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Using old hard drive as external. do you need to install an OS?

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October 12, 2008 9:52:00 AM

hi everyone. i have what probably is a very simple question but it's something i haven't done before and i just can't seem to find the answer to my question on any of threads.

i have an old seagate 120gb sata1 hard drive that has been sitting around for months unused. recently i was thinking about wanting to use it as a "flash drive"; use it for back up and to transfer files between computers. i already found an external enclosure that i'll be getting. my question is for it to work, i mean to be recognized on different machines and to be able to back up and transfer files, do i need to reinstall win xp in the drive or would it work by just formatting it with fat32 or ntfs?
October 12, 2008 10:50:00 AM

right !! just format it and carry on,you only need an os on a hdd that is going to be booted from,in other words,,,only the primary boot hdd needs an os,although you can have multiple boot hdd's,need a boot manager for that though...:) 
October 12, 2008 3:43:55 PM

No, you don't need to install and OS. Just format it and you'll be good to go.
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October 12, 2008 5:29:41 PM

thanks for really quick replys dokk2 and br3nd064. i think what had me confused was reading about booting from a secondary drive.
a c 342 G Storage
October 14, 2008 2:35:25 PM

Assuming you don't want anything on this old drive, re-partition it (one volume containing all the capacity, NOT a bootable drive), then format as NTFS. That will ensure it is absolutely clean of old data junk. If you have software to do the backups work, etc, install it on this drive. Then you'll have it wherever you go.
February 2, 2013 1:40:49 AM

Hi I just bought an enclosure for my old HDD that I replaced.
This item seems to be working properly. When I plug it in the computer searches and installs a driver and the red light is on but then I go to "My Computer" and no drive is there?Do I need to format this Sata 2.5" It works as a bootable HD when it is installed now trying to use as external drive. If so how do I do this step by step either post here or email me at chris@cmczona.com thanks in advance
a c 342 G Storage
February 9, 2013 7:51:20 PM

So your computer detected the enclosure and installed the appropriate driver. But you still don't see the HDD in My Computer. There are several things to check.

First, realize something: if your enclosure is connected as a USB device, that device (actually, the interface chip inside the enclosure) can be detected as a valid device in the system, even if the HDD it is trying to control does not work. So you probably WILL "see" the USB device, but maybe not the HDD, in Device Manager.

But your best place to start checking is in Disk Management. Click on Start at lower left, then RIGHT-click on My Computer and choose Manage. In the left pane choose Disk Management. There are TWO panes on the right of this, and each of them SCROLLS so you can see all their contents. The Upper Right pane shows you all the drives that windows knows how to use. The LOWER RIGHT pane shows those and also some valid hardware that Windows does not yet understand. Look there for your HDD in the external enclosure. Each drive is one horizontal block with a label at its left end. To the right of that is a block subdivided into one or more blocks, each representing one Partition on the HDD unit. These sub-blocks also have label info.

So, first question: is the old HDD in the new enclosure showing at all in the Lower Right pane? If not, then the HDD itself is likely faulty, even though the enclosure is working. However, just to be sure in this case, you could remove the HDD from the enclosure and connect it temporarily as an internal HDD in your computer to see if it does work there. If not, that confirms the HDD is faulty. But if it does work as an internal, there is some problem between the HDD and the enclosure.

Second question, IF the HDD does appear in Disk Management's Lower Right pane: Does if have any valid Partitions on it, or does it show up only as "Unallocated Space"? If it is only Unallocated, this means that there are NO Partitions on it and NO data to use. Now, if that is true - you actually have no data on it you want - then you can Initialize the HDD to get it into use. BUT this process will DESTROY any existing data on this HDD, so do this ONLY if you don't want any of it. To Initialize, RIGHT-click on the Unallocated Space and choose to Initialize; or, it might be labelled something like Create a Partition and Format. Since this unit is for data storage only, and not for booting, you can make this a Primary Partition that is NOT bootable, and probably want to include ALL of this unit's space in one Partition. You should format using the NTFS File System.

OK, if that was NOT your situation, third question: If the HDD appears to have one or more existing Partition(s) in place, each will have some label into, and that includes a letter name like F: . Does it have a name, or it that missing? If you have a valid Partition with no letter name, Windows can't use it. BUT you can fix this easily. RIGHT-click on that Partition and assign a letter name (not one in use) to it.

After either Initializing or assigning a letter, just back out of Disk Management and reboot your machine so Windows updates its registry with these changes. The HDD should show up in My Computer.

We have not covered a fourth possibility. In Disk Management, if it shows you a Partition on the disk with a File System called RAW, what that really means is that some data on the HDD is corrupted so that Windows does not understand it. In this case there are two types of options:
(a) If you do NOT want any data from the HDD and are willing to wipe it clean, you can just RIGHT-click on this Partition and Delete it. Do the same for ALL Partitions on this HDD only. THEN start the Initialization process (see Second question ... above).
(b) If there is data you want on this HDD, you will need to use some Data Recovery software to get it back safely before doing anything further with your HDD. In that case, post this situation here for further advice.
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