So I had to ship in my primary laptop for repairs this week. Being studious and all, this has caused me no end of anxiety, as if I were losing an appendage, or a child, or my brain. Probably the latter in my case.
Anyway, I removed my harddrive (a 250gb Seagate 7200rpm SATA drive) and figured loosely that I would be able to access my files via a magic ide/sata to usb connector cable. Note: that cable was one of the better $15 investments in computer accessories that I have ever spent. It doesn't always work well, but it is pure awesomeness to be able to run any drive that comes across my desk on the fly.
The problem? The magic connector doesn't supply power to SATA drives without a secondary dc adapter. And really, who wants to carry that around when there's plenty of power to be had on the USB ports?
The solution: Since I was needing a temporary case for my SATA drive and my partner was needing a back-up drive, we decided to split the difference. We would buy an external drive, I would get the new one, she would get my old one (because I was planning on opening the case on the new one, and she didn't want to deal with that tomfoolery after I was done breaking into it).
How this works: My old external harddrive was an IDE drive, with a different connector than my new one. So we needed a new external harddrive with a SATA connector inside. The hard part is that external harddrives are rarely intended to be disassembled by the consumer, so they don't bother labeling themselves as SATA or IDE. Since I had disassembled a 3.5in Seagate external drive last summer, I figured another one in this vein might work as well. So we invested $60 in a 250gb seagate expansion usb 2.0 2.5in drive and came home to see if I could insert my laptop harddrive into the case.
The bad news: You pretty much have to break off all the plastic nubbins that hold the case together in order to open it.
The good news: The drive is pretty well shielded such that you aren't likely to harm it when removing the case. Furthermore, the drive is simple as pie on the inside, just a laptop size SATA harddrive and a usb controler-thingy. Once you remove the screws that hold on the shielding, the drive can be removed. If you can ever grab hold of it, the drive just slides back off the connector and a new one slides on.
In summary, for $60 we have a case that I can use temporarily to access my laptop files and an external drive that we can use in the long term.
So for all you folks wondering if you can disassemble the external drive and use it in something else, the answer is yes, at least for the model I bought, just don't hold out any hopes for the plastic case looking very good in the end.