One of the most significant issues that computer users encounter is a lack of storage. Whether that be because you're using a laptop that only came with a 256 GB drive, or you're a content creator that produces over 100 GB of content per day, storage shows up as a problem for nearly everyone at some point. For years, the best solution has been an external hard drive, though that has been quickly changing to an external SSD, and Avram has some of the best ways to get there.
Sure, you can go out right now and purchase an external SSD at Walmart and bring it home and start using it immediately. However, as the price of SSDs drops and the performance increases, it might actually become less expensive to build your own.
Also, an enclosure gives you the ability to swap drives out, giving you the ability to use a single enclosure for myriad drives. This can be useful for content creators who store their active raw footage and then archive it after a project is completed (this is what we do for CES coverage). A single enclosure would make it easy to swap out the drive and keep using the single enclosure, reducing cost.
Obviously, there are going to be a lot of feature differences between available models. Some support a larger variety of drives. Some provide faster drive access, either through interface or bus enhancements. Some provide screens to monitor the health and status of the drive inside. Some even provide battery backup.
So, which enclosures are out there, and which should you consider?
This enclosure runs on USB 3.1 Gen 2, giving up to 10 Gbps access speeds. It fits NVMe PCIe 2242, 2260, and 2280 sized drives. All of the required cables are in the box, including USB a to C and USB C to C, making it easy to get started. The body has a slide out tray to place the drive into and you're good to go. The best part is the enclosure runs about $20 on Amazon.
This one is not great for reuse, however. There's a screw hole to secure the case and drive, and has a thermal pad that kind of conforms to the drive that is in it over time. Plus, it is a pretty tight fit, so you won't want to use this over and over for swapping drives in and out unless you've got a lot of patience.
If you're looking for an enclosure to swap drives in and out, this one from Plugable is one to look into. It is designed to be tool-free, making the swap easy. It also includes all of the cables you need to take advantage of the USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds and connections. The body fits the same NVMe PCIe 2242, 2260, and 2280 sized drives as the previous case, and it runs about $35 on Amazon.
This is the creme de la creme of fancy SSD enclosures. In addition to USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds and connections, this one also includes an LCD screen that gives you information about the drive. It shows when the drive is in use, but also can predict the lifespan of the drive to prevent data loss as a drive nears the end of its writable life. The 5 second and 10 seconds models can be had for around $50 and around $60 respectively.
There's another feature included that we don't quite understand, and hope we can grasp. It includes a battery inside to provide an additional 10 seconds of power in order to complete an operation in progress. Essentially, it gives enough power to complete a cache flush before powering down. Now, the question is, why would you need this? Unless you're in the last few bytes of a write operation, the overall data is still corrupted.
The reality is, if an SSD loses power abnormally during a write operation, it can damage the drive. In fact, each instance increases the likelihood of a full SSD failure, meaning you'd lose all data on the drive. That extra few seconds to flush the drive cache can extend the life of the drive significantly.
Here's an enclosure for all of you RGB fans out there. It's the same USB 3.2 Gen 2 we've come to expect on these enclosures, but it also fits a larger array of drives, adding 2230 to the existing NVMe PCIe 2242, 2260, and 2280 sized drives we've come to expect.
However, the Arion also adds in the ASUS RGB lighting. The ROG logo on the front, as well as the fin across the top, both have the ability to light up and glow in a variety of colors and patterns. It uses the company's Armoury Crate software to customize, so if you're already an ASUS Armoury Crate user, this will fit right into your lighting environment.
Unfortunately, the drive enclosure costs the same as the DOCKCASE Visual 10s, coming in around $60, but doesn't have the screen or the battery backup - only the RGB LEDs.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.