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ATPM 16.08
August 2010



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Hardware Review

by Christopher Turner,

OWC Express


Function: Bus-powered 2.5″ USB 2.0 enclosure.

Developer: Other World Computing

Price: $20

Requirements: 2.5″ SATA hard drive or SSD up to 9.5mm tall.

Trial: None

Last year I fulfilled something of a computing dream: I purchased a black MacBook. It was used, of course, the next to last version of the BlackBook Apple produced before taking the line down the aluminum road. I, like many others, have always liked the look of Apple’s black notebooks. In my former life as an IT grunt, I pined for the sleek black PowerBook G3s I would set up for the trainers and graphic artists we supported, while making do with the orange iBook our bosses provided our department.

So it stood to reason—geek reason, that is—that upon acquiring the black MacBook I would require a suitable external hard drive with which to back it up. I had purchased a Seagate Momentus 500 GB 2.5-inch drive for this purpose, doing some future proofing as I plan to upgrade the MacBook’s internal hard drive to 500 GB at some point. Then it came down to an enclosure for the new Momentus.

Enter the OWC Express.

The Express USB enclosure is available in three colors: white, black, and Apple-aluminum silver. So no matter the color of your MacBook, you can properly coordinate. (Sorry, orange iBook owners.) I went, of course, with basic black.


Despite the product photography, these enclosures are not metal, but rather ABS plastic, which OWC bills as “impact resistant.” I have consciously chosen not to test that claim, especially with a brand new hard drive inside.

Installation of the hard drive was quick and easy. Removing the two small Phillips-head screws on the bottom of the enclosure is all that is necessary to gain access. The top cover comes off, and then one simply angles the hard drive in and onto the SATA connector. Click into place and you’re done. Replace the cover, tighten the two small screws, and connect the USB cable to the drive, then to your Mac. A quick trip into Mac OS X’s Disk Utility to format the drive, and you’re in business.

The OWC Express enclosure has a blue LED status indicator, so you know when the drive is receiving power. When reading and writing to the hard drive occurs, the status light blinks steadily.


I use Shirt Pocket’s SuperDuper for cloning my MacBook’s internal hard drive as a form of backup. We’ve previously reviewed SuperDuper. The first time one runs a backup with SuperDuper, it can take quite a while, depending on how many gigabytes one is cloning. Such was the case with the now fully-equipped OWC Express, and it got a workout.


The enclosure is fanless, so the only noise coming from it during use is from the hard drive itself. The Seagate Momentus is relatively quiet on its own, with little noise coming from it even during heavy use—such as a first-time backup of 100 or so gigabytes. Together, they make for a combination that won’t bother those sensitive to computer noise, especially if there’s already some other white noise or sounds from music or television in the room.

The Express uses Jmicron’s 20329 chipset, leading on the outside of the enclosure to a Mini-B USB female connector. The enclosure ships with a Mini-B cable, through which power is provided. No external power adapter ships with the Express, and none is needed, as there is no other connector on the enclosure except for the Mini-B USB. This helps with the Express’s clean, minimalist look, and means you only have to tote around a single cable to connect it to your Mac.


If you don’t have a drive to throw into the Express, OWC offers several Value Priced Kit bundles, which pair an Express enclosure with a choice of several different hard drives. Prices range from $64 all the way to $715, for those wanting to go with a large-capacity SSD.

There are many options when it comes to portable hard drives and enclosures. OWC’s Express enclosure offers a good value: it’s affordable, quiet, and as fast as current consumer technology allows.

Reader Comments (8)

durbrow · August 2, 2010 - 16:38 EST #1
Thanks for the review. Just FYI, my MacBook Pro 13 inch looks like a black MacBook because I have covered it in an Apple-approved third party black shell. Very elegant looking. Just FYI in case you eventually upgrade to a MBP.
Christopher Turner (ATPM Staff) · August 2, 2010 - 20:12 EST #2
Durbrow, do you have photos posted somewhere of this shell. I'd be interested in taking a look. Thanks!
Grover Watson · August 3, 2010 - 06:51 EST #3
I've got one of these for my Black Macbook. I also lusted after that 'Blackbook' for quite a while. I'm considering a Macbook Pro, but my wife's been eyeing my sleek Black machine. Maybe I'll buy HER the Macbook pro! :)
Grover Watson · August 3, 2010 - 06:57 EST #4
OWC also makes a small, clear enclosure for 2.5 inch SATA hard drives. I like them because you can see the drive installed inside. It has a built in heat sink and tiny rubber feet on the Bottom. Great for back up photos while traveling.
John · August 3, 2010 - 21:03 EST #5
There are several vendors making colored shells for the current MBP lineup. I have a black satin shell from Speck Products ( on my 17" MBP. Note that the smaller your MBP, the better the color selection; the only colors Speck offers for 17" are clear and black satin :(
Christopher Turner (ATPM Staff) · August 4, 2010 - 16:42 EST #6
John, I received a clear Speck shell from the gentleman I purchased my BlackBook from, but I don't use it because I don't like the glossy slickness of it. I much prefer the feel of the BlackBook's native exterior.

I'd missed the news of their Satin line, however, and these look like just the thing I would buy were I to step up to an aluminum MacBook in the future. Thanks for pointing them out!
Richard Scotte · November 24, 2010 - 00:45 EST #7
Very interesting article. What I would like to know is what degree of difficulty would be involved in replacing an internal HD in a black MacBook. I have done this in the older grey mac and it was really easy. However, when I look at the black MacBook with the battery removed I don't see what any simple methods of getting to the innards. PS; When I do anything like this I make a video of the entire operation so that I can see where parts should be put back and in what order.
Grover Watson · November 24, 2010 - 14:40 EST #8
Are you kidding about the internal hard drive? Turn the MacBook over, remove the battery. You'll see a metal band with 2 or 3 screws. back the screws off, and remove the band. You now have access to the memory and the hard drive. There is a white tab and the end of the battery bay. pull it out, and give it a firm tug. You've now removed the hard drive. Simple!
Swap out the drive in the enclosure, and replace it the way it come out, making sure you don't put it back in upside down. Give it a firm push so the drive seats in the SATA connector. Replace the band, re-install the battery. You're done!

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