Using an external hard drive is a great way to back up what’s most important to you while retaining full access to your data. They're a good way to augment your existinginternal drive storage, and they provide a more immediately-accessible backup solution to eventhe best cloud backup services. But you don’t necessarily need to buy a pre-built external drive. If you have an old hard drive lying around, sticking it in an enclosure can give you a new external drive at a fraction of the cost.
These are our favorites, from fantastic USB-C enclosures like the Ineo Shockproof enclosure to the Rosewill RX-358 with its fantastic fan cooling system. There’s something for everyone here.
Ineo Shockproof hard drive enclosure
Best all-around hard drive encloser
- USB-C connections for modern stations
- Extra drive protection
- Sturdy design
- Not suitable for USB-A connections
Why you should buy this: The Ineo Shockproof external hard drive enclosure comes with a rugged case design and support for modern USB-C connections.
Who’s it for: Laptop and desktop owners who need a durable and sturdy 2.5-inch form factor.
Why we picked the Ineo Shockproof external hard drive enclosure:
USB-C connections are commonplace on modern laptops and are beginning to appear on desktops, too. But most hard drive enclosures still only use USB-A. Not so with the Ineo 2.5-inch enclosure, which sports not only a USB-C 3.1 connection but a supremely protective chassis, too. The enclosure has a rubberized exterior band to help protect against drop damage, and it's entirely waterproof. This ensures it can get through the toughest of situations.
The Ineo Shockproof enclosure is only compatible with 2.5-inch drives, but that means it can do away with any need for external power. It's compatible with major consoles, Windows PCs, and MacOS.
Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure
Best 3.5-inch enclosure
- Mesh design for better cooling
- An option for those with 3.5-inch drives
- Easy to install drives
- Only support for USB 3.0
Why you should buy this: The Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure comes with a unique mesh design to prevent overheating and the added benefit of no extra noise being generated.
Who’s it for: Home and office users needing extra storage on a traditional 3.5-inch drive form factor.
Why we picked the Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure with mesh case:
A 3.5-inch drive needs more than a 2.5-inch drive. It needs more power and more space, which in turn can lead to more heat buildup. That's what makes the Inateck enclosure perfect for our needs. It accommodates drives up to 10TB in the 3.5-inches size, and its external power cable means that it can power them, too. To prevent overheating, one side is entirely mesh-covered, helping to circulate air across the drive, but without the added noise or point of failure of an active fan.
The Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure only supports USB 3.0, so it isn't the fastest enclosure around. But it should be quick enough for most needs.
Mediasonic Raid 4-bay (USB-C)
Best multi-drive enclosure
- Network enclosure for up to four drives
- Hardware embedded raid controller
- Builf in USB hub
- Not often used outside the office or studio
Why you should buy this: The Mediasonic Raid 4-bay is a network drive that supports a maximum of four drives for all your storage needs.
Who’s it for: Office users and creative professionals needing a robust data archiving solution.
Why we picked the Mediasonic Raid 4-bay:
You might run into a situation where you're working with more than one hard drive that you’d like to put into external drives. Whenever that’s the case, it makes sense to get one large external drive for all of them. This model can support a maximum of four 3.5-inch SATA drives, up to 16TB per drive, or 2.5-inch SSDs up to 12TB per drive. It also includes a built-in Raid controller that provides six configuration variations. Both USB-C and USB-A 3.1 will operate well with this enclosure, making it great for a wide selection of drives.
It also features complete support for UASP for an accelerated transfer between the SATA and USB mediums. Moreover, it comes with an active cooling fan with SMART temperature tracking. This helps to ensure that it only starts when it’s essential to cool the drives down if they start to get too hot.
Installation is simple and almost effortless, all because of a quick-slot device at the Mediasonic’s back, with synchronization between your PC and the enclosure, ensuring that the drives never operate longer than needed. Each of these valuable features makes it an excellent option for those with a modestly-sized office or a bustling studio. However, we must point out that the process is a tad more involved than the standard PC build's method — and it's also higher-priced.
OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID 5 4-Bay External Storage
Best enclosure for media servers
- Can be connected into large arrays via Thunderbolt
- Includes software for creating, monitoring, and managing advanced RAID sets
- Works with 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives
- Primarily for large media servers and professional photo/video businesses
Why you should buy this: The OWC ThunderBay 4 can accommodate four drives, but the Thunderbolt connection allows up to six ThunderBay 4 enclosures to be daisy-chained together to house a total of 24 SSDs or HDDs!
Who’s it for: Videographers, photographers, and creative professionals with robust storage needs.
Why we picked the OWC ThunderBay 4:
OWC's ThunderBay 4 is designed to house your biggest data files. Even though each unit supports up to four hard drives, the inclusion of dual Thunderbolt 3 ports on each ThunderBay 4 means that you can daisy-chain multiple enclosures today for massive amounts of storage. When maxed out, that means you can max out your storage needs with up to 24 drives spread across six ThunderBay 4 units. This is a great storage solution for videographers, photographers, or those wishing to run their own media server.
Each drive slot on the ThunderBay 4 can accommodate either a 2.5- or 3.5-inch HDD or SSD, and the unit is RAID compatible. The drives are hot-swappable, and you can mix and match a variety of drives and formats for even greater versatility. Everything is housed in a simple black aluminum housing to keep things professional. A quiet fan keeps everything running smoothly inside, and the metal construction not only looks premium but also helps to dissipate heat.
Inatech RGB Hard Drive Docking Station
Best enclosure for both SSD and HDD
- Supports SSDs and HDDs
- RGB indicators
- Two bays avaialble
- May be more than what some PC users need
Why you should buy this: The Inatech RGB Hard Drive Docking Station is a hub designed to transfer data or back up information between various internal drives without requiring a drive enclosure for each drive.
Who’s it for: Advanced PC users and SMB IT managers who need to clone drives.
Why we picked the Inatech RGB Hard Drive Docking Station:
If you have a home battlestation, something like the Mediasonic bay is probably too complex for your needs, but you may still want to juggle multiple hard drives, especially if you are in the process of upgrading or just have a lot of data to handle. This Inateck dock is an ideal solution, with slots for 2.5- and 3.5-inch SSDs or HDDs. It supports the UASP transfer protocol and enables offline cloning for rapid backups (with LED indicators to help chart progress).
The Inateck docking station also has RGB LEDs to add a little color to the proceedings. When a drive is busy, the lights will use a flash effect to show data is being transferred. When the dock goes to sleep after a period without use, it switches to a slow "breathing" effect instead.
OWC Envoy Express
Best portable enclosure
- Extremley portable
- Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
- Includes mounting system
- Made for laptops on the go, not desktops
Why you should buy this: The OWC Envoy Express is the world's first external Thunderbolt 3 drive enclosure designed for mobile.
Who’s it for: Any Mac or PC user with a Thunderbolt 3 port.
Why we picked the OWC Envoy Express:
Billed as the world's first Thunderbolt certified bus-powered portable hard drive enclosure, OWC's Envoy Express relies on a Thunderbolt 3 connection to deliver blazing fast speeds. It's still not as good as newer Thunderbolt 4 drives, but it gets the job done. With an NVMe M.2 solid-state added to the interior, OWC boasts that the Envoy Express can deliver up to 300% faster speeds than the fastest USB 3.0 options.
Available in a compact all-aluminum package that is shorter than a ballpoint pen and weighs just 3.3 ounces with a hard drive mounted inside, the Envoy Express is a versatile travel companion designed for road warriors to augment their storage needs. Useful for creative professionals working with large files, the Envoy Express supports real-world speeds as fast as 1553MB per second with M.2 drives of any size. If you're looking to use the OWC Envoy Express in the field, be sure to find a more rugged SSD to put inside the enclosure. The Envoy Express will work with both Mac and Windows systems.
Asus ROG Strix Arion
Best gaming enclosure
- RGB lighting
- Two types of cables included
- Aluminum enclosure
- Works best with other Asus devices for RGB syncing
Why you should buy this: The Asus ROG Strix Arion M.2 SSD Enclosure is designed for fast gaming performance and comes with the company's signature design to complement ROG laptops and desktops.
