Cheaper, Better, Higher Quality eSATA Enclosure!-Use a PC case!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by slughead, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. slughead, Jan 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012

    slughead macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #1
    I've gotten TWO enclosures from Coolgear.com with insufficient or defective power supplies and I just decided I'm sick of it. Over the years I've amassed some PC parts and finally just threw them into a case. However, you can build a higher quality enclosure today with expandability to 15-20 hard drives for cheap! You just need a little bit of time on your hands and a screwdriver (possibly some pliers). This requires NO soldering or technical knowledge other than "plug it in where it fits!"

    So first thing you need is a case. I searched NewEgg.com for the cheapest PC case with the most 5.25" bays and came up with this really great quality one with tons of ventilation (Two big VERY silent and effective fans built in):

    [​IMG]

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811133180

    Do an "advanced" search of the PC cases on newegg to find the one which costs what you want, has a good manufacturer (ASUS, Antec, Thermaltake--ask a nerd, he'll give you more options)

    If you're really going to fill it full of hard drives, you may want to consider getting one with 6, 9, 12 bays--you'll see why later. There is a 9 bay one on newegg for $60 right now that doesn't look too bad.

    Next you'll need to power it. How about the best PSU on NewEgg, that good enough? :)

    [​IMG]
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817153023

    550Watt is probably an overkill, but hell, it's cheap right?

    You can also get a combined case+PSU which may save you a few bucks, I had a 550watt PSU so I just bought the case.

    Next you're going to want somewhere to put the hard drives in, I recommend this:

    [​IMG]
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817121405

    It'll require possibly bending the guiderails on your case (if they have them), but it only took me a few minutes. I used 2 dead hard drives (any hunk of metal will do) and a couple of C-clamps.

    If you buy that model, you'll notice that it is very inexpensive, unfortunately the reviews say the fan is a bit loud. Luckily you can just pop in ANY 92mm fan. So how about the best damn fan on newegg?

    [​IMG]
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811999617

    It only adds a few dollars to the cost, but it has its own thermostat! Note: to use this fan you'll need to change the jumper on the fan alarm--takes 2 seconds and it's in the instruction manual.

    Instead of the 5 in 3 (5 hard drives in three 5.25" bays), you can get these much sleeker 4 in 3 devices (no bending of guiderails or screws/trays required!)

    [​IMG]
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817994113

    My screwless model is fantastic apart from it has these 40mm fans that are a bit loud... this one appears to have a single large fan which is probably quieter (or easily replaceable).

    Next you'll need a port multiplier. I've been using this SATA II compatible 5to1 beauty for years, and I just bought a new one off Amazon for $65:

    [​IMG]
    http://www.addonics.com/products/ad5sarpm-e.php

    For each port multiplier, you'll need one of these:

    [​IMG]
    http://www.addonics.com/products/pciscbkt.php

    Alternatively you could modify one of the PCI bevels on the case like I did, but it is a pain in the ass and requires a Dremel kit.

    Next, you need to think about a switch...

    The easiest way is to just have your PSU permanently in the on position and use the switch on the outside of your PSU. To do this, simply connect the green wire to any of the black grounding wires on the PSU Motherboard plug. Sounds hard? Not really, just get a staple or cut a section off a paperclip and bend it thusly:

    [​IMG]

    Alternatively, you can solder in a parallel wire onto the green and black wires and lead them into a toggle switch. NOTE: most cases do not come with a toggle switch, just a simple close switch. Therefore you must incorporate either another switch or do the bypass "paperclip" procedure above.

    So what've you got now? a Pile of parts? Well time to throw them into the case.

    First, put the port multiplier on the PCI Bevel

    [​IMG]

    Put the bevel into one of the case's PCI slots and secure it.

    Then install the PSU, the hard drive bay you've chosen, and plug it all in (again, just plug it in where it fits).

    There are several power cables coming off of the PSU. Try and spread the current to different non-parallel molex connectors. I chose to do no more than 5 hard drives and maybe a fan or two per cable. The reason for this is that in some PSU's, if any one of those power cables drains too much at one time, it turns off the entire PSU regardless of the power output. Therefore if you have your entire case running off one cable, you may see the kill switch engage.


    --------------------------------

    Summary: By using Simple PC parts, you can jerry-rig an extremely powerful hard drive array for a fraction of the cost of pre-built options, scalable to very large amounts of hard drives. Moreover, these parts are far better quality and the end result will be cooler, quieter, and more easy to upgrade. Plus, if you ever want to pop a motherboard, processor, GPU, and optical drive in there, you have a PC to play with!
     
  2. zephonic macrumors 65816

    zephonic

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2011
    Location:
    greater L.A. area
    #2
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_5 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8L1 Safari/6533.18.5)

    Great idea! And so simple it makes you go: "why didn't I think of this?"
     
  3. codymac macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    #3
    I've been using a couple of the 4 in 3 Icy Dock (lower photo) enclosures above in my hackintosh for a couple of years now. I bought one to try out and liked it so much I bought two more to fill out the case. Love the things.

    Using an HBA here though.
    :D
     
  4. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    #4
    I built something like this a few years back – still humming along as my TimeMachine drive (7.25TB in total accumulated over the years).

    However, I experienced that sometimes the HDDs wouldn't spin up when I switched the power on.
    After some thinking I added a switch between the short-circuited pins to enable the PSU to "get ready" before power is drawn from it. No problems since then.
     
  5. slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #5
    Yeah I noticed the PSU switches start things a bit rough. I'm sure it doesn't damage the components but that and the fact that I didn't like reaching around the box to turn it on inspired me to install a toggle switch.

    Besides, something like this would be cool on a case I think:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    #6
    Haha, I put one just like those on my case, except without the security cover.
     
