External SATA-based Hard Drive (aka "C" drive) with Operating System

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Above: Part of a "home-made" kit for an external, SATA-based operating system. This image shows an AMS Venus external hard-drive enclosure (SATA/USB) with Seagate NL-35 400 GB SATA drive. I'm using this system in a SATA set-up. The USB 2.0 cable (bottom left of image) is not used. Notice the Venus system also incorporates an effective cooling fan. This is important as hard drives can run fairly warm. Many pre-packaged external drives -- such as a Maxtor, Western Digital, etc. -- do no have internal cooling. One such drive, a hot-running Maxtor external, failed after a little over two years in use. It had no internal cooling.

Reliable, High-Capacity SATA Drives

Seagate provides the ideal solution with the NL35 Series of reliable, high-capacity enterprise SATA disc drives—stronger and smarter than desktop-class SATA drives, making them well-suited for capacity-intensive business applications.

Right: Run the SATA cable (red) from the SATA connector on the SATA-compliant motherboard thru a "hole" in the back of the PC. The hole may simply be a removed cover bracket (used for empty PCI card slots). You'll need your motherboard's "User's Manual" to help you with the rest of the SATA (software-based) set-up.

I used Acronis True Image to make a mirror (clone) of my old, internal hard drive (e.g., in Windows, this is "C" drive: the operating system, Registry, Program Files, My Documents, etc). I did this with the Venus/Seagate SATA external USB'd to my PC. For me, "C" drive was originally a dual-drive RAID 0 set-up. Nevertheless, everything mirrored just fine -- the system started up without a hitch the very first time I booted "externally".

* True Image takes much of the credit for this; just be sure to Scan Disk and defragment the original "'C" drive before cloning .

Right: Here's what my DIY set-up looks like from the back. The PC tower, continues to house the original dual-hard-drive RAID 0 set-up I originally installed upon building this system. I can also choose to boot from that set-up as well.


Power-down and power-up : Notice that with this ad hoc set up, one must power-up each unit -- the external drive and the PC -- separately. Like an internal drive, and as long as the PC is on, the Venus drive will spin-up or spin-down (and eventually, turn off) based on the power configuration one has set up in the OS (in Windows, right click on the Desktop, choose Screen Saver > Power ... > Power Schemes). However, after a PC is shut down, the external HD is still powered. The Venus drive will spin-down (and maybe even spin-off) when the PC is powered down. However, the drive's internal cooling fan continues to operate. I don't like to keep motors turning indefinitely so I also power down the external drive after powering down the PC (the switch is inconveniently on the back of the Venus). using this scheme, one must remember to power up the drive before powering up the PC (the Venus has a green LED "on" indicator to tell you which state it's in). My routine with this system is to power it up in the morning, keep it on while in active use, and then shut down for the day in the early evening. If I'm going out of the house (which is my office, too), then I'll also shut the system down. Everything is plugged into a UPS/power conditioner.

Questions regarding "tweakablity":

Right: Hard-drive controller board used in the AMS Venus enclosure. The HD (Seagate on left) easily plugs into it and the enclosure is ready for use in less than five minutes after unwrapping everything.

Right: A closer look at the HD-controller board. Is performance-improving tweaking possible? For starters, the clocks (oval metal "cans" in lower half of image) may benefit from mechanical damping, as may the rest of the unit. See this article for info on data jitter ... and stay tuned for more details on tweaking this HD based on the same strategy I've employed on other electronic units ... Right: If you're curious about what this set-up is used for, check out this blog entry.

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This page was last updated:Friday, 2023-11-17 12:32 PST