Pros: price, performance, can swap hard drives, USB 2
Cons: No FireWire (go with the PHR-100AC)
Earlier this year, I upgraded my computer's hard drive from a 10 gigabyte (Gb) drive to a 40 Gb drive. Since I had no room for two hard drives in the system, and that the drive still worked fine, I still wanted to use it for backups and additional data storage.
The disadvantage with many of the commercially available external hard drives is that they are in sealed boxes. If the hard drive should go bad, the unit will need to be replaced. If the owner wants to swap it with another hard drive, that can't be done. And if the owner has a spare hard drive, as I had, the case can't be opened, and there's already a hard drive inside.
Enter the external hard drive enclosure. I've used external drive enclosures in the past. One was a parallel-port beast that I couldn't get to work reliably. I had since purchased two others that featured USB ports, which worked better. But since my motherboard had USB 1.1 and not USB 2.0, the data transfer rate was too slow between the computer and the external hard drive. (I now have CD-ROM drives in these two, and a USB 2.0 card.)
The local computer store had several Macally drive enclosures for sale. While the initial target market for these drive enclosures was for Apple computers, it has since expanded to PC users.
The Macally PHR-100 series of drive enclosures are big enough to fit one 3 1/2" hard drive. The housing is made of aluminum, which helps with heat dissipation. The ends are made of metal-colored plastic. There are also cooling vents on the bottom of the enclosure, and rubber strips on the top and bottom for stacking. On the front is an indicator bezel with two LEDs. When the unit is powered on, the blue LED is lit. When data is being read, the red LED is lit.
There are three enclosures in the PHR-100 family:
- The PHR-100A features a USB 2.0 connection.
- The PHR-100AC features both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394A (FireWire-400) connections.
- The PHR-100ACB features both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394B (FireWire-800) connections; the FireWire-800 is backward compatible with FireWire-400.
All three enclosures have external power supplies and cords. Macally also makes drive enclosures for 2 1/2" laptop hard drives and 5 1/4" CD/DVD drives as well.
Installation: Installation of a hard drive is relatively simple. It comes with a brief instruction sheet. The back unscrews with 1 screw and the aluminum shell slides out. There are 4 prongs on the inside tray. 4 screws and rubberized washers with slots are screwed into the mounting screws in the hard drive. The washers then fit into the prongs. The aluminum shell is slid back into place and the back cover is fastened.
Software: Each drive comes with driver software, which includes drivers for Windows systems. I believe support for these drives is already built into MacOS. I am not aware of any drivers for the various flavors of Linux.
Performance: After installing the driver software, I was able to access the drives. It helped that the drives were already partitioned and formatted. Brand-new drives can be partitioned and formatted using the FDISK and FORMAT programs. As with many USB 2.0 and/or FireWire devices, the external drives can be hot-swapped. I have them plugged into a power strip and turn the drives on and off individually. The drive(s)/partition(s) show up when the hard drive is turned on, and disappear when the drive is turned off (after stopping the drive). The drives tend to run very warm to the touch, especially if they've been on for hours. The data transfer speed is excellent; they perform as well as an internal drive.
Price: I paid about $50 for the PHR-100A.
Overall, I've been very happy with the Macally enclosures, and heartily recommend them to anyone interested in expanding their hard drive storage.