We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Hard Drive Enclosure?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At EasyTechJunkie, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A hard drive enclosure is used to house a hard disk externally, adding storage and flexibility to any system. The enclosure connects to the computer through a universal serial bus (USB) or Firewire port, making it a plug-and-play device. This means it can be turned off and on while the system is up and running. A hard drive enclosure can be used for many purposes and provides portability between desktop and laptop, or home and office.

Security: One of the main advantages to using an external hard drive enclosure is security. Many people are concerned about online threats including viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, hacking, poorly written software and malicious scripts. Some threats can expose data to outside sources, while others corrupt it.

Installing financial data or sensitive programs on an external hard drive is one way to help ensure they stay safe. The enclosure can be left off when the user isn’t accessing the programs or data, and when online. If several family members share the computer, an external drive is one way to keep key information or software private. Simply remove the enclosure and lock it in a drawer or safe when not in use.

Back Up: An external hard drive is perfect for storing system back ups or “ghost” images of the main hard disk. If the main drives fails, the ghost image on the external drive can re-create the main disk in mere minutes. Alternately, popular software like Acronis True Image will make a bootable carbon copy of the main disk on the external disk. In this case, the external disk can be removed from the enclosure and installed into the system for an instant fix. It is also possible to boot directly from the hard drive enclosure by using settings in the motherboard’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) menu.

Archiving and Libraries: People today are rapidly amassing memory-intensive libraries of music, movie, and graphic files. Storage of these libraries using an external hard drive enclosure frees up on-board system resources for ripping, burning and downloading, while protecting libraries from online threats. Moving these libraries to an external drive also greatly reduces maintenance time for system tasks like file defragmentation, spyware sweeping and virus-checking.

A hard drive enclosure also allows people to reuse “smaller” hard disks that have been replaced by newer, larger capacity drives. For example, as prices have dropped many people have replaced 30, 40 and 60-gigabyte (GB) drives with 250 GB drives or better. Installed in an external hard drive enclosure, older drives become quite useful for archiving.

Portability: It’s simple to transport huge amounts of data between computers using an external hard drive enclosure. Any system equipped with a USB port or Firewire will be able to instantly read the drive and transfer files quickly and easily. An external drive is the next best thing to a massive memory stick.

Alternate Operating Systems (OSs): True geeks might like to use an external hard disk to load a bootable, alternate OS, such as an upcoming Windows OS or Linux. Having a fully functional secondary operating system allows for experimentation without unduly risking the main system, its setup or configuration. One can also try out critical programs for compatibility issues. Installing the OS on an external drive avoids the hassle of creating a dual boot system as is necessary when loading two operating systems on internal disks. Motherboard BIOS settings allow one to easily boot from the external storage device or the internal hard disk.

In considering which enclosure to purchase, keep in mind that the enclosure must be made for the type of hard drive it will contain. Older drives are IDE, which stands for Integrated Drive Electronics. Newer drives are Serial-ATA or SATA drives. The relevant difference is in the imbedded connector and controller. Noise is also a consideration. Some enclosures have a built-in power supply and fan. Fan design determines whether the fan will be quiet or noisy. If you plan to leave the enclosure on most of the time, you may want to consider a quieter model. Vendors like NewEgg.com provide customer reviews that can be a great asset in making the right decision.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon224827 — On Oct 24, 2011

I hope to boot to my old laptop hard drive which I've mounted externally. I went to the boot menu on my PC and selected the drive but it would not boot up. I can access the files on the drive. Is there any file (old boot record, etc.) that I would need to delete from the old hard drive?

By anon163760 — On Mar 29, 2011

Is there a risk of transferring a virus from the old computer when you connect the hard drive to a different computer? I have a computer that is not able to start or to fix itself. I don't know if it was caused by a virus or what, but I really want the pictures that are on the hard drive.

By anon126344 — On Nov 12, 2010

Consider a Sata/Ide to USB Adapter. That is the cheapest way to connect legacy drives of most any description. I've had mine since 2004 (then I paid $20) it might be cheaper now. Good tip. pass it along.

By anon111561 — On Sep 17, 2010

I have an old laptop with many programs that I still would like to use. The drive still works, but the screen crapped out. Can I take the old hard drive and use it as an external drive with a new computer and access the programs?

By anon76213 — On Apr 09, 2010

Can I format a new hard drive through another computer using an enclosure (get a new op system running).

I need a fresh copy of XP, the drivers, and I think the utilities needed to run a new system so my computer will and recognize my rom and ram drives (Bios doesn't help and my recovery partition is missing an hal.dll file -- and maybe more?).

