I brought home about four IDE hard disks from the US, at least one of which I hoped to use in my Xbox console if they still functioned adequately. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account that I don't have easy access to a computer capable of reading them, so I had to cobble something together.
I managed to misplace the sole 40-pin IDE cable I had left, so I asked Dad if he had one. He did one better, and brought around an old PC he had laying on the back porch that he'd been meaning to throw out - it's my problem. I fired it up and it's an old Pentium III box with Windows XP - that'd do for inspecting any of the disks that are FAT32 formatted.
Expecting to find lots of interesting old stuff, like old text files I wrote and things like that, I hooked the first hard disk up - starting from largest to smallest. Turn the machine back on and... nothing. Looks like it died? I spent about 30 minutes trying to get it to boot again, but it looks like it's given up the ghost. I'm not sure if anything on it is still worth something to retro computing collectors (old Wintel machines aren't interesting to me whatsoever) but I may just end up throwing the whole thing out after all. I took an IDE cable out of it and shifted it off the bench.
Next up I pulled out the old P4 that I removed from Grandma's house when we replaced it with a laptop, but it turns out it only has a floppy port and SATA, no IDE ports! Bummer. I eventually cobbled together another old P4, which had a dead power supply, and a FreeBSD installation on it, and used that to inspect things.
I set the machine up on the network with the disk in it, configured Samba to share /mnt with everyone, and mounted each disk in turn on it then used my laptop to have a look. I found... zip. Nothing really interesting at all on most of the disks. I did back up a couple of Python scripts I wrote that I'm not sure if I have other copies of or not, but that was it. How disappointing!
The 160GB hard disk works well (the largest disk I brought back), so I'll put it on the Xbox. The others, I might see if anyone else wants them, so I used
dd to write random bullshit over all of them. The 80GB disk took about 2 hours to scrub, and the others took less (but not as much less, considering they were slower). I don't know if there's much on there that's personal that would be interesting to anyone, but better to at least pretend I maintain some sort of opsec.
Now all I have to do is dig out the Xbox and try set up the new disk in it.