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USB 2.0 External Enclosure

Written By:
Date Posted: October 23, 2002

USB2.0's growing momentum is certainly a lot better than the original USB specification. Although the initial release of USB has started the trend of moving us away from legacy components, it's always been too slow for anything other than simple peripherals such as mice and keyboards. USB2.0 is capable of transfer speeds of up to 480Mbits per second, effectively 40x what USB1.1 was capable of. Now using peripherals such as (USB 2.0 supported) printers and scanners are more of a reality in that they won't get bottlenecked by the slower USB ports of the past.

Another useful feature of USB2.0 is actually infringing in areas where FireWire is concerned. Long has FireWire been the choice for multimedia professionals, due in part to FireWire's transfer speeds. USB2.0 now challenges that, with the added bonus that a USB2.0 solution tends to be more cost effective.

External storage is another area that USB2.0 is making inroads, as USB2.0 CD burners and hard drives are cropping up everywhere. There are several reasons why one would consider such devices:

1) You are out of internal expansion space for hard drives or CDRoms
2) You need a large capacity portable storage device
3) You need an external device for redundancy

At the moment, I have several computers at home. None of them are seriously hurting for storage space, and all of them have plenty of expansion space for more drives. The issue I have is I tend to transfer large amounts of data between PCs. Previously, I'd either just transfer the files over the network, or I'd burn to several CD rewritables. Neither solution was that appealing to me since it was time consuming.

More recently, I've began running my CD Burner outside of my Shuttle XPC for two reasons. I wanted to reduce the congestion inside such a small enclosure, and secondly, I didn't like how the burner contrasted from the faceplate of the PC. I do plan on stealth modding, but I have other things to do at the moment. In anycase, this solution looked pretty bad.

Yeah, it's pretty ugly like this

supplied us with an that actually solved many of my problems with one device. What this external enclosure does is that it converts any internal IDE optical drive, or 3.5" hard drive into a portable external device.


Compatible with 3.5" and 5.25" IDE Drives
IDE to USB 2.0 or USB 1.1
Works with PC or Macs
Plug and Play
Stackable Casing
External AC power adapter included.
USB Cable included.
EMI shielded enclosure
Supports Win98/SE/ME/2000/XP, Mac OS8.6/9.X/10.X or above

The enclosure has a nice greyish silver look to it, and would match pretty much any aluminum case out there. When I first handled the packaging box, I thought it was made of metal since it was so heavy, but alas, it's just plastic, and the weight was due to the power brick that comes with it. I suppose all is well though, as plastic would make this a lot cheaper. The unit is pretty solid though, and the interior is EMI shielded with a thin layer of sheet metal.

Inside, we have leads for the power, and for the IDE connection. There's a small leaflet with installation instructions, but there isn't much more than this...

  1. Hard Disk: Open the top cover, connect the cables, fasten the HDD on the base and reassemble to top cover.
  2. CD-ROM/CD-RW/DVD Drives: Open the top cover, remove the panel, connect the cables, fasten the device to the base and reassemble the top cover
  3. Put the top cover back on the case
  4. Slip on the side panels and affix with provided screws

Something I noticed during installation is that the mounting holes line up just fine for optical drives, but hard drives cannot be properly secured. Crazy PC is aware of this, and have suggested that drive rails be used. Another issue with hard drive installation is the lack of a front cover for the enclosure, so it's gonna look pretty ugly having a hard drive resting in an open box.

Another thing you will have to do is to set the jumpers on whatever IDE device to "Master". Cable Select and Slave will not work. Inside, there is also an audio connection for CD Rom devices, so you can still play audio CDs if you wish.

After connecting the device to the interior connections, you can proceed to the rear. The included USB cable connects from the drive to the PC. You also have audio connections, as well as a connection for power. A few minor annoyances I've had was that only one USB cable can be used at anytime. It's a shame that this doesn't have a built in USB hub, as it took the spot on the PC that my keyboard was plugged into. Now, it happens I have a USB hub, so it wasn't the end of the world, but I know some people don't have access to more than two USB connections. That being said, I don't think it is a huge problem, as most new motherboards come with external brackets with extra USB ports.

Another issue I have is the absence of an on/off switch. Basically, devices are an always on state, and you will have to either disconnect the power, or use the off button on your UPS/power bar if you want to turn this thing off. I tend to leave my PC on 24/7, so this isn't really an issue for me, but to yank out the power cable when you want to turn it off is kind of ghetto to me. The reason I do believe this can become more of an issue is the fact that some hard drive manufacturers say that you have x amount of hours a day of recommended usage. If you're the paranoid type, and listen to them, you have to make sure you yank the power cable out of the enclosure.

Next Page - Testing and Conclusions


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