If you’ve got an old or salvaged IDE or SATA hard disk drive and you need to recover some data from it then there are several options open to you. They are all easy to use and are certainly worth considering before you pay huge sums of money to data recovery specialists.
Hard Drive Cases (also know as caddys or enclosures)
Hard Drive cases are a great solution because they provide physical protection to any hard disk drive that’s installed in the case as well as allowing you to connect to the hard drive and recover the data from the hard disk.
Hard drive cases as the name suggests are metal (normally aluminium) cases that completely encase the bare hard disk drive. Inside the case is either an IDE connector and ribbon interface or SATA connector (it will vary depending of the type of hard drive you have and whether you buy an IDE or SATA HDD case). The HDD case will typically connect to your PC via USB but cases with Firewire and e-SATA interfaces are also available.
Hard drive cases not only allow you to breath new life into any old hard disk drive but you can also you use them with new hard disk drives as well but remember to “allocate” and “format” them first!
All Hard Drive enclosures come with leads to connect the case to the PC. Smaller cases designed for use with hard disks from a laptop will be USB BUS powered but larger cases are all supplied with an external power supply.
The only real downside of the hard drive cases is that they are not designed for “popping” hard drives in and out quickly. Inside the case the hard disk drive will be held in place by four screws and then the case itself is usually secured with at least two more screws. So, if you’re an engineer and you test lots of different hard drive cable kit solution or a hard disk docking station might be a better bet.
Hard Disk Drive Docking Stations are relatively new but they have already proven to be very popular technicians and engineers alike because they make testing multiple hard disk drives a piece of cake! The hard disk drives are simply pushed in to the docking station. There are no screws or connections to mess with so you can be recovering data or just checking that the hard drives work in a couple of seconds.
You do need to buy a docking station for either IDE/ATA hard disks OR SATA hard disks. There are no universal docking stations on the market that cover both interface types but they do work with different physical size versions of the same standard. So, an IDE docking station will work with 2.5” and 3.5” hard disk drives but not SATA and likewise a SATA docking station will work with 2.5” and 3.5” SATA hard disk drives but not IDE/ATA drives.
One of the simplest and most popular products for recovering data from hard disks drives is a universal USB to IDE/SATA cable kit.
These kits are supplied with a range of USB and SATA cables plus a switching power supply unit that allows you to connect pretty much any hard disk drive to a PC via USB 2.0. The USB to IDE and SATA cable kit support hard drives from laptops (2.5″ HDD’s) and desktops (3.5″ HDD). Its true flexibility is that it will also support IDE/ATA hard disk drives and the newer SATA (Serial-ATA) hard disk drives. Additionally these kits work on all the obvious operating systems including VISTA and Windows 7. So pretty much every flavour of hard drive, every size and every operating system is supported.
Whichever solution you use you will need to make sure if you’re using an IDE/ATA hard disk drive that its set to “master” on the jumper settings. When the hard disk is connected to your PC it will be allocated a new drive letter automatically and will then work pretty much like any USB flash drive.
Compared to the high cost of employing a professional data recovery expert these options are relatively inexpensive.