How to Choose an External Hard Drive Enclosure

By Editorial Team

Updated July 21, 2017

Hard drive enclosures take an internal hard drive and turn it into an external hard drive. This is useful if you want some extra space inside your computer, or if you need access to your laptop's hard drive from your desktop. Creating an external drive using an enclosure also provides increased flexibility. You choose the hard drive and the enclosure. This lets you decide if the drive has a fan for cooling or a quieter metal dissipation system. You retain control over the type of cable used to connect to the computer and whether the drive requires a power adapter or is portable and uses USB power.

Choose what size hard drive you have want. Laptop hard drives are 2.5" and desktop hard drives are 3.5". Enclosures are available for both sizes, but portable drives are normally laptop size.

Determine whether you have an IDE (also called ATA), or SATA hard drive. An IDE hard drive connects to the computer with a 2-inch wide ribbon cable, while a SATA hard drive connects with a 1/2-inch wide cable. Check the drive or computer manual to determine the type of interface and purchase a matching enclosure.

Decide how you want to connect the hard drive to your computer. The most commonly used ports are USB and IEEE 1394 (FireWire), though eSATA and Ethernet are also available. Some enclosures provide more than one method.

Decide if you want fans. Most enclosures have them to keep the hard drive nice and refrigerated. The downside is the fans produce some extra noise, so if you want silence, get an enclosure without a fan.

Choose a material. While there are a few enclosures made of plastic, most are made of aluminum or metal. This conducts heat away from the hard drive to keep the hard drive cool, metal enclosures also provide increased durability.