Upgrade Report [New Uses for Old Hard Drives - 07/11/2006]



July 11th, 2006

New Uses for Old Hard Drives

Contributing Editor Steve Bass

Call me cheap, but I use old hard drives, no matter how small, as long
as I can. Read on for two neat ways to give ancient drives new

Play Downloaded Videos on TV

Q: I legitimately downloaded a few episodes of ABC's "Lost." I want to
watch them on a TV, so I tried to burn them onto a DVD. But first I
couldn't figure out the correct format, and then an episode wouldn't
on just one disc.

A: You can string all of your ruined discs together and build a wind
chime, because I have a nifty contraption that makes playing movies on
TV a hassle-free affair--and it has nothing to do with DVD burning.

My secret is the Galaxy TVisto Multimedia Center, an external drive
enclosure that you attach to your PC via a USB 2.0 or FireWire
connection. You then hook up the device to a TV to watch your movies.
Here's the link::

Start by dragging and dropping the video that you want to watch,
including uncompressed ISO files, onto the TVisto. (Your PC will see
TVisto as another drive.) Afterward, link the device to your TV,
choosing from five standard connectors. The TVisto's built in,
menu-driven, Linux-based software permits you to play back videos of
various formats. I tried several kinds--MPEG-1, -2, and -4; DivX
is based on MPEG-4); and AVI--and they all played. Though I was
interested in using the device only for videos, the TVisto can play
music (.wav, MP3, and other formats) and show images, too. The product
costs about $143, and it includes a remote control and cables.

The catch is that you need to supply and install your own hard drive.
I used an old 60GB, IDE hard drive I raided from an unused PC. But,
hard-drive bargains are everywhere. At press time, a Maxtor 80GB
adequate for around 20 videos, costs about $50; a 250GB drive runs
$80. Go to our Product Finder for the latest prices:

You should also check our Upgrade Guide for reviews and pricing:

Fortunately, installing the drive into the TVisto takes just a few
minutes: You remove some screws, pop in the drive, connect the cable,
and reinsert the screws. And when you're not watching videos, you can
use the TVisto for backup storage.

DIY External Storage

Q: I have some perfectly good hard drives I've removed from old PCs.
They're small (most are 40GB), but I hate wasting the drives. What can
do with them?

A: I have a quick, cheap fix that will let you use the drives for
long-term storage of photos and videos: an $18 adapter that allows you
to connect any IDE drive to your PC's USB port. The PCMS IDE to USB
Drive Adapter consists of a USB cable that terminates with an IDE
connector and a power supply. That's it--there's no enclosure, and you
provide the 2.5-, 3.5-, or 5.25-inch drive. You can find this gadget

Attach the drive to the connector, turn on your computer, copy the
files, and disconnect the drive once you've shut down the system. This
is a great way to use old 20GB drives. Though I wouldn't waste a new
SATA drive in this manner, you might need to; if so, the $30 Young
USB 2.0 Adapter can help:

Read Steve Bass's regularly published "Hassle-Free PC" and "Tips &
Tweaks" columns:

"You have enemies? Good! That means you've stood up for something in your life."
-- Winston Churchill
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