This page provides links to drive enclosures that are sold empty. The devices shown on this page are built for single drives or multiple drives in JBOD configuration. RAID and NAS devices are shown on another page.
Any enclosure that can take a 3.5 inch drive can also take 2.5 inch drives, but that does not work the other way around. If you want a combination of a fast working drive and large media storage drive(s), then one of the Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 enclosures would work well.
A note about thunderbolt – There are several generations of Thunderbolt, and not all of them are compatible. When buying a Thunderbolt enclosure it’s advisable to ask the retailer if the enclosure is compatible with your specific computer. It’s also good to shop from a place where there is a liberal return policy in case of incompatibilities. If you want top service for Macintosh, try Mac Gurus. Other World Computing also offers great Mac-specific advice.
Single drive enclosures
2.5 inch USB enclosures
These are the most economical enclosures to buy. They are suitable for 2.5 inch spinning disks and SSDs. Look for one that is at least USB3.1 so that you can use it with SSDs and get the full speed out of the drive. These will usually have bus power and won’t need an external power supply.
HorneTek Cheetah USB3.1
This is a no-frills, off brand enclosure that would provide a very economical solution for a portable drive. $18 at B&H
CRU Dataport ToughTech
Here’s a brand-name version of a similar enclosure from CRU Dataport. I’ve been using one of these and like the build quality.
$40 from B&H
USB + Firewire
If you need to be backwards compatible with older Macs (typically pre 2012), then you probably want Firewire as well since the built-in USB is the very slow USB 2 version. This boosts the price by $20-$30.
Akitio Neutrino U3+
This unit has both Firewire and USB 3. It also has a beefy-looking aluminum enclosure with a heat sink on the bottom to help keep the drive cool.
$60 from B&H
3.5 inch Enclosures
Now let’s look at some options for full-size drives. As stated in the book, these provide the best price/TB
StarTech USB 3.0 Enclosure for 3.5 inch drive
This is an inexpensive drive enclosure that would be good for a backup drive or even a main storage drive fro archive files. (Since it has no fan, it’s not a great enclosure for a working drive).
USB + Firewire
Other world computing Mercury Elite Pro. This unit has USB 3.0, Firewire 800 and eSATA. As with the firewire pocket drive above, this is a good option if you need to use it with an older Mac. Note there is a two-bay version listed below that is just $15 more than the single bay.
Icy Dock 2 bay USB 3.1
Here’s a budget model for adding two 3.5 inch drives. Fan cooled, with trayless drive bays, this would be a good choice for primary drives or backup drives. $100 at B&H
OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual
This unit does not make it easy to hot swap, since you have to unscrew it, but if you need a lot of storage to attach to an older Mac, this is a good choice. And since it’s USB 3.0, it will be a decent enclosure to use even with more modern computers. $100 at B&H
Akitio Thunder3 Quad X 4-Bay enclosure. While i is also marketed as a RAID, it is switchable to JBOD. (If you want RAID, I suggest going for a higher-quality device.) This unit has two Thunderbolt ports as well as a DisplayPort to plug in a monitor so it can be used with machines which only have one Thunderbolt port.
Since it has Thunderbolt 3, this unit can support SSDs at their full speed, so you can mix big spinning disks with an SSD for working files. Great value at $360 from B&H
If your computer does not have Thunderbolt and you want to save a few bucks, you can get a USB 3.1 enclosure. Here is one that strikes me as unattractive (gamers may think otherwise) but should probably do the trick for connecting up to four archive drives by USB 3.1 $120 at B&H.Here’s another option from Amazon. The Mediasonic Probox connects by USB 3.0 should provide full throughput for spinning disks and most regular (non-NVMe) SSD. $100 from Amazon.
Oyen Digital Mobius 5 bay
As you can see, this is 5 bays instead of four. Multi-drive firewire enclosures are getting harder to find and more expensive. Here’s one with Firewire, USB3.0 and eSATA for $250 from B&H