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Jury rig an 'internal' HD connection?


I am a Macintosh user and have a handful of older Intel Macs of different flavors that I like to tinker with. They range in vintage from about 2006 to 2011.

I recently was given a 2TB 3.5 inch SATA HD. I want to be able to evaluate the drive's condition, including its S.M.A.R.T. status, and then entirely wipe it. As far as I know, I can't evaluate the S.M.A.R.T. status if the HD is connected to my Mac as an external drive, and I don't have access to a Mac in which I could install the drive as an internal. I have an idea for how I could jury-rig an internal connection to a MacBook or MacBook Pro, but I don't want to try it if it will damage either the Mac or the HD. So I've turned to this forum for some answers. Here's my idea:

I have a Sabrent multi-connecting HD adapter that I could use to bring AC power to the power part of the external HD's SATA interface. Then I could remove the internal HD from the laptop, attach an extension cable to the data part of the laptop's SATA connector and run that extension cable to the data part of the external HD's SATA interface. I could use a laptop whose internal HD can be easily accessed by removing a partial back cover (that covers just the internal HD, the trackpad and the battery) and I could keep that partial cover loosely in place while I run the machine, but I wouldn't be able to screw it tightly shut.

If I were to do this, would it:

1 - Damage either the laptop or the external HD?

2 - Give me a workable connection between the laptop and the external HD?

3 - Give me significantly faster read/write speeds than conventionally connecting the external drive via USB 2.0?

I really only want to do this once, just for the S.M.A.R.T. evaluation and then wiping the drive, and wouldn't be doing this as a general practice. If it works and gives me significantly faster read/write speed, then I could wipe the drive faster (hopefully MUCH faster) than the ~16 hours it would take to wipe it if it was conventionally connected as an external USB 2.0 drive (which is the only means I have of conventionally connecting it).

Thanks in advance for any and all responses.


Update (03/02/2017)

Thanks very much to Dan and Cameron for their replies and suggestions.

I don't have an appropriate iMac to modify, and I already have a USB adapter to connect via USB 2.0. As well, I have read on the web about open source kernal drivers that can be installed to make S.M.A.R.T. status from a USB or Firewire drive accessible, but some folks write that they are unreliable and problematic, describing the reasons why Apple didn't build it into the OS.

In any case, I was really hoping to get answers to my three questions:

1 - Will my proposed method potentially damage the laptop or HD?

2 - Will it make a workable connection?

3 - Will it yield faster read/write speeds than a conventional USB 2.0 connection?

If, in the end, I don't get a strongly discouraging reply that seems well informed, then I will probably just try it with the least valuable of my 'tinker machines'. If I do try it I will be sure to post my results here on this forum.

Update (03/03/2017)

Thanks again, for the replies and answers to my questions.

It had occurred to me that this would not be a hot-swappable connection, so I would have everything in place and connected before I turned any power on, and then wait until everything was powered off before disconnecting anything.

As to the issue of what would be the start-up volume while the internal HD was removed: I would also have an external boot drive set up and conventionally connected via one of the computer's USB ports, and then hold down the option key at power-up in order to select it via the boot manager. I've done this hundreds of times.

Again, thanks for all of the feedback. I am extremely grateful (though not eternally - those are iFixIt's words, not mine...).

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Good luck finding a female to male sata cable as there isnt any use for them. And it shouldnt damage anything unless you put too much pressure and break the connector. As speed yes it will be faster as sata 1 (the lowest sata you can get) is 1.5 gb vs the 480mb usb 2.0


To your Q's:

1 - Yes, it can damage either the system or the drive as the internal SATA connection does not offer the needed protection if you disconnect the connection while the system is alive. You could also corrupt the HD. While eSATA does offer protection if you disconnect the drive without un-mounting it within the OS you can still corrupt it.

2 - Not really, the laptop SATA connection is a bit different than the desktop SATA connection so you'll have some limits here.

3 - I wouldn't use this connection for every day use.

I would recommend you pull the optical drive's SATA connection and leave the primary HD alone as you still need to boot your system up with something (this also gives you a clean exit hole for the cable).

As I stated we use a modified iMac only to test & wipe HD drives. I wouldn't us the setup for anything else.


If speed is an issue for accessing your data then you should be using the FireWire or Thunderbolt ports these systems offer Vs trying to jury rig the SATA port. Or look at getting a NAS server.


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The better way here is to find an eSATA case which also has support for an external power connection (eSATA does not offer power. eSATAp does, but not suitable for 3.5" drives). Then on a 2010 or 2011 iMac system which has three SATA ports access the SATA header on the logic board to then connect the eSATA port cable to then exit out of the memory slot at the bottom of the system.

Here's one drive you could get (used) which would offer the needed external hardware: External SATA (eSATA) Hard Drive as for the internal cable hookup here's one of the IFIXIT guides to gain access to it: Installing iMac Intel 21.5" EMC 2428 Dual Hard Drive Kit. Here's someone who did it on a 2009 iMac: How To Add An eSATA Port To An Intel iMac but he had to give up his optical drives SATA port to do this unlike the newer systems which have three SATA ports.

We have one system setup just to test and erase hard drives.

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Honestly, your best option is to get some cheap hard drive case or adapter from eBay and use that. Do a search for Sata to usb adapter on eBay, you should find some for 10 dollars or so

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Sorry guy,

That won't work as the SATA to USB/FireWire/Thunderbolt interface strips the SMART data. You need native SATA to see it.


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For the Mac experts reading this, don't continue past this sentence.

Have you tried booting a live USB with EFI support (or bootable CD/DVD) of Ubuntu Linux using the latest kernel (16.10), using the smartmontools set of commands? The latest kernel may be able to pass SMART info via USB.

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@avanteguarde - Sorry that won't work ;-{ I tried it before we went with our rig as I described above. The rub here is the SATA to USB controller within the case won't let the SMART data though.


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david greenfield sera éternellement reconnaissant.
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