Internal storage drives were designed to connect to the SATA or M.2 interfaces inside a PC, but with an SSD or hard drive enclosure, you can turn one into a USB-connected, portable backup device. Whether you want to give an old drive new life by turning it into external storage, you buy a new, internal SSD with the goal of turning it into an external drive or you just need to plug your new SSD into a USB port so you can clone your system onto it, the right enclosure is essential.
Depending on the type of storage you are enclosing and how fast you want the connection to be, an SSD or hard drive enclosure will cost anywhere from $12 to $150. While most SSD enclosures do nothing more than protect your drive, dissipate heat and convert its interface to USB, some also have extra bells and whistles such as RGB lighting or a status menu. To help you choose, we’ve tested more than a dozen different models to help you find the best SSD and hard drive enclosures, which we list below.
If you don’t have a spare drive or don’t want to deal with installing an internal drive into an enclosure, you can of course buy one of the best external SSDs from our tested list. Just know that you can often save money by going the DIY route by buying and enclosure and installing your own drive. Plus, you can upgrade your drive down the road with an enclosure, while external SSDs are sealed devices that aren’t designed to be opened.
What Kind of SSD / Hard Drive Enclosure Do I Need?
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Ask yourself the following questions when choosing an enclosure:
- Which form factor? You have to get an SSD enclosure that matches the physical size of your drive. If you have a 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD, get a 2.5-inch SATA enclosure. For a 3.5-inch hard drive, you’ll need a 3.5-inch SATA enclosure. M.2 SSDs require M.2 enclosures, but be careful if your SSD is shorter than the standard 2280 (80mm size); most have mounting screws for the shorter sizes, but if you plan to use one, check the specs before you buy. Also, if you plan to use an M.2 SATA SSD, as opposed to an NVMe one, make sure that the enclosure supports that standard instead.
- How fast? Enclosures can only handle as much speed as their USB ports and the USB ports on your computer allow. Most 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drive / SSD enclosures operate under standard 5 Gbps USB (USB 3 / 3.1 or 3.2 Gen 1). Most M.2 SSD enclosures operate at 10 Gbps (aka USB 3.1 or USB 3.2 Gen 2).
Some, much more expensive models – often in the $130+ range – operate at up to 40 Gbps because they support USB 4, Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 (all functionally the same). There are also a few drives that support 20 Gbps USB, which is known as either USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 or USB 4. In our tests, the real-world performance delta between 10 Gbps and 40 Gbps drives wasn’t wide enough to justify most people spending more money for the added speed, but if you’re a professional video editor, it might matter to you.
Also, consider what ports your computer has: If you buy a fast drive but your computer only has a 5 Gbps port, your drive isn’t going to perform any faster than the port’s capabilities. And if you plug a Thunderbolt enclosure into a port that doesn’t support Thunderbolt, it may not work at all. USB 4 enclosures are supposed to be backward compatible with USB 3.x ports, but in our tests, one USB 4 enclosure wouldn’t do so.
- How often will you open it? Most of the M.2 SSD enclosures we tested were made to be opened once, have a drive installed inside and then screwed closed for the long haul. While you can reopen all of them and change drives at any time, you should consider an enclosure with a tool-less design if you think you’ll be changing the drive frequently.
Best SSD and Hard Drive Enclosures
Most M.2 enclosures require you to use a screwdriver both to bolt down the SSD and to secure the case, but Plugable’s plainly named “Tool-Free NVMe Enclosure” makes installing and removing drives a breeze. That makes this model a great choice for anyone who needs an SSD enclosure for drive cloning. We loved working with the enclosure because we were able to take our test SSD in and out in just a few seconds.
A spring-loaded switch ejects half of the casing so you can access the drive bay inside, while arrows on each of the two pieces show you just how to snap them back together again when you’re done. On the inside, Plugable’s SSD enclosure uses a flexible rubber peg instead of a screw to hold the end of your M.2 drive down. Unless you’re using the mounting holes for a 2260, 2242 or 2230 sized SSD, you don’t even need to remove the peg, as it bends to accommodate your M.2 stick.
