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Can anyone recommend recent models of 2.5"-sized USB 3.0/USB Type C external drives with that still use a real 2.5" SATA HDD inside?

Recently, a friend had their WD MyPassport 2.5" external drive crash. I was shocked to see that the HDD had the USB connector soldered on board, rather than being a regular SATA drive connected to a USB adapter.

This has two major implications:

  1. The drive can't be directly attached to a motherboard. This is very important if your drive crashes: data recovery programs work much more reliably over a SATA connection, compared to a USB connection. This is because data recovery requires direct disk access. So, if you are unlucky and get a flimsy drive, you have better chances to recover your data.
  2. You can't upgrade the drive capacity later. This is not as critical as the first point, but still highly desirable. E.g. I still use a USB 2.0 LaCie upgraded to 1TB somewhere down the line. It's not a speed demon, but the aluminum case is very robust. It also regularly doubles as a SATA-USB adapter for 2.5" SATA drives.

So, I am looking for recommendations on external drives that:

  • use a real SATA 2.5" HDD inside (mandatory!)
  • have either a Micro Type B or Type C USB port on the the enclosure (mandatory!)
  • feature USB 3.0 UASP or better
  • are good looking
  • are relatively easy to disassemble
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I had the same problem, although with 3.5". I did not even looked for such a solution. Instead, I have simply bought a 3.5" SATA drive and an USB box separately, from different sources. In this configuration (which is much better than the usb-only version), the adapter box and the disk are completely different products. It works also for 2.5".

This is the cheapest what I found on the ebay. It is $7. Now you need to buy a 2.5" SATA HDD (or SSD - does not matter1) into it, plug into, and you have what you want.

Do not buy a box which has no external power source - the USB cable is often not enough to give to the disk the required power. HDDs need the most power if you start them.

1Well, actually it matters if it is an SSD - the protocol on which your computer talks to the disk over USB, does not support trimming. This makes the SSDs to more quickly wear down. We need to wait USB4, this already supports trimming. Other side is that SSDs are inherently prone to vibration, HDDs are very sensitive against them. Never rotate a HDD while it is powered on! Although 2.5" HDDs are for laptops, thus the manufacturer likely takes care for that.

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  • Note, many of my recent ebay purchases did not go very well (seller sent crap, or "forgot" to send the device, or he sent an usb2 device instead usb3). This might be an indirect side-effect of the corona pandemia.
    – peterh
    Jan 22 at 13:21

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