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Swapping hard drives into docking station?

I have a variety of hard drives from old computers that I would like to access so that I can grab all remaining relevant data from them. Once I've done that, I'd like to use them for routine storage of multimedia files. For the moment though, I want to be able to access any one of them - there are six or seven of them - as quickly and efficiently as I can.

If I get one of these - http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=14_679&item_id=069776 - and I know there are similar devices from various competitors so I'm not wedded to this particular one - can I simply remove/replace the hard drive that it attached to the device much like I would with an 8-track tape (if you can remember those) or a VHS tape in a VCR? Or do I have to actually disconnect a cable from the drive that is currently in the machine and then reconnect it to the next drive that I want to inspect/read?

I'm really not clear if the hard drive just slides into the slot and then magically makes contact with the unit or if there is a connector that has to be attached. It's okay if I actually have to reattach a connector; I'm just trying to understand what I would be getting into.

Also, I should mention that the drives in question are a mix of 3.5 and 2.5 and some of the 3.5 inch drives are IDE (I think the 2.5 drives are all SATA but I haven't actually taken them out of their laptops to be sure). I know there are adapter cables that convert IDE to SATA. How do those adapter cables work with docking stations like the one at the link?
17 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about swapping hard drives
  1. Just stick the drive in the slot. It has the necessary connector inside.
    As long as they are SATA drives, not older IDE.

    Yes, pretty much like an old 8-track.
  2. hi there,

    It's a craddle, there are double craddles too... (access 2 disks at the same time and fast disk to disk copy).
    you must be sure you buy a ISB3 one so you have reasonable speeds and NEVER swap them like 8track tapes !!!

    you need to disconnect it (remove hardware from the system-tray and powerdown the craddle) and swap the drive while the power is down !

    don't buy more than necessary USB devices as they tend to suck jiuce from your PSU and eventually need to replace it due to overpower...

    Good luck and let us know.
    Cheers, Louise.
  3. Can you just connect the various laptops via ethernet to you router and view the contents of the HDDs from your main computer? Or maybe the laptops aren't working anymore in which case you would have to remove the HDDs and put them in the caddie.

    For the IDE drives you will probably have to get a IDE to SATA adapter and plug that into your main computer's sata port (assuming you have a free port) and view the HDDs contents from there. I don't think the IDE to SATA adapter will work with the caddie.
  4. Best answer
    mjslakeridge said:
    Can you just connect the various laptops via ethernet to you router and view the contents of the HDDs from your main computer? Or maybe the laptops aren't working anymore in which case you would have to remove the HDDs and put them in the caddie.

    For the IDE drives you will probably have to get a IDE to SATA adapter and plug that into your main computer's sata port (assuming you have a free port) and view the HDDs contents from there. I don't think the IDE to SATA adapter will work with the caddie.


    Some of the caddy's and connection cables handle both SATA and IDE.
    I have a cable thing similar to this: http://www.amazon.com/Vantec-CB-ISATAU2-Supports-2-5-Inch-5-25-Inch/dp/B000J01I1G
  5. Louise Porkolt said:
    don't buy more than necessary USB devices as they tend to suck jiuce from your PSU and eventually need to replace it due to overpower...


    What does this mean?
  6. Louise Porkolt said:
    hi there,

    It's a craddle, there are double craddles too... (access 2 disks at the same time and fast disk to disk copy).
    you must be sure you buy a ISB3 one so you have reasonable speeds and NEVER swap them like 8track tapes !!!

    you need to disconnect it (remove hardware from the system-tray and powerdown the craddle) and swap the drive while the power is down !

    don't buy more than necessary USB devices as they tend to suck jiuce from your PSU and eventually need to replace it due to overpower...

    Good luck and let us know.
    Cheers, Louise.


    Thanks for your reply. The other replies suggest there is no problem about swapping drives in and out like 8-track tapes. I suppose it depends on the exact model you choose!

    I have seen the double docking stations and am thinking seriously about getting one of those.
  7. mjslakeridge said:
    Can you just connect the various laptops via ethernet to you router and view the contents of the HDDs from your main computer? Or maybe the laptops aren't working anymore in which case you would have to remove the HDDs and put them in the caddie.

