For external storage, is using an enclosure more reliable than prefab?

For external hard drives, is buying your own enclosure and putting in your own drive, better than pre-made?

Specifically, I need a drive to store family photographs.

I've always bought a high quality external enclosure (i.e., Rosewill or Vantec), and a high quality desktop drive (i.e., Western Digital Caviar Black) when I need a drive for important data like this. I've always assumed that this is more reliable and I get a better quality drive than buying a pre-made enclosure with a drive (i.e., Western Digital Essentials USB drives.)

But it's more expensive and WD says they don't actually support using desktop drives this way, a fact that has always made me feel a little queasy. On top of it, I just read somewhere that desktop drives don't have motion sensors to yank up the write heads if the drive takes a dive off the desk, whereas laptop drives sometimes do.

Am I doing the right thing by buying a desktop drive and high quality enclosure? Or would it actually be more reliable and safer to use a pre-made drive like a WD Essentials? Or even a 2.5" drive (do those little portables have the motion sensors?)

I know it probably seems like a basic question but I've had trouble finding an answer to it.

Thank you!
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  1. Best answer
    I've been using internal drives for data backups for years now using a cradle. I wouldn't necessarily call it better, just more efficient for those of us who juggle a lot of harddrives. And no they don't have an accelerometer but I'll guarantee you, if you drop a harddrive from desk height onto a stone floor, no parking of read/write heads will keep it operational unless it is an SSD.

    Buy a cradle, set it on floor, so it can't fall. Backup your stuff, label it, put it in a safe. Can't get more secure than that.

    And yes I do this with important documents. Using a dock similar to this via eSata, when I bought the first one there wasn't even a usb3 standard yet (just careful some are hit and miss). I've used WD black/green, hitachi,seagate, raptors, 2.5 ssd, 2.5 hybrid drives and probably more than these and not once has one of these drives failed using the cradle ever. Note however I've purposely avoided >2tb drives. I still have mission critical windows XP machines that just don't play nicely with >2tb drives. So 2TB drives yay, 3tb drives nay.

    Recently I've switched to regular "premade" external seagate 3.0 drives. Got a bulk deal on a 20 pack of 3tb drives that I just couldn't resist. I use a lot of storage and have gradually shifted away from XP, keeping files and program backups that only run on XP still on my <2tb drives.

    So to answer the question does it matter? Not really. Just use whatever works for you or is cheaper. Again please please when copying, place it on the floor, not on the ledge of a table. Since recovery of files is very expensive.
  2. Best answer selected by siphonsiphon.
  3. External enclosures are hotboxes. If I were buying one today, I'd look for one with an aluminium body and a cooling fan.

    As for the >2TB capacity problem, WD's 3TB My Books and Seagate's 3TB GoFlex drives are both configured with 4KB LBAs rather than legacy 512-byte LBAs. This means that they work with Windows XP straight out of the box. By using 4KB LBAs, the MBR capacity limit is increased from 2TiB to 16TiB.

    There are third party enclosures that are also configured in this way. Rosewill's RCW-608 is one example.

  4. There's nothing hot about docks. The harddrives are right there out in the fresh air, so unless you live in texas without air conditioning this won't be a problem.

    On a side note, there's a skunk outside my window and it stinks....uggghghhghghghgh
  5. Sorry, didn't see the dock.
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