Why You Should Build An External HDD Enclosure From Card, And How
That pile of old hard disk drives in your drawer – isn’t it time you tidied them up a little? One way you can do this is by making a card enclosure, enabling the easy storage of your HDD volumes as books on a shelf!
I built my first PC in 1999; I still have the original hard disk drive for that self-build gaming PC , and every single one bought since. While my computer hardware has changed several times over the years, much of my personal data has remained the same. Video game saves, spreadsheets, book ideas, eBooks and coursework all sit alongside paid work, photos and videos on my archive of HDDs, but everything is a bit of a mess, to be honest.
Organizing the data on disk is only a part of getting to grips with this 14-year archive – to get started, I need to be able to organize the disks themselves. The perfect solution came along a few months ago in the shape of the BytePac cardboard disk enclosures.
Hey, Did You Say *Cardboard* Disk Enclosures?
Released in 2011, BytePac kits are essentially cardboard boxes with removable connectors that you can use to hook your 3.5 inch HDD to a PC via USB, as this video explains:
So yes, I did say cardboard disk enclosures. The idea is brilliant, to be honest, although at $50 (£30) a single kit (cardboard enclosure and connectors) and $18 (£10) for a three-pack of card enclosures, it can prove expensive.
However, if you happen to have the required connectors already, you can save money on the price of a full kit and order just the three-pack.
You might even be feeling particularly creative, and be prepared to build your own card enclosure from scratch.
Why Would You Build a Cardboard Disk Enclosure?
In this day and age, it might seem a bit odd to place a hard disk drive inside a cardboard box. While a device such as the Icy Box might be more suitable for regular swapping of internal HDDs, the BytePac system is a far cry from a child building a “play PC”, and offers several advantages over piling your HDDs out of sight.
First and foremost, it brings order to a place where once there was chaos. A BytePac caddy – or similar self-build – can present your old HDDs on a shelf for easy access.
The cardboard cover, meanwhile, means that you can list some of the important files that can be found on the HDDs.
Perhaps most importantly, a cardboard disk enclosure has a low cost, both on your budget and on the environment. Only one connector kit is required, the cardboard is sourced from renewable materials as opposed to crude oil and the box can be recycled when it is no longer needed.
Putting The BytePac Together
The actual BytePac itself can be put together in minutes. This is basically a case of opening the box, inserting the hard disk drive and connecting the cable from the drive to your PC.
With the foldable kickstand enabling air circulation around the drive, you’ll find that your device runs much cooler as it would when connected internally. If you’re using the full BytePac connector kit, you’ll see where the cable should be added, although note that this kit is designed for use with SATA drives (a faster connection type that superseded IDE some time ago ) as there is no way to connect the Molex connector to an IDE drive without customizing the cardboard box.
This is a point worth keeping in mind. If you’re going to use BytePac with an IDE/PATA drive, you’ll need to make some modifications with a box cutter. It might be argued that if you’re prepared to do this, you may also be prepared to build your own BytePac-style cardboard HDD enclosure!
Could You Build Your Own?
BytePac are adamant that you should send them your photos to show them how you built your own cardboard enclosure – they’re also rather proud of the fact that they have produced the each from a single piece of card.
However, it’s not like there are no pieces of card in your house, is it? There are several ways in which you might build your own:
- Use an old cardboard VHS cassette box
- Remember the old-style PC videogame packaging? Now is the time to recycle some of that needless extra card!
- Book packaging from Amazon can also be used.
Once you have sourced the materials you’ll need – and grabbed the necessary IDE/SATA to USB connector there are several design aspects to keep in mind:
- The 3.5 inch HDD fits snugly within the BytePac. As such, you should make sure your own box has a good space for the drive.
- BytePac’s design has space for the connector to be attached. You may be able to work around this, depending on the size of the box you choose.
- Air circulation and ventilation is important. The BytePac uses a pair of panels on the front and back to encourage this, with a small stand to prop the enclosure up at one end when in use.
- IDE devices will require that you add an additional slot for the Molex power connector.
My BytePac-Style Custom HDD Enclosure
Originally planning to build my BytePac-inspired HDD enclosure from scratch, I finally opted to use an Amazon DVD/CD/book package after receiving a few for Christmas (and eyeing each thoughtfully as they dropped through the letterbox).
It was a simple task to fit the HDD into place using the flaps of card provided to secure the original contents.
Following this, I cut a slot into one end where the connector cables could be attached.
For air circulation and to secure the HDD in place, I cut into the flaps, bent them down and made an incision either side of the drive, pushing the new tabs past the drive and through the cardboard, creating two small feet.
Further securing the drive in place by wrapping the covering flap around, I cut a slit to accommodate one of the feet and finished by cutting a rectangle beneath the drive’s motor to release heat.
Essentially, I built my custom HDD enclosure out of cardboard by using the same principles found in the BytePac. Although bigger and less ideal for storing on a shelf (smaller packaging would be better), my DIY enclosure does the job and works just as well as the original!
Cardboard HDD Storage – Try It!
Whether you opt to buy your own or take advantage of the boxes available from BytePac, you should soon see that cardboard disk enclosures make excellent storage units for your old HDDs.
The principle is sound, and the concept works. If you manage to build your own usable version, you should get a good idea of not only how easy/difficult it is to do, but also how ingenious it is. You should certainly try it.
You’ve seen my efforts above. Compared to the actual BytePac boxes I think they’re pretty good, but could you do better?
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