    For the IDE drives you will probably have to get a IDE to SATA adapter and plug that into your main computer's sata port (assuming you have a free port) and view the HDDs contents from there. I don't think the IDE to SATA adapter will work with the caddie.


    Several of the hard drives are from old computers where I took the computer to the recycling depot but kept the hard drive so I can't just network them together. The HDDs on the laptops all still work though so I could probably network them.
  8. Hugh_Mungus said:
    Louise Porkolt said:
    hi there,

    It's a craddle, there are double craddles too... (access 2 disks at the same time and fast disk to disk copy).
    you must be sure you buy a ISB3 one so you have reasonable speeds and NEVER swap them like 8track tapes !!!

    you need to disconnect it (remove hardware from the system-tray and powerdown the craddle) and swap the drive while the power is down !

    don't buy more than necessary USB devices as they tend to suck jiuce from your PSU and eventually need to replace it due to overpower...

    Good luck and let us know.
    Cheers, Louise.


    Thanks for your reply. The other replies suggest there is no problem about swapping drives in and out like 8-track tapes. I suppose it depends on the exact model you choose!

    I have seen the double docking stations and am thinking seriously about getting one of those.


    Hot swapping is very device dependent. Some docks can do this, some can't.
    At the very least, EJECT, power off, and then take the drive out.
  9. USAFRet said:
    mjslakeridge said:
    Can you just connect the various laptops via ethernet to you router and view the contents of the HDDs from your main computer? Or maybe the laptops aren't working anymore in which case you would have to remove the HDDs and put them in the caddie.

    For the IDE drives you will probably have to get a IDE to SATA adapter and plug that into your main computer's sata port (assuming you have a free port) and view the HDDs contents from there. I don't think the IDE to SATA adapter will work with the caddie.


    Some of the caddy's and connection cables handle both SATA and IDE.
    I have a cable thing similar to this: http://www.amazon.com/Vantec-CB-ISATAU2-Supports-2-5-Inch-5-25-Inch/dp/B000J01I1G


    The unit in your link is *almost* ideal but there are some hitches. I can live with USB 2.0 speeds, although USB 3.0 would certainly be better. A double docking station/caddy would be even better than a single one. But the deal breaker is that this unit is limited to 2 TB; one of my drives is 3 TB. What search terms are you using to find these things? Maybe I can find at least a single caddy that handles both 2.5 and 3.5 and ITE/SATA and not be limited to 2 TB but I'm not sure how to search for that. (Also, I'm in Canada but I'm guessing that almost anything at Amazon.com is also available at Amazon.ca.)
  10. Can you install the 3TB drive directly into your main computer? Based on the size, I am assuming it is SATA, not IDE. Are you going to keep the old IDE drives in your rotation, or do you just want to see what's on them and copy stuff you want to keep? If the latter, the device USAF linked to would be a cheap alternative for a 1-time transfer. Then you could focus on getting a caddy that handles only SATA.
  11. Hugh_Mungus said:


    The unit in your link is *almost* ideal but there are some hitches. I can live with USB 2.0 speeds, although USB 3.0 would certainly be better. A double docking station/caddy would be even better than a single one. But the deal breaker is that this unit is limited to 2 TB; one of my drives is 3 TB. What search terms are you using to find these things? Maybe I can find at least a single caddy that handles both 2.5 and 3.5 and ITE/SATA and not be limited to 2 TB but I'm not sure how to search for that. (Also, I'm in Canada but I'm guessing that almost anything at Amazon.com is also available at Amazon.ca.)


    Is this a one time data transfer, or an ongoing thing?
    Is this a laptop or a desktop?

    What sizes are these old drives?
  12. mjslakeridge said:
    Can you install the 3TB drive directly into your main computer? Based on the size, I am assuming it is SATA, not IDE. Are you going to keep the old IDE drives in your rotation, or do you just want to see what's on them and copy stuff you want to keep? If the latter, the device USAF linked to would be a cheap alternative for a 1-time transfer. Then you could focus on getting a caddy that handles only SATA.


    The 3TB drive is indeed SATA. It is in my main desktop along with two 750 GB drives. That computer hasn't worked in a while. Initially, I had some OS issues, then the power supply failed. I replaced the power supply but am still having an OS issue I haven't had time to troubleshoot. That's why I'd like a device like a docking station that would let me access any of my drives at any time, just by shoving it into the docking station.

