Can you put a 3.5 SATA drive in 2.5 enclosure?

Quick Answer

You generally cannot directly install a 3.5″ SATA drive into a 2.5″ drive enclosure. This is because 3.5″ drives are physically larger than 2.5″ drives and require more power. However, it is possible to use a 3.5″ drive in a 2.5″ enclosure using an adapter. The adapter converts the 3.5″ drive into a 2.5″ form factor and provides the extra power required.

Size Difference Between 3.5″ and 2.5″ Drives

The key reason a 3.5″ drive will not directly fit into a 2.5″ enclosure is the size difference:

  • 3.5″ drive height: 1 inch
  • 2.5″ drive height: 0.28 inches

3.5″ drives are designed to fit standard desktop PC drive bays, while 2.5″ drives are designed for laptops where vertical space is limited. The nearly 3x height difference makes it impossible to directly install a 3.5″ drive into a space designed for a 2.5″ drive.

Other Physical Differences

In addition to the height difference, there are a few other physical differences between 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives:

Feature 3.5″ Drive 2.5″ Drive
Width 4 inches 2.75 inches
Depth 5.75 inches 3.95 inches
Weight Up to 1.6 lbs Up to 0.4 lbs

As you can see, 3.5″ drives are wider, deeper, and heavier than 2.5″ drives. This is again due to 3.5″ drives being designed for desktops while 2.5″ drives target thinner and lighter laptops.

Power Requirement Differences

In addition to physical size, there is a major difference in power requirements between 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives:

  • 3.5″ drives require 12V power
  • 2.5″ drives only require 5V power

3.5″ drives need more than double the voltage to operate compared to 2.5″ drives. This again relates to the different use cases – desktops can provide 12V power from the PSU but laptops can only provide 5V over USB.

Why 3.5″ Drives Need More Power

There are a few reasons why 3.5″ drives require substantially more power than 2.5″ drives:

  • Larger physical size – the larger mechanical components need more power to spin and move the heads
  • Faster rotational speeds – 7200 RPM for 3.5″ vs 5400 RPM for 2.5″
  • Higher capacity – 3.5″ drives go up to 18TB vs 2TB for 2.5″ drives

The combination of larger physical size, faster speeds, and higher capacity means 3.5″ drives need more voltage to provide enough power to run properly.

Using 3.5″ Drives in 2.5″ Enclosures

While you can’t directly install a 3.5″ drive into a 2.5″ enclosure, it is possible to use adapters to make it work:

Drive Size Adapters

Drive size adapters convert the physical size of a 3.5″ drive into a 2.5″ form factor. They encase the 3.5″ drive and expose a 2.5″ SATA connection to plug into the enclosure.

However, on their own these adapters don’t solve the power incompatibility. They simply change the physical size.

Power Adapters

Along with a size adapter, you need a power adapter. These provide the extra voltage required by the 3.5″ drive and adapt it to work over the 5V power from a 2.5″ USB enclosure.

Some power adapters may require an additional power cable to supply the needed 12V. But others can boost the 5V input to 12V to power the drive.

Integrated Adapters

Instead of separate size and power adapters, you can get integrated adapters that convert both the size and power requirements in one. These all-in-one adapters are the simplest way to use a 3.5″ drive in a 2.5″ enclosure.

Performance Impact

Using a 3.5″ drive in a 2.5″ enclosure through an adapter will have some performance impact:

  • The adapter adds a SATA-USB conversion, which slightly increases latency
  • The power regulation can further constrain peak power draw
  • The enclosure may not provide optimal physical support and vibration damping

However, for many uses the performance loss is acceptable. For bulk data storage and backups the slower speeds don’t matter as much. Just don’t expect full native SATA 6Gb/s speeds from an adapted 3.5″ drive in an enclosure.

Considerations When Choosing an Adapter

If you want to use a 3.5″ drive in a 2.5″ enclosure, pay attention to these specifications when shopping for an adapter:

  • Power rating – Ensure it can provide the peak power your 3.5″ drive can draw
  • Supported drive heights – It must fit your specific 3.5″ drive height
  • Supported enclosure heights – It must fit within your 2.5″ enclosure height
  • Connections – Should match the ports on your drive (SATA) and enclosure (USB 3.0, USB-C, etc)
  • Supported drive capacities – Large high capacity drives may need active power regulation

Getting an adapter tailored to your specific drive and enclosure ensures the best compatibility and performance.


While 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives are not directly interchangeable, drive adapters make it possible to use 3.5″ drives in 2.5″ enclosures. The adapters convert both the physical size as well as the power requirements. Performance may be reduced but for many usage cases like backups that is a worthwhile trade-off for the capacity and lower cost per GB of 3.5″ drives.