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.
10. 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.
9. 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. Whether you're using Mozy, SyncBack on Windows, or Time Machine on OS X, an automatic, 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.
8. 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). We've walked through how to clone your hard drive in both Mac OS X and Windows.
7. Backup Your Backups Using Windows Home Server
Local backups are great, but they're still vulnerable to lighting strikes, fires, floods and other immediate disasters. While you can automatically backup 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.
6. Use An Extra Drive As A Scratch Disk
If you have a FireWire capable drive and do any kind of video editing, using it as a scratch disk instead of your internal drive can really speed things up. Caching files to your internal drive can put quite a load on it, because it's constantly reading and writing from the same drive. By shifting that cache to another drive (connected with FireWire or something speedy), you can increase the speed of your renders and exports, making you a happier video editor.
5. Swap The External Drive With Your Computer's Drive
Sometimes, you'll actually buy an external drive for one purpose or another, but realise you don't need the space. In cases like this, you can actually open up the enclosure and replace your laptop's hard drive with the better one, and use your older, slightly outdated drive in the enclosure (you can even buy an external drive just for this purpose—it's remarkably cheaper than an upgrade from Apple).
4. Use The External Drive's Controller To Connect Other Peripherals Via USB
External drives work by having a controller than 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 and connect 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.
3. Back Up And Play Your Wii Games From An External Drive
You love your Wii, but your discs are fragile, disorganized, and easily misplaced. By backing 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.
2. Move Your iTunes Library To An External Drive
If your music is the reason your hard drive always seems full, consider moving those music files to an external drive. Not only can you do so while keeping your preferences and playlists intact, but you can then use previously mentioned iTunes Export to take the most important music and export it back to your space-challenged laptop.
1. 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.
How do you put your external hard drives to good use with your current set-up? Share your favourite tips in the comments.