A hard drive reader is basically a device that allows you to access a hard drive (that is meant to be used as an internal hard drive) as any other external memory (like a thumb drive). If you didn't already know, every computer comes with a hard drive that is primarily used to store all your data. Not only does it store your music, videos, photos, documents, and other types of files, it also stores the operating system of the computer itself. Therefore, a computer hard drive is an important piece of hardware in any system.
You might still have old hard drives with data on them, even if you don't have the computers or laptops that housed these hard drives. Typically this happens when a computer gets damaged due to reasons other than a hard drive failure. In these cases, the computer hard drive still functions normally and all you need is a hard drive reader to access the data on it. This is especially important if the data to be retrieved is of special significance (for instance containing financial information, research papers, etc.)
Hard drive readers basically come in 2 varieties. They are such no-brainers that you'll never have to figure out how to use a hard drive reader. The first one is a simple adapter cord. On one end, it connects to the hard drive, and at the other end, it plugs into a computer via a USB port. The second one is a hard drive dock. This device looks like a toaster where you can dock your hard drive. Typically, hard drive docks come with the ability to dock multiple hard drives at once. They also provide some offline functionalities as well.
No matter which type of hard drive reader you are using, the basic functionality is the same. They allow you to access the drive like any other external drive that you are already used to. When you connect a hard drive to a computer, you see it as an external mass media storage device. From there, you can access all the files and documents. You can also read and write data from and to the hard drive.
As with any other product, there are many options available in the market for a hard drive reader. However, if you want good performance, reliability, functionality, and affordability, you could check out the below 5 options.
This sleek-looking hard drive reader is often the first choice of people. It is available in black color and looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie. It is a docking station type of hard drive reader and comes in 4 models. You can connect anywhere from 1 hard drive to 5 depending on the model you purchase. The 2-bay model is a fairly compact one with dimensions of 6.26 x 3.94 x 2.72 inches and a weight of just 1.2 pounds.
The great thing about this docking station is that it supports both 2.5 and 3.5 inch SATA hard drives. Not only that, but you can also connect an SSD (solid-state drive). It supports hard drives up to 10 TB of storage which is plenty for any person. Also, unlike many other cheap models available on the market, this hard drive reader is a simple plug and play device. You don't need to install any drivers to use it.
As far as speeds are concerned, you can enjoy speeds up to 5 Gbps using USB 3.0 and 480 Mbps using USB 2.0. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. With this reader, you also get offline cloning up to 60 Mbps. So, you can clone one hard drive onto the other without connecting it to a computer.
This is a beautiful product made of aluminum which will definitely remind you of an Apple product. It comes in a single model that allows you to connect two computer hard drives at once. Like the Sabrent docking station, the SSK reader also supports both the 2.5 and 3.5 inch SATA hard drives as well as SSDs.
The company also boasts a solid, shockproof, and vibration-resistant aluminum case. This can be important because old hard drives can especially create a lot of vibrations. This could inadvertently disconnect them while you're accessing them. Another great feature of this drive reader is that its specially designed heatsink allows it to stay cool while using low power.
This drive reader also comes with great speeds (5 Gbps using USB 3.0). There is even an LED indicator status display that will give you vital information at a glance. It is a plug and play device and you don't need to install drivers to begin using it. It is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. Also, like the Sabrent reader, it allows for offline cloning of hard drives.
Unlike the first two options on this list, this hard drive reader is an adapter type of reader. That means it is a simple chord that connects a hard drive to a computer using a USB port. This reader by Unitek is very versatile though as it can connect up to 3 different hard drives at once. It supports the 2.5 and 3.5 inch SATA hard drives and SSD. It also supports the 2.5 and 3.5 inch IDE hard drives.
That's not all though. You can also use this hard drive reader to connect DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD-RW, DVD + RW Optical Drive. And all of these connections happen instantaneously as the adapter itself is a plug and play device. There is also an on/off switch that allows for hard drive protection.
Also, unlike other adapter-style drive readers, this Unitek reader comes with a 12V 2A power cable that provides a stable electricity supply to any hard drives you connect to it. The data transfer speeds are pretty impressive as well, as you can easily reach speeds of 5 Gbps. It is compatible with all major operating systems and even provides one-touch backup to Windows users.
With over 13000 ratings on Amazon, this is definitely a preferred choice for a whole lot of people. It is a docking style hard drive reader where the hard drives are laid out flat (instead of connecting vertically as with other docking stations). It is a highly affordable option costing you just $18.99. At the same time, you will be getting the main functionalities that you could want with a professional-grade hard drive reader.
The hard drive supports both 2.5 and 3.5 inch SATA hard drives. It can reach speeds up to 5 Gbps using a USB 3.0 connection. It even comes with a free download of Acronis True Image for Sabrent software for easy cloning. This Sabrent reader is compatible with macOS, Linux, Windows 10, and many older versions of Windows as well (even Windows 2000 and XP). Lastly, you don't have to worry about the power supply to the hard drive as it comes with the necessary power supply.
5) StarTech USB3S2SAT3CB SATA to USB Cable USB 3.0 to 2.5” SATA III Hard Drive Adapter (Hard Drive Reader)
The name of this hard drive reader may be a mouthful but it is one of the simplest options available in the market. With a cost of $12.49, it is also one of the cheapest options. This reader is a simple adapter-style reader that allows you to connect your hard drive to a computer over a USB 3.0 connection. This allows it to have speeds of 5 Gbps. The basic design makes it highly portable and you can easily tuck it away in your bag.
Using this reader, you can quickly access a SATA hard drive or SSD and it will almost feel like using any other off-the-shelf external hard drive. As it is a plug and play device, you don't need to fiddle around and look for drivers. As such, you can also easily swap between drives. Even though you can only connect one device at a time with it, the easy swapping will make the lack of multiple device connectivity redundant. This reader also comes with a 2-year warranty plus lifetime support.