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The Plugable NVMe enclosure has a sleek, rounded shape on its mostly-aluminum black chassis. High-tech-looking vent holes help with the cooling and the 4.5 x 1.25-inch footprint is small enough to fit in our pocket.
The Plugable NVMe enclosure’s USB-C port operates at up to 10 Gbps and, when we tested it with DiskBench, the test drive wrote at 564.9 MBps and read at 718.4 MBps, which were among the fastest speeds we got from a 10 Gbps enclosure.
The market is full of inexpensive 2.5-inch SATA enclosures, but Sabrent’s EC-USASP stands out thanks to a couple of unusual features and a nice, but subtle design. The black plastic case easily popped open and snapped closed for us, with no struggling and no tools necessary. The interior has room for a 2.5-inch SSD or hard drive that’s either 7.5 or 9mm thick (the two common thicknesses). There are no screws necessary to hold the drive in place.
The Sabrent EC-USASP has an on / off switch, something you won’t find on most SSD enclosures but a nice convenience if you want to leave it plugged in but only power it on when you need it. Most 2.5-inch SATA enclosures have USB 3.0 micro B as their output port and come with USB Type-A to micro B cables. However, the EC-USASP has a USB 3 Type-A port (5 Gbps) and comes with a Type-A to Type-A cable. So, if you are planning to connect the enclosure to a laptop that has only Type-C ports, you can use a USB Type-A to Type-C cable (something many people have lying around the house) to do so.
Connected to our test laptop and with our test SATA SSD inside, the enclosure allowed us to write 25GB of files at 284.4 MBps and read at 340.2 MBps, which was among the fastest speeds we got from a SATA enclosure. We also liked the blue status light, which offers just a light touch of bling to an otherwise staid design.
If you want an SSD enclosure that can connect via a 40 Gbps Thunderbolt or USB 4 connection, you can expect to pay more than $100 for the privilege. At press time, Orico’s M2V0-C4 sat in the middle of the pack, with a price of $134, but for that price you get speedy performance and backward compatibility with USB 3.x ports.
Unfortunately, not all USB 4 / Thunderbolt enclosures work properly when connected to non-Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. When we tried plugging the Orico M234C3-U4 enclosure, another USB 4 enclosure that costs $20 less, into USB 3.2 Type-A and Type-C ports, it powered on but Windows could not actually see the SSD inside. However, the M2V0-C4 had no such problems, mounting immediately and flawlessly on two different computers over USB 3.2 Gen and USB 3.2 Gen ports.
The all-aluminum chassis has ridges to help with heat dissipation and it comes with both a thermal pad you can put on top of your SSD to keep it cool under prolonged loads. It’s a rather attractive silver enclosure that has a small cutout / handle area you can use for threading through a carabiner.
Installing an SSD is pretty easy as you just need to unscrew the cover, attach the M.2 drive along with the optional cooling pad, screw in the mounting screw and reattach the cover. Unfortunately, both the cover and the mounting screw are 5-point star shaped screws, which are not very common. However, there’s a screwdriver in the box.
When we benchmarked the Orico M2V0-C4 with our test SSD and using CrystalDiskMark, it returned strong sequential read and write speeds of 3,110.7 and 1421.8 MBps. Those were about on par with the other USB 4 enclosure we tested and about three times the read speed and 1.5 times the write speed of a 10 Gbps enclosure.
The DockCase Visual Smart M.2 Enclosure offers a couple of really unique features and a very attractive, premium design. You’ll pay a bit more than you would for most other 10 Gbps SSD enclosures, but at $49 as of press time, it’s not crazy expensive.
The first thing you’ll notice about the DockCase Visual Smart M.2 is that it has a built-in 1.33-inch LCD screen, something we haven’t seen on any other brand of enclosure. The screen displays basic information about your SSD, including its capacity, partitions, free space, battery charge level and drive health information. You can toggle between different stats by short pressing a selection button on the chassis and you double press to rotate the screen.
There’s also a small, built-in battery that provides 5-10 seconds (depending on which model you get) of service time in the event of a power failure. That brief window of time might be enough to allow the drive to finish writing some data and avoid corrupting your drive in the event of an ill-timed unplugging.
