Hello again fellow readers and fixers! So last time, we talked about external hard drives, ultra small form factor (USFF) PCs and their respective use cases; and we gave some of the reasons why turning an old external hard drive enclosure into a fully-fledged compact PC makes sense as a way of reusing otherwise disused and unloved equipment and peripherals.
But before we can start the process of turning an external hard drive into a working computer, we first need a suitable candidate whose enclosure will form the chassis for our compact PC project. And I happen to have an external hard drive that would be a good fit for this build; it is a LaCie external hard drive from around 2008. It was a fairly bulky external hard drive that was released to the public with either 500 GB, 750 GB or 1 TB of storage for data backups, and relied on an external power adapter to keep itself powered on, and a USB 2.0 data cable for file transfers.
And so, the first step in readying the external hard drive for converting into a compact PC is to open it up. The good news is that there are no screws that need removing to take the enclosure apart; the bad news is that it was a bit of a pain to slide the front and back panels out of position with a small screwdriver, and I had ended up scuffing the base of the enclosure in the process…
Once the panels were free, it was just a matter of sliding off the metal cover to expose the 3.5 inch mechanical hard drive, which is a 750 GB model that is worth reusing as internal storage for another machine. The hard drive was taken out by first removing the four screws holding it in place on the sides of the enclosure, and simply pulling it out afterward.
Next to remove is the small PCB with a SATA connector facing inwards, and the power and USB type-B connectors facing out. It too was held in place with four screws, but this time on stand-offs that keep the PCB from physical contact with a metal panel covering most of the inside base of the enclosure.
With the stand-offs also removed, it was then time to remove the metal panel itself; because it was also held in place with plastic pins that were melted into the shape of pegs during manufacturing, it had to be physically torn free with enough force to break the pegs without damaging the entire base of the enclosure. This panel could be reused as part of a base for which a credit card sized computer can be mounted on top.
But why a credit card sized computer? Why not use a motherboard that allows for more powerful hardware? Well in this case, using a credit card sized single board computer together with the extra size afforded by the incorporation of the 3.5 inch hard drive gives us more options with regards to cooling, storage and other features. And our choice of single board computer, turns out to be a Pine H64 Model B. Why choose this single board computer, when a certain other board has much wider support? We’ll explain why we made that choice as we did next time. So until then, as always, stay safe, keep calm and just keep on fixing!