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. 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 theto the with its fantastic fan cooling system. There’s something for everyone here.
- Ineo Shockproof external hard drive enclosure
- Orico USB 3.0 2.5-inch enclosure
- Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure with mesh case
- Rosewill RX-358 V2
- Mediasonic Raid 4-bay
- Icy Box RGB Enclosure
- Inatech RGB Hard Drive Docking Station
USB-C connections are commonplace on modern laptops and are beginning to appear on desktop chassis, 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.
Theis 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.
Orico’s 2.5-inch hard drive enclosure might not be bristling with features, but it is dirt cheap and is impressively easy to install new drives in. With a tool-less slide mechanism for access, a built-in anti-shock pad, and a brushed aluminum casing, it looks reasonably good and offers a modicum of protection for your drive.
Theis limited to 2.5-inch hard drives and solid-state drives, so your old 3.5-inch HDD won’t fit, but for sleeker, modern drives, it’s an incredibly affordable way to give your older drive a new lease of life as an external storage device.
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 cooling air across the drive, but without the added noise or point of failure of an active fan.
Theonly supports USB 3.0, so it isn’t the fastest enclosure around. But it should be quick enough for most needs.
If you are worried about the life of your hard drive inside its new home, then an active cooling fan can make sure that it stays at safe operating temperatures at all times. Hard drives don’t typically overheat unless given very little breathing room, but an active cooling fan can guarantee that does not happen, and this compact 80mm version is ideal for saving on space.
The Rosewill RX-358 V2 supports 3.5-inch drives up to 3TB per bay and has outputs to both USB 3.0 and eSATA (although that’s a rather dead standard) with UASP support for faster data transfer.
It’s much more expensive than most of the other enclosures on this list, but the Rosewill RX-358 V2 comes with more for the money, so you get what you pay for.
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.
If your hard drive needs are relatively simple but you’re looking for a beautiful RGB enclosure that will match the style your setup already has, we recommend this Icy Box option. It’s designed to house a 2.5-inch HDD or SSD with a USB-C 3.1 connection. That makes this a great option for small, speedy SSDs that you’d rather keep out in the open to encourage heat dissipation.
The enclosure sports eight LEDs with an integrated switch to turn the pulsating color mode on or off. That complements the durable aluminum frame, which drives slip in and out of easily without any screw connections to worry about. The Icy Box enclosure will help keep your drive safe while supporting a high-speed data connection for your most important content.
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 3.5- 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).
Thealso 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.
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