10 drive docks help you re-use old hard drives

These USB 3.0 drive docks let you create external storage out of your salvaged internal hard drives.

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Syba USB 3.0 Hard Disk Drive Docking Station (SD-ENC50036)

According to Syba, its new SD-ENC50036 will work with the new generation of over-2TB hard drives, so you can maximize your capacity with current 3TB drives and the larger ones that are to follow.

Unlike most single-bay docks, the Syba isn't a single block of metal into which you insert a drive; instead, it offers a more open configuration. Despite that, it's a bit bigger than most of its peers; according to the Web site, it measures 7.5 by 5.2 by 5.2 in. and weighs 1.6 lbs.

When you insert a 3.5-in. drive, the dock clamps onto the drive and holds it in place. If you're using a 2.5-in. drive, Syba provides an insert that's placed against the rear of the drive so the clamping action still holds it firmly.

Syba USB 3.0 Hard Disk Drive Docking Station (SD-ENC50036) from Syba USA

Retail price: $23-$49

Thermaltake BlacX 5G (ST0019U)

Thermaltake is probably better known for its lineup of computer cases, CPU heat sinks and power supplies -- but that hasn't kept it out of the hard drive dock market.

Its BlacX 5G docking station (described on the Web site as having a "Trendy Docking Station Design") is a single-bay dock that, at 5.0 by 3.0 by 7.0 in. and weighing 1.5 lbs, accommodates either 3.5-in. or 2.5-in. drives. The dock comes with two rubberized fitted "caps" -- one for each of the two drive sizes it handles. They provide a modicum of protection for the drive when it's not in the dock.

Thermaltake BlacX 5G (ST0019U) from Thermaltake

Direct price: $50

Retail price: $39-$83

Docks with two or more bays

Cavalry EN-CAHDD-U3

It's possible that Cavalry's new EN-CAHDD-U3 could be riding over the hill to rescue you from your storage woes. It's more likely that the dual-bay dock will find a welcome place on your desk to extend your present storage capabilities. With two bays, it will accommodate both a 3.5-in. and a 2.5-in. drive simultaneously.

As with all 3.5-in. compatible docks, the unit comes with a power brick, but it won't crowd your wall outlet: A separate cord runs from the brick itself to the AC outlet. The dock's 6.2 by 5.0 by 3.2 in. size gives it a reasonable chance to fit on even the most populated desktops.

Cavalry EN-CAHDD-U3 from Cavalry Storage

Retail price: $70-$92

Sharkoon SATA QuickPort Duo USB 3.0 v.2

Germany-based Sharkoon seems to be a prolific USB hard drive dock manufacturer. In addition to offering several USB 2.0 models, the company has already reached Version 2 of its latest USB 3.0 model, the SATA QuickPort Duo USB3.0 v.2.

This latest design accommodates two 3.5-in. or 2.5-in. drives, not only expanding your external storage but also giving you the opportunity to duplicate drives should you have the software to do so. According to Sharkoon, the dock will work with SATA 3.0 drives such as Seagate's Barracuda XT or Western Digital's Caviar Green HD 3TB hard disks. Two LEDs on the front allow you to monitor the dock's power and drive access.

Sharkoon SATA QuickPort Duo USB 3.0 v.2 from Sharkoon Technologies

Retail price: $80

StarTech.com four-bay eSATA USB 3.0 to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station (SATDOCK4U3E)

StarTech.com was one of the first companies to come out with a USB 3.0-compatible dock. Its latest four-bay model can handle 2.5-in. or 3.5-in. drives, mixed or matched. Dual 60mm fans can be manually switched on to keep the drives cool as needed.

The StarTech.com dock is somewhat larger than average at 3.7 by 6.8 by 11.4 in. and weighs in at just a bit above 2 lbs. An eSATA port on the back lets you bypass USB altogether if you have an equivalent eSATA port on your computer.

Incidentally, if you don't want to spend the approximately $190 that the four-dock unit costs, StarTech.com offers a dual-drive dock for $109 that comes with a PCIe-based controller card in case you don't have USB 3.0 functionality.

StarTech.com four-bay eSATA USB 3.0 to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station (SATDOCK4U3E) from StarTech.com

Direct price: $190

Retail price: $133-$202

Bill O'Brien has written a half-dozen books on computers and technology. He has also written articles on topics ranging from Apple computers, PCs and Linux and has authored commentary on subjects such as IT hardware decisions.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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