I use a laptop with a small hard drive and so I use external hard drives to store my data. I have got to the point now where I have 3 External Drives full and need another. I am finding it hard to orgnise well and am really sick of the wires. What can I do to consolidate this memory cheaply?
They are all different drives so I imagine RAID isn't an option but that is not the biggest problem to me. I would like to eliminate all the wires, so should I build a cheap pc with lots of bays (if so, what sort of specs?) and then connect via cables or can I somehow link the hard drives together and run them as a unit? If so how many and how? Or are there other low cost options?
Why don't you try to assemble a Windows Home Server?, you can buy it OEM or DIY, right now I would recommend if your not going to bother with RAID arrays to go with WHS v1 just for Drive Extender. Windows Home Server 2011 doesn't have it, so with Drive Extender you can throw any Hard Disk of any capacity and adding it to the drive pool and make it larger and larger (Right now I have 2TB x 4 HDD in this manner) so I can storage anything and do daily, weekly and monthly backups.
You could build a NAS. You can buy them with multiple bays, 2 or more. You can install your own drives and set it up with different levels of RAID.
You could do a similar thing by building or buying a cheap PC and installing your drives into it., then network with your laptop. The NAS is a little cheaper and a little easier, but in some ways less flexible. You didn't say how your drives are formatted but I'm guessing you have them set up as ESATA. You might or might not be able to plug them into a new PC and use them as-is. If you build a NAS you would put new drives into it and then copy your data from the old drives into it.
Personally I would go with the NAS, put new drives into it, copy you data into it, then put your old drives in a drawer for backup. This is exactly what I did, using a D-Link DNS323 and a pair of drives.
I have been looking about and have found out about a DROBO too..
Of the 3 options above NAS, 2nd Computer and Drobo, what would be the cheapest and simplest system to setup and run? I assume with the right motherboard a 2nd computer could hold the most but as you say it would need an OS - would it also need interfaces, ie monitor keyboard mouse or could you make a pretty small and quite machine that just sits in the corner somewhere?