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External Enclosure (hard drive): FAN OR NO FAN?

by rakine23 / July 19, 2006 7:56 AM PDT

A company that makes external enclosures told me that people have perception that a fan is necessary for an enclosure and that they only still make enclosures with fans to keep from losing customers to competitors.

I am wanting to puchase an external enclosure for my Western Digital 3.5", 7200RPM, 250GB, SATA II hard drive and run a powerful software on it. Does anyone have opinions regading having a fan or no fan?
Will not having a fan but having a good aluminum heat desipation ruin my hard drive/lower the number of years that drive will last?

I am interested in the new Macally SATA enclosure. Any opinions on the Macally enclosure brands?

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Fans are good idea
by Willy / July 19, 2006 9:53 PM PDT

Due to varations is "ambient" room tempertures and the enclosure itself, having a fan allows greater stability in its use. It's true the metal case will allow some heat dissaption but that not enough for the long run and HDs do fail in std. system cases with all its fans. Heat is now the most common killer of a HD, so all attention to reduce heat is good news. The cost of a fan is hardly a back breaker so pick a fan supplied ext. case and one well vented as well.

tada -----Willy Happy

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by rakine23 / July 20, 2006 2:11 AM PDT
In reply to: Fans are good idea

What about a HD that runs cool (I have a hard drive that advertises as runs quiet and cool)?

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Additional questions
by rakine23 / July 20, 2006 2:19 AM PDT
In reply to: reply

What if I use an aluminum enclosure without a fan but the drive's temperature stays within the specified operating temperature range, what are the chances of the drive failing?

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Good hard drive died
by nzrabbitty / July 20, 2006 9:10 PM PDT
In reply to: reply

Had a seagate 120 Gig harddrive run well rtransfer3ed it to a good ext drive case, and as was switching drives in and out of drive case faily often didn't put cover over found that not only the harddrive but the case circuitry got to hot and cooked the control gear in the drive case. now have got new case and have fitted extra fan to front and drive has never skipped a beat in 2 years

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new/more powerful fan for two internal hard drives?
by stevel227 / July 20, 2006 11:19 PM PDT

The recent Q&A on cooling fans triggered a question. I have an older Dell machine, factory built, with the original cooling fan (to which I've never given a moment's thought until now). A year or so ago, I added a big Western Digital hard drive to expand my storage. I didn't have a way to install it into a physical rack inside the box, so I put a piece of velcro on the bottom of the drive. The velcro plus the ribbon cable and power cable keep it in a nice rigid position, positioned in an open spot on the floor of the box. It has a lot of air space around it for cooling.

Should I take out the existing fan and put in a higher capacity one, recognizing that I have two hard drives throwing off heat?


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fan or no fan?
by papawterry1949 / July 21, 2006 12:53 AM PDT

Let me tell you from personal experience,
fans increase hard drive life!
No matter what the manufacturer uses for temperature parameters, keep the drives cool!
I have replaced so many drives in my customers' computers that died from heat I always use fan cooled enclosures and extra fans in the case.
You can buy them so cheap at most electronics stores (Radio Shack is one) with an in and out connector for ease of connection, there's no reason not to have plenty of air moving.
It's the cheapest thing you can do to save money.....

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Fan implementation and heat-sink design important too
by jmagecko / July 21, 2006 3:44 AM PDT

Whether a fan can help or not depends on how the enclosure is designed.

It also depends on not only the enclosure material (e.g. aluminum), but HOW the drive is mechanically connected to the enclosure.

I have one well known 3.5" aluminum enclosure that incorporates TWO fans, and it is virtually useless at keeping the drive cool. Here's why.

1) The 2 fans are mounted at the front, and draw air in from the front with NO venting from the case at all. NONE. So there is no air flow over the disk drive.
In addition, the fans are mounted at such an angle, that even if there were venting, the air volume would be substantially diminished. They are mounted at an almost 60 degree angle off vertical, and because they are mounted so close to the disk drive, there's little clearance for the air flow even if there were vents.