The case is really swanky, with a gunmetal-gray aluminum alloy bottom and sides to go along with a tempered glass top (the location of the screen). Even the Philips head screws look a bit fancier than normal. Installation is pretty straightforward, as you just need to remove the bottom panel, which attaches with a single screw, connect the drive and then mount it with another Philips head screw. DockCase claims that its controller runs cooler than most other controllers, lowering the overall temperature, but we didn’t have a good way to verify this claim.
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In terms of performance, the DockCase Visual Smart M.2 Enclosure is about on par with its less-expensive, 10 Gbps brethren. When we ran separate DiskBench 25GB read and write tests, it returned rates of 701.9 and 535.9 MBps respectively, slightly lower than the Plugable NVMe enclosure (718.4 / 564.9 MBps) but in the same ballpark. On CrystalDiskMark, its sequential speeds of 1067.3 and 1043.1 MBps were nearly identical to those of Plugable’s enclosure and the SSK SHE-C325.
The screen clearly isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice-to-have feature. We found that seeing the amount of free space on the drive is pretty nice, but it’s a little weird that the drive needs to “boot” and “detect disk” for several seconds when you first plug it in (you can avoid this problem by setting it to fast boot mode, which doesn’t give you the stats). Also, the screen frequently displayed warnings telling us that the drive was transferring data even when all we did was have a File Explorer window open to it. We wish, though, that we could do something cooler with it, like adding a photo or animated GIF.
We can’t tell how helpful the power loss protection is and we didn’t have a good way to test it. For that reason, we definitely wouldn’t pay the extra $10 to get the longer, 10-second PLP, unless you’re doing something where data integrity is of the utmost importance. Above all else, DockCase’s enclosure has a very premium look and feel that might make it worth spending an extra $20 to $30 over most competitors.
If you want the snazziest and most performant 2.5-inch SSD / hard drive enclosure, this is it. DockCase’s 2.5-inch Smart Hard Drive Enclosure has a 1.75-inch LED screen that displays information like the drive capacity, model number, drive health and partitions. In an improvement over DockCase’s M.2 enclosure, which has a similar status screen, this one has back, forward and home navigation buttons you can use to toggle between the different menu screens.
Like DockCase’s M.2 enclosure, the SATA one also has 5- or 10-second power loss protection thanks to a small, built-in battery. Considering that this enclosure could be used with either a mechanical hard drive or a 2.5-inch SSD, that extra few seconds after a power outage or an unexpected cable pull could allow the disk to finish writing whatever was in its queue.
The DockCase 2.5-inch Smart Hard Drive Enclosure uses a 10 Gbps USB-C port, rather than the standard, 5 Gbps Type-A or micro B ports you’ll find on most SATA enclosures. DockCase actually labels the port as a “6 Gbps” port because, even though it is a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port that can output 10 Gbps, SATA drives can’t operate at any faster than 6 Gbps. That’s still 1 Gbps quicker than the competition, and it shows. On CrystalDiskMark with our test SSD installed, the DockCase enclosure returned sequential read and write speeds of 556.9 and 523.2 MBps, as compared to 456.1 and 453.6 MBps from the Sabrent EC-USASP (another of our favorite SATA enclosures). Using DiskBench, the enclosure read and wrote a 25GB folder at 396.5 and 318.9 MBps versus 340.2 and 284.4 MBps for Sabrent’s enclosure.
DockCase’s enclosure also comes with a second, USB-C port you can use to give it additional power. So, if your computer’s USB port isn’t giving out enough bus power to spin up a hard drive you put in the case, you can attach a 5-volt, 3-amp PSU (it doesn’t come with one) and add some more juice. We doubt this would be necessary with most computers and most drives, especially if you’re using an SSD. We tried plugging a phone into the port to see if it allows pass-through charging or data for other devices, but it does not.
On top of all the performance goodness and added functionality, the DockCase 2.5-inch Smart Hard Drive Enclosure has fantastic build quality, with a chassis that’s gunmetal gray aluminum but for its tempered glass top surface. There’s also an optional orange silicone bumper you can put around it to keep the drive safe if you drop it. The bumper currently comes free (in a separate box) with purchase from DockCase, but it’s unclear whether it will always be included.
