NES Custom External Hard Drive

What to do with all of the extra data you have laying around.  I know, le’ts put it in a nice safe external hard drive!  But not any old off the shelf one, a super secret, top of the line, custom NES cartridge one!  Below, I will outline how to take any ordinary NES cartridge and transform it into a data housing gem.  While doing this in my spare time at home, Ive come to realize some extra things that could be added on to make this even sweeter, like LEDs, an on/off switch for said LEDs, etc which I will add to this article upon updating my external hard drive.  Let’s go over the parts and tool list for this endeavor:

  • 1 – Regular Nintendo Game Cartridge of your choosing
  • 1 – 2.5mm Laptop Hard Drive External Case
  • 1 – Small straight screwdriver or hex depending on screws on cartridge
  • Dremel or similar tool
  • Super Glue and a Hot Glue Gun
  • Several small resistors and colored LEDs (optional)
  • Small CMOS/watch battery to power the LED circuit (optional)
  • Small wire bits (optional)
  • Soldering iron (optional)

Creating Your Custom External Hard Drive

Tearing Apart A Piece Of History

Well, after you have selected your favorite, or least favorite, NES game, now begins the disassembly to get the insides ready for the addition of a Hard Drive and the electronics that will run it.  This seems like a scary task at first but there really isn’t much inside of these old game cartridges.  First, find all of the screws of which I have labeled with yellow circles below in the first picture.  Remove with appropriate screw driver and save for later.  You will be using some of these to hold it together later.

custom hard drive

The next part is tricky.  Now, with a Dremel or similar tool, remove the plastic molding where the center screw was located as well as the left-hand plastic molding and the ridge that is near the bottom of the cartridge.  I only removed enough of it to place the HDD and the board of the external hard drive as seen in the third pic below.

This is the external hard drive caddy that I am taking apart and stealing it’s insides.  The entire board inside is a little bigger than most, but it is small enough to fit inside of the NES cartridge.  It was originally a Rosewill RX81U-ES-25A as seen below.  The laptop SATA hard drive I have fits perfectly on top of this board so there isn’t any extra sticking out the sides or bottom.  The only extra length from the SATA controller board is the SATA power and data port and the LEDs above it  which is about an inch or so of extra room.

After you have removed all of the plastic that is in the way of the hard drive and caddy sitting normally in the cartridge, set the caddy from the Rosewill external in the NES cartridge as you want it to sit.  With the Dremel, cut out the area where the mini USB connector will go to connect to the jack on the board.  You can see in the second picture of the article, I cut out a small chunk of the right-hand piece of the game cartridge at its top to place the mini USB cord for connection.

Now that we have all of the plastic removed, we can place the external hard drive caddy permanently in its spot.  You don’t have to secure it down to one of the NES cartridge sides because after you put back in the screws, it should hold it in place.  I chose to make it permanent and super glued it in place.  You could use epoxy or any other non-conductive holding agent as well.  The CMOS battery installed on the right-hand side of the picture is what will power my LEDs and has not been glued/epoxied until I solder on the leads of the LED chain.

At this point, with the HDD installed, we can close it up and put three of the outside screws back into the cartridge to keep it secure.  Although, I will be also adding the LED effects and a switch to control it so the enclosure will really stand out.

Custom External Hard Drive Summary

It really isn’t as difficult as it seems to make your own external hard drive enclosure out of anything that a hard drive will fit in.  With the proper cheap external hard drive electrical board and a solid HDD, you can install it anywhere and make some really cool looking devices that will impress your friends with your profound artistic knowledge and ability to turn older useless things into slightly less useless things.  In the next addition to this article, I will go over soldering, LED selection, resistor choices, as well as the formula needed to choose those items.  Then you can have the complete package too!

One Response

  1. Rob Walls Dr_Bob June 18, 2012