Sans Digital TowerRAID TR4M 4 Bay Enclosure

I began to run out of slots inside my computer for hard drives, so I decided to get an external enclosure.  I had a few requirements:  The enclosure would have to store at least 4 drives, make each drive individually visible to the operating system, and be eSATA compatible.  The TowerRAID TR4M meets all of those requirements… it even comes with 2-port eSATA card.

Here’s what the box looks like:
Sand Sigital TowerRAID TR4M box shot

 

At the very top of the package is the eSATA card, shown here:Included eSATA card

The card has a PCI-e x1 connector.  To install the card I powered off the computer, unplugged all of the cables, opened up the side of the case, and removed the slot cover of the slot in which I wanted to install the card.
Inside my computer

Next I slid the card into the slot and screwed it in.
eSATA card installed

With the card installed, two eSATA ports are now available in the back of the computer.
Back of computer, showing eSATA ports

After starting up the computer I got this message:
Windows found new hardware

It’s too bad that Vista didn’t have the drivers locally, but as the following pictures show, the drivers were on Windows Update, making the driver install very easy.  Clicking on the little “installing drivers” icon in the system tray brings up the install status.
searching windows update...

installing driver software...

ready to use

On to the enclosure itself.
TowerRAID TR4M with smily face cup and mouse

Here are some pictures of the enclosure with the cover removed:
inside the TowerRAID TR4M

TowerRAID TR4M with the cover removed

The back of the enclosure looks like this:
back of the TowerRAID TR4M

For better or for worse, the ban in the back glows blue.  The fan also seems easily replicable if I were to ever want to do so.  It is pretty quiet though.
back of the TowerRAID TR4M, powerd on and hooked up to the comptuer

When I start up my computer with the enclosure plugged in (whether drives are in it or not) I now get the following message from the BIOS about RAID.  I don’t want to use RAID, so I just ignore it.
RAID BIOS message

The although the enclosure supports hot-swapping (inserting and removing drives while the computer is running), it should be noted that for the drives to be properly installed securely the cover has to be removed to gain access to screw holes.  It seems that for temporary drive access where the enclosure isn’t moving, it isn’t necessary to screw the drives in.  Other than the screws, the drives simply slide in through the front door.

Plugging in the enclosure to the eSATA card and installing drives into the enclosure didn’t require Windows to install any drivers.  Taking advantage of the hot-swapping, I installed all of the drives while the computer was on.
Outside of TowerRAID TR4M with drives installed

Here’s a picture with the drive enclosure filled with drives.  The bottom three are Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB drives, and the top one is a Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB drive. (The serial numbers are blurred out.)
TowerRAID TR4M full of drives

The trickiest part of this enclosure was putting the cover back on.  This is because there are a bunch of prongs inside the case that fit over the edges of the enclosure.  This is a good design, as it make the cover fit more snugly, but I simply didn’t realize that it was designed like this at first and had trouble screwing the case back on.
prong on the cover

Finally, the enclosure comes with 11 thumb screws for securing the hard drives in place (2 per drive) and holding the cover in place (3 in the back).
thumb screw

Ah, gratuitous amounts of storage.  It’s so nifty. :-)
computer shot showing all hard drives

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