Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reusing IDE and SATA Drives: A Solution

Because I review lots and lots of tools, I find myself going through PCs pretty quickly. It's not fair to gauge the performance of a product on old hardware, so each year I buy new PCs. Over the course of years, I've accumulated lots of IDE drives from the PCs I've discarded. I rarely ever use them, but every once in a while I would like to know what's on them and whether I can reuse one of them. Unfortunately, this is a time consuming task, especially hooking up the drive to a PC that will access it.

I recently came across an elegant solution to this problem: the USB 2.0 Universal Drive Adapter from newertech. This device comes with a power supply for the HDD and a separate cable that plugs into an ATA-IDE drive, a notebook IDE drive, or a SATA drive. The other end of the cable is a USB plug. So, you attach the cord and the power the drive, plug the USB end of the cable into your PC--and the IDE drive magically pops up as a USB drive on your system, with full read and write capabilities.

I have cleaned up a bunch of IDE drives during the last week using this adapter. In the process, I've discovered it has some limitations. It did not work well on older drives. Some would not power up (but they did start up when I swapped them into a PC), and others did not handle read/writes well (Windows generated write errors), although it's hard to know if the errors come from the drive or the adapter. But for most drives from the last few years, the product worked without a hitch. Neat solution and, at $24.95 retail, a no-brainer purchase.

Further note: I increasingly use virtualization for my testbed infrastructure. When I'm done with a review, I archive the VMs. This keeps my disks mostly pristine and reusable, so I am not discarding disks with old PCs nearly as much as before. The fact that drives today are > 500GB also helps. ;-)

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