Let there be light..

$60 External Hot-Swap Removable Storage

As I do more and more freelance and personal projects, storage really gets to be a pain. I have had a DVD-R for two years and double sided DVD media is nice (9GB), but they take a long time to burn. I have SCSI in about every computer I own, and I have scsi cards that support SCA (hotswappable drives), but any time you do anything with SCS it's always expensive. I just wanted some kind of removeable drive system that filled these simple criteria:

- Hot-swappable, I dont want to have t take a server down to replace a drive.
- Massive storage, in the hundreds of gigabytes per drive.
- 7200 rpm or faster drive support.
- External enclosure. Preferably something that I could hook up to any system I have.
- As cheap as possible.

I looked around and decided that an external firewire device would be the way to go. They make internal 5.25 removable IDE drive bays. But you must power down a server to replace them. Well they also make external 5.25 firewire enclosures, why not hit two birds with one stone. I looked around online and found an external USB 2.0 removable device. It was 70 dollars or more, and the people who used it claimed it's transfer rates were "abyssmal", not to mention that it had a large external power supply. I like firewire; and all my machines support it; so I looked more and found some very expensive solutions ($200+). In the end I decided to just make my own. I loaded up NewEgg.com and looked at what they had to offer. Within a few minutes I found these:

External Firewire Enclosure $45.99
Mobile HDD Rack w/sled $17.99

The external enclosure supported 250GB+ HDs and had an Oxford chipset; not to mention it had a fan and internal power supply. I didn't really know if this mobile rack would fit in the enclosure; but I would think 5.25 was a standard, as with it's depth. But whatever, worst case scenario, I would take the USB-Firewire PCB out of the enclosure and attach it to the back of the mobile rack; mounting them inside a PC.

The parts came in the mail and yea, the mobile rack was too deep. It did not fit at all. It was not even close. I was kind if pissed, I mean here is a device that claims it firs in a standard 5.25 bay, and here is another device that claims it has a standard 5.25 bay; yet they don't fit. By at least a full cm or two. Another annoyance was that every time you replaced the HD sled, you had to lock it in with a small metal key! That lock was a switch connected to the power. The drive would not power on without said key and locking.

I thought about it and if I squeezed the mobile rack in really tightly, only the black plastic part would hang out. I looked on the underside to see if any holes in the bottom of the rack matched with the 5.25 mounting holes in the enclosure, and one did. I approximated the other and drilled through the plastic to reach it. Viola. With just two screws it held the thing in there really tight; almost like the product was supposed to come like this. Now all I had to do was get rid of this key switch.

I looked through my big ol box of crap and found an old switch that looked like it might fit. I soldered it in place of the old locking mechanism as you see here:

I needed to use the Dremel to make the hold a tad larger to accomodate the new switch, but it took less than a minute. I screwed the new switch into place; and then the rest of the case back together and viola! A $60 external hot-swappable firewire storage unit: