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How should I go about mounting an external hard drive without an enclosure?

I have a IDE/SATA to USB adapter. But where should I put the drive, what side should be facing upwards, etc?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Whenever I have to use an internal hard drive outside the case, I usually just lay it on the metal side with the components facing upwards. As long as this isn't a permanent solution, you should be fine. If you plan to leave the hard drive out in the open all the time, then I would highly recommend an enclosure

Another concern with a naked hard drive is picking it up and moving it while the heads are not parked. A sharp bump or drop of the hard drive could cause the head to crash into the platter, causing permanent damage and data loss. Modern laptop hard drives sometimes have accelerometers that sense the hard drive is falling and park the head before it makes impact, but I'm not sure if desktop hard drives commonly have this or not. You can read up about head crashes on Wikipedia if you're interested.

Below is my original answer, which I'll just leave for context.

If you have an internal hard drive that you want to connect to a computer without opening the case (or if it's a laptop), then there are USB adapters you can purchase, such as this one that adapts both PATA and SATA to USB, which I have used at work with no problems.

Another solution is the Thermaltake BlacX SATA docking station. I have two of these for my own purposes and they work great as well. I use these for a rotating backup system so I can always keep one hard drive off-site and hot-swap them as necessary.

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I have a IDE/SATA to USB adapter. But where should I put the HDD, what side should be facing upwards, etc? – Chris Tarazi Feb 1 '10 at 4:24
Oh, heh. Your question was a little ambiguous and I picked the wrong meaning. I'll update my answer. – Stephen Jennings Feb 1 '10 at 4:33
Perfect updated answer. Sorry I didnt make it clear at first. – Chris Tarazi Feb 1 '10 at 4:48
Drives are usually mounted circuit-board side down. I'm superstitious about running them upside down. – LawrenceC Jan 1 '12 at 2:18

I used to work in a lab where we had dozens of naked hard drives at any point. Data restoration is expensive (if not the hard drives..any more), so just a couple more things to keep in mind:

  • Don't forget to use a clean, static-free surface - beware carpet, metal or glass tables, hold on to those plastic mats and bags that come with motherboards and cards. I try to keep the drive at least inside of the case, if it's a desktop machine.
  • Get some extension leads and extra long SATA/SCSI/IDE cables so you don't risk tripping up the hard drive mid gear.
  • Sparks kill platters, so touch a grounded device, metal radiator or pipe in your home/office before getting your hands close to the drive. Those static clips would make sense, although I've gotten by fine without them. Be careful on days with low humidity, clothes that attract static (ever hear little pops when pulling off that sweater?), and hard shoes on a carpeted surface.
  • Avoid moving while the drive is in use - power down first or wait until it goes into sleep mode. In Linux you can spin down a drive with hdparm / sdparm. In Windows you may be able to use the Disk Manager to remove all drive letters, effectively unmounting the drive.
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Oh I used it on a glass table and thats why it was not working. Thx for the heads up. +1 – Chris Tarazi Feb 1 '10 at 23:14

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