I have a linux system with two 3T EXT4 formatted data hard drives in addition to a system SSD. They are not formally raided, I just rsync from one to the other from time to time to keep two copies of backups

I'd like to move one of them out to remove the obvious possible single point of failure, but I don't want to buy another machine to host it. A USB-SATA dock would be inexpensive, and have other useful attributes as well. No, I don't think I need a small NAS box at the moment.

Looking at the documentation for various docks, I see nothing about the disc formats they can handle. From this, I infer that they are transparent, and that the disc format, whether FATx, NTFS or EXTx is just a matter for the OS and the HD to negotiate, and that the USB and dock will work regardless. However, my history of making software compatibility assumptions like this has not been happy.

Is my assumption correct, and if so, do some docks work and others not? Is there any code word in the documentation that would tell me?

  • FWIW I have used USB-SATA cases to recover data from laptop disks a few times and I haven't had a problem with filesystems (problems, when they happen, are usually due to disk failure).
    – muru
    Jan 19, 2018 at 10:00
  • Warning: some docks behave like this. Jan 19, 2018 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


A USB to SATA adapter connects the physical SATA connector but provides an interface for the drive either with a ATA command set or a SCSI command set. In the latter case the connected drive may not show all its features like S.M.A.R.T. But in either case the device is just exposed as a block device and file systems can be detected at this level regardless of the interface.

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