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I have a friend with a broken iBook, but we wish to recover the hard disk. I haven't seen the drive itself, however the spec lists it as an "Ultra ATA drive". Could you please advise if this is 100% compatible with any standard USB IDE 2.5inch enclosure?

Full spec:

iBook 12" 1GHz(AP) 256MB DDR266 SDRAM built-in Keyboard/Mac OS X Bluetooth Module 40GB Ultra ATA drive Combo (DVD-ROM/CD-RW).

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"Ultra ATA" is "standard IDE" so yes, it should be 100% compatible with any modern USB-to-IDE adapter or enclosure.

See Wikipedia's Parallel ATA article for the full history. IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) was developed by Western Digital, and evolved into the AT Attachment Interface (ATA/ATAPI). Most "IDE" drives you'll see nowadays are actually "EIDE" drives (Enhanced IDE) -- this just means they meet the specs of some version of ATA/ATAPI, usually between ATA-2 and ATA-6.

Note Wikipedia's ATA standards table:

  • pre-ATA was also known as IDE
  • ATA-1 aka ATA, IDE
  • ATA-2 aka EIDE, Fast ATA, Fast IDE, Ultra ATA
  • ATA-3 (ditto)
  • ATA/ATAPI-4 aka ATA-4, Ultra ATA/33
  • ATA/ATAPI-5 aka ATA-5, Ultra ATA/66
  • ATA/ATAPI-6 aka ATA-6, Ultra ATA/100
  • ATA/ATAPI-7 aka SATA/150, SATA 1.0, Ultra ATA/133

Check the drive's label for one of the above standards, then make sure the USB enclosure you're considering supports that level. They are backwards-compatible, so if you don't get exact matches, the slowest speed will be used. (Eg, if you have an ATA-2 drive and an ATA-6 enclosure, it will only use ATA-2 speeds. Since this is a USB enclosure, this limitation won't matter much.)

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