eSATA Drive Dock Offers Handy Outboard Storage

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got more disk drives than you have installed in your systems at any given moment. Until recently, I accessed these drives using an Antec MX-1 Hard Drive Enclosure with its top off for quick’n’dirty access to various SATA drives. Then I happened upon the Thermaltake BlackX ST0005U, a plain and simple SATA drive dock that accommodates both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.

The interesting twist for this device is that it proffers standard modular SATA power and data connectors at the bottom of a cavity that accommodates 3.5″ drives. A swing-down plastic adapter resizes the cavity for 2.5″ drives (when you insert a 3.5″ drive, the drive automatically pushes this piece out of the way; if you insert a 2.5″ drive it stays put). You simply pop a drive’s power and AC fittings gently into the connectors shown at the upper left inside the cavity in the photo to dock the drive, then gently back the drive out of that cavity to remove it. The BlackX ST0005U includes both USB and eSATA cables, and an external AC/DC converter, which makes it easy to set up and use. I prefer the eSATA approach myself, because Vista sees eSATA drives the same way it sees internal HD drives and will let you do image backups, storage management, and all the other things that the OS for any drive you plug into the device.

Here are some photos:

top view of BlackX ST0005U

A shot from above, with the 2.5″ adapter extended (this snap-in plastic spacer swings down and out of the way when you plug in a 3.5″drive).

front view of BlackX ST0005U

A shot from the front, with a 2.5″ drive inserted into the dock.

rear view of BlackX ST0005U

From left to right, the items on the rear include a blue power-on/disk activity LED,
a power jack for the AC adapter, a USB Type B connector, and an eSATA connector.

cables included with BlackX ST0005U

From left to right, cables include the USB Type A/Type B cable, the power cord with
AC adapter, and an eSATA cable. What’s missing is an eSATA adapter block,
that plugs into a SATA port on your motherboard, and provides a port into
which to insert an eSATA cable.

I have found this device incredibly helpful in dealing with drive problems on other PCs, including both desktops and notebook varieties. As long as I have a working machine with an eSATA port, the BlackX ST0005U provides me with access to the drive for investigation and repair, for everything from the chkdsk utility at the command line, to the Disk Management console in the Computer Management Control Panel item, to the Backup and Restore center or third-party backup software, plus all kinds of other disk forensic and management utilities. Recently, I’ve used this device to reimage my old 40GB notebook drive onto a 160 GB replacement drive, then to repair that same 160 GB disk when it developed boot problems. I’ve also used it to troubleshoot balky drives (boot/system and data volumes) from other PCs as well. It’s easy to work with and use, and pretty affordable, too.

For about $30 ($41 including sales tax plus shipping to my door), you can purchase one of these units from NewBiiZ (aka eWiz.com), or you can spend up to $48 at other vendors as you may choose. But for under $50 this is a great tool for anybody who has to mess with SATA disk drives on a regular basis. Because I’m always building new PCs for testing and reviews for Tom’s Hardware, books I’m working on, or just because I’ve got a serious hardware jones, the BlackX ST0005U has proved to be a real Godsend to me. If your needs or circumstances are anything like mine, you will probably find it useful, too.

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About Ed Tittel

Full-time freelance writer, researcher and occasional expert witness, I specialize in Windows operating systems, information security, markup languages, and Web development tools and environments. I blog for numerous Websites, still write (or revise) the occasional book, and write lots of articles, white papers, tech briefs, and so forth.

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