The 8 Best HDD Docks
Since the initial publication of this wiki in April of 2016, we've made 21 edits to this page. Hard drives can store a lot of data for a relatively low cost, but if you have several, it's a pain to have to open your case or an external enclosure and plug one in every time you want to access it. A good dock allows you to read and write to an HDD or SSD as though it were removable media and, in some cases, will let you duplicate entire volumes or set them up in multi-disk RAID configurations. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best hdd dock on Amazon.
July 09, 2019:
If you need to connect internal storage media quickly and easily, there are a few ways to go about it. There are vertical multi-bay docks like the Inatek FD2005 and Sabrent U3B4 which not only connect the drives but let you clone them at the touch of a button, no computer involved. The WavLink is a little more complex, but not much, and while it only has a single HDD slot, it does function as a multipurpose hub for USB and SD card connectivity. On the simplest side of things are the Unitek and StarTech adapters, which plug directly into SATA or IDE connectors and get the job done without even an enclosure. These are inexpensive, compact, and straightforward, and the Unitek even has a backup function that makes it that much easier to archive old data.
If your project is a little more ambitious, you may need something like the DuoSwap, Mediasonic, or EZDIY. These are fully hot-swappable, which means that when you pull one drive, the others remain totally unaffected, which is ideal if you're administering a home server. While the media is easy to remove and replace, the backlines themselves require permanent installation. If you're planning on working with SSDs instead of HDDs, there are a few more nuances to the decision. And if you're looking for an external enclosure -- whether a portable case for or standalone rack for RAID or server use -- we can help with that, as well.
Hard Drives Versus Solid State Drives
Computers using HDDs are, however, catching up in speed to SSDs.
Many computer manufacturers today are creating ones that boast up to 7,200 rotations per minute.
When one buys a new laptop today, the store's customer service representative might ask them if they want a model with a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD) storage unit. One of the main differences between an SSD and an HDD is that an SSD has no moving parts. An HDD stores information inside of a rotating platter. A read/write head sits just above that platter and when it spins, it reads and writes the data. It looks slightly similar to an old record player. An SSD, however, stores data inside of tiny microchips, and the storage unit does not need to move at all to deliver information to a computer.
The still nature of an SSD is what makes it faster than an HDD; the user can access information instantly through the SSD’s embedded processor, rather than wait for an arm to read and analyze it. Computers using HDDs are, however, catching up in speed to SSDs. The speed of an HDD depends on how quickly its platter spins. Many computer manufacturers today are creating ones that boast up to 7,200 rotations per minute. Some server-based HDDs have platters that spin up to 15,000 rotations per minute.
One might wonder what the advantage is to one of these types of storage units over the other. HDDs are typically less expensive than SSDs. Many laptop hard drives come with around one terabyte—or 1,024 gigabytes—of storage, but ones with SSD storage generally come with 512GB or less. Prices are always changing, but an HDD-based computer may cost fifty percent or less of the price of a similar model with solid state storage of the same capacity. That being said, through the use of NAND flash technology, SSD-based computer manufacturers are hoping to increase the storage capacity of their product while keeping their prices low in an attempt to be more competitive with HDD-based computers.
History Of Hard Drive Disks
When hard drives first came on the market, they were very expensive. IBM produced the first one in 1953 and released it in 1956. It was called the IBM 305 RAMAC, it held five megabytes of data, and it cost $10,000 per megabyte. The RAMAC was enormous, using fifty 24-inch platters to store data. A few years later, IBM created the flying head that floated over the magnetic platters of a hard drive, reading and writing the information. It wasn't until 1963 that IBM released the first external hard drive, which was significantly smaller than their original model. This removable hard drive was composed of six 14-inch platters, and could hold half of the data of the first model.
1988 saw the emergence of the 1-inch by 3.5-inch hard drive, which is still standard size for desktops today.
These primitive hard drives were very clunky and moved slowly. In 1973, IBM put out their Winchester hard drive, which had lubricated spindles for quicker file access, and low-mass heads that didn't take up as much space. IBM was the only major producer of hard drives until a company called Seagate Technology started making them in 1979. After that, IBM and Seagate seemed to be in a race to put out a better, faster product. In 1980, IBM made its first gigabyte hard drive, and in that same year, Seagate introduced the first 5.25-inch hard disk. Other hard drive manufacturers came on the market around this time, including Western Digital, Shugart Associates, and Rodime.
Shugart created an interface that would become the first small computer system interface (SCSI) in 1981. 1988 saw the emergence of the 1-inch by 3.5-inch hard drive, which is still standard size for desktops today. In 1991, IBM made the first drive with film magnetoresistive heads (MR) and in 1992, Seagate stole the show by releasing the first 2.5-inch hard drive, which has become the standard size for laptop HDDs. Seagate would again shock the technology world when it put out the first drive capable of 15,000 rotations per minute in the year 2000.
What Makes A Hard Drive Dock Unique
There are a total of nine internal hard drive sizes, but the only two that are currently active are the 2.5 and 3.5-inch ones. Some hard drive docks have the ability to read both of these sizes. Many hard drive docks even have readers for SD cards and XD cards, making them useful for almost any computer task from gaming to photo-viewing.
So the user can both work on files contained in one hard drive on their computer, while simultaneously adding data to another one.
Some people have internal hard drives that they want to keep protected inside of their computer at all times. A docking station makes it so they do not have to remove their internal hard drive in order to work with an additional one. Internal hard drives can also overheat and crack inside of a computer. Docking stations allow the user to periodically back up these internal drives, so they don't lose all of their data in the event that they are destroyed.
Most docking stations can also read one hard drive while they write to another. So the user can both work on files contained in one hard drive on their computer, while simultaneously adding data to another one. Some models even have offline cloning technology that allows the user to perfectly duplicate the data and save it to another drive, without ever removing data from the original one.
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