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USB 3.0 for SATA Drive Repair

A recent post over on Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows just reminded me about an essential item in any Windows admin’s repair and recovery toolkit — namely a USB 3.0 to SATA adapter or drive caddy of some kind. The “drive end” (SATA) represents the most common form of SDD and hard disk coupling in use on Windows machines nowadays, while a USB 3.0 port is available on most modern machines and combines high rates of speed for data transfers (the theoretical limit of 5 or 6 Gbps is seldom approached, but USB 3.0 is generally an order of magnitude faster than USB 2.0 or 2.1 in everyday use). Thurrott’s post is entitled “Tools of the Trade: USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter” and features an Anker device available from Newegg for $21.99, depicted here:

anker-usb3toSATAThe secret to this choice of device, which is eminently suitable for traveling/field use, is that it accommodates an external power supply. That’s because while it is possible to buy USB to SATA adapters that either feature one or two USB connectors (the second one is used to boost power levels, as a single USB Port can deliver only 2.5 to 5.0 Watts), you can only use such devices to attach lower-power SATA drives via USB. In practice, this means 2.5″ notebook drives such as SSDs, SSHDs, or conventional hard disks. Even then, higher-capacity 2.5″ HDs (1 TB and above) might still demand too much power to be served by such an inexpensive and light-duty adapter (here’s a $12.55 part from Newegg that illustrates this kind of thing).

For shop or depot use, I’d recommend something I’ve written about before — namely, a one or two SATA connector-equipped drive caddy (see the 4/19/2013 post here entitled “MyFaves: HDD Docking Station” for more details). These devices are bigger and less portable, but also offer a more substantial tool for mounting either 2.5 or 3.5″ SATA drives of all kinds and sizes (I’ve got a 3.0 TB Toshiba drive mounted in my $58 Thermaltake BlackX Duet that I use for backups and my enormous collection of music files). A dual drive unit like this one also offers an easy way to mount two drives, so that you can image one drive directly to another (or use a tool like Paragon Software’s Migrate OS to SSD 4.0, to transfer a UEFI boot disk image from a source to a target disk without losing boot capability in the bargain).

Whether you go for the portable Anker device that Thurrott recommends, or an equivalent like the FiveStar  SATA IDE Adapter ($21 at Newegg), or even the more substantial drive caddies best suited for shop or depot use, if you work regularly with imaging, building, recovering, or repairing Windows disks, you’ll find such devices invaluable elements in a well-stocked Windows PC toolkit. Highly recommended.

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