How to Make an Internal Hard Drive External

Extend your storage with an external hard drive

Home office: High angle view or directly above view of laptop with external hard disk drive and flower vase on white table
Malorny / Getty Images

Because of availability and a lack of general consumer knowledge, internal hard drives can somewhat cheaper than standalone external hard drives. You can take advantage of this by plugging your new or extra internal drive into a hard drive enclosure, and then connect it to your PC using a standard USB connection.

  1. Choose an internal hard drive. You can mix and match just about any hard drive and enclosure, but check their websites to make sure they’re compatible, just in case.

    a 3.5 and a 2.5 inch internal hard drive.
  2. Mount the drive Into the enclosure. Inside the enclosure, there may be a place to mount your internal hard drive into the enclosure, either by screws or fasteners (or some just slot into the connector.).​ If you're installing older drives such as EIDE or IDE, you may see plenty of wires to connect the hard drive. For SATA or mSATA drives,you should just see a single SATA connection just like you would inside your actual PC.

    Components of an external hard drive enclosure.
  3. Plug in the connections. Depending on which type of hard drive connector you have, will vastly differ in what connections you will need to connect. For most modern drives that use SATA\mSATA, there will be a single 7-pin connector that is not only the interface connection, but provides power as well.

    For PATA drives (EIDE\IDE), you'll have a 40-pin connector and a 4-pin power connector.

    Both types of connectors are keyed to be plugged in one way only.

    Inserting a hard drive into the external interface.
  4. Insert your hard drive. Depending on the style of enclosure, you may have to slide the drive in, or internally mount it.

    An internal hard drive being inserted into an enclosure.
  5. Seal the hard drive enclosure. After you’re all connected, seal the enclosure up tight once again, with your internal hard drive safe and sound inside.

    Most hard drive enclosures will have screws or simple fasteners that you can use to easily seal up the drive. You now have an internal hard drive acting as a portable external storage device. Now all that remains is connecting the enclosure to your PC.

    An external hard drive with a screwdriver.
  6. Connect the enclosure. At this point, you’ll undoubtedly be thinking that this process is a lot easier than you thought it would be. And it only gets better from here on out, it’s all plug and play.

    Your enclosure will have come with whatever cords are necessary to connect it to your PC. Usually, it’s just a USB cable, which will provide both connectivity and power to the drive.

    An external hard drive with a USB cable.
  7. Connect the enclosure to your PC. Connect the USB cable to your PC, and allow the drive to come on. If it has a power switch, now is the time to switch it on.

    An external hard drive connected to a laptop.
  8. Plug and play your hard drive. Once you plug it in and turn it on, your Windows machine should recognize that you’ve added new hardware, and let you "plug and play" it. You’ll be able to browse right to the drive, open it, drag files and folders into it, or set it up for receiving security backups and recovery files.

    Windows 10 dialog on how to handle a new hard drive.

If your PC does not recognize the drive, you may have a formatting problem on your hands. You’ll need to format the drive properly to suit your computer—but that’s another tutorial altogether.