- What is Hot Swapping?
- How Does Hot Swapping Work?
- Hot Swappable Setup for 3.5” Hard Drives
- Hot Swappable Setup for Solid State Drives (SSDs)
- Hot Swappable Drive Bays in Action
I was messing around with my gaming PC’s drive bay today and thought “wouldn’t it be awesome if I had a hot swappable case for my hard drives?”
Shortly after, I started doing some research, trying to find a case that supported hot swappable hard drives.
To my dismay, there wasn’t much information out there.
Plenty of forums and YouTube videos covered NAS hot swap cases, but I don’t want to build a NAS.
Instead, I just want a hot swap feature for my regular gaming PC case.
After doing tons of research online, I finally figured it out:
There aren’t any genuine PC gaming cases on the market that offer a hot swap feature (at least that I could find) but there are hot swap adapters that you can install in almost any PC gaming case, for both 2.5” and 3.5” hard drives.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the 3 best hot swappable case options for you in 2020, including the cases I’d use and the hot swap drive bays.
Let’s dive in!
What is Hot Swapping?
Hot swapping is a configuration that allows you to remove and install hardware while your machine is running.
Instead of having to turn off your PC, open your case, unscrew your hard drive bay, disconnect your cables, etc. hot swapping makes things way easier.
You can install a hot swappable adapter in your case one time, and connect SATA data and power cables.
Next, simply slide your hard drives into place until you hear a ‘click’, and you should be good to go.
Not hot swapping is like having to turn off your phone before you can remove your headphones and then turning it back on again.
That would be ridiculous!
How Does Hot Swapping Work?
This video from Linus Tech Tips will explain how hot swapping works:
How to Use This Hot Swapping Guide
Since I couldn’t find any traditional cases with a hot swap feature, I had to find hot swappable adapters and compatible cases.
Some adapters are meant for 3.5” drives, while others are meant for 2.5” drives.
That being said, I’ve organized this guide in two parts:
- 3.5” hot swap drive cage
- 2.5” hot swap drive cage
Each section has a featured hot swap drive cage, along with a few cases that you can use.
Note: The hot swap drive cages can be used with any compatible case, but not all cases are compatible. That’s why I’ve selected some cases for you already that are compatible.**
Hopefully this helps!
Best Hot Swappable Case Options
|Startech Backplane||Four 3.5" Drives||Check Amazon Price|
|ICY Dock Tough Armour||Four 2.5" Drives||Check Amazon Price|
Hot Swappable Drive Cages
You can’t buy a prebuilt hot swappable case without buying a NAS, but you can buy a hot swappable drive cage and install it in a compatible case.
I went ahead and researched the best options for you.
Here’s what I found:
The StarTech 4 Drive Hot Swap SATA Backplane (HSB4SATSASBA) is the hot swappable drive cage I’d choose for 3.5” mechanical hard drives.
It’s rugged, easy-to-use, compatible with all drives, and is going for an absolute steal on Amazon right now (not to mention the great reviews).
This thing can fit up to four mechanical hard drives, and is compatible with 6Gbps SATA III, meaning your drives will be running at peak efficiency.
It’s compatible with any case that has at least three 5.25” drive bays (it’s going to take up all three of them).
Assuming your PC case has three 5.25” bays (see below) you can turn it into a hot swappable case.
Moreover, unlike the SSD model below, you don’t need to screw your hard drives into the drive trays.
Instead, they just pop right out of the case. Pretty dope!
In addition, this thing comes with a built-in fan to keep your drives cool.
If that’s not enough, the manufacturer also offers a 2-year warranty plus lifetime technical support.
The ICY DOCK Tough Armor Drive Bay (model number MB882SP-1S-2B) is going to be your best bet if you want to hot swap 2.5” solid state drives.
This bad boy is nearly indestructible (the company ran it over with a car without causing any damage) and is pretty easy to use.
It mounts in a standard 5.25” bay which most PC cases have these days, and can fit up to four hot swappable solid state drives.
Four drives in a single 5.25” drive bay isn’t too shabby, huh?
