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Old 2008-01-17, 23:44   Link #1
Ledgem
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Northeast USA
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Using a HD outside of an enclosure

I'm decommissioning my old desktop system and preparing it for donation. I'd like to include one of my hard drives with the system so that it's usable, but wasn't quite thinking right: I packed up the system (it's here with me) and stored my monitors back home in New York without erasing the HD I'd like to donate with the system. Say what you will about how charity organizations won't scan your drive for data, I'm not taking chances and intend to do a security wipe on the drive.

I can't use the desktop, and don't really have the space to fully unpack it. My only system at this point is a laptop. I bought a SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 converter in order to aid with the task (it seems like it'd be a very useful tool in general). I'm going to remove the HD, wipe it using the laptop, and then put it back into the system.

The drive in question is a 5400 RPM drive, which isn't quite as wild as the 7200's but should still have enough spin to be a potential worry. Would it be OK to just have the drive sitting on a desk surface, or should I try to secure it somehow (perhaps putting two heavy books on either side of it)? Alteratively I can try to hang it during usage. I'd like to avoid killing this drive and potentially damaging something else. I don't expect the drive to suddenly take off or anything, but I don't want to have to account for an unexpected bit of drive motion around the desk. Any advice?
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Old 2008-01-18, 00:13   Link #2
jpwong
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I've had drives just loose when I needed to do an entire drive copy over because of a hard disk failure, I don't really think it's a big deal. I feel the enclosure case is really more there to give it a bit of protection in case you spill something, drop it or whatever.

Though to be totally honest, if you don't want people to read your data, just destroy the hard disk with a hammer or something. My Comp Sci teachers say you'd be surprised what people can recover off a disk even after it's been supposedly "wiped".
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Old 2008-01-18, 01:24   Link #3
Sides
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jpwong View Post
I feel the enclosure case is really more there to give it a bit of protection in case you spill something, drop it or whatever.
My guess, they damp the vibration and noise, and of course provide a better airflow and futhermore gives you protection, when carrying it around.

But yeah technically there is no need to get an external case, just make sure that the cable is not flying around so you could get caught, when dancing around your room.
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Old 2008-01-18, 02:05   Link #4
hobbes_fan
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I'd try to get a silicon sleeve to provide some additional protection from shock and small static discharges also stops it from sliding everywhere if you plan to use it for a while externally, but otherwise I don't see why not.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16817990005

also I can't recommend d-ban to wipe hdd's highly enough
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Old 2008-01-18, 02:20   Link #5
Sazelyt
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Quote:
The drive in question is a 5400 RPM drive, which isn't quite as wild as the 7200's but should still have enough spin to be a potential worry. [b]Would it be OK to just have the drive sitting on a desk surface, or should I try to secure it somehow (perhaps putting two heavy books on either side of it)?
I used that option a few times before (during the last 5 years), putting the drive on the case without screwing it. Nothing bad happened. And, the last time I checked the drive (which was I believe 5-6 months ago), it was still working properly (except for the noise it generates when it is working). At that time, my only concern was to not make any contact with the hard disk when it was working, so if you can ensure that, I doubt anything bad will happen.
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Old 2008-01-18, 02:47   Link #6
Jinto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
...
The drive in question is a 5400 RPM drive, which isn't quite as wild as the 7200's but should still have enough spin to be a potential worry. Would it be OK to just have the drive sitting on a desk surface, or should I try to secure it somehow (perhaps putting two heavy books on either side of it)? Alteratively I can try to hang it during usage. I'd like to avoid killing this drive and potentially damaging something else. I don't expect the drive to suddenly take off or anything, but I don't want to have to account for an unexpected bit of drive motion around the desk. Any advice?
With loose drives you can face considerable noise levels. Despite that nothing bad should happen. It cannot be wrong to dampen it on the bottom, just to reduce vibration (could possibly have positive effects on the life expectancy of the hdd).

However, try not to stack several hdd's on each other, or placing heat sources near the hdd. I would be extremely cautious with any sources of magnetism too. So CRT monitors/TVs, speakers, certain power adapters and other such devices should be distanced approx. 0.25m.
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Old 2008-01-18, 03:47   Link #7
IRJustman
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I myself have never had an issue with the adapter I have (though mine does not have SATA, just standard and laptop IDE connectors). The only drive I owned that ended up being a casualty was actually in a USB case. That's because I was pushing something which pushed it, knocking it down to the floor while it was turned on, attached to a computer AND ACTIVELY OPERATING. Oddly enough, I managed to scavenge a lot of data from that drive. I'm not sure I can get anymore of it, but I haven't tried much of late.