2) While the case is aluminum, the disk drive itself is mounted onto a PLASTIC frame, which virtually isolates the drive from the aluminum from a thermal standpoint. The benefit of having a metal enclosure is almost totally lost by the manufacturer using the non-thermally conductive plastic mounting frame. Yes, there is going to be some heat dissipation due to transfer of heat in the air between the drive and the case, but it would be substantially improved by providing a means to thermally couple the drive's metal case/heatsink to the enclosure's metal case.

I wasted $35 thinking I was getting an enclosure with superior heat dissipating features...only to find it was actually vastly inferior. It was essentially equivalent to a non-fan equipped, plastic, unvented enclosure. It was like an oven.

After I made substantial modifications to change the fan mountings, and provide outlet vent holes, the drive temp decreased by almost 40degF. That's a major difference as far as impact on reliability goes. If I were to change the drive mounting somehow to a direct thermally conductive mount, I believe the temp would decrease even more.

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External disk enclosure cooling
by Stan002 / July 21, 2006 7:39 AM PDT

I would recommend using a fan cooled enclosure but unfortunately as already noted a fan is only good if it moves cool air over the drive. I have one where the fan is almost completely blocked by the drive. If the air coming out of the fan is virtually non-existant or is not warm, it is not cooling properly. Also, the case is not warm so the drive will eventually fail due to the heat. Aluminum enclosures may be somewhat effective if the drive makes a good thermal contact with the case - such as using thermal grease or thermal pads to incure a good thermal path to the case. The case must have adequate external surface area (such as employing fins) to eliminate the heat.
I haven't done a thermal analysis yet but I strongly suspect that many commercial enclosures, with or without a fan, provide inadequate cooling.

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external disk cooling
by NeilFiertel / August 4, 2006 11:15 AM PDT

I have something in the order of twenty hard drives and NONE have ever failed due to heat problems. In the old days of SCSI drive heat was an issue but with ATA and SATA this is a non-issue as the processing of data control is is computer controlled and out of the box. I have fan driven boxes...noisy...plastic boxes...cheesy but cheap, USB 2.0 and Firewire and all of them do sufficiently...none get more than warm to the touch...never hot and most are pretty much sealed from the outside and it is only through direct heat conduction do they cool. Obviously,this is not an issue at all. I should point out that I am running 8 or nine at a time, writing to file very large image files and processing them as well and thus using the drives hard. When a day of hard work has passed the drives are warm and that is it. I stack only drives designed to stack and many I CHOSE to use their vertical stand so that they are on edge. I do not note much difference between the temperature of the stacked units and the edge mounted ones though the stacked ones are slightly warmer. I have found for the money that the Macally external cases are good though the power connectors are a bit flakey. I glue them in place as they want to fall out. Dollar for dollar I have found that a great deal is the complete hard drives sold under the AcomData brand...lovely cases, quiet and fast both in Firewire and USB 2. Naturally, LaCie are better built cases but are a lot more money and really, the case is basically furniture for the hard drive. In terms of drive brands, I have Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung and Western Digital. Drives with magnetic or air bearings will last longer and are near silent. I would expect though cannot verify that they are cooler running at high speed.

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by IMReader / August 19, 2007 4:18 PM PDT
In reply to: external disk cooling

I wouldn't say they never fail due to heat. The drives themselves don't fail very often, but depending on the case the USB/Firewire/whatever controller can fry.

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by byu1980 / August 19, 2006 9:14 AM PDT

I'm shopping for a couple of 3.5" hard drive enclosures now, and have considered Galaxy Metal Gear's Model 3507 and Cintre's Model CI-330U2, as well as Vantec's Nexstar 3 models. Can you share the make/model of the one you described that disappointed you? Do you have any recommendations for makes/models currently available that you would purchase?

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by rakine23 / August 19, 2006 10:34 AM PDT
In reply to: Recommendations?