You can easily pop the drive bays out, screw your 2.5” SSD into the removable tray, and pop it into the drive bay.
In addition, this bad boy ships with its own set of daul 40mm cooling fans, which only activate when a drive is installed.
You should note, however, that the cooling fans do tend to run a bit loud, so you may want to invest in a soundproof case.
In addition, the SSDs performed nearly identical to their performance in a normal configuration, meaning performance isn’t lost when using this hot swappable drive bay.
Simply screw it in to your 5.25” bay, pop your SSDs in there, and you’re good to go.
Once the 5.25” drive bay is mounted, you can connect your traditional SATA cables to the back.
All in all, this is a great option if you want to have a hot swappable 2.5” SATA SSD drive bay in your PC case without having to buy a NAS.
Compatible PC Cases
These are the PC cases I’d recommend for use with the hot swappable drive bays listed above.
Note that these aren’t the only cases you can use, but they are compatible with the hot swappable cages listed above.
|Corsair 750D Airflow Edition||Both Drive Cages||Check Amazon Price|
|Thermaltake Versa H21 SPCC||Both Drive Cages||Check Amazon Price|
|Fractal Design Focus G||SSD Drive Cage||Check Amazon Price|
If you want to use the 3.5” hard drive bay that fits up to four hard drives, the Corsair 750D Airflow Edition is a great option.
This case is compatible with both the 3.5” drive cage and the 2.5” SSD drive cage.
It’s definitely bigger than most cases considering it’s a full tower.
However, considering the drive cage needs three 5.25” bays for installation, you’re going to need a big case.
But keep in mind, this thing has a lot more to offer.
You’re going to get a good looking, robust case with terrific airflow, insanely good cable management, plenty of room inside, and a nice side panel window.
This monster is best suited for an enthusiast build, since it has support for a crap load of drives, all of the different cooling options you could imagine, and several large graphics cards.
But I figure you’re going all out with your PC if you’re planning on buying a hot swappable drive bay, so it’s a good fit.
It’s not a dirt cheap case by any means, but the value you’re getting out of it is insane, especially considering its current price on Amazon.
And if you do order it on Amazon, it’ll come with free 2-day Prime shipping, which you probably couldn’t get if you bought such a big case elsewhere.
However, if you want a cheaper case, check out the one below.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the Thermaltake Versa H21 SPCC is way cheaper on Amazon than the Corsair 750D, and is also compatible with the 3.5” hard drive hot swap cage.
This case is compatible with the 3.5” drive cage and the 2.5” cage.
However, if you’re on a budget, I don’t really see why you’d want to shell out the extra money for one of these anyway, but the option is there.
This thing has pretty good reviews on Amazon, but as you’d expect from a cheap case, doesn’t have any crazy features.
It is solid black and doesn’t have a side panel window. It also only includes a single 120mm cooling fan. Pretty barebones if you ask me.
But it does have three 5.25” drive bays which you can use to mount your hot swappable 3.5” backplane.
The Focus G by Fractal Design is a great case all-around, but is especially a good pick if you want to hot hot swap your hard drives.
This case only has two 5.25” drive bays, which means it is only compatible with the hot swappable SSD drive cage.
The 3.5” hot swappable cage requires three 5.25” bays, so if you want to hot swap your mechanical drives, you’ll need one of the cases above.
You’ll be able to install your hot swappable drive bay with ease, and still have room for an optical drive too.
This case has some awesoem features too, including the powerful stock fans, spacious interior, sleek design, and the side panel window.
All in all, it’s a great choice, especially if you pick it up on Amazon with free shipping.
Hot Swappable Drive Bays in Action
Here’s a video of a dude hot swapping his mechanical hard drives while his PC is running!
It’s almost like he’s using them as gigantic floppy disks.
Check it out:
It’s almost impossible to find a regular PC case that supports hot swapping your drives.
If that’s what you’re looking for, buying a NAS case is probably a better option (we have a guide on NAS cases here.)
However, you can buy a hot swap cage and install it in your regular PC gaming case, which is probably the best option for traditional builders.
I hope this helps!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.