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How to Use a SATA Hard Drive Enclosure for Recovery

written by: saramw10•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/19/2010

Imagine that old hard drive you upgraded months or years ago, sitting unused in the back of your closet. Even if you accidentally erased the data on that drive, or regret doing so now, its data can be restored without having to re-install it into a computer.

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    What Type of SATA Hard Drive Enclosure is Right for My Computer?

    Determine first the type of hard drive you are putting into an enclosure and what it will be used for after the data recovery is complete. Hard drive physical sizes, called "form factors," are typically 3.5" wide for desktop drives and 2.5" wide for laptop drives. Also check the ports on your computer and take stock of what it has; most hard drive enclosures use USB or eSATA while some use FireWire. Write down your SATA hard drive's form factor and available ports on a piece of paper and keep it handy for when you shop. Now what will you use the drive for after recovering its data? If you have multiple SATA hard drives, then consider either a multi-bay enclosure or a "toaster" dock that allows for easy drive swapping.

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    How to Purchase a SATA Hard Drive Enclosure

    Hard drive enclosures for your SATA hard drive are available for purchase on almost any site selling computer goods. Read carefully the item specifications of any enclosure before buying it, checking that it is the right size for your drive and is compatible with your computer. Quality enclosures often include features such as a cooling fan, quiet operation, and higher transfer rates. Since these better hard drive enclosures cost around forty dollars or more, check around for an inexpensive one but do not go for dirt cheap. Look for a fan, because these drives do run hot.

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    Installing the Drive

    Open up the hard drive enclosure's package and carefully review the directions for its assembly. Once your SATA hard drive is in the enclosure, plug it into the power adapter and power it up. Listen for any strange noises and check any lights on the enclosure for errors. Once the drive is running and there are no problems, plug the enclosure into the computer with the included cable. Windows XP and higher should detect the drive and install drivers automatically, but software including drivers and special tools are also sometimes included with a new hard drive enclosure. Run this software and install any tools or drivers necessary to run the hard drive.

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    Download and Install Hard Drive Recovery Software

    Download the free version of Recuva and install it on a drive other than the one you are attempting to recover data from. Run the wizard and choose the type of files to recover; choosing "other" will show all recoverable files. Next, choose your enclosed SATA hard drive as the location to search. Select a specific folder if it still exists, because that will make the search faster. If nothing comes up, the wizard will ask if you want to do a deep scan, which takes longer. Once data is recovered, move the files to one of your computer's internal drives and use your old drive as a back-up to avoid losing files in the future.