In my first year of photography, I shot more than 100,000 pictures, which yielded two results: my photography got better quickly, and my computer’s hard drive filled up with picture files. Over the last, I’ve bought several external hard drives to store and even backup my pictures. Eventually, I bought RAID systems to protect my photos. But these also filled up!

Nowadays, I use Drobos to store and protect my pictures, and when drives fill up I can just swap them with a new bigger drive. But what should I do with all those old drives? They’re empty and sitting on a shelf, but they still represent several hundred dollars’ investment. Then I realized that they are basically a case with a hard drive inside, and I needed more drives for my Drobos.

So I cracked them open, pulled out screws, unplugged ribbon cables and ended up with hard drives in one stack and a bunch of garbage cases in another. These hard drives are just like what you’d buy from a retailer, they spin at 7200rpm, use SATA connection cables, so why not use them in a Drobo unit? Now, they are older and they may wear out soon. But that’s no trouble because the Drobo monitors the drives’ health and warns you when it’s time to replace it. Even if it fails catastrophically, the Drobo has all the files backed up on another drive inside itself, so there’s no problem. Using these drives, I can defer the cost of new drives and keep these out of the landfill for a while longer. (Yes, I will send them to the recycler when they are dead, not the landfill.)

What have you got sitting on shelves? What can you do to repurpose some of your equipment and get new life from an old investment?