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Salvaged Circuitry

Adventures in Tinkering

Apple IIc External HDD

I received a bunch of 1980s computer equipment from a family friend, and there happened to be a bunch of Apple 2C 5.25in floppy drives in toe. Since I had no use with (4) 5.25in floppy drives, I saved the aluminum shells of the drives for later use as external hard drive enclosures. I needed an external HDD for college, so I decided to take an old Apple IIc floppy drive and mod it into a sweet external SATA Hard drive. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of what an original Apple IIC 5.25in floppy drive looks like, so here's a website that details the Apple IIC. I began with the idea of creating external HDDs out of old technological components about 3 years ago, when I built an external HDD for my brother out of an old parallel port data switch case. I didn't want to build another one out of a data switch box, so I decided to use an old apple IIC case. At first, I was not sold on the idea. The case seemed pretty lame, since it was a peach-tan color and the original design had tape covering the vent holes (I have no idea why apple did that).

I wanted to keep the shell of the Apple IIC floppy drive stock - meaning no drill holes, grinding marks, grooves or other modifications. Of course, the faded color of the drive had to go, so I opted for a polished aluminum finish for the drive, similar to what is commonly found on mac pro's of today. Thus began the long tedious process of stripping the paint from the case.

I tried every paint remover in my house but nothing seemed to remove the horrid tan color of the case. So, I decided to wet sand the case. I began with a rough 120 grit sand paper and progressed to a light 400 grit sandpaper. This was a very dirty and labor intensive part of the project, so I choose to work right next to a sink. After an hour or so of hand sanding with 120 grit sand paper, these were my results.

In order to speed up the process, I decided to use a hand drill and a wire brush wheel. This helped out a lot, but unfortunately left distinct abrasions in the aluminum shell. After a while, I decided to go back to hand sanding

The most difficult part of sanding the case was sanding the inside of the enclosure. Not only were there small areas between the side of the case and the top indent, but the air vents in the case kept ripping the sandpaper I was using to wet sand the case. A few days later I found a rubber block sander and the inner sanding became a lot easier.

Here's my external Hard drive in it's beginning planning phase. Originally I wanted to integrate everything into the back plate, but then I opted for a .25in Plexiglass back cover. This ended up being a better option, because the case was not damaged and the overall nostalgic feel of the case was better maintained. In addition, the frosted Plexiglass was common on the 90's line of mac products, so I decided to go with plexi.

I started off the back panel of the case with .25in Plexiglass. Getting a square piece was a challenge in itself, since most of my Plexiglass pieces were scraps. After a few cuts with a circular saw and a trip to a power sander, I finally found the right rectangular shape to fit the case. I sanded the Plexiglass backplate with 150 grit sandpaper by hand and then 400grit followed by 600 grit sandpaper. Following this, I began the layout of components on the backplate. The most prominent feature of the backplate would be the four metric bolts, one for every corner of the plexi. I wanted to give a rugged but complex look to the external Hard drive case, so no Phillips screws allowed.

The next step was to drill some practice holes. I was certainly glad I did this on a smaller scrap piece because I learned a crucial thing about working with Plexiglass: you have to drill the bigger hole first and then the smaller hole second if you want to properly counter-sink a bolt. the hole on the right is what results if you do this in the reverse manner. The larger drill bit skips all over the place and leaves you with a rubbish end result.

The next most prominent feature on the back plate was the 80mm fan hole. A 92mm fan would not fit upright in the case, so I went with an 80mm fan instead. I choose a delta 12v @ .51 amp fan salvaged from a dell poweredge 2250 server. Luckily I had a 76mm hole saw bit (3in) to make the hole. This whole process I did with a hand drill, a stool and a vice, since I don't have a drill press, so yes, it's possible with a steady hand.

With the 76mm hole drilled, the fan grill is next to follow suit. Just take a mechanical pencil and trace out the holes of the fan grill and mark the center with a pointy object. This can be anything from a needle to an exacto knife. I recommend to NOT use an hammer all, as shown in the 7th picture. I used an all on my first piece of plexi and it cracked. Not fun, I used the tip from a circle cutter from then on in. Plexi is sturdy, but not enough so for a hammer. I decided to add some curved brackets to the plexi backplate for added nostalgia. Yes, these came directly from the handle on the front of the dell poweredge 2250 server. They kinda reminded me of the handles on the Power Mac G4 and G5, so I went ahead and used them for planning purposes.