In our testing, we really liked the screen and the stats it presents but, as with DockCase’s M.2 enclosure, it takes several seconds to detect your disk every time you plug it in. You can skip this by changing to “fast boot” mode, but then you don’t get the stats. Other than that, the main drawback to this enclosure is that it costs a lot more than other 2.5-inch SATA enclosures, going for $89 (at present, it’s on pre-order at Dockcase.com).
If you still have a 3.5-inch hard drive hanging around and want to turn it into an external storage device, you’ll need something like Ugreen’s CM472. This hard drive enclosure comes with an external power brick, so it needs to spin up a power-hungry desktop hard drive and, despite the bulk, is a bit smaller than competitors like the Orico HM35C3.
Installing a drive in the Ugreen requires no tools at all as you just slide the top of the plastic case off and plug your drive into the SATA port inside. There are no mounting brackets inside so, if you use a 2.5-inch drive instead, it will have a lot of space around it and could, in theory, shake loose and roll around in there. However, we tested with a 2.5-inch SSD and it stayed tightly connected to the SATA port. Also, you wouldn’t buy a 3.5-inch enclosure like this if you planned to use it with a 2.5-inch drive.
On our tests, the Ugreen CM472 performed well enough, with transfer rates that were in line with other 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch SATA enclosures. On CrystalDiskMark, with our SSD installed, the enclosure returned sequential read and write transfer rates of 456.7 and 453.3 MBps, which is actually a better read speed than we got with the Orico HM35C3 (449.4 / 457 MBps) and is on par with the 2.5-inch Sabrent EC-USASP (456.1 / 453.6 MBps).
If you want an SSD enclosure with some RGB bling and a swanky sci-fi design, Asus’s ROG Strix Arion is for you. The M.2 NVMe enclosure has two RGB lights, an illuminated ROG logo on the top and a small plastic fin on the side. These show a pleasing pink and purplish light show which Asus markets as being part of its “Aura Sync” RGB ecosystem. However, there doesn’t seem to be any way to actually control the lights as the Asus Armoury Crate software we tested with did not recognize the drive.
The 7.1 x 3.8 x 1.6-inch enclosure is a bit bigger than some competitors, but it looks a little bit like a spaceship and has the ROG aesthetic so the size is part of the look. Some of the length is taken up by cut-outs on the top and bottom which allow you to attach an R-shaped carabiner, which comes in the box. For an expensive product, the Arion comes with a rather flimsy plastic carabiner, but you could always bring your own. There’s also a small rubber bumper in the box.
To open the Asus ROG Arion, you need to use an included SIM card-like removal tool (or a paperclip / safety pin) to push in a tiny hole that ejects the top of the case. The tool for this also doubles as a screwdriver you can use to tighten the SSD mounting screw on the inside of the case. Once you have your drive inside, you can just snap the case closed.
In terms of performance, the Arion was about on par with other 10 Gbps enclosures. On CrystalDiskMark, it returned sequential read and write transfer rates of 1071.8 and 1048.3 MBps, which is a few MBps higher than we got with the Plugable Enclosure. However, when copying a 25GB folder with Diskbench, the Arion’s read rate of 693.4 MBps was a little lower than most drives, which were in the 700 to 18 MBps range.
If you plan to use more than one M.2 NVMe SSD, Orico’s BM2C3-2N makes it easy by putting two SSD enclosures into one chassis. An aluminum rectangle with a couple of thin drawers that slide in and out to let you load in the SSDs, the BM2C3-2N is unremarkable apart from its ability to hold multiple drives.
For better or worse, each drive is completely independent of the other, with its own USB-C port. In fact, Orico only includes one USB cable in the box so, if you want to plug in both drives at once, you’ll need to get another USB-C cable. To help with cooling, the Orico BM2C3-2N comes with two sets of thermal pads and heatsinks to place on top of your SSDs.
Performance-wise, the Orico BM2C3-2N dual SSD enclosure was equivalent to single 10 Gbps enclosures. On CrystalDiskMark, it got sequential read and write rates of 1066.7 and 1043 MBps respectively, which is very similar to the Plugable enclosure’s rates of 1067.2 and 1044.9 MBps.
