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How to turn SD and Compact Flash into Hard Disk for old computers and musical instruments

Come trasformare SD e CompactFlash in dischi rigidi per vecchi computer

If you have a old computer (Mac or PC, Amiga) or a musical instrument (keyboards, arranger, sequencer) with broken hard disk or not capable of supporting large hard disks or SSD drives, you can give the device new life by taking advantage of an adapter that allows you to use or reuse them SD type flash memories or CompactFlash instead of a hard disk that has an IDE or SCSI connection and which is complicated to find nowadays not used.

There are various types of adapters that bring SD and Compact Flash instead of an old hard disk but they are all similar, very cheap and very simple to exploit.

Before ordering any new interface, be sure to count the pins available on the connector that you have "freed" from the connection cable or check the specifications of your computer. Depending on the pins and the protocol you will have different types of standards: IDE (or P-ATA or Parallel ATA), SCSI, and on recent S-ATA or serial ATA disks. Obviously being the recent SATA interface and with many HD available in both SSD and traditional versions, please refer to our article on SSDs.

IDE adapters – Compact Flash or SD

In a nutshell, there are electronic cards that offer on one side the connection for the IDE interface (typical of old generation hard drives) and on the other side the connection with a socket where to place the memory card; the card controlled by a chip-controller which manages the data flow for reading and writing.

How to turn SD and CompactFlash into hard drive for an old computer

Above, a model available on Amazon for around 16 Euros which has the form factor of a 2.5 ″ Hard Disk and works on "clamshell" iBooks or other period laptops.

With a few tens of euros you have the opportunity to take advantage of SD or CompactFlash memory cards, very comfortable because they are also available in "cuts" of 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and even much larger cuts, useful as long as they are supported by the PC / Mac that will host the card.

The oldPowerMac G3 they do not support disks larger than 128GB as standard (they do not recognize the extra space even if the problem can be circumvented with third-party drivers); the old PowerMac G4 instead they support larger disks but only if started with MacOS X 10.2 or higher. If you want to install a disk / CF of this type on a Mac 6500 on a 20th Anniversary Mac you must create an 8 GB partition and install the operating system in that and use the rest as storage space.

The discussion on PC is more complex: it is necessary to check the specifications of the motherboard manufacturer and well that the BIOS is also updated to have compatibility with large "cuts" disks.

How to turn SD and CompactFlash into hard drive for an old computer

For keyboards, sequencers and samplers it is necessary to check the instructions of the single product.

What is the advantage over traditional hard drives?

Taking advantage of an SD or CompactFlash flash memory instead of the hard disk has the advantage of allowing low-cost operation; in terms of speed, the bottleneck represented by the interface: ATA / 33 and Ultra ATA / 66 but also ATA / 100 do not allow to obtain great speeds in terms of MB / per second but in any case the memories in question are more faster than the old mechanical disks because they work with mechanisms similar to those exploited by the SSD units.

How to turn SD and CompactFlash into hard drives for old computersATA connector

At this address an example of adapter from CompactFlash to IDE (photo below) from the cost of about 16 Euros to which to add a Compact Flash with prices ranging from 12 to 50 euros depending on the size. The adapter is compatible with 2.5 ″ (for laptops) and 3.5 ″ (desktop) connections and has both a 44-pin IDE connector and a 40-pin IDE connector.

How to turn SD and CompactFlash into hard drives for old computers

At this address, find a SD Card to IDE adapter. They are both products with a good price / performance ratio, useful for revitalizing old PCs, Macs, Amigas, laptops and other devices that still used the IDE / ATA attack. With other adapters (those for example that allow you to use only 44-pin connectors) you can take advantage of an adapter like this to connect a 2.5 ″ Hard Disk to a 40-pin IDE Standard connection cable (the power cable to the hard disk from 2.5 ″ integrated).How to turn SD and CompactFlash into hard drives for old computers

Also SCSI and from S-ATA to P-ATA

For some of the older Macs there is also the possibility of installing a SCSI adapter; unfortunately the prices are higher due to the lower production competition. At this address you will find adapters for transforming memory cards into SCSI disks. There are those who managed to mount it on a Macintosh SE.

How to turn SD and CompactFlash into hard drives for old computers

Finally remember that there are also adapters from Serial ATA to IDE (P-ATA or Parallel ATA), useful for connecting peripherals with S-ATA interface to a Mainboard with Parallel-ATA interface and ATA controller, useful for using new generation disks on old computers; this, for example, at the time of writing costs € 9.72 and is mainly designed for desktop computers.

And you? Have you used them for some vintage or retrocomputing projects? We are curious to know!

On macitynet you will find hundreds of tutorials and guides for the Mac world. Start from this page.