The thoughts, opinions, happenings, and just plain ramblings of a seemingly boring person.

Smokin’ New External Hard-Drive

Yay! A non-football entry! The title is quite true literally, but more on that later.

At home in the past few weeks, we have developed a need for a lot more storage (computer memory wise). Although i've always thought that two computers with 60GB and 80GB drives were always more than enough for my storage needs, I am now quite wrong.

What has changed to need a lot more space? The usual space-hog in the computer world: video. We have just started to attempt to capture video from our video camera (honeymoon videos etc), and at a good quality for editing to put onto a DVD a one hour tape occupies approximately 10-13GB.

We've dipped our feet into the water by using Windows Movie Maker to capture, edit, and export the video. I was quite impressed with its features and the simple and intutive interface, and the fact that it is included in Windows XP is quite nice. The only lacking feature for us is the ability to burn the finished product to a video DVD. Added to that, the versions we have of Nero and Roxio's Easy Media Creator lack the ability to burn widescreen DVD videos. I'll have to start looking for a good and preferably free program to fill that gap.

Anyway, back to the storage thingy. Needless to say, once you start getting unedited videos of 13GB plus finished edited videos of around 5-10GB, the space you had left on the 60 and 80GB drives disappears rather quickly.

So i started looking at external hard-drives. I looked at the usual plug-and-play hardrives from Maxtor, Seagate, Lacie etc, but my preferrence of having USB and Firewire connections on them sort of puts the bigger drives out of my price range (I was looking at drives of between 200 and 300GB).

A guy at work very helpfully pointed out that if I wanted a cheaper solution, I could always buy an internal drive of the size I wanted (internals are always much cheaper than externals), and then get an 'enclosure' (another term for it being a 'caddy') that the internal drive slides into which basically makes it an external drive.

Vantec EnclosureSo the cheapest place for this type of thing is UMart, and I ended up getting a Vantec Nexstar3 NST-360UF-BK Enclosure (see right), and a 300GB Seagate Barracuda drive to go into it. The total price for both was just over $250, which is about $100 less expensive than the cheapest ~300GB external drive with firewire from Harris Technology.

So I went to put the thing together, and after struggling to get the drive screwed into the correct position on the mounting bracket that slides into the enclusore's frame, I slid the bracket into the enclosure frame and then screwed the enclosure shut with some difficulty as the top screw was unexpectedly stubborn to go in.

I plugged all the cords in and then flicked the power switch. After waiting for a few seconds, nothing happened. Then I noticed tendrils of smoke coming out of the enclosure, accompanied by the usual electrical-burning smell. After blurting out the usual expletives, I quickly yanked the power out of the enclosure.

As I opened it up to see what on earth could have fried, it was quite obvious from the moment i pulled it apart what had happened.

The enclosure has a blue LED at the front of it that indicates drive activity (like the flashing HDD light on a computer). The LED is at the front of the enclosure, while the bracket slides out the back out it. There are thin power cables running from the LED at the front of the enclosure to the power connection of the board at the back.

What happened was that when i slid the bracket back into the enclosure, the necessary slack of the LED power cable folded over the opening to the screw socket on the enclosure frame. Thus when I tried screwing in the screws to seal the bracket into the frame, I pushed the top screw straight through the LED power cable as it was tightened (of course I couldn't see this because it was inside the enclosure). Hence the stubborness in tightening the screw and hence the frying and smoke.

Screwed CableI snipped off the offending piece of cable (see right), and luckily the drive still works fine (so far...), but I am disappointed that the enclosure does not have a cool flashing blue LED anymore :(. In my opinion it's bad design to have a power cable running within 5mm of a screw socket anyway.

We have to wait to plug it into the computers though, because we've run out of power sockets in my geek room! With this external hard drive there are now 14 appliances that need to run off the only two powerpoints in the room. I've already got a Belkin 7-plug surge-protected power board, and now i'm going to need to get another 8-plug board :o.

In football news (I had to sneak some in), Kewel has been cleared from any suspension as a result from the incident with the referee after the Brazil game :x.

2 thoughts on “Smokin’ New External Hard-Drive”

  1. Have you thought about replacing the LED power cable?

    Also, are the 2 powerpoints on the same plate, or are they 2 points on single plates, or is there 2 plates on one point, or are there 2 points on 2 plates??

  2. A) Yes, but the cable is glued to the inside of the frame, so it's really difficult, and for just an LED, it's not really worth it (plus the front plate doesn't come off the frame so it would make it really difficult too)

    B) it's 2 points on the same plate.


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