Technical Topics



K8CU Computer Corner

Crash proof your data with removable drive bays. 

  • Faster and cheaper than any tape backup method. 

  • Works perfectly with minimum hassle. 

Removable drive bays are a great method of protecting your computer data from a virus or hardware failure. Each unit consists of a portable bay that holds the hard drive, and a dock shelf that fits into your PC's 5 1/4" front panel. Mounting hardware is supplied with the kit. Two front panel drive bay slots are necessary. One will become your normal C drive,

Drive Bay Open

and the other will be your new D drive. Using Norton Ghost Personal Edition software, an exact image (including Windows system files) of your C drive data can be transferred to the other new D drive easily. Selective backups are possible, but I always choose the full backup. The drive sizes do not have to be identical. Just make sure the data size from one will not exceed the capacity of the other. Internal power connector pigtails inside your PC will provide power to each bay shelf, and the I/O cables from your motherboard plug in also. If you use ATA/133 or similar drives, make sure your kit supports this. Some bays offer fans and fancy locks. I don't need them. 

Drive Bay Rear

You need to configure each hard drive's jumpers to select the drive as a Master drive. Use appropriate motherboard connector positions. This way, you can simply remove D drive and insert into the C drive slot, and just reboot! It's really that easy. No wasted time, no hassle, with your sanity maintained and no productivity loss. Cost? Expect about $20 and up for each bay and shelf combination for IDE drives if you don't shop around. I found a bargain and paid $14 for the C and D drive pair. Sure, no fans or metal key locks, but they work just fine. If you have a suitable spare drive available, you have a start. Otherwise, just pick one up, possibly on sale. Ebay has also proven to be a good source. Drives are cheap these days.   

I normally do a full system backup once a week, and 3 Gig takes about 30 minutes or so.  After the backup, I power down and physically pull the D drive out about a half inch so that it doesn't have power applied. This way I'm protected should a power surge or lightning strike take out the rest of the computer. My PC motherboard BIOS does a power on check for a physical drive at power on. If the D drive isn't there, the CD-ROM will then get the D drive allocation. 

Do yourself a favor and mark each new drive with it's letter indicator. It's easy to get C and D drives confused since they look identical. You don't want to do a reverse backup! Also, don't try to hot swap the drives, despite what the instruction sheets say you can do. Don't do it. Turn the power off before removing or inserting the drives.

Drive Bays in use

This system has saved my data. I experienced a C drive failure (under warranty). I just removed D, inserted into C, and sent the defective drive back for repair. 

Reader feedback notes:

I too have been using removable drive bays - about 6 or so years, and have been installing them inside multiple systems for easy drive clean up and OS switching. I have found that spending a little more - not so much in the addition of fans to the system but to the material in which the hard drive tray is constructed out of, such as aluminum or plastic. I have found that the newer drives, 7200 or 10000 rpm drives tend to get a lot hotter and therefore require a larger area of mass or thermal conduction to dissipate the heat.

My recommended follow-up would be to encourage the use of aluminum trays and then the addition of fans to keep the drives cool. I've had the unfortunate trial, maybe someone can learn from my mistakes.

(Thanks to Charles Sekafetz, AC7RF)

Remember, it's not a matter if your hardware will fail, it's a matter of when.

  Its cheap insurance guys.

Copyright © 2001-2014 Bill Jones, K8CU