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Data storage systems

Portable HARD DISC DRIVEANT using a portable hard drive at Linda Moghul's company

Floppy discs are good fun because you can carry data about all over the place and transfer information, programs, pictures, etc between computers. The snag is that they are a touch small at 1.44Mb these days (2000/11), which was ok when they were invented but now it's a bit small relative to the lots of gigabytes on the computers. So, a solution! The idea is for a portable module which can be carried about, with GIGABYTES of data on it, or at least 850 megabytes in a low-cost solution.

How it's done: Hard disc drives (often referred to as "NON-REMOVABLE disc drive") are recycled from old computers and used as portable data cartridges. They are plugged into a spare loose IDE cable, either on where the CD connects up or by having an extra lead. The IDE auto-detection on this is important to remember.



close-up on a hard drive being used portably

Advantages outweigh disadvantages on this, and a few technical bits of knowhow make it much easier than it might be feared to be. A few helpful hints are as follows:

Running a computer with no lid on is not as bad as it looks, and generally high voltages are limited to within the metal box of the power supply. A hard drive is either a "C" or a "D" (master or slave) drive, and this can be determined or changed by altering LINK OPTIONS on the drive. Ports available for hanging the drive are usually on the secondary IDE. Cables can be acquired if necessary. The power supply to a hard drive is a four pin plug with 5 and 12 volts, and if there aren't enough of these in the machine, extra ones can be transplanted in. Operating systems will sense the extra drive in different ways. Linux will allow drives to be mounted as /dev/hd3 and that sort of thing. DOS/Windows will reallocate drive letters, which is odd, and should not be disregarded as it makes some software behave very oddly. If using a set of interchangeable drives it is best on a multi-platform system to always keep the same number of drives, so use a favourite default drive when no mobile drive is present. That way the computer will keep the same configuration of drive letters even though the drive sizes will change. Always remember to AUTO-DETECT with the BIOS, as getting the size set wrongly can cause problems.

Old disc drives out of scrap computers are almost always reusable as portable data cartridges in this way. It is worthwhile establishing a collection of them.

Correspondence on this idea can be linked via: e-mail

Since the time when the idea was first used here it has been adopted as good practice in some good computer shops and high-tech places generally. For the good of humanity, and to make money out of this brilliant but unpatentable idea, this invention is declared to be SHAREWARE, and if you'd like to make a voluntary contribution, please send what you think it's worth to: Zyra, c/o the shareware office address. Cheques payable to Zyra Electric.

Feel free to save / print / distribute this page, and tell your friends you saw it at on the SHAREWARE INVENTIONS pages.

News! (2001/09): The technology of the world is starting to catch up with good ideas such as this. See HDD-P2

Yes, it's nice to be a bit ahead of things.

More about the interesting site that this is on at [response]