I have since replaced that case (which stands vertically) with a case that can lie flat (actually, I now have several and want to get more of that kind before CompUSA goes completely belly-up), though they do come with a stand so they can operate vertically. I want to go buy some rubber "feet" so they can stay solid on the table. Plus unlike that other case, it has IEEE 1394a connections in addition to USB 2.0.

I have never lost a bare drive in this fashion yet.

Though if you are worried, what the others are saying about damping the vibration is good advice. However, if your drive has a tendency to put out a bit of heat, you might consider putting some screws for "feet" in the threads on the bottom of the unit in question so it can ventilate and can stay still.

Hope this helps!

--Ian.
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Old 2008-01-18, 08:34   Link #8
SeijiSensei
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I've run machines with loose drives hanging out of them many times and never had a problem (he says looking at the computer on the floor next to him with one of its drives hanging out). I don't usually do anything special with them, either, except not piling them on top of each other as Jinto mentioned. I've found drives to be a lot less fragile than you might expect. Plus I've had drives mounted completely in the case go south for no obvious reason.
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Old 2008-01-18, 12:13   Link #9
Ledgem
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Thanks all for the replies, you'll be getting your rep points shortly Mac OSX has a "secure wipe" feature that writes over all sectores of the drive 35 times, but that may be overkill. A regular format that writes over the data to make easy data recovery more difficult would probably suffice. That, and this drive is already incredibly old - I thought it was going to fail a year ago, but right after I bought a replacement drive it stopped acting up. I'd probably get more karma for donating one of my newer drives with the system...

Quote:
Originally Posted by IRJustman View Post
I have since replaced that case (which stands vertically) with a case that can lie flat (actually, I now have several and want to get more of that kind before CompUSA goes completely belly-up), though they do come with a stand so they can operate vertically. I want to go buy some rubber "feet" so they can stay solid on the table. Plus unlike that other case, it has IEEE 1394a connections in addition to USB 2.0.
What's the cost of that enclosure? When I was looking for an enclosure for a 500 GB SATA drive of mine one of the requirements for me was that it have at least 1394a (1394b would have been nice, but it seems like no retail enclosures have it). I ended up going with an Icy Dock enclosure that was a bit more costly than I'd really thought it would be. It works very nicely, but at that price I can't really pick any more up without a good reason. Is yours cheaper?
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Old 2008-01-18, 13:38   Link #10
Sazelyt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
What's the cost of that enclosure? When I was looking for an enclosure for a 500 GB SATA drive of mine one of the requirements for me was that it have at least 1394a (1394b would have been nice, but it seems like no retail enclosures have it). I ended up going with an Icy Dock enclosure that was a bit more costly than I'd really thought it would be. It works very nicely, but at that price I can't really pick any more up without a good reason. Is yours cheaper?
I don't think you will be find any better quality enclosure (sata + 1394) at cheaper price at Compusa, considering your requirements. But, if you want to save from the enclosure cost (for the future purchases), with only laptop, it may be better to buy an esata converter card (I think you can find one around $40 or maybe less; just checked newegg there is one good reviewed card at $20 after rebate price), then you can reduce the price of the enclosure by $30 without using the 1394 option, just esata.
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Old 2008-01-18, 15:00   Link #11
IRJustman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
What's the cost of that enclosure? When I was looking for an enclosure for a 500 GB SATA drive of mine one of the requirements for me was that it have at least 1394a (1394b would have been nice, but it seems like no retail enclosures have it). I ended up going with an Icy Dock enclosure that was a bit more costly than I'd really thought it would be. It works very nicely, but at that price I can't really pick any more up without a good reason. Is yours cheaper?
Well, for your purposes, it probably wouldn't work (it is standard ATA only, not serial ATA). It would normally set me back about US$40, but with CompUSA going out of business, I got a hefty 15% discount on my latest purchase of two (though it might be more now, and that's assuming they still have stock left, and I like these enclosures... just don't want to see my sole source of these guys dry up... :( ).

