I sometimes have to deal with laptop hard disks, either transferring contents to a new disk, diagnosing problems, or repairing file structures.
For several years I’ve used an IDE adapter a friend gave me. I don’t remember the circumstances, just that he happened to have it with him and I needed one right away. It’s actually just the tiny adapter board from a disk enclosure — he didn’t have the case and as you can see here, it’s actually more convenient to use and easier to store if you just throw away the case.
I also have to work on larger disks, but there’s usually a spare tower around somewhere I can plug the disk into. Still, it’s a pain to open the case, then fiddle around with booting a utility CD, or whatever I need. Until recently I’ve just not been motivated to get a more featureful adapter, both because of the expense and the bulk. However, with the mix of SATA and IDE interfaces, and the ongoing inconvenience of finding a handy spare system, I wanted a new adapter.
I finally decided to get an inexpensive Vantec SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 Adapter from Newegg. As you can see here, it’s convenient, with connectors for the various data and power interfaces, and stores compactly in the box. I’ve used it several times and with excellent results.