Hard Drive Enclosures

I was speaking to a young chap last week who had been saving up for an external hard drive. He’d filled up his Dads laptop with an entire library of music and desperately didn’t want to delete it but at the same time the machine was unusable due to a lack of space. Rather than pushing him down the route of a £70 external hard drive we suggested opting for a hard drive enclosure for £6.50 then reusing the drive from his old computer which was about to be consigned to the scrap heap.

External hard drives are a big market but in many situations they are redundant; most users will have purchased more than one computer and chances are that when it has come to the end of its useful life it would be considered close to worthless. Most charity shops won’t even take old machines anymore as health and safety regulations mean it’s often impossible to sell them on without the appropriate paperwork. Although it is possible to thoroughly and securely wipe the data off an old hard drive, the number of horror stories that you hear means that such a large number of drives reach the end of their life by having a 10mm drill bit put through them.

Rather than destroying your old drive, why not put it to good use by popping it in to an enclosure. Not only will you have instantly given yourself a new external hard drive but it will already be filled with your old files which you can sort and keep if they’re still needed. If not simply wipe them off and start again using the drive instead as either auxiliary storage (especially useful in the case of a laptop computer), a data transfer device or a backup drive.

There are a few points that you need to consider when purchasing an enclosure:

Size – Old laptop hard drives tend to measure 2.5” whereas their desktop equivalents tend to be 3.5” in size and it is of course important that you get the correct enclosure for your particular drive. Not only will you not physically fit a 3.5” drive in a 2.5” enclosure, but a 3.5” drive requires a separate power supply whereas the smaller 2.5” models can usually draw sufficient power from the USB port.

Hard Drive Interface – Your hard drive would have previously connected to the computer via an IDE or a SATA interface - this is primarily determined by the age of the device. Newer drives tend to be of a SATA design but if you are recuing a drive from an older machine it is more likely to have an IDE connection. The two are quite distinctly different and as such identification shouldn’t be a problem; IDE connectors are fairly long with 39 pins (one pin in the middle of the connector is absent to ensure the cable is connected correctly) whereas SATA connections constitute a small 7 pin port with a right angle at one end.

Interface with the Computer – Most enclosures tend to utilise a USB 2.0 interface and in the majority of circumstances this would be the most appropriate method of connecting it to your PC. Try to avoid older USB 1.1 devices which look identical but will perform significantly slower. Also, check to see if your computer supports either Firewire or eSATA as, if appropriate, these may offer faster data transfer speeds between your machine and external drive.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.