I am the original poster. I decided to purchase the Addobic external enclosure, AE5SACSUF. I just got it and it works well so far. No problems yet. The case is made of thick, sturdy aluminum. I formatted my Western Digital Caviar SE16 250GB drive and it took an hour and a half to format. Even after one and a half hour, the case still felt cool and when I placed my hand behind the fan, cool air was still coming out. The fan was loud when I first turned on the drive but now it is not so loud. Don't know whether I just got used to the noise or if the fan noise actually went down.

This case works with SATA I and SATA II. It has a cypress chipset, which I read are good chipsets.

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Thanks--IDE & SATA?
by byu1980 / August 19, 2006 11:45 AM PDT
In reply to: recommendation

I'm likely at least 2 years away from a system supporting the newer SATA drives. I have two Seagate 160 GB Ultra ATA/100/133 drives in my PC, replacing two Seagate 60 GB drives (one of which was a warranty replacement for an earlier failure). Both were replaced when a Windows update glitch fouled up many program installations, and I couldn't retrace my steps. I also have two identical 160GB spares which I plan to use as externals.

Is your enclosure strictly SATA-capable, or IDE as well? Perhaps I should look for a model that can accept both, for use down the road when I am able to upgrade to a new motherboard, processor, etc.

And thanks for your quick posting!

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by rakine23 / August 19, 2006 3:39 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks--IDE & SATA?

The Addonics AE5SACSUF enclosure also supports IDE.
To be sure, go to If you connect by IDE, the IDE cable connects directly to the hard drive. If you use SATA I or SATA II, the IDE connects to a converter and the converter connects to the hard drive. This enclosure can connect to your computer by either USB or firewire. There is also a USB version. I believe the USB version model number AE5SACSU2. This enclosure was released about two years ago.

I highly recommend purchasing from They have one of the fastest shipping service. For example, I could order on Monday afternoon and it would be delivered to me on Thursday. This website has very good reviews.

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Addonics models
by byu1980 / August 19, 2006 8:39 PM PDT
In reply to: SATA and IDE

It appears that even the AE5SACSU2 (USB 2.0 w/o firewire model) uses the SATA - IDE/ATAPI converter to connect to an IDE drive (or does it convert a SATA drive to an IDE device?). See this URL: It looks like this has to connect to an IDE cable coming from an IDE channel on the motherboard, and defeats the purpose of having an external enclosure connected to the PC via a USB 2.0 port. Wouldn't the SATA hard drive be outside the enclosure in this case? Keep in mind I only have IDE (Ultra ATA/100) hard drives now. I'm using both ports on both IDE channels on my IDE-only motherboard. Addonics has a model AE5IDECSU2 that doesn't accommodate SATA that is more like the IDE-only units I've been looking at. Also, I've seen (but can't remember where) one make/model that had all the alternative connectors inside the enclosure for both IDE and SATA. Again, because I'm likely 2 years away from a new system, I'll probably buy a couple of IDE-only enclosures, possibly the Addonics AE5IDECSU2.

Thanks for your help.

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by rakine23 / August 20, 2006 2:50 AM PDT
In reply to: Addonics models

E-mail Addonics. They usually respond withing 24 hours.

The AE5SACSUF that I told you about can accomodate both SATA and IDE. To use it with IDE, just remove the converter that attaches to the IDE cable of the enclosure.

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High Capacity, medium to high access usage....RESPONSE..
by corneleousbutt / July 22, 2006 6:13 AM PDT

These days to many people think that you can just stick in a component and expect it to work for years.

Not so..!!.. The main enemy of any electronic part is heat. Remove the heat and you can expect longer more stable operation of whatever you have at hand.

Todays harddrives(higher capacity) are running hot to the touch, with marginal use, so it is a wise move to cool it off as much as reasonably possible.

I can't stress it more...GET AN EXTERNAL ENCLOSURE WITH A FAN THAT HAS GOOD CROSS FLOW OF AIR. ie. air comes in on one side, cools, then exits, without reentering the enclosure(Recirculating the air so that it reenters the enclosure can super heat the component/s, causing premature failure)

What I have indicated applys to all enclosures.