If you just want an inexpensive SSD enclosure that makes it fairly easy M.2 NVMe SSDs in and out, the SSK SHE-C325 is a great choice. The relatively slim enclosure slides open and closed, though it comes with a tiny Philips head screw (and screwdriver) to lock the pieces together for a more permanent placement.
On a few M.2 enclosures, including the SSK SHE-C325, we found that our test Kingston Rage Fury SSD’s built-in graphene heat spreader, which adds 3.5mm of z height to the drive, didn’t leave much vertical clearance. However, the SHE-C325 could close anyway, without scraping the drive’s surface. Considering that many M.2 SSDs have built-in, non-removable heat spreaders, every enclosure should accommodate them.
The SHE-C325 isn’t the most attractive enclosure on the market, but it does use mostly aluminum casing (the left part near the USB port is plastic) and at 4.5 x 1.5 x 0.4 inches, it’s pretty portable. SSK’s enclosure also comes with a thermal pad to help send heat to the aluminum casing, but you’ll only want to use it if your SSD doesn’t have a built-in heat spreader.
The SSD enclosure and its 10 Gbps USB-C port deliver performance that’s in line with more expensive competitors. When we used CrystalDiskMark on the SSK SHE-C325, it returned sequential read and write rates of 1066.9 and 1044.2 MBps, which is within a few kilobytes of the Plugable enclosure. On the DiskBench test, it read and wrote a 25GB folder at a solid 712 and 559.2 MBps.
One of the smallest and least expensive M.2 SSD enclosures you can get, the Orico M2PV-C3, combines great value with strong performance and good looks, but the installation could be a lot easier. At 4.3 x 1.2 x 0.5 inches, the M2PV-C3 enclosure is even smaller and more pocket-friendly than the SSK SHE-C325, itself a rather small enclosure and, with a price of $18 (at press time), it is even cheaper.
The Orico’s M2PV-C3’s design is less polarizing than that of the SSK SHE-C325, but it actually uses cheaper materials, as the top panel is ridged aluminum but the sides and bottom are ABS plastic.
To install our drive in this enclosure, we first had to remove the aluminum panel, which is attached with a tiny, 5-point star screw rather than a normal Philips head type. The enclosure comes with a small star-shaped screwdriver, but we lost it and had to go digging through our iFixit kit to find an appropriate head.
Inside, the enclosure’s controller board has mounting holes for 2230, 2242, 2260 and 2280 SSDs, but there’s no pre-installed mounting screw to hold the right side of the SSD. The drive comes with tiny rubber pegs that you must stick in one of these holes, but to pop the peg in, we had to pull the controller board out of the case and force it in. Once that is done, you can attach the SSD, use the peg to hold its edge down and reseal the case. If you’re just using your enclosure for cloning, this would be a hassle to do multiple times, but you could always just leave the enclosure open in that case.
When we ran DiskBench with a 25GB folder and our test SSD, the M2PV-C3 read and wrote at rates of 711.7 and 538.1 MBps, which was within the range of other 10 Gbps enclosures. However, when we ran CrystalDiskMark, the sequential read speed of 687 MBps was significantly lower than those of other 10 Gbps enclosures such as the Plugable NVMe enclosure (1067.2 MBps). However, the sequential write speed of 1047 MBps was actually higher than the Plugable’s rate of 1044.9 MBps.
Other SSD and Hard Drive Enclosures We Tested
- Sabrent ECOCUB (opens in new tab)
This 2.5-inch SATA enclosure is a sibling of the EC-USASP and costs the same $11 at publication time. It offers similar performance and an attractive clear case that lets you see your drive and some bright status lights. However, popping it open without cracking the plastic was a bit of a challenge.
- Anker PowerExpand M.2 and SATA SSD Enclosure (opens in new tab)
On paper, this M.2 SSD enclosure looks like a winner with an attractive, all-aluminum chassis that pops open with a spring-loaded switch. However, we have to advise against buying the PowerExpand as it had so little vertical clearance that it would not close on our SSD, got stuck and ended up ripping some of our sticker off. We then attempted to benchmark the enclosure with the cover off and it just stopped working after a few minutes.
