amateur hard drive swap, or road to sorrow?
June 2, 2007 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Can/should I re-use the enclosure for a hard drive I have outgrown as a housing for a new hard drive, or should I just buy new? Either way, what should I be buying?

I have a MacBook, and I need more storage (looking for 500GB to 1TB). I have a credit with the Apple Store, and I had been thinking about the 500 GB G-Drive. Call me flighty, but its most recent review was negative, and I got a little spooked. I searched the various older posts on the green, and nothing quite addressed this situation. I would be using the drive for backup and storage of media files.

Then I got to thinking, why buy a pre-made unit, when I have a perfectly usable enclosure with a too-small hard drive in it? The enclosure was for a firewire LaCie Studio Drive (circa 2002). The drive inside is an 80GB IBM Deskstar Ultra ATA/100 EIDE drive. The G-Drive would have been $300 at Apple. A 500 GB Seagate drive is just $125 or so at

I am comfortable with a simple swap and setting jumpers etc. What I don't know is:

1) whether ultra ATA / EIDE is a current technology or some relic that I should avoid;

2) what the difference is, if any, between EIDE and IDE and whether they are compatible etc.;

3) if I just add my own drive, what drives are good/bad? Is Seagate OK?;

4) would it be better to start fresh (i.e., not with a 5 year old enclosure)? If so, what enclosures would be good? USB 2 might be preferable, as I would like to set it up with one of the new airport base stations that allow a networked drive via USB 2.

5) is this just a dumb idea?

Thanks in advance.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a perfectly good idea. The only downside is that ATA is, as you surmise, mildly obsolete. The current typical drive standard is SATA (uses skinny serial cables instead of ATA's wide ribbon cables). But ATA hasn't disappeared from the market yet.

But if you don't need the fastest data transfer rates, and if the enclosure you have doesn't have any other faults that are worth spending money to get rid of, then swapping out the drive but keeping the old enclosure is a reasonable thing to do.
posted by hattifattener at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2007

Definitely get the replacement drive for your current enclosure. Make sure you get a 7200RPM one. You'll notice the difference at 5400.
posted by mkultra at 2:00 PM on June 2, 2007

The only reason to buy a new enclosure is if you want to keep using the old drive.
posted by grouse at 2:00 PM on June 2, 2007

serious concern: the firewire bridgeboard in your old enclosure may not support drives > 128GB, you absolutely must check first.

a new enclosure won't be more than ~$30, just check what is most popular at newegg.
posted by dorian at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2007

also, I personally prefer samsung over seagate, for noise and heat concerns. but you can't go wrong either with seagate, anything new of theirs with the 5 year warranty and a large cache (8 or 16 mb) will be super.
posted by dorian at 2:08 PM on June 2, 2007

Work buys my computers, so I keep buying new external USB drives for personal storage. You may or may not be able to upgrade the drive in your enclosure, you have no idea what sort of ATA to Firewire board is in there. I just wait for sales, I just bought a 750GB USB2 external for $199. It's large enough to keep another copy of my older drives and still have 1/2 the space left for new stuff. In another year or two a 2TB drive will cost the same.

Unless you're really geeky, or ready to build your own NAS device with known components... I doubt it's worth the effort to determine what sort of drive your old enclosure can support.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:28 PM on June 2, 2007

Thanks to all for your advice. I was not sure about the bridgeboard, so I think I will just get a new enclosure, which means I will take the modern route of a SATA drive (probably the 500GB Samsung that is top ranked by a mile on Newegg).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:02 AM on June 4, 2007

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