5 Uses for Hard Drives Old and New (That you may not have thought of)

Among the wide range of components that go into the average home computer, your Hard Disk Drive is surely the part that is most likely to stick around. Whereas motherboards, processors and RAM sticks become outdated and graphics cards just plain stop working because of stress, your old HDDs can stay functional and useful for years to come, no matter how small capacity or slow they are. So if you find yourself with spare HDDs having ditched the machines they came with, you might be looking for ideas of what to do with them: hence, the following article.

1. Upgrade your Playstation 3

One of the biggest leaps made in video game console technology has been the addition of hard drives. And one of the strangest characteristics about this generation of technology is how long it has been around – we’d usually expect to have seen the Playstation 4 and X-Box successor about two years ago. This means that if you have an early Playstation 3, you probably have a tiny hard disk drive size – anywhere between 40GB to 80GB. In fact, this Christmas’ new Playstation 3 models include a budget-minded 12GB model – barely enough to stick your saved games on.

[Read also: How Big Do You Think Hard Drives Can Go?]

Even users with later models that feature hundreds of gigabytes of storage could benefit from a Playstation 3 Hard Drive upgrade, by installing a Solid State Drive to enjoy faster loading and installation times across the board. So long as you have any 9.5mm high, 2.5 inch SATA laptop hard drives, you can replace the Playstation 3’s hard drive easily. Sony even details how to do it in you user manual, and it’s incredibly easy to do. First, remove a small plastic cover (on the old PS3 this is on the bottom edge. On the ‘slim’ it’s on the bottom right of the front face.) Remove the old drive from the slide-out tray, replace with the new drive and simply slide it back into the console. Easy.

2. Turn your internal hard disk external

Considering that external hard disk drives are often just capable internal drives dressed in USB-connected cases, it’s not surprising that your unused internal drives have futures as a means of external storage. Docks and enclosures are affordable and transform internal SATA drives into easy to transport, portable drives. Docks particularly offer hot-swappable functionality, allowing you to pop drives in and out without turning the power off – particularly useful if you have a large number of old drives (and a poor cataloguing system).

[Read also: Why an External Hard Drive is Important to You]

3. Create an off-site backup

It’s common sense to have as many backups as possible, so we won’t pretend that you haven’t already thought of using an old drive (or getting a new drive) for this purpose. However, the vast majority of users don’t really think too hard about what they then do with the drive once they’ve created the backup. An internal drive will be left in the machine, allowing for regular backup scheduling: but what if someone pours water on the machine and you lose all your drives at once? An external drive may enter general use as a drive to take from work to home, but what if either of your machines are attacked by a virus? And without meaning to be over-dramatic, what if your entire house burns down with all of your backups in it?

Identify your most important files, whack them on an old internal or external drive and find somewhere away from your home to keep them. Rent a safe deposit box, or just tell your parents to store your drive in a safe place. Heck, fill it with your family photos and bury it in the garden in a sturdy metal box that shouldn’t be opened until the year 2072 – just don’t keep it around the house.

4. Create your own cloud

Cloud storage is actually a rather old idea, if you think about it, and if we’re talking about off-site storage, it stands to reason that any old drive can be integrated into a personal cloud server (giving the likes of Google and Apple fewer ways to access your data). Stretching the definition of “Cloud computing”, you could simply have an extra computer on your home network full of files that you want to be accessible from any other machine. However, there is plenty of software out there for creating a machine that is accessible remotely – try Tonido, ownCloud or OxygenCloud.

[Read also: How to Select the Best Free Online Storage Service]

5. Use it as a scratch disk

No, we’re not talking about literally scratching the disk (unless you have data you want to be permanently rid of, and then we’d recommend a sledgehammer). Neither are we talking about turntablist techniques in the style of Grandmaster Flash. “Scratch Space” in computing terms is hard disk space into which data is swapped when RAM is full – a situation that is very common when working with humungous files in certain programmes. By putting “Scratch Space” on a specific “Scratch Disk”, you gain a considerable performance boost, especially if it’s big and empty (as it won’t be tied up with accessing any other data).

Whilst simply having more RAM would be more efficient, we’re willing to bet that you have some fast but superseded drives around that would be ideal for this purpose – It’s probably not worth turning over your shiny new 3TB hard disk drive for this purpose, but if you’ve just acquired such a device, perhaps your old drive can be relegated to the scratch disk role.

Typical programmes that benefit (and allow you to specify) scratch space include: Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and any other image and video programmes that work with files that are hundreds (possibly thousands) of megabytes in size. Windows itself works with a page file, which can be configured to be placed on the drive in the same way.


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