Who’s it for: Gamers who want an external SSD with RGB lights that can sync with their rigs.
Why we picked the Asus ROG Strix Arion M.2 SSD Enclosure:
Unlike the other subdued SSD enclosures on our list, the ROG Strip Arion comes blazing with all of its RGB glory. Designed for mobile gamers, the ROG Strip Arion M.2 comes with a number of nice features, including a solidly built aluminum alloy case that helps dissipate heat and support for M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state storage in 2230, 2242, 2260, or 2280 form factors.
When paired with an Asus gaming rig, the ROG Strip Arion benefits from the company's Aura Sync lighting effects with the built-in RGB lighting. The drive relies on the USB 3.2 Gen 2x1 for data transfer, and you can connect the external SSD to your laptop via a USB-C cable for speeds up to 10GB per second, according to the company.
If you're looking to buy an external hard drive that doesn't need a separate enclosure, we suggest you take a look at our guide on how to choose an external hard drive.
Orico M.2 SSD Enclosure
Best compact enclosure
- Excellent aluminum and RGB design
- Data supports Trimp, UASP, and Smart
- Cables for both USB-C and USB-A
- Only made for select M.2 SSD models
Why you should buy this: This RGB case is perfect for M.2 SSDs.
Who’s it for: Those who recently upgraded to an external M2. SSD and want an enclosure that enables the best options for it.
Why we picked the Orico M.2 SSD Enclosure:
If you have an M.2 SSD that you’d like to use externally, you’ll want an enclosure that’s made just for it – and this Orico model has a lot to like. The design is as sturdy as it looks, with an aluminum alloy cooling vest, heat-dissipating silicone, and a striped aluminum alloy shell. And let’s not overlook the RGB lighting, which slowly shifts in standby and flashes when reading and writing.
But the physical design is only part of this tool-free enclosure’s appeal. The NVMe adapter has a USB 3.2 Gen 2 data bridge supporting Trim, UASP, and Smart protocols, along with cables for both USB-C to USB-C, and USB-A to USB-C. Just make sure to double-check your SSD model size first, as the enclosure is made specifically for 2230/2242/2260/2280 types.
Amazon Basics 3.5-inch SATA HDD Hard Drive Enclosure
Best HDD enclosure
- One year warranty
- Fits SATA I, SATA II, and SATA III HDDs
- Uses USB 3.0 connectivity
- Bigger and bulkier than most other options, needs external power
Why you should buy this: The Amazon Basics 3.5-inch SATA HDD Hard Drive Enclosure is designed for larger and legacy 3.5-inch SATA HDD drives that need extra power.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to connect a legacy hard drive to a PC and get USB 3.0 speeds.
Why we picked the Amazon Basics 3.5-inch SATA HDD Hard Drive Enclosure:
This Amazon Basics 3.5-inch enclosure is pretty basic, but it's sturdy, supports any 3.5-inch drive you have handy, and it's pretty affordable too. It has full support for SATA I, II, and III drives, so if you're trying to plug in something older, it shouldn't have any issue with it.
Any drive plugged into the enclosure is also hot-swappable. Plus, Plug and Play installation means no drivers are needed. The tool-free design where no hardware is needed for installing an HDD also makes this a good choice for novice users, and it has a little LED indicator light so you'll always know when it's working.
ORICO M.2 SSD enclosure (USB4)
Best USB4 enclosure
- USB4 support
- Durable aluminum body
- Supports a smart sleep mode
Why you should buy this: It offers the latest USB4 connectivity.
Who’s it for: Those who want the latest USB standards, those converting an internal SSD to an external model.
Why we picked the ORICO M.2 SSD enclosure (USB4):
Our first Orico pick is an excellent compact desktop model, but if you want an enclosure that ready for the latest USB standards, you’ll want a model that supports USB-C with USB4 data capabilities. This alternative Orico enclosure supports USB4 and Thunderbolt 3 for M.2 SSDs. It’s an ideal choice if you want to convert a new internal SSD to an external version without losing benefits. It supports UASP, TRIM, and SMART software, and comes with smart sleep capabilities.
