I have a hard disk, but nothing to enclose it.
April 19, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find a reliable external Hard Disk enclosure.

I recently purchased a hard drive to use as a comprehensive backup for my computer (MacBook). Up until now, I have had my computer, and two external drives... one with all my music on it (and there is a lot) and one that used to have my music on it, before it got to be too small for my music (now has some assorted files on it). Those two externals are Western Digital Passports.

But at a certain point this year, I realized that I had nothing backed up anywhere, and this made me very nervous. I never bought Time Capsule, because I actually use a municipal wi-fi network where I live, and I don't have my own network. So I have a 4+ year old laptop on its last legs, and for some reason the two external drives I have now sound very "clicky" when I use them. It became clear to me that if I didn't want to lose a lifetime's worth of data, I should probably employ some kind of backup solution.

A friend of mine pointed me to a great deal on a 2 Tb hard drive:
"2TB SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive 64MB IntelliPower 3.5IN Caviar Green"
so I purchased one, but now I need some kind of enclosure to actually use it.

I've tried navigating NewEgg and TigerDirect to find an acceptable enclosure, but I either get scared off by negative reviews or get confused by the various connections that they use. I thought I wanted firewire, but is that obsolete at this point and should I move on to USB 3.0? Further, I have no idea what would be an acceptable price for what I need, or if I need a fan or not. Added to that, some folks have told me to get a dock, and dispense with an enclosure altogether. Is that a good reliable option to consider?

So... the bottom line, I guess, is: does anyone have a recommendation for a good, reliable external hard disk enclosure?

As I said: I'd be using it to back up EVERYTHING. But I will be moving in a few months, and I will most likely have a home wi-fi network in my new place (I won't count on a public network once I move) I'll be getting a new computer too (leaning heavily towards a MacBook Air, but want to wait until I can get a back-to-school deal with one.) but I'd like to make sure I have everything backed up before I make the transition from one laptop to the next.

(And a million apologies for the length. This is actually a pretty straightforward question, but I wanted to give some background about what I'd be using it for, and to anticipate questions. I do apologize, though.)
posted by indiebass to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Other World Computing. I buy all my externals/enclosures there.

Firewire is not obsolete. Even despite slower nominal speeds, Firewire is faster than USB2 (if your Macbook supports it, which it might not); USB3 is not currently supported on any Mac, so there's not much benefit to you in getting it. Apple may add USB3 at some point, but it seems like the new interface hotness at Apple is going to be Thunderbolt.
posted by adamrice at 12:45 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding OWC, as they're not only old-school and reliable, but Apple-knowledgeable.

(And some advice: don't back up everything to just one place, dude.)
posted by rokusan at 12:46 PM on April 19, 2011

Best answer: I own this one, and it does everything I want. Now I'm not using it all day every day, but it has a good transfer speed, and does its job well. The drive was actually pulled from a WD My Book once the case went screwy. USB 3.0? Maybe, this one might be the way to go for that, but adamrice makes a good point about Thunderbolt.
posted by deezil at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2011

A local backup won't mean much if there's a power surge and both devices are plugged in. Or if they get stolen together. Or if you just forget to back something up. And let's face it, manual backups suck and are easy to forget.

You want crashplan. $50 for a year of unlimited, automated, offsite backup. They even had a month-long free trial so you could test it out, but I'm not sure if they're still offering that. All you do is install their program on your computer and tell it what to back up. It just does it. If you have a lot of data your initial backup will take a long time, but from then on it's incremental - so all future backups will take much less time. I love it.

In addition to crashplan, I also back up to an external hard drive. I always just buy the cheapest enclosure and have never had an issue. Some people just get lemons (it happens for any device) and like to yell at Newegg. I'd just get the cheapest thing that will hold your drive and just run with it. Because in the end, if you're actually so worried about your data that you have to buy a better enclosure, then that external hard drive is a convenience, not a beat-all backup.

