Reader Fred wants to know if a laptop hard drive can be plugged into a desktop PC. "The pin out appears to be the same," he notes, "but there is no separate power-supply connector."
Short answer: yes. Long answer: it depends on a few things. For starters, Fred, you neglected to tell me what kind of drive it is--IDE or SATA--or what kinds of drive(s) you have in your desktop.
However, you did give me a clue. Because there's "no separate power-supply connector," that means it's most likely a 2.5-inch IDE drive. (Newer SATA drives for laptops have the same interface and power connectors as their larger desktop counterparts.)
If I'm right, you can use your laptop drive inside your desktop--but you'll need an adapter. Fortunately, they're cheap; Newegg, for example, has the Rosewill RCW-616 Laptop 2.5" to Desktop 3.5" IDE Hard Drive Adapter Converter for just $4.99 shipped. It includes the necessary Molex adapter for connecting to your desktop power supply.
However, your desktop might not have a drive bay that can accommodate a 2.5-inch drive. If that's the case, there are adapters available.
On the other hand, consider an easier and more versatile solution: an enclosure that turns your old internal laptop drive into an external USB drive. That not only saves you from having to tinker around inside your desktop, but also gives you a drive you can easily use with multiple PCs.
Want to know more? I've covered this topic before in Recycle an Old Laptop Hard Drive.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.