What is a Hard Disk Enclosure and how do I use one?
A hard drive enclosure (sometimes also referred to as a Hard Disk Case or Hard Disk Caddy) is simply an external case that “encloses” a hard disk drive and turns it into an external device that can then be connected to your PC via USB, Firewire or eSATA.
There are lots of external hard drive solutions on the market from companies like Maxtor, Freecom and Lacie but these “solutions” include the Hard Disk as well as the enclosure. Great if you just want to buy something off the shelf but, if you’ve got a hard disk that you’ve salvaged from an old PC then its significantly cheaper to buy a Hard Disk Enclosure and use the Hard Disk you have to create your own solution.
There is nothing intimidating about using a Hard Disk Enclosure – think of it as a “tray” that you slot the Hard Disk into (secured by a couple of screws) and with external connections that allow you to connect the enclosure to your PC. They are simple to use, great for recovering data from old Hard Drives and excellent for recycling old hard disks.
There are a few options to consider when considering a Hard Disk Enclosure:
- Hard Drive Size (physical not storage capacity): Hard Disks come in two basic sizes depending on whether they are designed to be used in a Laptop of Desktop (Tower) PC. A Laptop Hard Drive is described as a 2.5” Hard Disk whereas the Hard Disk from a Desktop PC is 3.5”
- Interface: Most new Hard Disks are now SATA (Serial-ATA) disks but if you are looking to use a hard disk salvaged from an old PC its probably going to have an IDE interface (also described as ATA or PATA). The IDE interface is pretty easy to distinguish as it has 2 rows of 22 Pins along the connection interface. A SATA Hard Disk will have to simple plastic looking connectors
- Connection Type: USB & Firewire connections are the most common ways to connect a Hard Disk Case to your PC or Mac some newer cases also have eSATA as an option. Your choice of connection will often be dependant on the computer/devices you want to use your hard drive with and if you’re not sure you can buy cases with multiple interface options but bear in mind these will cost more than say an enclosure that only connects via USB.
- Number of Bays: Single and dual bay enclosures are available. A dual bay enclosure can take two Hard Disks and some support RAID so both hard disks can be set up to appear as a single drive or support “virtual back-up” options across both Hard Drives. With any hard drive, whatever the protocol, you also need to consider exactly what you are going to use it for, and consider these four attributes:
If you need any advice on choosing the right Hard Disk Enclosure then feel free to contact the team at USBNow