I just wanna buy the drives naked and have one adapter to rule them all
September 7, 2008 10:19 AM   Subscribe

What is the best solution for having a whole bunch of hard drives and being able to easily swap them around?

I find myself with more and more hard drives, and right now I have a 2.5" and a 3.5" enclosure that require a lot of screwdriver action to swap the hard drives out.
My ideal solution: bus powered, supports any size of 2.5 or 3.5", and easy to swap the drives.
I've seen things where you stick the HDD in like a nintendo cartridge but I understand that more capacious hard drives may take up more physical space and maybe not all drives would fit inside.
I've also seen cheap USB 2.0 to SATA cable adapters on newegg where the drive just connects and sits there with no enclosure around it but they are low priced and perhaps low on reliability, and I don't know if I should be worried about having an exposed hard drive. Maybe I would need some kind of snap case to go with that option.
posted by GleepGlop to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The usual term for these things is 'hot swap'. What about something like this. (others in this search)
posted by chrisamiller at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2008

USB enclosures are dirt cheap. Retailers on eBay seem to sell them for less than $15 shipped...

So, your cheapest, easiest option is to put every drive you have into an enclosure and then swap as you please.

Hot swap enclosures like the one chrisamiller links to are fine too, but there you're limited to a single drive in use at any given time.

I had a stack of 250gb IDE drives laying around, so I bought one of the four-drive USB enclosures from newegg. Not cheap, but hey, what else are you doing to do with four 250gb IDE drives?
posted by wfrgms at 10:41 AM on September 7, 2008

I've just got a hot-swap mobile rack that goes in one of the 5.25in slots. There's one that supports both 3.5in and 2.5in drives, though it's EIDE/PATA only. If you're in SATA-land, that docking station is a better option.
posted by holgate at 10:47 AM on September 7, 2008

I have one of the cable adapters you speak of above in your question. It supports 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives, IDE and SATA. It's awesome. Super flexible, easy to use, and in my experience, very reliable, and inexpensive.
posted by karizma at 10:57 AM on September 7, 2008

Do without the enclosure and use a universal drive adapter.
posted by pmbuko at 1:17 PM on September 7, 2008

Coolgear and MacGurus both sell SATA drive enclosures with a removable tray system. The Coolgear one is USB 2.0 and eSATA, and MacGurus has one that's eSATA and one that's USB 2.0 and Firewire 800.

The Coolgear one is about a quarter of the price of the MacGurus one. Both of them require dedicated power, and you'd have to get a bunch of extra trays (one for each drive). Also looks like these are only available for 3.5" SATA drives.

Coolgear SS-302i
MacGurus eSATA enclosure
MacGurus USB 2.0/Firewire 800 enclosure
posted by DLWM at 1:18 PM on September 7, 2008

The best solution might be to consider why you are accumulating so many hard drives you want to swap around, and look for a better option. It's probably time to scale up to something more... scalable.
posted by TravellingDen at 5:13 PM on September 7, 2008

I use an eSATA dock (it also has a powered USB hub and memory card reader), which operates like a toaster for HDDs, they just slot into the top, mostly sticking out. Takes 3.5" and 2.5" drives. There is no tray, the drive sticks in naked. Works great as SATA is hot swappable, and is just as fast as an internal drive thanks to the eSATA connection - but of course your computer would need to support it to benefit from that connection.

I got this one from Brando:

But I've seen a bunch of others since ordering it.
posted by The Monkey at 8:34 PM on September 7, 2008

Drobo will not work here, since it requires the reformatting of all drives with its own special sauce, and you will not be able to use and hotswap them individually. (It's also pretty expensive.)
posted by qvtqht at 5:16 AM on September 9, 2008

The Monkey: That toaster thing is frigging awesome! And looks like the closest thing to what GleepGlop is looking for. I've never seen them before but what a great idea! (For those of us who manhandle our drives and have them lying around naked, that is.)
posted by DLWM at 5:47 AM on September 10, 2008

This is my planned solution -- SATA to eSATA bracket for the machines without native eSATA ports; eSATA cradle for the drive. Can swap drives in and out of the cradle; can move the cradle from machine to machine.

This one's like The Monkey's Brando thingie, but without the USB/card reader stuff.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2008

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