By anon58114 — On Dec 30, 2009

I have a 1.1 USB port and I was planning to buy an enclosure. Is it possible for me to use it? I mean, all of the enclosures now requires a 2.0 or higher port.

By anon56856 — On Dec 17, 2009

- sqwerty08

( so can i use any hard drive in an enclosure? could i potentially take a hard drive out of a desktop and put it into an enclosure? )

Yes you can use any Hdd in enclosure but you need to get enclosure that will work with the Hdd =

"if its older 3.5" 40 pin connector its Parallel ATA (PATA/IDE)enclosure 40 or 80 wires ribbon cable"

44 conductors for the smaller form-factor version used for 2.5" laptop's hardrive

"after Year 2003 serial ATA (serial advanced technology attachment), or SATA 7-pin connector "

Connectors and cables present the most visible differences between SATA and parallel ATA drives. Unlike PATA, the same connectors are used on 3.5-inch SATA hard disks for desktop and server computers and 2.5-inch disks for portable or small computers; this allows 2.5-inch drives to be used in desktop computers with only a mounting bracket and no wiring adapter. Smaller disks may use the mini-SATA spec, suitable for small-form-factor Serial ATA drives and mini SSDs --Diesel

By vncntsbr — On Sep 12, 2009

how do i know what kind or size hard drive enclosure of hard drive i need? i have an old gateway computer(2002) that died.

By anon40775 — On Aug 10, 2009

I have a desktop that just died (motherboard). Can I take my hard drive out of the computer and put it into an enclosure? If so, will I be able to connect that to my laptop?

By anon32314 — On May 19, 2009

If your old drive (now in the external enclosure) had pictures and documents stored on it, and you can access the drive (which it sounds like you can), then the pics and documents are there. You simply have to navigate to them, by drilling down into whatever folder you stored them in.

Try this: if you know the name of just one picture you saved, use the Search feature in Windows to hunt for the file on the external drive. It should take you o the folder where all your pictures are saved. If you don't know the name of any of the picture files, ask Windows to search the "E" drive (if that is the external enclosure's drive letter) for *.jpg and it will find every picture file in JPEG format... then you can cruise the many results looking for the folder you want.

Same thing for documents. If these were written in Word, use the Search feature to find a document by name (if you know a name) or search the E drive for *.doc to find ALL documents on the E drive...

Hope that helps.

By Lee959 — On May 14, 2009

How can I access the pictures, documents, etc. on the drive enclosure? Thank you

By cmh — On Apr 30, 2009

I can see my program file, but not my pictures and documents, which are what I really want to put onto my new computer. The hard drive of my old computer, in an enclosure, was connected by a USB cable to my new computer. Could the connection somehow be done wrong? I can see the enclosure as drive E, and can see and access files--but only programs. The old computer did not crash or have any problems which might have compromised the hard drive. Thanks for any advice.

By wahwalker — On Feb 21, 2009

So i can take my old laptop's hardrive out with xp os and view it like i have two computers with two different os in each?

By navybluem — On Dec 10, 2008

Am I to understand that if I have an external hard drive enclosure that I can retrieve date from a computer that has died...Also i have 2 dead computers, are all external hard drives compatible with all computers? thanx

By Stoex — On Feb 10, 2008

If I follow this correctly, I would be able to use my new computer to see all old data on my old HD which I install into the enclosure??? For example files on the old HD saved like:

Budget.xls or Resume.doc would show up exactly like that without me having to input special commands??

Reason for asking??? I installed my old HD into an enclosure but cannot see my data. Can only see system files etc. When I check the capacity of the HD it show free capacity of about 25%. I know the system files aren't taking up 75% of the HD.

As you can see I am a newbie with all this. HELP?!


By brownhollow — On Dec 18, 2007

I have cannibalized a old win 2000 computer and removed the 2 27.3 GB hard drives and would like to set them up as a external hard drive but all the enclosures are only for 1 hard drive. This would be OK but not a really large hard drive. Are there enclosures that will take 2 hard drives or do I need 2 enclosures in order to use both hard drives? Also will I be able to get any data (photos, docs, bookmarks) off the old hard drives to use on my new Vista computer?

Thanks, Jim

By sqwerty08 — On Sep 04, 2007

so can i use any hard drive in an enclosure? could i potentially take a hard drive out of a desktop and put it into an enclosure?

what do i need to check to make sure i get a case that is compatible with my hard drive? or the other way around.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.