  7. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #7
    Great idea!

    This is like a homebrew NAS minus the mobo.
     
  8. slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #8
    Is it pretty quiet?
     
  9. codymac, Jan 9, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012

    codymac macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    #9
    It's hard for me to say as my case fans currently drown out the Icy Dock fans. Each Icy Dock unit has a fan speed switch on the front of it (Hi/Lo/Auto) and I can hear them over the case fans if I kick them up to high.

    I need a quieter case and/or some quieter fans.
    :eek:

    eta: I'm using a Lian Li PC-A17 case and started this with the goal of eventually replacing it with a Mac Pro turning it into a home SAN. It will likely end up being a home NAS at some point, or more accurately, a big AFP file server. I realized I deal with storage enough during business hours to not want to deal with it in my evenings too.
     
  10. larry9511 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2010
    #10
    Fans

    I hate to sound dumb but where to the fans plug into?

    This is a idea I've had for a while but not sure how to make it work. Thanks for your help, I'm building today.
     
  11. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    #11
    You'll need to make/buy some adaptors to be able to connect the fans to the PSU's molex or SATA connectors.
     
  12. slughead, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012

    slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #12
    The fans in my case came with adapters for full-sized 4 pin molex connectors, otherwise you can buy those adapters for $1-2 each. Most case fans I buy also came with adapters as well.

    ----------

    I just upgraded my array to use my 4-bay screwless 4 in 3 device. The 40mm fans were whiny and loud so I bought replacements which where absolutely silent but I had to solder them in:

    [​IMG]
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835185055

    And btw: Looks like they improved the design of the addonics port multiplier since a few years ago when I bought my first one. It looks a little better and the instructions are in better Engrish (not that you really need instructions)
     
  13. odinsride macrumors 65816

    odinsride

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2007
    #13
    So you can plug in 4 drives to that port multiplier, and the one cable from the entire system to your Mac?

    Would it show up as 4 different drives under OSX? I assume you could set them up in a software raid with disk utility?
     
  14. flatfoot, Jan 11, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2012

    flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    #14
    Through the multiplier they'll just show up as separate drives and yes, you can OSX RAID them then.
     
  15. slughead, Jan 12, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012

    slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #15
    Actually, that port multiplier does 5 drives, and they all show up separately. Here's my 8 drives plugged into 2 port multipliers (I have 2 ports to spare):

    [​IMG]

    I prefer to use Apple's software RAID, so you can plug the thing into a different computer if you want. I have one raid 10 and one Raid 1. I also have 2 loose drives--one for a time machine and 1 extra 750 I had lying around. You can also buy a USB adapter and plug the thing into a USB port on a laptop or whatnot.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. odinsride macrumors 65816

    odinsride

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2007
    #16
    Thanks for the details, seems like an awesome idea!
     
  17. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #17
    Like a boss! I thought some of the trayless caddys are much less expensive than $100?

    I use an old PowerMac G4, which holds 6 drives if you remove cd. Gets a bit hot but no problem with any drive (even the ones I got 5+ years ago).

    I don't need eSATA speed so I just share content over gigabit ethernet. And being a working Mac, I use it as a server.
     
  18. slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #18
    Yeah, I bought my 4-drive trayless/screwless "backplane" for $90 a few years ago. Maybe with some extreme googling you can find a similar deal.

    The insane part is, even if you don't get the best deal on all these individual components, it's still way cheaper and better than a pre-assembled enclosure.
     
  19. FireWire2 macrumors 6502

    FireWire2

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2008
    #19
    Usb3.0/2.0

    I have tried the same USB adapter, it does not support PM
    I can only see ONE drive... After searching high and low
    There is an USB3.0 (2.0 compatible) that fully support port multiplier and It see all five drives
    http://www.datoptic.com/usb3-usb2-to-esata-with-port-multiplier.html

    but you can get somewhere else with better price

    ----------

    You mean something like this:
    http://www.datoptic.com/four-tray-less-sata-drive-cage.html
     
  20. slughead, Jan 31, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012

    slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #20


    Cool! I've never used one, I just found that product while researching for this project.

    That's the one I own!!! LOL!

    The problem with it is that it uses 2x 40mm fans instead of a single larger fans. The 40mm's seem to be very noisy and prone to failure :(

    However, I recently swapped the fans out with these atypical formfactor ones in my datoptic drive cage (mentioned above) and it couldn't be more silent.
     
  21. DPUser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    #21
    On a related note, if you have external drives, you can replace multiple wall-wart supplies with a single, inexpensive PC power supply. I have resurrected several "failed" external drive enclosures this way, because the only thing that failed was the cheap power supply that came bundled with the enclosure.

    Just cut the power supply connector plug off of the old supply and solder (noting pin outs) to a molex 8981 connector, then plug the molex connector into one of the many mates that a typical PC power supply provides. Or hardwire directly to the supply.

    You also need to do the green wire to ground trick, as is discussed earlier in this thread. Then power on/off with the switch on your UPS.
     
  22. FireWire2 macrumors 6502

    FireWire2

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2008
    #22
    Would you mind tell me the fan that you use...

    So i can replace mine too, when it dues of course

    TIA
     
  23. slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #24
    I own one of those! Definitely high quality, very vibration resistant, excellent fan, great design, great brand, just not hotswap--like you said. And of course.. cheap!

    ----------

    For which? The case? The array?
     
  24. slughead thread starter macrumors 68040

    slughead

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #25
    finally took some pics

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The thing is hidden behind some false-drawers and the compartment in the desk has 3 x 120mm rosewill fans built into the floor which keep the HDs very cool :D
     

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