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Top External Hard Drive Tricks

Nov 22, 2013

So you've been computing for quite a few years now, and you've built a nice collection of hard drives, internal or external, collecting dust in the corner. Here's how to put them to good use.

1. Turn an Old Hard Drive into an External Drive

If you don't have a ton of external drives lying around, you might still have a bunch of old internal drives, and the best thing you can do is put them in a USB enclosure so they see some use. Furthermore, this trick also works for upgrading existing external drives: if it dies or becomes too small to be useful, you can always swap the current drive out of the enclosure for a better one you have collecting dust.

2. Back Up Your Computer

If you haven't set it up already, one of the most popular (and most important) uses for an external drive is an automatic backup. If you're using Mozy, SyncBack on Windows, local backup is a must to make sure you don't lose any of your important data to the ever-looming possibility of drive failure.

Set Up a Foolproof and Fireproof Automatic Backup Plan

The sweet spot of a foolproof hard drive backup plan includes local backup to an external drive and off-site backup to the cloud.

3. Clone Your Current Hard Drive

While backing up your data allows you to restore it should anything bad happen, using those external drives for direct clones of your current drive gives you a much faster solution. It requires more manual work, but in the event of a drive failure, you can be up and running again in no time (as opposed to reinstalling your operating system all over again and then transferring all your data, which can be done when you have the time to do so).

4. Back Up Your Backups Using Windows Home Server

Back Up Your Windows Home Server to an External Drive

A Windows Home Server is a great way to back up the computers in your home, but don't neglect to back up your server periodically.

Local backups are great, but they're still vulnerable to lighting strikes, fires, floods, and other immediate disasters. While you can automatically back up your computers to a Windows Home Server, it's nice to have a backup of the server, too—even if it's a backup of critical files and not a full backup—to keep in certain, more protected places.

5. Use the External Drive's Controller to Connect Other Peripherals via USB

Gut an Old USB HDD Enclosure to Make an External DVD Drive

More and more lightweight laptops and netbooks are shipping sans optical drives. Don't buy an external drive for for $50+ for those few times External drives work by having a controller that converts SATA or IDE connections to USB. If you have an old IDE optical drive that you only need every once in a while, you can take the circuit board from an old, IDE-based external drive enclosure andconnect it to your computer via USB. It's remarkably useful for netbooks that don't have optical drives, or those really rare occasions you need to install something from CD on your newer, IDE-less computer.

6. Back up and Play Your Wii Games from an External Drive

How to Back Up and Play Your Wii Games from an External Hard Drive

Connecting an external hard drive to your Wii to back up and play your games is a simple way to keep expensive discs out of harms way.

You love your Wii, but your discs are fragile, disorganized, and easily misplaced. Bybacking up those games to an external hard drive, you can decrease your load times, protect those disc from harm, and always have your games on hand whenever you have a hankering for some Wii.

7. Run XBMC From a USB Drive

If you don't want to build a full-fledged XBMC computer, you can always put XBMC Live on a USB drive and connect it to an already built computer for certain occasions. And, while you could do it with a USB thumb drive, a larger, external hard drive would allow you to store your movies and TV shows on it, thus saving you precious space on your main computer.