- Orico M234C3-U4 (opens in new tab)
This USB 4 enclosure is $20 cheaper than the Orico M2V01-C4 that we picked for our best list and it offers similar performance. However, the M234C3-U4 has a fatal flaw: though it is supposed to be backwards compatible with USB 3.x ports, it would not work (failing to mount its drive at all) when we connected it to non USB 4 / Thunderbolt ports.
- Orico 25PW1-U3 (opens in new tab)
The cheapest unit we tested, this 2.5-inch SSD / hard drive enclosure was just $6 at press time. However, opening its flimsy plastic chassis was extremely difficult and we nearly cracked it in the process.
- Wavlink WL-ST235 (opens in new tab)
This cheap, 2.5-inch SSD / hard drive enclosure cost less than $10 at press time and provided reasonable performance in our tests, but the tool-free case was difficult to open.
- Orico HM35C3 (opens in new tab)
This 3.5-inch hard drive enclosure has a USB-C 10 Gbps port that allows it to have higher theoretical transfer rates that other enclosures this size, but since you’ll be using it with a spinning hard drive, it’s doubtful you’d see a real-world advantage. Physically, the drive is bigger, bulkier and a bit more expensive than the Ugreen hard drive enclosure that sits on our list of best picks.
How We Tested SSD and Hard Drive Enclosures
To see how each SSD and hard drive enclosure performs, we installed an SSD, connected the enclosure to our testbed laptop (a ThinkPad X1 Carbon 10th Gen) and then ran a series of benchmark tests, using three different apps: PCMark 10’s Storage Benchmark, DiskBench and CrystalDiskMark 8. To maintain consistency, we used the same M.2 NVMe SSD, a Kingston Rage Fury PCIe 4.0 SSD (2TB), in all of our M.2 enclosures and the same 2.5-inch SATA SSD (a 1.9TB Toshiba model) in all of our 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SATA enclosures.
PCMark 10’s Storage Benchmark returns three numbers: an overall performance score (higher is better), the bandwidth speed (measured in MBps, higher is better) and access time (measured in ms, lower is better). With CrystalDiskBench, a synthetic test that provides transfer rates under different conditions, we used a 1GB file size and recorded both the sequential read and write speeds, which are theoretical maximums, and the 4K (queue depth 32) read and write speeds, which are the most similar to everyday file loading and saving.
Using DiskBench, we ran two file copy tests, using a 25GB folder full of files. On the first test, we measured write speed by copying the files from our laptop to the drive in the enclosure. Then we measured read speed by copying the same files back to the laptop.
For better or worse, we found that most enclosures with the same USB interface (ex: USB 10 Gbps) offered fairly similar throughput. So what matters more is that we took note of how easy it was to install the SSD into each enclosure, the build quality of the enclosure, what goodies came in the box (cables, screwdrivers) and what extra features each enclosure has.
Benchmark Results: M.2 SSD Enclosures
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It’s no surprise that, on most tests, the two 40 Gbps enclosures, which cost up to $100 more than the 10 Gbps competitors and require a USB 4 or Thunderbolt port, outperform their competitors. However, the more more expensive enclosures actually had slower read speeds on DiskBench and, strangely, very low 4K Q32 write speeds on CrystalDiskMark.
Among the 10 Gbps enclosures which make up the majority of the market and are most affordable, the results were almost always within a few points or MBps of each other. The one exception is that the Orico M2PV-C3 returned a much lower CrystalDiskMark sequential read rate than all of the others.
Benchmark Results: 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SSD and Hard Drive Enclosures
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Among the SATA enclosures, the two models that have 10 Gbps USB ports stood out, but didn’t dominate all the tests. Note that a SATA drive only operates at up to 6 Gbps, so the 10 Gbps ports really act as 6 Gbps ports and are even labeled as such on the devices. Overall, the DockCase enclosure seemed to win on the most tests, though its 4K Q32 writes were below the rest of the pack.
Discounts on the Best SSD and Hard Drive Enclosures
Whether you’re shopping for one of the best gaming laptops or another model that didn’t quite make our list, you may find some savings by checking out our lists of Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Razer promo codes or Newegg promo codes.
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