CoolMax 3.5″ IDE Enclosure Review

A year or two ago, it was cheaper to pair together a USB enclosure and a drive than to buy a pre-built external drive.  Now with 1TB external drives around the $200 price point – if you want external storage, just buy a pre-built unit.

Of course, you might be like myself and have a stack of hard drives sitting on your desk.  I had a 60G drive looking for a home, and a 40G just sitting here gathering dust along with a handful of sub 10G drives pulled from older machines.  The 60G came out of an old server and it was a pretty loud drive, thus the reason I don’t have it sitting in my desktop machine which has a nice quiet drive in it.

In order to tinker with the NSLU2, I needed an external USB drive.  Instead of laying out a few hundred bucks, I figured the $21 CoolMax from ShopRBC would work until I needed more than 60G of storage.

I didn’t expect very much for the price, but the box was pretty sturdy.  Reviews on the net seemed to be pretty mixed, with a number of people having real problems with it.  I had no intention of using the one touch backup facility, or installing any of the supplied windows software – so that wasn’t a factor in the purchase.  Even for normal users, there is no reason to use the supplied software if you just want to use it as a drive – the USB enclosure should be detected and work without any problems without drivers on most modern (XP, Vista, Mac or Linux) systems.

Included in the box (working top to bottom, left to right): Power adapter, screw driver, usb cable, power cord (I got 2!), a CD with drivers, plastic stand, drive rails, manual, and the enclosure itself.

The screwdriver deserves special mention, its actually not junk.  The black plastic rails are designed to fit into the screw holes in your drive and slide into the enclosure.  Hooking things up is pretty obvious, but things are a bit of a tight fit.  Generally it feels fairly well designed.

Of course – it turns out my 1st unit was DOA which sent me back to the store for a new unit, this took a few days but the folks at ShopRBC made it pretty much hassle free.  The 2nd unit was another brand new unit, the only difference was this box didn’t have a bonus 2nd power cord – oh, and it works flawlessly.

The enclosure doesn’t provide any ventilation, and it does warm up to the touch – but no more so than the drive would running in a PC.  The power cord is a bit short, but again this isn’t the end of the world.  There are power and drive activity lights on the box.  Overall it does exactly what I’m looking for, at a very reasonable price.

If you’ve got an old drive around consider picking up an enclosure, just be aware there are IDE and Sata enclosures and you need to get the right type.

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