Cooler Master X-Craft USB

Storage is rapidly increasing on today's machines. As we stock up our systems with half a terabyte or more of hard disk space, the amount of media we consume increases exponentially. We spend so much of our time at PCs that our whole lives are on our little boxes, and lives require a lot of data.

In many circumstances, you want to house your hard drive external from your actual case. Why? Well, you might have one disk as a backup drive, which you can copy stuff to then store elsewhere in case of emergency. Maybe you share your videos with friends or between your own machines, and you need to pick up and plug in elsewhere.

Here in the bit-tech office, we keep our benchmarking suite installed on an external disk then plug it into test machines as needed, which saves us installing and re-installing games all the time!

Cooler Master's X-Craft drive housing allows you to plug in a standard IDE hard drive and use it over USB. It's a fairly simple premise, and one that requires little explanation! In the box comes a USB lead, a power cord, and a CD with some one-touch backup software on it, allowing you to set directories and drives to be backed up automatically.

The enclosure comes in a shiny black, which looks pretty sleek. It connects via USB, and also has two USB slots to allow you to plug in other devices, with the enclosure acting as a hub. In testing we found that this worked fine, although you'll want to plug high-speed devices directly into the machine you're working from for optimal performance.

The case pops open and you can stick your drive right inside with the minimum of hassle.

In all honesty, there's isn't much to add - performance is on par with other USB enclosures we had in the lab. USB allows for a theoretical throughput of 40MB/s, although you're not going to see that in practice, especially if you have other devices connected to your computer via USB. This is obviously slower than the theoretical maximum of most hard drives, which, over IDE, can deliver up to 133MB/s - although, again, you're never going to get quite that.

You can pick up the enclosure for £33, which is relatively expensive, but given the included backup software and the sleek stylings, it actually represents a decent buy.

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