Firewire is fine, as is USB 2.0 for what you want to do. Your computer doesn't support USB 3.0. After all, I assume that you'll plug in the HD, run the backup, and go do something else, right? Both interfaces are plenty fast for this.
posted by Tehhund at 12:52 PM on April 19, 2011

Best answer: More direct: here's a $20 enclosure that has 5 eggs (stars) after 199 reviews. That is an exemplary track record. And it looks like Rosewill (which is a fairly well-known company) is responding to all the negative reviews by offering to replace failing units. The model number is RX35-AT-SU.


But like odinsdream said, backing up a lifetime of valuable data on a single external HD that can be dropped, spilled on, electrocuted, burned, or stolen is not a real backup strategy. Seriously, Crashplan (or any automated cloud backup). Look into it.
posted by Tehhund at 1:00 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I most definitely take the point: I will move towards multiple backups to avoid the "single point of failure" scenario. As I said: I'm nervous about my current situation, so I wanted to move from none to one, at least.

And yeah, my plan was to more or less do a comprehensive backup, and then back up my business maybe once a week? But otherwise keep it someplace separate and safe, and not plugged in.

But if a $20 enclosure would do it, I have no issues at least trying that one out.

Other World Computing... is this the extent of their enclosures? Or did I get bounced into some sub-section and not realize it?

And I suppose I'm still a little wary of the cloud. I'm not saying I even have anything that's going to be that sensitive, that would be disastrous if someone got into it, but I still don't trust it completely. This is totally my hang-up, which I am at least aware of. But I prefer the old brick and mortar approach to most things, I guess.
posted by indiebass at 1:21 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: Hrm... I was checking out the Rosewill enclosure mentioned above... would I have any problems because the Hard Disk was 2 Tb? Or does that not make any type of difference?

Thanks again, to everyone for all of their help. I can always count on the green!
posted by indiebass at 1:30 PM on April 19, 2011

There are a couple of reviewers that say they're using it with a 2 TB drive, so it looks like you're okay: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=17-182-156&SortField=1&SummaryType=0&Pagesize=100&PurchaseMark=&SelectedRating=-1&VideoOnlyMark=False&VendorMark=&IsFeedbackTab=true&Keywords=tb#scrollFullInfo

Quick thing to check - are you sure that your Mac supports US B 2.0? I have no idea when 2.0 support was added to Macs, so you probably want to double-check your specs before buying a USB-only enclosure.

Here's an enclosure that supports Firewire that's gotten 4 eggs on 216 reviews, which is also pretty good: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817146604 . It can't find any info on its supported drive size. If it were me, I'd assume that drive size isn't an issue in this day and age. But that's me, and I'm cavalier with purchases under $50.
posted by Tehhund at 1:42 PM on April 19, 2011

This came up before here (way back when). My comment was right in line with what you're seeing in the reviews. Over time I tried four or five different ones, each of which failed in its own unique and creative way, and concluded that the whole category was just a big mountain of suckiness.
posted by madmethods at 2:43 PM on April 19, 2011

Firewire is fine (and generally a bit better than USB). Firewire 800 is better than 400 if your macbook supports it, but really isn't that important.

Don't bother with USB 3.0 because your macbook doesn't support it.

Even the bad ones on NewEgg are probably fine.
posted by schmod at 6:48 AM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks again, to everyone who helped out. In the end, I went with the Rosewill RX35-AT-SU for $20. NewEgg says they've shipped it already, so once I get it in my hot little hands, I'll put the thing together and report back how it worked. With any luck, I'll be able to keep that 5 egg trend going! =)
posted by indiebass at 6:58 AM on April 20, 2011

Might be worth looking at jwz's public service announcement on backup, and getting a 2nd backup drive, to store in your desk at work or some other off site location.
posted by fings at 7:45 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: If anyone bothers checking in on this thread, the Rosewill arrived, installed EXTREMELY easily, and has successfully backed up a number of times already. It feels solid, and everything appears to be working as it should.

Thanks so much for the recs, for those that did. I'd recommend this thing to anyone else, too.
posted by indiebass at 12:30 PM on April 28, 2011

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