The next most crucial parts of the external hard drive would be the power connectors, switch and esata cable. After a brief outline of the C14 power inlet connector, I went ahead and cut out the appropriate piece from the plexi. the best way to do this if you don't have expensive tools is to drill 1 or 2 holes with a wide drill bit , into the plexi and use a jigsaw the rest of the way. Make sure you use a metal bit on the jig saw, that it is set on a high speed and that you wear goggles. Also, plexi smells really bad and you should probably use a gas mask of some sort if cutting indoors.

A little filing and the cut is complete.

A snug fit for the C14 connector.

Next up would be the esata cable. I ordered en esata to sata cable of this type so it would be easy to mount on the plexi backplate.I decided to go with esata because esata has a faster bus then USB, and I don't need a controller board for a sata-to-USB connection. This also helps a bunch in design, as I was not limited to the layout of a USB controller board. I could put the esata port anywhere I wanted.

Those are metric bolts of course.

The esata cable mounted after a little filing. Make sure that the esata cable fits in the slot once the cable is mounted (.25in plexi is thick).

Here's the on/off switch getting mounted into the backplate.

Here's the bare backplate with all of the holes and shapes cut out. Beautiful.

Here's the backplate fully assembled, including the handles from the dell poweredge server.

I wasn't thrilled with the black color of the handles, so I took the wire wheel attachment for my drill and removed the black paint.

That looks a little better...

With the back panel completed, I decided to focus on the power supply next. I took a power supply that came with one of my USB-to-IDE adapters and removed the plastic housing for my project.

Of course, the power supply was intended for use with Molex based HDD's, so I had to convert it to sata power. Don't forget to put those heat shrink tubes on first!

I decided to focus next on the hard drive mounting bracket. I choose .125in aluminum metal to make the brackets. Here's an original planning picture.

In order to make a suitable HDD bracket, I had to make two identical 90 degree brackets. Choice of weapons: A Estwing, a vice, aluminum, and a block of wood.

Now making sure that the brackets were perfectly square was another story...Believe it or not the vice did a really good job. only a few degrees off.

Here's what the original brackets looked like before being tamed.

After some more configuring the components in the case, I decided to mount the HDD on a diagonal. This was because the sata cable was a tight fit when the HDD was vertical and the HDD was directly on the back of the fan when horizontal, making a really annoying sound when the fan was powered on, thus diagonal it remains.

With the HDD bracket complete, next up was to mount the PSU into the case. I did not want to use the plastic case that the PSU was in originally, so I decided to use a piece of .125in plexi

The original Apple 2C floppy case had a cable going out the back, hence the groove in the former picture, so I decided to make that the position for the "on" light. The best way to do this would be to use sanded Plexiglass, so I used .25in plexi and threaded 2 screws from the bottom insulation plexi to the thicker plexi. I drilled a hole in the top of the .25in plexi for a RGB LED mount.

Next up was to mount the PSU to the insulation plexi.

Following the construction of the Plexiglass contraption, I decided to make the mounting bracket for the back panel, after all, it was not mounted to the bottom of the external HDD yet. I decided to use some left over scrap metal from a 2U mounting bracket. The metal was about .125in thick, so it worked just fine. I bent the metal at a 90degree angle just as the HDD bracket was bent.

Of course, I removed the paint from the metal and mounted the two brackets. This required the drilling of 2 holes into each bracket, so the holes in the bottom of the HD case would line up.

Here's the plexi contraption mounted inside the HDD case along with the back panel installed. I lengthened the 120v wires for future C14 post wiring

Now the issue of wiring became super important. I decided to keep all of the wires to one side and shorten any cables that were unnecessarily long.

Here's the picture of the HDD mounted in the case along with all of the other brackets and goodies.

Here's the external shell of the Apple 2C floppy drive beside the inside of the HDD. Sick.

During the final test phase, the plexi contraption had to be replaced due to it being too close to the top of the case and the threads becoming worn. This was both a good and a bad thing. I had to rewire the LED's inside the case, but now there were 2 LED's instead of one, so the color would be more intense. The elongated plexi along the front plate really made a difference in lighting the inside of the case as well.

Here's the inside of the case with the front plate illuminated.

The final inner wiring of the external HDD.

Here's the HDD Illuminated.

Here's the front of the case

This is what it looks like when on. What a comparison.

Oh how the times have changed.

More comparison pictures.

Completed project pictures

Backplate fully illuminated in a lighted environment

Hard drive in off state.

Here's my new Hard drive in all it's glory.

This project has been a long one, but overall I was very pleased with the final outcome. I feel that this drive successfully mixes the old school feeling of apple electronics with their 90's translucent style and today's aluminum emphasis. Ironic enough, this drive uses esata, a port most commonly not found on apple products. Regardless, this drive more than satisfies my needs for backup and extra storage.