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My external hard drive case broke. The drive still works.

Can I just place it on my desk, out of the way, without it being in a case? Does it have to have a fan?

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You could also remove the hard drive from the case completely, and install it inside your computer. – rob Apr 26 '12 at 3:16
You can buy a cradle for exactly this purpose. Just go to amazon or newegg or wherever and search for hard drive cradle. – Carey Gregory Oct 23 '14 at 18:29

Most hard drives are ok without fans. I would say if it didn't have a fan in the case to begin with it won't need one now

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While you can leave it exposed, it probably isn't a good idea if losing its contents would be inconvenience.

A case for a hard disk is around $20 depending on the connection, so it isn't much of an investment.

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The case provides two things...

  1. Protection - From shorting the controler board, intrusion of foreign objects/liquids/dust and static/physical shocks.

  2. Cooling - Most likely passive cooling through the metal case. If the case is plastic, it likely didn't help much on this count.

The drive will function just fine out of the case but will be subjected to more environmental stress than is normal and may fail sooner due to any of the above issues.

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You could use the HDD without the case, however there is higher risk of mechanical damage. Also the HDD connectors are very sensitive.

I used an old desktop HDD as external using a IDE2USB converter and additional power adapter. However, when writing a bigger amount of files, the HDD easily increased the temperature up to about 50-60 degrees (C) so I rather bought an external aluminium box for it.

Those small 2,5 inch laptop drives should produce less heat and should be more suitable for such use.

But in my opinion, buying even a cheap aluminium box would be better than nothing.

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