Having tinkered and replaced PCs over the years I’ve been left with a number of hard drives. In my case I have 3 SATA and 1 PATA. For years they’ve been sat in a corner inside anti-static bags. I could buy a multi-bay NAS or caddy to put the SATA ones to use, but these are expensive (often £200+). However, having them as spares that I can make the occasional backup and drive clone to would be useful. Normally, people would buy a cheap external caddy, which would involving swapping the drives in and out of this each time they want to use one.
A German company named Convar have come up with a novel alternative.
It’s cheap, environmentally friendly and, no matter what you may be thinking, won’t burst into flames when it gets hot.
The Convar product, known as BytePac, consists of 3 cardboard boxes – specially designed to snugly hold a hard drive (2.5″ or 3.5″) – and a set of cables and power adapter to allow you to easily connect the drive to your PC. With the hard drive in the box, you can close it all up and, when not in use, stick it on a shelf (it even comes with some stickers for labelling). When in use, there’s a flap on the side to improve air circulation and another on the bottom for cable connection. The cable plugs into the SATA port and goes to a special thumb sized adapter. Also plugged into this adapter is a cable that connects to your PC via USB 2 and a power supply1. It’s a bit of a mess with 3 cables heading off in different directions and not the neatest solution.
None-the-less, it just works. I plugged it all together and my drives each burst into life as I connected them up in turn2. When finished with them, I simply unplug them and put them in the shelf above.
I mentioned previously that I have a PATA drive. The BytePac, by default, doesn’t work with these but there is an additional connection kit available – you will need one for each PATA drive. This kit consists of an additional box (slightly modified to take into account the modified drive) and an adapter that you screw onto the bottom of the drive – this converts the drive to SATA so that you can then connect it up using the cables that came with the standard BytePac . This does mean that if you only have a PATA drive you can just buy this kit – you must have the standard BytePac as well for the connection cables. For some odd reason Western Digital PATA drives are slightly different and need a modified adapter – this is also included.
As well as all of the above you can buy additional boxes for a reasonable price.
For my setup it cost me about £30 for the standard BytePac kit and then £15 for the PATA connection kit. Additional boxes cost £12 for 3.
Summary of BytePac KitA good quality solution to ad-hoc hard drive storage. The box works well but the cables are a bit messy and the price is a little high, particularly the PATA converter. However, if keeping them stored away is not a concern and you don’t have many drives, you could probably find metal hard drive caddies on eBay for the equivalent of each of these.
Reviewed by David Artiss on 28th March 2012.