Recently, I bought a 500GB Buffalo Stealth portable hard drive, and then quickly tore into it to extract the actual drive. Then I was able to successfully copy over my notebook computer’s files and upgrade the notebook’s hard drive. Afterwards I put the notebook’s original 250GB hard drive back in the Buffalo case (though I haven’t reformatted it yet, so it isn’t real useful; but I’m thinking now it would be safe to reformat).
But my old desktop’s hard drive is still pretty full. Fry’s had a special on a 1 TB Western Digital external drive (“external” or “desktop” drives have 3.5-inch desktop size hard drives in them and are usually powered from the wall, while “portable” drives usually have a notebook-size drive in them and are powered by USB; really both types are external as well as portable) for only $58. The nice thing about an external drive is that I can use it to extend my Dish Network DVR (up to 2 TB drives will work, but they have to have their own power source). However, the desktop’s drive is only 160 GB, which doesn’t add much capacity to the 500 GB DVR and isn’t all that useful as an external drive either.
So after checking that the drive worked properly and copying the software it came with to my desktop, I looked on the internet for a way to open it up. Like the Buffalo drive, you can just pry it open to release the clips. Inside it was a little harder to deal with because the drive is held in place by some rubber bumpers at the corners plus one screw that held a circuit board in place and another that held the jacks for the power and USB plugs in place. Once you take it apart, it’s kind of hard to tell how to get it back together, but I think I can do it.
The drive in the desktop is a SATA drive rather than the old EIDE drives that had ribbon cables. The nice thing about the EIDE ribbon cables was they usually had an extra jack to attach a second drive. Not the case with the SATA cable, and I had neglected to buy an extra cable at Fry’s (ordered one on DealExtreme for $1.30 which will be here in a few weeks). So instead I just opened the computer and unplugged the old drive and attached those cables to the new drive. I had made a recovery disk, so I put that in the computer, and turned it on. It booted up from the recovery CD and asked if I wanted to install Windows XP. Whereas with the notebook I had copied the files over, I think because of the age and all the stuff I have installed and uninstalled over the years that for the desktop I would be better off with a clean installation and reinstall only the programs I need. So it started to format the drive, which took a couple of hours I think. Eventually it got Windows XP installed okay, but for some reason it was having a hard time connecting to the internet. It could connect briefly and then it would just stop. That’s bad because there are a lot of updates to install, and the XP installation from the recovery disk is pretty old, with a lot of security vulnerabilities and old versions of software (for instance Internet Explorer 6 when they are up to version 10 now). I found out later that at least it has Service Pack 2 already incorporated, but I still need Service Pack 3, a 300 MB download.
Update: Service Pack 3 seems to have helped the internet connection. I also installed Internet Explorer 8 from a download. Then I was able to get Microsoft Update to run and there were 114 updates to download and install, most of them security updates. So now those are downloading. This should take an hour or two.
Update 2: There is a lot of software to install. I got Norton Anti-Virus, a HTML editor, a picture editor, photo-stitch for panoramas on my camera, software for my printer, Firefox, and Adobe Acrobat and still need a bunch more stuff like Microsoft Office. I had Office 2003 before (I can get Office through a home-use program at work where I pay Microsoft $10-20) and although I found the disk case, I couldn’t find the disk. I have a license for Office 2010 that I haven’t used yet, but I’m saving that in case I need to get a new computer. I also downloaded a bunch of drivers from Dell. The idea is to get to some pretty stable point and the ghost an image of the hard drive, so that if I ever need to do this again, it will be really easy.