Using an external hard drive is a great way to back up what’s most important to you, while retaining full access to your data. But you don’t necessarily need to buy a pre-built external drive. If you have an old hard drive lying around, sticking it in an enclosure can give you a new external drive at a fraction of the cost.
These are our favorites, from fantastic USB-C enclosures like the Ineo Shockproof enclosure, to the Rosewill RX-358 with its fantastic fan cooling system. There’s something for everyone here.
The best hard drive enclosures at a glance:
- Best USB-C hard drive enclosure: Ineo Shockproof external hard drive enclosure
- Best budget hard drive enclosure: Orico USB 3.0 2.5-inch enclosure
- Best 3.5-inch hard drive enclosure: Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure with mesh case
- Best hard drive enclosure with active cooling: Rosewill RX-358
- Best multiple-drive hard drive enclosure: Mediasonic 4-bay enclosure
The best USB-C hard drive enclosure: Ineo Shockproof external hard drive enclosure
USB-C connections are common place on modern laptops and are beginning to appear on desktop chassis too. But most hard drive enclosures still only use USB-A, though. Not so with the Ineo 2.5-inch enclosure, which sports not only a USB-C 3.1 connection, but a supremely protective chassis too. The enclosure has a rubberized exterior band to help protect against drop damage and it’s entirely waterproof.
It’s only compatible with 2.5-inch drives, but that means it can do away with any need for external power. It’s compatible with major consoles, Windows PCs, and MacOS.
The best budget hard drive enclosure: Orico USB 3.0 2.5-inch enclosure
Orico’s 2.5-inch hard drive enclosure might not be bristling with features, but it is dirt cheap and is impressively easy to install new drives in. With a tool-less slide mechanism for access, a built-in anti-shock pad, and a brushed aluminum casing, it looks reasonably good and offers a modicum of protection for your drive.
It is limited to 2.5-inch hard drives and SSDs only, so your old 3.5-inch HDD won’t fit, but for sleeker, modern drives, it’s an incredibly affordable way to give your older drive a new lease of life as an external storage device.
The best 3.5-inch hard drive enclosure: Inateck 3.5-inch enclosure with mesh case
A 3.5-inch drive needs more than a 2.5-inch drive. It needs more power and more space, which in turn can lead to more heat buildup. That’s what makes the Inateck enclosure perfect for our needs. It accommodates drives up to 10TB in the 3.5-inches size, and its external power cable means that it can power them too. To prevent overheating, one side is entirely mesh-covered, helping to circulate cooling air across the drive, but without the added noise or point of failure of an active fan.
It only supports USB 3.0, so it isn’t the fastest enclosure around. But it should be quick enough for most needs.
The best hard drive enclosure with active cooling: Rosewill RX-358
If you are worried about the life of your hard drive inside its new home, then an active cooling fan can make sure that it stays at safe operating temperatures at all times. Hard drives don’t typically overheat unless given very little breathing room, but an active cooling fan can guarantee that does not happen.
The Rosewill RX-358 is the best option for a hard drive enclosure with a built-in fan. It supports 3.5-inch drives up to 6TB in capacity and has outputs to both USB 3.0 and eSATA (although that’s a rather dead standard) with UASP support for faster data transfer.
It’s much more expensive than most of the other enclosures on this list, but the Rosewill RX-358 comes with more for the money, so you get what you pay for.
The best hard drive enclosure for multiple drives: Mediasonic 4-bay enclosure
If you have more than one hard drive that you’d like to put into external drives, why not just get one big one for all of them? The Mediasonic USB 3.1 4-bay enclosure for 3.5-inch drives is a perfect choice for those with multiple drives. It supports up to 16TB per drive, for a total of 64GB of storage space. Thanks to its support of USB-C 3.1 it can handle data transfers at up to 10Gbps, so there’s no need to worry about your data being stuck on the drives and taking forever to copy away.
It also enjoys full support for UASP for faster transfer between the SATA and USB mediums, and employs an active cooling fan with smart temperature tracking, meaning it only spins up when it’s absolutely necessary to cool the drives down.
Installation is easy thanks to a quick-slot mechanism at the rear, with synchronization between your PC and the enclosure guaranteeing that the drives never run for longer than they need to.