USB HDD enclosure to DVD connector

This is a “why didn’t I think of that?” idea. [Alec] needed a way to connect an IDE DVD drive using USB. Rather than order a connector he pulled the circuit board out of an old USB hard drive enclosure and connected to his DVD drive. Bang, recognized and running.

This will prove extremely handy if you have a netbook without an optical drive. We’ve used Unetbootin to move Linux ISO images to a thumb drive in the past. In addition to getting around the lack of an optical drive, this saves burning the data to a piece of plastic. But, you should be able to use this with a Leopard retail DVD instead of a 16GB thumb drive for a Hackintosh conversion. That means you could install Leopard on a netbook without needing a Mac to transfer the disk image to your thumb drive first.


  1. Volfram says:

    I actually have thought of this myself, and used it several times. I would recommend caution if you intend to boot from the drive, though. Some USB->IDE adapters can’t be seen by BIOS.

  2. Alex says:

    We have a few bare USB IDE and SATA adapters kicking around the apartment here, they are indeed handy to have, if a bit fragile.

  3. jeff-o says:

    I used to have an IDE-Firewire enclosure that I used in this way. First it was a CD burner, then an external hard drive, and now… Hmmm, now where did I put it?

  4. Peter says:

    Wow, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Gonna have to try this since not having an optical drive can be a pain.

  5. tim says:

    Yeah I do this myself when doing installations on my netbook which doesn’t have a optical drive. I always leave the DVD insitu in my pc too, makes the cabling a bit of a nuisance.

  6. Juicy says:

    I also tried this with the boards from several enclosures I had at hand. However in my case the dvd drive was not recognized. I must have had bad luck :(

  7. troll says:

    internet must have finally
    run out of hacks

  8. osgeld says:

    yea this is not that new of an idea, I saw someone doing it in a shop years ago and I have been doing it so long I have no idea where my enclosures actually are (if i didn’t throw them away in the move)

    oh well, if you didn’t know you do now

  9. Cybergibbons says:

    Isn’t that what USB->IDE boards are meant for? All but the oldest drives would work like this. What kind of “connector” would you order to do this?

  10. Nonya-Biz says:

    looks alot better with a slimline CD/DVD.

    either a server 50pin slimline to 40 for fullsize adaptors, or a mac 50pin to 44 for 2.5 ide adaptors.

  11. zigzagjoe says:

    Old news, but a handy trick to know.

    Interesting note: Some can use two devices.

    I have one somewhere that can deal with having a master and slave device… only downside is it would slow to a crawl if you used a device while the other was doing something.

  12. tomas316 says:

    External cases are designed for this. That’s why they’re 5 1/4″ bays.

  13. Edd says:

    I have thought of this before but I don’t have any sata cd drives and only sata connectors >.>

  14. svofski says:

    I don’t understand this one at all. What connector and why it wouldn’t be recognized if it’s made for this specific purpose… O_o

  15. aaron says:

    Been doin this old hack for a couple years now. Never thought of it as a hack tho… just did what I needed to do to get the job done.

  16. marwat208 says:

    I’ve been using something like this for a while… makes burning stuff easy as well as recovering data from a dead pc.

    Unetbootin is easy to use though, so the need for a plug in burner isn’t as key. It does have issues at time with some distros… usually end up doing it manually with syslinux

  17. Laslow says:

    I’ve got a couple of these lying around at home – a PATA one from a generic external drive that I pulled apart, and a SATA connector from a Lacie drive. Very handy indeed.

  18. inurd says:

    I’ve been using this method for a while, as sad as I was to see my 1TB external drive fall of the shelve, made good use of it and installed osx86 – leopard soon snow leopard on my eeepc 1000h

  19. Pierce Nichols says:

    I’ve done something very similar to this to recover a broken external HDD. I disassembled the drive, popped off the old USB/IDE bridge, and popped another one on. Worked a treat, and I recovered the data, then put the new bridge back in my toolbox for the next time.

  20. bob says:

    Who the fuck do you think is reading hackaday? My grandpa?

  21. Chaos says:

    I recently broke the windows install on my netbook and managed to save all my stuff by taking the hdd out, taking apart a portable external hdd i had, and putting my netbook hdd on the usb adaptor instead so i could take off my stuff, then simply installed Fedora with Unetbootin.

  22. DeadlyFoez says:

    I have to do this all the time. This is hardly any type of hack.

    If you guys consider that a hack, how about this. Now use that stupid IDE to USB connector to connect up to an infected hard drive and load VM with many different virus scanners all on a different VM and scan with each to clear out the infection.

    Still not a hack, but more of a hack than the original topic.

