How to Use a Phantom USB Port #2




About: It is my hope that each of my i'bles hits the "Why didn't I think of that?" button in the reader. Mic

If there are pins on the mother board to support USB connections, you usually get a cable (or similar) to bring those ports out the front or the back of the case.

BUT what are you supposed to do with Port 5 on a USB card? There is no USB 'A' Male to back-plate converter and the effort to wire something up for yourself is time better spent griping about the problem.

This is a higher level of ingenuity than How to Use a Phantom USB Port #1 ( ) because we are going to use that extra port to set up a pair of hot-swapable hard drives.

Step 1: What You Need:

$03.25 - 1 IDE/SATA/Mini IDE to USB adaptor*
$10.68 - 1 SATA HDD Mounting Rack
$00.00 - 1 IDE Rack with Cartridge. I priced this as $0.00 because I have them all over the place.

*Because of the fixed wiring on the SATA Rack, the extra cables here will not be needed. When searching for these adaptors (eBay is sometimes your friend), you may find some that include power supplies with Molex style power output. Don't touch them! . When I started out using these adaptors I bought three power supplies to suit. All three supplies were dodgy and one of them destroyed my "Terabyte" drive. If you decide you like these adaptors and want to use them for connecting external items, dig out an old AT supply to power up your drives.

Step 2: First Problem Encountered:

Because the distance between IDE pins and power socket varied so much, this adaptor would seem to be intended for wider spacing. You will not that it prevents the Power plug from being inserted properly (unless you want to use brute force).

Step 3: Modify the Adaptor:

Popping the case off is the easy part.

Remember that this is a cheap Chinese product. The USB cable is not very well soldered to the circuit board, and any attempt to fix silver solder with a lead solder iron is doomed. As this part is going into a fixed position hopefully where three-year-olds can't get at it, liberally use some hot melt glue to attach the molded strain-relief to the circuit board which effectively removes all strain on any of the solder cables.

If you look at the third photo which looks like it has two silicon breasts, that demonstrates how generous you can be with the glue because you don't want this moving and breaking connection(s).

Step 4: Installing the Racks:

The IDE rack is easily installed using standard screws, but then the fun starts!

The screws supplied with the SATA rack don't fit! And neither do any of those other PC related screws of which you have jars full.

So it was a long hot walk down a flight of stairs to the machine shop to find screws that might fit. Because it's an acrylic case, I needed longer than normal. What I found was:

SCA0308   100 PIECES    ALLOY    $9.80
MICRO FASTENERS Remington NJ  08822(?) 1-800-892-6917

Micro Fasteners is a u.s. supplier, and I'm not being paid to promote the product.

Having found almost suitable screws, the next problem was the size of the head. As small as it was it could very nearly slip through the slot in the acrylic. To fix this I used some left-over mirror-chain links from ( ) my wall hanging monitor. Why drive into town, visit three different hardware stores trying to find appropriate washers?  Instructables is all about innovative ideas... Requiring a mini-hex screwdriver bit also made life that little bit more interesting.

If you look closely you will that there are two rubber O-rings; one between the acrylic and the rack, the second  to stop the "magic" washer from scratching the plastic. This is a past-experience modification. Last time I built an acrylic case and built the drive cage with plastic straight to drive or rack, it ended up being slightly too thin which really strained the screws holding it in place. The rubber O-rings will hopefully give that little extra width so that the cage will screw in where it's meant to fit.

Step 5: Hooking It All Up:

You see that the adaptor fits easily into the IDE socket and the power supply plug no longer fights for space.

You can also see the huge blob of hot melt glue on the right hand side of the adaptor card.

The reason the SATA cable is so untidy is because it was just so ridiculously long!

Step 6: Differences:

Because there was no construction standard as far as connect placement and separation, racks used internal trays to carry the drives.

Because SATA was properly defined from the first start-up, the racks have no trays, the drive just slides in and you close the door to lock it into place.

Photo below:

The SuperRack is IDE UW, so it is connected to the motherboard by 80-way cable. The other not SuperRack has the adaptor  plugged into the back of it, and the black on in the middle is the SATA one with its cable connect ed to the adaptor  on the back of the tray immediately below it.

Step 7: Last Connection:

The clear USB cable appears to pass between the rear USB sockets, and the colored row of  sockets on the Creative Sound Card.

Once you've loaded your Master C:Drive, plugging a drive into either rack should register as a USB device----remember to "safely remove" USB items before unplugging them.

I have never tried plugging in a SATA and an IDE simultaneously. Mainly because if there is electronic damage done to either, I can't afford to lose the drive.

Just in case anyone is interested, the  third connector on the adaptor is for 2.5" IDE laptop drives.




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    8 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea, but seems kind of pointless unless you don't have any more free SATA/IDE ports since the usb connection would be slower. Another way to use the internal usb connection if you are running win 7 would be to grab a small usb card reader like this one and just leave a card in there for the ready boost feature to speed up your system.

    5 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I've now received a replacement board that will support sufficient IDE and SATA drives, but I have elected to keep my USB connected bays because they offer the capability of hot-swap without having to shut-down the computer.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I'd go with a largeish USB thumbdrive.
    Format, and install a "backup OS".
    If your primary ever dies, switch the bios to "boot from usb" and off you go!

    If you're desperate, you could use a FAST usb drive, and just call it an internal ReadyBoost upgrade. No more trying to figure out which of your thumbdrives contains the documents for work, and which makes your windows go faster.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    This was addressed in How to Use a Phantom USB Port #1 ( )


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    ok, ok...
    I read it now. sorry, I use "" for instructables, so #1 came AFTER #2.

    I'd like to put forward a NEW use for that port then.

    Nothing says "I love my Computer" like wootlights spinning away inside the case. 25 points to the first team that makes the wootlights turn on and off with the arrival and termination of a woot-off.

    And for those select brave few, I give you HIGH VOLTAGE INSIDE THE CASE.

    Finally, If you want a case mod, but want it useful, why not add a whole nother screen!
    Who needs a silly android tablet or iPad? now you can bring 7 inches of touch screen joy to your desktop case!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The motherboard I am using only has a pair of IDE ports. So there are three SuperRacks and DVD/RW.

    As the case has nine drive bays, I have plenty of room to implement two SATA/IDE combinations and one space left over for either a floppy drive or a floppy-drive-sized card reader (without any drivers, of course).

    The other advantage of using the USB is the ability to connect drives that are larger than the BIOS can handle.



    7 years ago on Introduction

    Any sort of usb devices could be attached maybe a crude usb Wi-Fi adapter, just incase you need to unplug the ethernet, you still have internet access, even though it may be slow

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    A Wi-Fi may be impeded by a properly shielded metal case. However, you have caught on to the "spirit" of this idea and I dare say that we will start to see lists of items that can be used in this way that do not involve a special hole being used to get the port to the outside of the computer.