As an aside topic now:

My endevours to reach this goal with computer chassics includes removing the punched fan screens, drilling vent holes in the fronts, ogmenting the fans to draw air in and vent in specific directions, etc., to drop internal temps to a managable level. And to be fair these days most manufacturers are providing adequate ventilation for their chassics(you should look!)but not enough fans to move the air.

Two of the more popular tiny trial/freeware software packages might be helpful to view temps are, Everest Corporate and AIDA32(in the computer sensor section.)or the computer BIOS may monitor the temperature of the CPU, and the motherboard which are available to view(CPU temp can be set, to alarm and shutdown at specified temperature on some motherboards)

Hope That was of help

Regards Dan,
Electronics Control/Mechanical Technologist

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I suggested a Bytecc unit at NewEgg...(URL below) but the
by VAPCMD / July 22, 2006 11:30 AM PDT

but the post in an earlier wasn't acknowledged. Can't waste any more time on a poster who doesn't acknowledge or have the manners to offer a simple 'Thanks'.

Here's the post and the product link....

"Might try your search at've got an excellent search engine for their products. Not sure it makes anything faster with a 3.0GB SATA as the max USB 2.0 transfer rate is limited to 480Mb/s.

This one might work ...if you can find it in stock

PS...I have several Adaptec 3.5" and 2.5" enclosures that have no fan and all still work perfectly. I also bought one of the Bytecc units (IDE with USB only) and it has two fans. Not in action yet....may post later.

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by rakine23 / July 22, 2006 12:35 PM PDT

I did see it but could not e-mail the company for more info so going with another brand.
See my most recent post and give some suggestion if you have one.

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You keep posting on same topic but reject advice offered.
by VAPCMD / July 22, 2006 2:54 PM PDT
In reply to: VAPCMD

I've built more than 5 externals but choose not to waste more time with a poster unable to utter a simple 'thanks'.

Best Wishes

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by rakine23 / July 22, 2006 3:05 PM PDT

The reason I do not put "thanks" is because it is a waste of space. What I mean is if I say "thanks" to each reply, then it is frustrating for the person replying to my post because he or she has to read through each post.

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'The reason I do not put "thanks" is because it is a waste
by VAPCMD / July 23, 2006 3:26 AM PDT
In reply to: VAPCDM

of space.' That's your call. But if you don't get many or any responses to your posts, stop and think. It just could be because you don't accept advice offered or more likely that you don't acknowledge or offer "Thanks" to those who take their valuable time and energy to share their knowledge, experience or opinions. They're under no obligation to do so.


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Saying thanks
by kwkid / August 11, 2006 7:25 AM PDT

While I will agree that the courteous thing to do would be to say thank you, I will also point out that it is in most forums regarded as bad netiqutte. The people who read the forums do not want to wade through page after page of thanks to everyone who has contributed. They would quickly abandon the forum, therefore defeating the open exchange of ideas. A much more palatable solution is to wait until the flow of ideas has slowed to a crawl on the particular topic, and then for the people who wish to include a thank you to do so, but with the subject line saying Thank You so that readers can easily distinguish the topic of that particular message.

Warning: The opinion stated here is my own and one that I adhere to. It does NOT mean that I am right or wrong, or that I am somehow better or worse than any other valuable contributor to this forum. That being said, I find that the majority of contributors do not offer their opinions for any other reason than to help resolve a problem or answer a question. Period. They have no other motivations except to help. They freely share their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the entire computer community. While they deserve ample amounts of praise and thanks, that is not their motivation or desire. To illicit a response for "thanks" does a huge disservice to not only the illicitor, but the community as a whole. The only response we should require would be to let the community know what the resolution was so that we can all learn and grow. If thanks are included, that is no problem and welcomed, but it should NEVER be a requirement for posting.

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Position noted and agree the help was offered without
by VAPCMD / August 12, 2006 11:42 AM PDT
In reply to: Saying thanks


Nonetheless, it's always appropriate to say 'Thanks' when people go out of their way or take time to offer assistance ... even if stated in advance.

If in doubt ... give 'Thanks' a try and see how people respond to you. Then choose 'Thanks' or "No Thanks' whichever one fits you best.