--Ian.
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Old 2008-01-18, 15:37   Link #12
Ledgem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sazelyt View Post
I don't think you will be find any better quality enclosure (sata + 1394) at cheaper price at Compusa, considering your requirements. But, if you want to save from the enclosure cost (for the future purchases), with only laptop, it may be better to buy an esata converter card (I think you can find one around $40 or maybe less; just checked newegg there is one good reviewed card at $20 after rebate price), then you can reduce the price of the enclosure by $30 without using the 1394 option, just esata.
eSATA offers comparable (better) speeds to firewire, but I'm big on firewire because they can be daisy-chained. From what I've read about eSATA, it can't do that. I always found firewire to be an annoyance when I was primarily using Windows systems. It wasn't until I found myself dealing with dozens of HDs and numerous Apple systems at work that I really found firewire to be cool stuff. Aside from linking up multiple HDs to one system, other uses have been bridging gaps between computers to connect them, using HDs as nodes. I was also able to overcome broken firewire ports on systems using firewire drives as though they were hubs. It's incredibly neat and versatile.

So as it is, my laptop has one firewire 400 port and one firewire 800 port. To overcome the limitation of only two USB ports I bought a USB hub that's been serving nicely. I prefer linking firewire devices, though... it's really too bad that firewire doesn't have more widespread adoption.
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Old 2008-01-18, 18:32   Link #13
Wervy
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Eh, let the drive hang out for all the harm it will do. I have swapped drives and had them hanging out upside down while ghosting and it never had a hitch.
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Old 2008-01-18, 21:10   Link #14
hobbes_fan
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Nothing is overkill. Especially when it comes to PC HDD's that you've used to store confidential information. I work with a former constable now a licensed PI (work in insurance) and he had access to tools to recover data (used in divorce cases where assets were hidden by a spouse) and in his experience he estimates an 80% success ratio. Not saying everyone has these tools but it is possible and quite easy if you do.
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Old 2008-01-19, 04:59   Link #15
IRJustman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
eSATA offers comparable (better) speeds to firewire, but I'm big on firewire because they can be daisy-chained. From what I've read about eSATA, it can't do that.
That's a limitation of SATA in general. I'm more a SCSI fan myself since SCSI is inherently multitasking; ATA is not (which is why you want disc burners and source hard drives on different controllers due to bus hogging), though apparently this cannot be said of SATA.

However, one thing I do like about SATA is that you can plug a SAS (Serial-Attached SCSI) drive into a SATA port, but the problem is, you get the limitations of SATA when you plug the opposite type into the port. Basically, you can only plug one drive of any kind in, be it SATA or SAS, into a SATA port.

--Ian.
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Old 2008-01-19, 22:02   Link #16
Myname
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I just leave the drive in one of those anti-static bags and turn it on like that.

Though it gets pretty hot after an hour or so. Kinda burns too.

Might want to have a small fan blowing on it while it's formatting.
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Old 2008-01-21, 02:21   Link #17
grey_moon
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The thing about electronic components and heat is that it ages them quicker. When they run certain stress tests, they don't have them on for X thousand hours, but they bake them and say that running at that temperature is equal to running it for an extended time.

Now here lies the problem of leaving components hanging out, or even leaving the side of a computer case off. It leaves stagnant air around it and therefore it doesn't cool as quickly as having a nice airflow should do. Which means even though you can have it on and running with no issues, you may be lowering its lifetime. But then again all of these lifetimes are just averages, so it is a hard call to make.

With hard drives stagnant air isn't that big an issue and as someone earlier suggested just turn a fan onto them if you are slogging them. The main issue of leaving the side of a case opened if you have them hanging out, is causing stagnant air around passively cooled chips such as GPU, north and south bridge chips etc.
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Old 2008-01-23, 15:20   Link #18
lamer_de
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Quote:
Mac OSX has a "secure wipe" feature that writes over all sectores of the drive 35 times, but that may be overkill.
Definitely. Those "governmental reccomendations" stem from "ancient times" (90's) when the design of hdds was much more simple. With nowadays data densities on the individual magnetic discs as well as the increased complexity of the controllers, a recovery of data that has been overwritten just one time is already next to impossible (if not outright impossible). So yeah, if your soft allows a wipe with 1 or 3 passes of pseudorandom data, you should be all set. I also never encountered problems when running discs out of enclosings for short time, like all the other posters already confirmed, too.
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