Here’s a step-by-step guide to converting any external hard drive enclosure (USB, Firewire, SCSI, etc) into an external SATA enclosure that meets the SATA standard.
For a long time, MFM hard drives were the only consumer-available standard on the market. The old MFM drives were later replaced by EIDE drives. At the same time, manufacturers were making the server-level SCSI drives cheaper and available to the consumers as well. For a long time, SCSI and parallel IDE drives were head-to-head competing for the market.
From the earlier days, I picked the SCSI drives over the IDE drives. Their performances were amazing. And the SCSI drives could be turned into external devices easily with SCSI enclosures; SCSI had been design for both internal and external applications. But today, IDE drives are just as fast and many times cheaper than the SCSI drives. Serial ATA (SATA), a serialized IDE interface, now makes the IDE drives even faster.
SATA standard had also been designed with both internal and external applications in mind. However, the interface is so new, that there are few SATA enclosures on the market. With the few SATA enclosures that are on the market, most of them use a non-standard interface cable. Some SATA enclosures use the IEEE 1394 Firewire cable, which seems like a robust solution, but it isn’t part of the SATA standard.
A few weeks ago, I have placed an order for two ATA drives. One of the drives will be used as my file server. The second drive is a backup to be stored at an off-site location. Today, there are abundant USB enclosures for ATA drives. I wanted both to be external, so that they can be used on any one of my computers and carried off-site for backup. I had ordered the two drives in haste and didn’t realize that one of the drive I ordered was a serial ATA drive. None of my computers have SATA interfaces. And none of the SATA enclosure on the market really fits my needs.
Coming from the SCSI world, I have quite a few external SCSI cases. Most of them are just sitting around my home now. I have managed to sell a few here and there, but the demand for them is so low that people only want them during a blue moon. So I have decided to convert one of my SCSI drive into an external SATA enclosure. The rest of this article will document that process.
The candidate I picked for this project is the SCSI case (see picture below) for the NEC MultiSpin 6Xp CDR-602 external CD-ROM drive. I have used this case previously with my SCSI hard drives. It looks slick and is very robust. Even though I am using a SCSI case, which is harder to find today, you can use any hard drive enclosure that you may already have. There are a lot of USB enclosures out there on the market now. You can convert an USB enclosure into a SATA case with the same instructions here.
In the picture below, you can also see a 5-1/4″ to 3-1/2″ hard drive bracket. Back in the days, the drives were 5-1/4″ wide, so this enclosure was made to accommodate the bigger drive. A bracket is needed to mount the smaller 3-1/2″ SATA hard disk. The face-plate in the picture is slightly modified. I had cut it smaller in previous projects to fit this case. The face of the NEC MultiSpin 6Xp has a smaller footprint than a standard 5-1/4″ drive.
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