We've all seen the external drive cases that take a 3.5" drive and present it as a USB, eSATA or firewire device. I'm looking for the same sort of thing, but I want the case to take multiple drives (and preferably more than two).

I don't want any smarts in the box - it doesn't have to be a NAS, or do RAID, or try to do anything other than take multiple hard disks and present them as multiple, individual USB hard disks. The Drobo looks awesome, but it does too much thinking for me.

My ideal device would potentially contain a USB hub inside, but it could present a USB cable for each drive also.

I'm trying to avoid buying half a dozen individual cases and having half a dozen power plugs. I'm also trying to avoid running a full computer case just to power the drives.

Extra points if it's either:

  • rack mountable
  • small form factor (like a Shuttle or similar)

Here's a mini-storage tower that can fit 4 drives ... the company also sells one that fits 8 drives. They appear to also sell a full rack mountable USB solution for only a few hundred bucks.

  • I like that device! – Ward Jun 21 '09 at 4:59

The keyword for you is JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks). The thing is known for ages.

  • I thought JBOD was when more then one drive was presented as one? In this case he wants each drive presented as a seperate drive – SpaceManSpiff Jun 21 '09 at 8:16
  • No JBOD does not concatenate disks nor stripe them. It is presented to host as just a bunch of disks, exactly as the name suggests. – kubanczyk Jun 21 '09 at 8:27
  • 3
    JBOD is one of those acronyms with two meanings, so you are both right... It can refer to an external multi-drive case that presents the disks separately to the host, but more commonly it refers to single block devices that are formed by concatenating separate volumes together. This is distinct from RAID0 because RAID0 implies striping over equal sized volumes for performance but JBOD does not stripe and therefore has no drive size similarity requirement. – David Spillett Jun 21 '09 at 8:56
  • Thanks for the clarification David, makes sense on the RAID0 as well. – SpaceManSpiff Jun 21 '09 at 14:18

Span (http://www.span.com/) do various versions of this sort of thing.

See http://www.span.com/easy_find.php?action=HDD_EXT&USB=on&PLATTER=any&BAYS=4&BAYS2=4&GTEE=any&ENCRYPT=any&REDPSU=any&REDCONT=any&searchALL_x=63&searchALL_y=10&extra=CON1.TOTALDRIVES.&page=1&sort=221a for a search of USB enclosures with at least 4 bays. However if you want hot swap they are quite expensive. The Drobo enclosures that you mentioned are amongst the cheapest.

I've dealt with Span a lot, and they're very helpful chaps. However they're in the UK so delivery would be expensive to the US.


  • Delivery in my case is to Australia, but thanks nonetheless. – mlambie Jun 22 '09 at 0:04

I'm a huge fan of OWC's line of enclosures. I own two, and only wish I would have found them sooner. Both their cheaper Neptune models and the higher end, all aluminum Mercury Elite series are amazing.

They also sell other brands on the following page as well, Personally I don't like MacAlley's enclosures (Have had nothing but bad luck with them), but I can't speak about the rackmount model they're selling.

OWC Build Your Own Kit

OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro RAID FireWire 800/400 Enclosure Kit for 2 x 3.5" IDE/ATA Hard Drives

OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro 800+USB2 RAID Ready eSATA/FireWire 800/400+USB2 1394B 2-Drive Enclosure Kit

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