External USB CDRW, DVDRW,
Removable mass storage...
Externally connected, easily
removable, easily transportable mass storage has long been
popular among advanced computer users. Now that USB 2.0
has arrived and become reliable, external CDRW, DVDRW, and
hard drives are easy enough to use for anyone.
And, like all else with computers when it finally catches on,
prices have plummeted.
USB or Firewire 5.25” Drive Enclosures
We recently (Winter, 2004) had occasion to work with some external
USB 5.25” drive enclosures. The principle behind these useful
little products is simple enough- a small, self-contained case
houses the electronics required to convert an IDE hard drive or
ATAPI CD/DVD device to work through a USB or Firewire connection.
There’s space inside for the drive itself, so you wind up with a
portable, compact, externally connected mass storage system- one
that can be moved among machines with ease.
with hard drive rack installed; Maxtor, fitted with a much larger
hard drive than came with it; Mad Dog, with a DVDRW in place of
the original CDRW. For all-purpose enclosures, we like units
from Belkin or ADS Technology.
The enclosures, once only available from esoteric sources, have
become, if not mainstream, at least fairly common. You no longer
have to go online to get one; they’re sold at places like CompUSA,
at prices that range between fifty and one hundred dollars.
Aside from the enclosure kits, they can also be obtained as part
of an external hard drive, CD, or DVD package. Many of these (but
not all) can be disassembled and adapted to suit your purposes.
Since the interface is standard, you’d expect them all to be about
the same, differing mainly in the type of drive attached, and
you’d be correct. There’s a wide difference, though, in the
enclosures themselves- with a wide range of variation between
We’ve used units from ADS, Belkin, and Micro Tec, as well as the
enclosures of external drives from Maxtor, Mad Dog, and IO Magic.
Enclosures sold as part of an external drive package aren’t really
meant to be disassembled, but most of the ones we tried offered no
real obstacles. Taking advantage of various hard drive mix and
match offers, we removed the 40 GB HD from an external package,
replacing it with a 120 GB drive at a fraction of the cost of such
a unit, winding up with a spare 40 GB drive to boot. Likewise, we
replaced the CD-RW of an external case with a DVD writer. No
problem, and some money saved.
The external enclosure kits are meant to be disassembled, of
course. You’re expected to supply your own drive; the kit includes
just the case itself, and pre-installed circuitry to make the
conversion from a drive intended for internal installation to
external USB or Firewire connection.
Although we found none that failed to work as advertised, there
was a huge variation in the quality of design, materials, and
workmanship. The upshot is that some, like the unit from ADS
Technology, were very nice to use and would be highly recommended
(even though the ADS product was the most expensive of the ones we
tried). The Micro Tec model, on the other hand, the least
expensive of the lot, would be overpriced at any cost.
The Micro Tec model, although inexpensive at about $50, was not
only difficult to get set up, with poorly fitting parts and a
cheap look about it, but actually inflicted, through its poor
design and finish, a fairly deep sheet-metal cut on our left
thumb. If the cheap case was an insult, the way it fit together
added injury- hardly a combination to be desired. The Micro Tec
model is suitable for a one time assembly, with extreme caution in
handling the parts. Especially inside the case, the metal edges
are literally razor sharp, and we see no excuse for such poor
construction in a product meant for consumers. We’d not recommend
the Micro Tec unit under any circumstances.
Depending on your intended use, either the ADS or Belkin enclosure
would be a good choice. Where you may want to change drives
periodically, the ADS case is by far the easiest to deal with. It
opens, slides apart, and closes very easily. Its only drawback is
the appearance of a “put together” kit. A bit more difficult to
open and close, the Belkin model would be better for a more
permanent installation, or where a more “factory-finished” look
was desired. Both were well made, with parts that fit and a look
of quality about them- both internally and as assembled cases.
Although it’s not always true with computers, in the case of the
external drive enclosures it appears that you get what you pay
for. Stay away from the cheaply made Micro Tec and go with the
more expensive models from ADS or Belkin. It’s a difference well
worth the added price.
For real economy, look for a pre-assembled external drive package
that can be disassembled and its internal drive swapped for what
you want. After rebates, we’ve seen complete packages with hard
drives or CDRWs for about the same price as the case alone.
minor upgrade can alleviate some software issues. Adding
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consistently obtained both good prices and good results with RAM
Our favorite source for all
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doing with your system, whether adding hardware or learning the
ins and outs of software packages, it's nice to have someone who
knows the way to guide you.
What you want is
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the Jacksonville, Florida area, backup and maintenance services
are provided by
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