as an internal backup drive in my Windows Home Server. I did not open the case so I do not know what the interface is, I suspect it is SATA. I cut a Mini D cable that I had laying around to about 10 inches long. I built a 10 pin header (with a key pin) from components to plug it into the motherboard. I siamesed both ports power leads to keep adequate wattage to the drive even under heavy use(there is only 500ma per port doubled to 1000ma or 5 watts). I also added an external switch to the harness so I can turn it off for secure storage. I did not remove the case and I can remove the drive simply by unplugging it from the harness. This also means I did not void the warranty. Works great and can be turned on at any time, just make sure you disconnect it (in windows) before turning it off. I also tried this with a mybook 160Gb drive (12v/IDE interface board 3.5" drive). I removed the case and covered the interface board to prevent a short. Modified the power plug to connect it to a spare hard drive power. It also worked great, matter of fact it responded faster than before. I believe this was due to the really short USB cable compared to the original 6 footer it came with. Just remember this is a USB interface and it is not going to be fast, but is a good backup and streams music just fine. There are many resources on the net to figure out the wiring.

michael
November 16, 2009 5:20 PM

Yes you can connect a USB as an internal drive. I used a seagate 320Gb laptop drive as an internal backup drive in my Windows Home Server. I did not open the case so I do not know what the interface is, I suspect it is SATA. I cut a Mini D cable that I had laying around to about 10 inches long. I built a 10 pin header (with a key pin) from components to plug it into the motherboard. I siamesed both ports power leads to keep adequate wattage to the drive even under heavy use(there is only 500ma per port doubled to 1000ma or 5 watts). I also added an external switch to the harness so I can turn it off for secure storage. I did not remove the case and I can remove the drive simply by unplugging it from the harness. This also means I did not void the warranty. Works great and can be turned on at any time, just make sure you disconnect it (in windows) before turning it off. I also tried this with a mybook 160Gb drive (12v/IDE interface board 3.5" drive). I removed the case and covered the interface board to prevent a short. Modified the power plug to connect it to a spare hard drive power. It also worked great, matter of fact it responded faster than before. I believe this was due to the really short USB cable compared to the original 6 footer it came with. Just remember this is a USB interface and it is not going to be fast, but is a good backup and streams music just fine. There are many resources on the net to figure out the wiring.

robkay
November 26, 2009 9:10 AM

Is it possible to convert/swap internal 3.5 sata drives to ide,and vice

versa by changing the electrical board on similar manufacturers drives

where the contacts mate up?.I did this on a Maxtor IDE 20gb to a Maxtor

SATA 100gb and the bios recognized a drive but XP didnt.WD drives also

have some similarity in respects to the disk,board and mounting.Since I

have a limited number of drives to experiment with and that I was

working with junk,and dont want to possibly ruin the remainder,have you

had success with this?(not looking for USB powered drives)Thanks RK

FLARE
March 3, 2010 9:55 AM

i have destroyed 2 hard drives by connecting an internal hard drive via usb. a 300gb, and 500gb. at the time, those were the highest capacity you could get, so i lost a lot of money.

Buddha
April 11, 2010 12:28 PM

what would someone need to make an external HDD internal?

Yuval
August 30, 2010 6:59 AM

i have a 1TB external hard drive. i tried to convert it into an internal harddrive becaouse the usb port of the case stopped working. The hard drive connected with a SATA cable to the motherboard. All i did is to connect it to the power supply and to the motherbaord. From some reason it doesnt work. I go to My Computer and i only see the original hard drive. can u PLEASE advise me what to do????? i have some important content on that hard drive..

Muhsincan
September 22, 2010 4:42 AM

I have the same problem as Yuval with a Smartdisk external and samsung 1TB SATA HDD inside, I also tried to change some bios settings (AHCI to IDE) but nothing seems to work, maybe we should try formatting the drive somehow or changing jumper settings

Your Guide
July 15, 2011 3:46 AM

save all your content first before you do it or risk losing your data

Chuck
January 13, 2012 9:13 AM

Using external 1tb drive as internal using sata. Device manager sees drive but does not show up in root. Any clues as to why?

Not sure what you mean by "root", but it sounds like this article: How do I get my attached drive to show in Windows Explorer?
Leo
13-Jan-2012
kidane
May 25, 2012 9:55 AM

i have SATA WD External HDD the usb connector is broken, can I use it any how externally?

Mark J
May 25, 2012 12:19 PM

@Kidane
You should be able to open the case and remove the external drive and place it into a external USB external drive enclosure.

Jimmy T
May 27, 2012 5:52 AM

Recently tried to use my external hdd as internal ,opened the box and found a usb 3.0 micro b female connector on the hdd board. Are there any adapters to go from usb 3.0 micro b female or ss usb 3.0 male to sata. I tried to search but results were questionable.I'd really like to plug this external drive into the motherboard as efficiently as possible(read cheaply).

howarddavidp
December 22, 2012 7:36 PM

I have the same issue, the USB connector is on the hard drive's PCB board, and there are no SATA connectors? It's 2012, and I know stuff changes, but I bought the drive with the hopes of taking it out of the external case and putting it inside my laptop. Short of a converter, I would need a whole new PCB / Logic Board to use this drive as an internal. If I had a converter, I could use it in a desktop with a 2.5-3.5 adapter. However, without the new PCB there is just not enough room. Also, the height is like 15mm, luckily my Alienware laptop has enough space to hold a drive that thick, but it does not have enough space lengthwise to fit with an adapter. So, if anyone knows where to buy the adapter, USB3 to SATA, or if anyone knows where to buy a new PCB with SATA connectors, I would be very greatful. BTW: My drive is a Western Digital (WD) MyPassport 2TB model, the internal drive model number is WD20NMVW. Before you Google that P/N, it is never sold outside of the combo package as a stand alone drive. The closest thing and possibly the drive I would need to swap the PCB for is WD20NPVT, but I have not found any articles with someone trying this or any success? Please help whoever can shed some light on a way to fix my situation?

Thanks,
David

giulia
January 6, 2013 2:51 PM

I have a question , I have a Western Digital External Hard Drive (1Tb) and my internal macbook pro 13" is full. I have bootcamp on it to so I can run Windows too. My question is can i convert the WD hard drive to internal and split the hard disk in two (mac and windows) as i did before? Or is it better to buy an other internal disk and put it in. Can a Macbook Pro 13" run 2 internal disks. Thanks in advice, Giulia.

I honestly have no idea what you can and can't add to a MacBook the way you describe - while I use one they're not my area of strength. I'd point you at your local Apple store, or the Apple support resources available online.
Leo
08-Jan-2013

Bob Bowman
January 8, 2013 3:55 PM

I had the same situation as Leo with a failed external drive. I did a google search and found a youtube video that showed how to remove the drive from the enclosure and then install it as a slave drive in my pc.
This was my first time doing something like this, so watching a video of it step by step gave me the confidence to do it myself.
Bang, I was able to use the drive gain.

I would like to take a moment and just say that Leo is always saying you need to backup your data.
Guess what? He's right! That failed external drive was my ONLY copy of the data. I got lucky that time, but now I make sure to have 3 or more backups of my most precious data, mostly photos.

Douglas McClure
March 23, 2013 4:13 AM

I did this — changed an external USB drive to an internal SATA — and it works fine. But there's one weird thing: the drive still shows up in the list when I click on the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon, as if it were still a removable USB drive.

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