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So we have a about 25 laptop hard disks lying around (when we get new laptops, we replace the hard disks with SSDs). What is the best way to use these? Ideally, I'd like to build some kind of disk bay or disk attachment or rack of some sort. Is there any hardware that can do this?

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Windows 8 has Storage Spaces, I would use, provided you don't have to boot to them. I assume you have the ability to place them in external bays. –  Ramhound Nov 15 '12 at 19:45
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4 Answers

one possible solution would be to find a server that supports 2.5" drives and install them in the server. you could use hardware or software raid to create a larger volume and protect the data.

A Dell PowerEdge R820 would fit 16 disks in a 2RU server. There are many other configurations that would work as well.

Once your disks are in the server, you could use Windows to create a file share on the new disks or I would also recommend looking into OpenFiler, FreeNAS, NexentaStor and similar offerings. These appliances will allow you to present your storage over a network via NFS, CIFS or iSCSI.

I've taken a similar approach to use extra 2.5" disks in a Dell PowerEdge R610 with Openfiler to build an array for an ESXi lab (using iSCSI). You could also use CIFS and create file shares for departmental or user folders or this space could be used for backups.

This is just one scenario on how these disks could be used.

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Find a SAS storage array that you can buy without disks already in it. I just googled '2.5" sas storage array' and found this. [note: n > 2 disks are best on a SAS controller, SATA drives work on SAS, but not vice-versa]

You might have to buy extra gear like a RAID controller or an HBA card, but this is probably what you were thinking of.

Honestly though, unless you have a lot of money to throw away just to play around with something like this, or actually plan on using it, you're probably better off just selling the disks as surplus.

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If those are SATA disks you could technically use a SAS controller to hook 'em all up. But i doubt it would make much economical sense buying one for that purpose. There are models that support 16 devices, but those are not exactly cheap. 25 external USB based HDD enclosures aren't either though.

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You might want to consider something like Icy Dock. Won't get all 25 into one but they do have some interesting options. http://www.icydock.com/index.php

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Please expand your answer by providing more details how the software you're suggesting answers the question. –  bytebuster Nov 16 '12 at 4:20
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