    I expect the 3TB drive to be my main storage drive and to put all or most of my multimedia files on it, as well as my business files (documents, spreadsheets, tax stuff, etc.) on it. Once I've copied all the stuff from the other drives onto the 3TB drive, I'll erase the other drives and use them for storage too. I may set up one for Movies, another for Music, another one for Java source code, etc. Then, for example, when I want to find a few movies, I swap in the movie drive, copy them to my laptop, and go from there.
  13. USAFRet said:
    Hugh_Mungus said:


    The unit in your link is *almost* ideal but there are some hitches. I can live with USB 2.0 speeds, although USB 3.0 would certainly be better. A double docking station/caddy would be even better than a single one. But the deal breaker is that this unit is limited to 2 TB; one of my drives is 3 TB. What search terms are you using to find these things? Maybe I can find at least a single caddy that handles both 2.5 and 3.5 and ITE/SATA and not be limited to 2 TB but I'm not sure how to search for that. (Also, I'm in Canada but I'm guessing that almost anything at Amazon.com is also available at Amazon.ca.)


    Is this a one time data transfer, or an ongoing thing?
    Is this a laptop or a desktop?

    What sizes are these old drives?


    The old drives are a variety of sizes. The biggest by far is the 3 TB drive. All the others are 750 GB or less. All of the old drives are 3.5" but I also have two laptops (both less than 5 years old), so I'd like to be able to access their hard drives just in case I can't network them successfully. (One has networked intermittently in the past, I've never tried to access the other one via the network.)

    I'm looking to access each of the drives initially to find the most critical files so that I can consolidate them on a single drive, probably the 3 TB one. Then, I'll erase all but the drive from the current laptop and the 3 TB drive and start copying data back to them. I'll probably put Java source code on one drive, Music files on another, etc.
  14. If you are connecting these to a desktop PC, install a couple of them internally. They will just have new drive letters.
  15. Sounds like a pretty good plan. If you are planning on transferring large files like movies from one of your storage drives to your laptop routinely, you should try to find a docking station with USB3 capability. I personally use my home network to transfer files between computers. Recently I copied about 100GB of Pro Tools audio session files from my audio computer to my main computer for backup, and it took 15-20 minutes if I recall.

    Edit: Here is a docking station that connects to your router via ethernet cable>

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/docking-station-gigabit-ethernet-SATA-QuickPort-Pro-LAN,13739.html

    I will look around for some others. I just Googled "HDD Docking Station LAN"
  16. In case anyone is interested, I acquired a two-bay docking station that handles 2.5 and 3.5 inch SATA hard drives up to 5 TB for my SATA drives and a "USB 2.0 IDE/SATA Adapter Kit" for my IDE drives.

    I haven't pulled the SATA drives out of my desktop yet but I tried the IDE adapter kit on a pair of IDE drives that I pulled from one of my older desktops. When I plugged in one of the two drives, I got a green light but I don't see the drive in my laptop. When I plugged in the other of the two IDE drives, I got a green LED *and* a red LED and the drive didn't show up either. So far, I'm not doing very well. I don't know what the red light is signifying and I don't know why I'm not seeing the drive on my laptop in either case. (The cable is plugged in to the power and the USB cable is connected as well.) I can't even find a brand name on the box of this adapter cable, just a model number, so I'm probably going to have to post a new question about how this is supposed to work. Or ask at the computer store. Did I mention there is not a word of documentation in the box, which usually means it is self-evident how it works and you won't need help to use the device. (Or that the manufacturer is too cheap to have any documentation written and printed.)

    I hope the docking station works a little better when I start to use it....
  17. Just a comment re the problems you're experiencing with the SATA/IDE-to-USB adapter.

    Our experience with these adapters (and we've used a number of them) has been quite negative - to the point where we rarely use them any more. We've found them either DOA or highly erratic in operation - little more than a crapshoot. Particularly where an IDE-to-USB connection is involved. The problem is, of course, that the better functioning USB external enclosures housing an IDE drive are disappearing from the market since the demise of IDE disks.

    I have to admit that many users have found the SATA-to-USB adapters quite satisfactory. It's just that our experience doesn't parallel theirs.

    Your docking station should work fine. By & large we've found them quite suitable for the job at hand.
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