This Orico model also includes a full aluminum design with a built-in cooling vest to help conduct heat. Just like our earlier Orico pick, it’s a very durable enclosure that works well as a desktop companion. An LED light on top provides status indications, too. It also comes with an adapter cable that can handle USB-C or USB-A connections. However, it’s nearly as expensive as a capable SSD itself, so you’ll have to dig into your wallet if you want it.
Frequently Asked Questions
They allow you to use an internal hard drive more like an independent external drive. This allows you to position the drive wherever you would like, as well as open the door to multiple storage drive setups even if your PC case doesn’t have the necessary room. Moving the drive outside of the PC helps reduce heat build-up in the computer, too, and certain enclosures can also make swapping drives much easier. If you have a laptop or desktop with a smaller capacity drive, you can save money by upgrading your internal drive and then moving the internal drive into an external drive enclosure. These enclosures will work with both spinning hard disk drives as well as solid-state drives. Opting for a solid-state drive will give you more durability, as there will be fewer moving parts to break. If you need help choosing an SSD, be sure to check out our SSD buying guide.
This can vary considerably: Plastic and aluminum are common choices for primary materials. Other metals like durable steel may be used. It’s important that the enclosure enables effective heat dissipation no matter what it is made of, but it should be durable enough to protect the drive from accidental knocks or spills. More durable external hard drive enclosures may come with rubber bumpers or rubber gaskets to protect the internal drive, and less mobile enclosures intended for in-home use will likely have fans and active cooling systems.
Well, your PC case is a type of hard drive enclosure itself, and it’s safe to use. The important question is if the external enclosure has the right features to protect the drive on its own. Note that many of our picks have durable materials, cooling systems, and indicator lights that all help with hard drive management. Cheap materials, or poor designs that build heat instead of helping it dissipate, can be bad news for your drive — focus on quality first.
If you are using an internal drive, one without its own protective casing, then your drive will need some kind of protection when using it externally. This will also help with drive connections and management.
First, you’ll want to look for an enclosure that will work with the type and disk interface standard of drive you’ll be using — if you have a PCIe M.2 drive, you wouldn’t want an enclosure that will exclusively work with a 3.5-inch hard drive, for example. Next, you need to decide how you’ll want to connect your drive to your computer. If your laptop or desktop comes with a variety of ports, this should be easy, but if you have a MacBook Pro with USB-C ports, opting for an enclosure that works only with USB-A won’t work unless you’re willing to carry extra docks or adapters.
You’ll also need to choose an enclosure that delivers the speeds needed to take advantage of your drive’s transfer rates. An enclosure with older electronics may become the bottleneck if you’re looking at moving large files, so you’ll want one that delivers speeds just as fast as what your drive can handle. Next, you’ll want to check to see if the enclosure you use has any capacity limitations. And finally, if you’re looking at mobility applications, you may need to balance several competing factors, including size and weight, ruggedness for durability, and cooling to help protect the drive. Regardless of which enclosure you end up choosing, always remember to back up frequently.
Keep in mind, these separate enclosures aren't the same thing as the hard drives inside. If a drive fails, you can take it out and replace it with a new one (hopefully with a backup of your data, too). Enclosures themselves don't have many moving parts or the same storage demands of a hard drive, so they can often outlast even SSDs, which can work for over five years with proper care. But you may start running into issues like the need to upgrade supported connections, say from USB 3 to USB4.
If it's an SSD enclosure, typically the heat dissipation built into the enclosure will be sufficient to prevent overheating. A fan isn't usually needed here. But if you are dealing with an HDD, which can generate more heat, you may want an enclosure with a fan, especially if you are using a multi-bay enclosure.
In some situations, yes. If you are switching to a significantly different type of connection on your hard drive enclosure, it may affect speeds. Converting an internal hard drive to an external model may also involve switching the drivers it uses, which may affect transfer speeds. As long as you focus on using the most advanced connection options the drive supports, you shouldn't notice much difference.
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