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What Can You Do with Your Extra Hard Drives?

One of the issues that comes up when you move from one computer to another is deciding what to do with the old one. For many people, the real value is not in the computer itself so much as the data stored on the hard disk. Luckily, there are ways to access disks even if the computer no longer works.

What is a Hard Drive Enclosure?

The basic idea behind a hard drive enclosure is that its a protective case that can hold an existing hard drive and then connect it externally to your computer. Its basically a do-it-yourself external hard drive. The biggest thing to remember when dealing with an enclosure is that you need to worry about two interfaces, not just one:

  • Internal Interface: The internal interface connects the hard drive to the enclosure. In most cases this is a SATA connection so that you can use standard 2.5-inch SATA laptop hard drives.
  • External Interface: The external interface connects your enclosure to the computer and is usually some form of USB connection although eSATA and Thunderbolt are also options for your HDD enclosure.

Why USB 3.0?

The most important question for any computer accessory is whether it will work with your computer. Everything else is secondary to that overriding concern whether youre considering a hard drive enclosure, a printer, or something completely different. In most cases, that means going with USB in general, and whats commonly called USB 3.0 in particular, for a number of reasons:

  • Transfer Rate: USB 2.0 (High Speed USB) offered a theoretical maximum of 480 Mbps, which worked out to somewhere between 30 and 40 MB per second. SuperSpeed USB, or USB 3.0 allows for transfer rates of up to 5 Gbps, or a practical transfer rate of 300 MB per second.
  • Compatibility: All USB implementations are backwards compatible. You can plug a USB 3.0 external enclosure into a USB 1.1 port and it will still work, albeit much more slowly. Going up to 3.0 lets you run many SATA HDDs at full speed.

Using a Hard Drive Enclosure

Whether you have the latest Type-C ports, or a standard Type-A port, many enclosures are just plug and play. All you have to do is plug in your external hard drive and you have immediate high speed access to all your data without the need to open the system up and transfer your hard drive from one to another. In an era when many peoples data greatly outlasts any single computer its helpful to be able to access your original drive without worrying if the computer will still boot or not.