Product Review: Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drive Docking Station

Product Review: Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drive Docking Station

After my morning run, I spent my Saturday doing two things.

The first, and most important, was to give homage to Leonard Nimoy by watching all manner of Spock appearances on Netflix. The wife and I were on the way home Friday from our wedding anniversary trip when I heard the news of Nimoy's passing. Spock's character was a real influence on my life, as I know it was for many of you. The news saddened me greatly.

The second thing I did, all while keeping Star Trek TV episodes and movies streaming end-to-end, was to test out a new gadget that arrived at my doorstep early Saturday morning: the Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drives Docking Station.

 

And, I'm glad I did. It took some of the sharp edge from my sadness. Inateck makes some great products. I've reviewed no less than 10 of the company's offerings over the course of the past year which you can find littered about here on SuperSite, on myITforum.com, and over on WindowsITPro. Of all of those reviews, I've only found one I didn't like or for which I couldn't find a real world use.

The Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drives Docking Station is a small, light, toaster-like gadget that accepts SATA hard drives. It accepts both 2.5" and 3.5" standard SATA hard drives. It's been a long while since I've actually purchased an actual hard drive, but I'm actually now considering picking a couple up. For my testing, though, I had a couple dead laptops with the 2.5" hard drives still intact. I removed both hard drives (and manufacturer-specific mounts and guiderails) and used those.

As most of you know, I'm an avid Surface Pro 3 user (it's my only computing device), so I decided to use the Microsoft tablet so I could see how the HD docking station would work with my daily configuration.

In the Box

As shown in the following image, the included items are the bare minimum. In the box is the HD docking station, a USB 3.0 cable, an AC adapter, and a very short instruction manual.

Installation

Installation is easy – no drivers needed. Connect the power supply and USB cable to the back of the HD docking station…

…connect the other end of the USB cable to the USB port on your PC or device (the Surface Pro 3, in my case)…

…push the power button on the front…

…insert a supported hard drive, and Windows recognizes it automatically.

Like I said, no drivers needed. Windows treats a docked hard drive just like any other attached USB storage device. Recognition is immediate, meaning you don’t have to wait for Windows to do anything but add a logical drive letter. And, as you can see in the image above, it even recognizes all partitions available on the hard drive. In my case above, the hard drive is from a dead HP laptop. That's why it shows a HP_RECOVERY partition.

IMPORTANT: Hard Drive Removal

Using the Inateck HD docking station is easy. Hard drives can be hot-swapped, but to remove each hard drive make sure to use the build-in Windows "Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media" option.

This ensures that data doesn't get corrupted. Because SATA drives still contain moving parts, it takes a bit for Windows to close data connections. Each of the two hard drives I tested with had different "shutdown" times. One was quick (less than 5 seconds) while I had to wait almost 30 seconds for the other.

Once Windows gives you the "all clear" message…

Tap the Eject button at the back of the HD docking station to expel the hard drive from the housing like a piece of toast.

Construction

I mentioned earlier that the HD docking station is light. It's almost too light and that may be my only "ding" against this gadget. Obviously, the lighter a gadget is, the easier it is to travel with, but in this case the construction is very thin plastic. I wouldn't feel comfortable carrying this in a carry-on bag and if I did travel with it, I'd make sure to pack it in cushiony material in my checked luggage. And, I definitely wouldn't want to drop this thing on anything but soft, forgiving carpet. Still, I'm not sure a device like this is intended for travel, but for moving around an office, or sitting permanently on a desk somewhere.

Real World Uses

Obviously, an HD docking station like this has some real benefits.

First off, you can buy massive SATA hard drives for next to nothing. With the coming onslaught of devices with low on-board storage, but an available USB port, you can increase your storage easily and cheaply. The Inateck HD docking station supports up to 4TB. Here's some Western Digital prices for examples:

Another use, and one that worked great in my case, is as a data savior. Laptops and PC hardware can fail for a number of reasons and it's always at the wrong time and almost always the day after warranty expires. End-users have a real fear of performing proper data backups for some reason, and, of course, expect the local IT folks to be able to raise the dead. In the past, I'd have to send the hardware out to a 3rd party for data retrieval, but with the Inateck HD docking station, I could just remove the hard drive and retrieve the data.

Another potential benefit, is to create a local Cloud-type storage location where more sensitive files must exist. It's easy to use the Cloud for storage these days, but a lot of companies can't due to regulations. Or, they can use the Cloud for some things, but not for truly sensitive information. The Inateck HD docking station provides a real solution that could allow companies to take a Hybrid Cloud approach to storage.

There's a myriad of other uses, but I'll leave that to you to figure out. It's easy to realize how useful a device like this can be in a multitude of scenarios.

Bottom Line

The Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drives Docking Station is a great product, with a multitude of potential uses. When I first heard this device was headed my way for testing, I thought "Meh," sounds nice, but it's not something I'll use often. But, after using it for a couple days already, the gadget has sparked my imagination and I intend on figuring out new ways to incorporate it into my daily schedule.

But, wait until you see the price.

The HD docking station is a steal for only $23.00 on Amazon. You can find it here:

Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drives Docking Station for 2.5 Inch & 3.5 Inch HDD SSD SATA (SATA I / II / III) Support Up to 4TB, Including USB 3.0 Cable, Optimized For SSD

 

Make sure to check out my other Inateck reviews and also visit Inateck's web site to learn about upcoming products: Inateck web site

 

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