USB Disk Enclosures

I’ve been pretty into USB external disk enclosures for a while now. They are a pretty cheap and flexible way to do something with those old hard disks that are still big enough to be useful, but small enough that you’ve already upgraded the internal drives to something bigger. And with USB 2.0, performance isn’t much of an issue any more. I have a few of them now, but I’ve never quite been completely happy with the features until now. Today I bought a Fotocom CD 350 enclosure that’s just about exactly what I want in an enclosure:

Fotocom CD 350

(Unfortunately while the Fotocom website has an English version, it only has this item in the Chinese section.)

So before I mention why I like this one, let’s review what I don’t like about others:

– Plastic: Most enclosures are mostly or entirely plastic. This probably makes it cheaper, but it makes it feel cheap, and plastic doesn’t act as a heatsink like metal does. The metal ones I’ve seen usually lack some of the other critical features.

– Inconvenient power switch, or no power switch: Surprisingly, many drive enclosures don’t have a power switch at all. If you want to turn it off, you unplug it. Those that do have power switches usually put them on the rear of the enclosure. Then they compound this problem by making the switch small and difficult to turn on/off unless you pick up the enclosure and turn it around. There’s relatively few drives that actually put a switch on the front on the case.

– No power/activity lights, or poorly placed ones: One of my enclosures has the power/activity light at the rear side of the enclosure, which makes it hard to see. Some enclosures don’t have any indicator lights. One of my enclosures goes overboard by having four LEDs on the front panel for power, hard disk activity, usb link, and fan power.

– Wimpy fan or no fan: Taiwan gets hot in the summertime, and disk drives can put off quite a bit of heat. So it is surprising that a lot of enclosures don’t provide any active ventilation. Those that do have a fan usually have a tiny one that’s less than an inch big, that can’t possibly move all that much air through the enclosure.

– Inflexible orientation: Most enclosures are designed to either stand vertical in a stand or lie flat on the desk, but not both.

So here’s what I like about the Fotocom CD 350: The majority of the case is cast aluminum. It has a big 8cm fan for cooling, and you can actually feel the airflow coming from the vent. It has a front panel power switch, and a front panel LED that shows both power and disk activity (solid on when powered and idle, blinking when there is disk activity). It also has feet for horizontal orientation AND a cast aluminum stand for vertical orientation. Besides that, it also looks cool without being garish. As for drawbacks, because of the larger fan, the case is noticeably thicker than others. Also the screws on the side are hidden by rubber covers that seem a bit flimsy. And it costs a bit more than other USB enclosures. I bought mine for just under US$45.

(They also make variations: the CD 351 includes a security dongle which must be plugged in to be able to access the drive; the CD 352 has both USB and Firewire capability, and the CD 350 Ultra has a backlit LCD temperature display on the front panel. Because many Taiwanese products are produced as OEM items, this may be sold under different brands and model numbers.)

5 thoughts on “USB Disk Enclosures”

  1. I have this enclosure

    and it has

    (1) activity light
    (2) aluminum external casing (front/back plane are plastic as well as stand)
    (3) power switch (auto sensing 100 – 240 V which might be good when traveling)
    (4) removable stand
    (5) up to 300 GB drive (U133 too)

    They have several versions

    USB 2.0
    Firewire 400
    USA 2.0 + SATA
    USB 2.0 + Firewire 400

    I got this case almost 1 yr ago for $50 at the LA Computer Fair ( and it is barely warm even if I have had for days at a time.

    Buffalo Tech also makes their own external hard drives (the DriveStations, not the TeraStations nor LinkStations) and they are fanless too, so I wasn’t too worried about mine not having a fan. (all the way down)

    Got any recommdations for *true* USB 2.0 hubs?


  2. 9 USB ports?
    my gosh!
    2-4 is standard, but I assume you have a 5 port USB 2.0 card.

    The difference between a true USB 2.0 and a untrue one is that some USB 1.1 devices have be relabeled as 2.0. This was a long time ago, so it is probably not an issue these days.

    USB 1.1 Renumbered To USB 2?

    “The story also claims that both Sony & toshiba have released laptops with the USB2 that is really USB1.1.”


  3. I have a fancy-pants motherboard that has two USB 2.0 controllers built in for a total of 10 ports. There’s two on the motherboard, 4 via the back panel, and 2 via the front panel, then I put in one of those 7-in-1 memory card readers into the second floppy drive slot and it uses 1 port for the card reader and the second port as a regular USB port. So that’s a total of 9 USB ports available.

    As for the “true USB 2.0” issue, that slashdot article is misleading. USB 2.0 has always included three speeds, “low speed” (not really used anymore), “full speed” (equivalent to USB 1.1) and “high speed” (new in USB 2.0). A device can claim to be USB 2.0 compliant even if it only works up to “full speed”. This is frustrating, and the “full speed” name is misleading, but you just have to look for products that are “USB 2.0 high speed” to make sure you’re getting what you want.


  4. slashdot is sometimes like usenet: separating the wheat from the chaff is a pain. Sorry for the misleading reference/example 🙁

    For the longest time I couldn’t find a USB 2.0 hub for under $40 USD.
    The USB 1.1 “compliant” hubs were under $15. Finally, I got an IOGear Compact USB 2.0 “compliant” hub for $15 at Fry’s, but it gets really hot, which is apparently a common problem – even with Beklin hubs.

    Here is fancy USB device to copy data from one USB mass storage device (i.e., digicam) to a USB keychain.

    Same USB 1.1 “compliant” issue.

    USB1.1 Host Specification. Supports both USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 devices



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