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ADAPTEC h.d. enclosure and failed W-D, 120GB h.d...both new
by jiffytech2 / August 4, 2006 12:46 AM PDT


In the short period of time my ADAPTEC hard disk enclosure (from Best Buy) worked it never seemed to get that warm. I had a new 120GB W-D Caviar hard disk that I installed in it. As far as I could tell the aluminum case (with no fan) was able to dissipate the heat generated by the hard disk. However, the W-D hard disk only worked intermittently from the beginning and ultimately failed within a few days. Realistically, I think this W-D hard disk was malfunctioning prior to any potential heat damage

I am awaiting to hear W-D's diagnosis of this hard disk, as I have no idea why it died so rapidly...or possibly it was deffective from the manufacturer.


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Some further comments on ADAPTEC
by NooYawka / August 4, 2006 5:19 AM PDT

I bought an ADAPTEC enclosure last year after purchasing a new computer. Took the 80G from the old PC and installed it in the enclosure (no fan) No problems to-date, but you guys have me scared. Periodically I grasp it to test the temp and found it to be warm but not hot. I also have a 250G external HD (no fan) and no problems. My computer is located in the basement below grade w/o A/C. I do have a fan to circulate the air in the computer room. Maybe I better get a fan to focus on the external drives? One thing I did last year was to remoce the side panel from the PC and left it off. While I lost a fan, I believe that the heat is not as contained and the other fans are

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Get a case with a fan!!!
by richbwood / August 5, 2006 5:40 AM PDT

I got a hard drive that didn?t work in my computer, and with no money to replace it or warranty (no return sales) I got a 3.5? enclosure to use (no fan) to use on my three-computer network (24 ? 7). The Maxtor drive quit after 3 months, (80 GB. Drive ? had 52 GB. Used) lost it all! I had a 250 GB drive that I was saving to put in a rebuild, but I put it in the case but I cut a hole in the top of the case and put a CPU fan on it ? keeps it cold!

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Nod to fans.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 6, 2006 9:11 AM PDT

While I have one excellant no-fan case I think it's the rare design and not the usual. The fan, however small wins.


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Hard drive cooling
by TreknologyNet / August 10, 2006 11:27 PM PDT

I have three external drives which are metal and have open grills on front and side edges, no fan. I have a plastic, totally enclosed unit, no fan.

Because I'm doing video production which really thrashes drives about, I use the "open" enclosures for long periods, and only use the plastic one for backing up, so that it doesn't accumulate heat.

My own experience is that the mechanical parts of the hard drive can cope with heat quite well, but the controller circuitry is what needs protection. Seagate released a series of drives that came wrapped in a soft rubber envelope, and I enquired about overheating--they report "no problems". My experience is the same.

I have a preference for fans, but they are not always going to be essential. In my enclosed server, I have huge fans which can be turned off when recording something, I have measured the drive temperatures in both situations, 30C/86F to 50C/122F.

Because of a CPU burnout, the machine I'm typing this on, has a 12 inch floor fan blowing in the side. Drive temperature is 34C/93F. Despite being winter in Australia, being fitted with three fans and a heatsink that weighs as much as a bull-bar, the chip temperature is still up to 70C/158F.

These days, a high-power chip is pulling as much power as a hunting spot-light, hard drives a low load by comparison, so for drives, metal enclosures with heatsinking should be adequate.

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No fan metal case works for me...
by SibTiger / August 11, 2006 8:20 PM PDT

I have a fanless "Metal Gear Box" case. (I think it's aluminum, but I'm not sure.) The metal case is in contact with the metal top of the HD. It seems to be adequate for heat dissipation.

However, note that hard drive brand and age makes a difference! At first I put a 120GB Maxtor drive in it. With use it got very warm to the touch. Later I switched to a 160GB Samsung drive. It works much cooler and quieter. Even under heavy use, the case only gets a little warm.

In short, I think the fanless case would have been inadequate for the Maxtor, but is fine for the Samsung.

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