Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

External Storage with USB3 to SATA3 Adapter


Many of us will have used external hard disks. External hard disks basically comprise an enclosure, with a standard notebook or desktop hard disk inside, and a host interface (typically USB) to the computer. You usually expect to pay a premium of about $30 – $50 for the external hard disk over what the actual disks inside it would have cost you.

If you have many external hard disks, then you are paying that premium many times over. Do you know you can buy the hard disk enclosure and host interface separately? Or, better yet, a simple USB to SATA adapter? The USB is the interface that connects to the PC or notebook, while the SATA interface is what connects to the hard disk itself.

With a separate enclosure or adapter, you just buy the actual hard disks as you need. You can save some money, because you just pay for the enclosure or adapter just once. Of course, if all-in-one portability is important to you (e.g. you need to carry around and use many disks often), then this may not be the right solution for you.

If you’ve used external hard disks often enough, you’d know there are two kinds: the desktop ones are 3.5″ size and need a separate power supply, while the notebook ones are 2.5″ and don’t need a separate power supply. Make sure you shop around for the right type of enclosure or adapter.


The adapter I’ve pictured above works with both desktop and notebook hard disks. There is an optional DC input jack which needs to be used when connecting a desktop hard disk.

Do take note that some adapters that, while compatible with both desktop and notebook hard disks, will always require an external power input for the adapter to work at all. This is a little inconvenient in the sense that you must always use (and hence bring along) the external power supply.

Here’s the USB3 to SATA3 adapter with a notebook hard disk attached.

DSC02755 - Version 2

If you use an adapter, with the actual hard disk “out in the open”, remember that there is a printed circuit board exposed on the underside. So don’t set the hard disk down on conductive objects like paper clips. It’s quite alright to flip the hard disk over, so you won’t accidentally set the hard disk down on conductive objects. But then, of course, now you’d have to be careful not to drop conductive objects on top of it.

The latest standard in USB is USB 3.0, and for SATA, it is 3.0 (6Gbps). If you are concerned about performance, do remember to check out the specifications to make sure you get the right enclosure or adapter.

Lastly, if you are concerned about performance, you should also know that desktop hard disks are faster, typically, than notebook hard disks. Just make sure the desktop hard disks you use are not of the “green” type. Of course, you can also buy Solid State Drives (SSDs), which are really fast, but they are expensive and may not be worthwhile used in an external storage.

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