  23. osgeld says:

    well often times there is a led on these things, so you could wire it up to a arm9 and make it blink

    (you could do it with an arduino but then that would just bring the haters out)

  24. itwork4me says:

    you probably didn’t think of it cuz you had 10 bucks to buy the one that did ide, sata and notebook sized ide. This isn’t a hack…this is just repurposed hardware…not changing a thing of how the usb connector works.

  25. Odin84gk says:

    Re-purposed hardware IS a hack.

  26. Drusso says:

    I don’t think this is a hack. Those adapters have an IDE connector, so does a cd-drive. It’s common sense really lol.

  27. osgeld says:

    yea I am not sure about the hack status of this, but it is good information if one never thought of it

  28. jimmys says:

    don’t use poison ivy as toilet paper.

  29. Tarantulas says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter… This is really iffy in terms of being a “hack.” Hooked up IDE CDROM to IDE converter hardly seems news worthy.

  30. Evan says:

    I do this all the time, in fact if an external hard drive is the same price as an internal one of the same size, I’ll buy the external one and gut it for the converter. I don’t consider this a hack myself, but I’m not going to complain about bringing this option to people who hadn’t thought of it. btw I have an arduino and it blinks an led, what’s so bad about that?

  31. mars says:


  32. Spork says:

    Wow. Maybe it is just because I work in the computer field, but I read this thinking it was painfully obvious. Like Drusso said, IDE (Parallel ATA) drives, whether CD ROM or Hard Disk, have always used the same connectors, what would make a hard drive any different than the CD drive?

  33. tpulley says:

    that’s precisely what I did to load my legit copy of os x onto my netbook. Not having another mac around, there was simply no alternative to os x’s disk utils to make the thumbdrive method work. If one did have another mac, I think you can do it w/ at least an 8gig drive though, not a 16.

  34. hack says:

    Well duuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhh………

    Slow news day hackaday? Seriously now you call this a hack?

    Speaking of hacks….. I know a bunch….

  35. Paul says:

    yup, painfully obvious :P

    I even documented it in my “gaming on the aspire one” video series on YT

  36. osgeld says:

    don’t use poison ivy as toilet paper.”

    Oh GREAT now you tell me

  37. Nick says:

    I have been doing this for years. very helpful with my old eee’s and my new aspire one. I sacrifice the optical drive for portability. Good tip for some people though.

  38. Jac says:

    Like many others already said: I think a few people already thought about this…

    Oh well, I suppose if you want to ruin a perfectly good enclosure to make an external USB to IDE adapter…


  39. Nicholas says:

    Not really hintworthy.

    On a side note; some bridge interfaces may or may not work in this fashion. When a company configures they bridge chip sometimes they won’t have all the various IDE-ATA-ATAPI features enabled.

    Any number of companies sell usb and firewire bridges with the board in a small container that are specifically designed to plug into a bare hard drive or optical drive.

  40. osgeld says:

    “I suppose if you want to ruin a perfectly good enclosure to make an external USB to IDE adapter…”

    depends, I know the last one I got was so cheap (10 bucks) and so poorly designed (you couldnt put a 3.5 inch drive in a box labeled 3.5 inches)that I didn’t care

  41. Matt says:

    I’ve been doing this for years. Hell, I didn’t know it was good enough to make a post about. If I knew that, I would have done that when I first did it!

  42. nadieenespecial says:

    Don’t know why did you guys posted this.
    First time I see a unworthy post in HackaDay… :(

  43. HappyHax0r says:

    Once again, Hackaday serving up articles that make LED throwies look like a stroke of genius. *sigh*. *shakes his head*.

  44. hn says:

    to give it hack-cred: the board I pulled from my 3.5″ external HDD (which worked perfectly with the SATA-DVD drive) actually has the ability to do eSATA, it looks like you just need to solder the connector (usually a through hole part, easy)

  45. MushyBanana says:

    “OMG it works!” is not a legitimate hack.

  46. tantris says:

    yep, that’s how my old laptop reads dvds.
    like nicholas said: not all chips used in external enclosures will necessarily work. some may only somehow work: ok for reading but watch for buffer underrun while burning.
    your dvd won’t fit in the old enclosure, but an old external scsi-case will do.

  47. therian says:

    so there wasnt a single thought bothering you head why it called IDE to USB adapter?

  48. nubie says:

    It would be cool if you could just add an IDE cable to an existing enclosure and use the CD as the secondary device :)

    On a side note, when will we get thumb drives that act like bootable CD drives? I hate burning CD’s for no reason.

    Even better if it was a SATA/USB thumb drive.

  49. svofski says:

    @nubie: if you mean flash disks, they’re bootable since day one. Usually it would be some smallish linux distro. I used a thumb drive to bootstrap Debian on an embedded machine once.

  50. aztraph says:

    lot’s of comments in here, probably because anyone who is even remotely into computers, has an ide,pata,sata adapter. they are cheap and more reliable. raise your hands if you have more than one. (raises hand)

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