This is by way of a product review combined with tech tip for anyone who might get caught out as I was.
I decided to scrap my all-singing, all-dancing PC from Red Submarine as by late 2010 I was no longer using the audio recording aspect and having replaced one of the system drives with a larger device and an XP install, it was running painfully slowly because the motherboard memory was limited to 512Mb.
I copied as much as I thought I would need off the various hard drives but then figured for extra security I'd just... keep the hard drives! But how to access them? A USB hookup was the obvious answer so after some research I bought the IOMAX USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE adapter from Play.com.
I booted up the PC one last (!) time to check that all the drives were healthy, then shut it down and took them out. Initally I hooked the adapter up to my Mac Mini. As other reviews have commented, the cable supplied to connect the separate power supply to the mains supply is too short, but apart from that it was straightforward and I had no trouble with the Win98SE drive. However the Mac behaved very oddly with the XP drive, being able to see the partition in the Disk Utility but refusing to mount it, with no helpful explanation.
Much head scratching ensued. Realising that the partition was NTFS (and not knowing at the time that OS-X 10.5 can mount NTFS drives read-only out of the box) I installed the NTFS-3G support as well.
Still no joy. To get a better idea whether it was an NTFS issue I was able to format a spare IDE drive as NTFS using the adapter from my XP laptop. The Mac was able to mount that just fine. I even pulled the 2.5" drive out of the laptop and could mount that on the Mac too!?
So I parked the whole issue for a couple of days and, as if by magic, the solution came to me in the form of a question: "when I last shut down the PC, had I just booted it from the XP drive or the Win98 drive?" Because if I'd most recently booted the Win98 drive, the XOSL boot manager was configured to hide the partition on the XP drive.
Sure enough, once I'd put the drives back in the PC case and booted to the XP system, then shut down and pulled the XP drive out again, I could mount it via the adapter with no problems.
So to fulfil the review part of this article, the IOMAX adapter has successfully read IBM 30Gb 3.5" IDE drive(s), a Western Digital 3.5" 160Gb drive, a Hitachi 2.5" 40Gb drive and even a Philips DVDR1660 IDE DVD drive.
And to recap on the troubleshooting part of this article, if you are dismantling a multi-drive, multi-boot system, make sure that none of the drive partitions you want to be able to read via USB is flagged as "hidden".