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 Forum index » House Training » HOWTO ( Solutions )
How to install a CompactFlash drive in a laptop HDD spot
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Feb 2013, 01:02    Post subject:  How to install a CompactFlash drive in a laptop HDD spot
Subject description: [56k = no way!] Put a "poor man's SSD" in your computer!

56k dialup folks -- either press your back button quickly or get a cup of [insert hot beverage of choice here] -- this is going to take a LONG time to load. There's almost more pictures than text here. I will NOT be held responsible for smoldering modems!

For those who don't read thread titles (lol), this thread will guide you through the installation of a CompactFlash drive (or Microdrive, more on those later) into a laptop. It's actually pretty simple. I've broken it down into baby steps here, for the computational neophyte (or "computer newbie" if you prefer smaller words), so it looks way more complicated than it really is.

The laptop I'm using in this thread is The Infernal Dell, a Latitude CPi D300XT from before Noah learned to build boats Razz

Also, all of these images are clickable thumbnails. If you need a larger image, just click on the picture and you'll be taken to a larger picture on the hosting site I'm using (PostImage[dot]Org).

You will need:

-> a small Philips screwdriver
-> a CompactFlash [CF for short] drive or CF-style Microdrive.
-> a CF-to-IDE adapter
-> and, most importantly, a (slightly) older laptop with an IDE hard drive interface.

On that note -- if you don't know what kind of hard drive interface your laptop has, there are a couple of ways to go about finding out...
(1) look up specifications -- pull up your preferred search engine and type in the brand and model of your laptop followed by the word "specs" (no quotes, of course).
(2) go through this thread without knowing -- you'll find out for sure fairly quickly! Here's a handy comparison picture of SATA and IDE laptop drive connectors. (Image found on Google and reuploaded elsewhere.)

So... let us begin Very Happy

VERY IMPORTANT -- UNPLUG YOUR LAPTOP FIRST! If you don't, don't blame me for a broken laptop later... Wink

First things first. You need to pull the battery. Locate your battery and remove it. You probably will have little switch-like slider (or two) to contend with first. On The Infernal Dell, there's one slider and then the battery pulls out, like so...

Locate the hard drive access. This is, in fact, the bezel of what's called the "hard drive caddy" -- a sort of metal tray that the hard drive sits in. (There are a few variants on this idea. A few are bezel-only attachments that are nothing more than plastic, and a few are frames around the drive. Neither of those will work with the adapter shown in this HowTo -- but there are many different versions of the IDE-to-CF adapters out there...)
Here's mine...

In my case, the caddy attaches to the laptop with two screws (not an uncommon arrangement). However many screws are on your caddy (one or two, usually) you'll need to remove them...

Then the caddy should simply pull out...

Now we get to see the hard drive in its caddy...

In my case (Dell being what it is) there is an adapter designed specifically to fool the gullible (and the computer illiterate) into thinking the entire drive (caddy and all) is one unit that they can only replace through Dell, predictably for quite a bit of money. That adapter will need to be removed from the drive, later.

The bottom of the caddy has four screws that need to be removed. (If your caddy has no screws on the bottom, that's a problem. You'll need a different IDE-to-CF adapter.)

Remove those screws...

Now remove the screws from the back, where the adapter is. (If you don't have screws back there, that's OK, don't worry about it.)

Remember that adapter? Yeah, this thing...

Time for it to come off Wink Carefully pull it off the hard drive pins. USE BOTH HANDS! (I'm not, only because one is holding a camera!)

A closer look at the adapter...

Now, about those CF cards (and Microdrives)...

CompactFlash is similar to an SD card or flash drive inside. It's all solid state Very Happy The difference between those is the interface -- CompactFlash uses a version of the IDE interface that most hard drives use. That's why there's not much to the adapters -- they're "just wires", because they can be! CompactFlash drives go up to 128+ gigabytes in size, but the bigger they are, the more expensive they get (as with most things).

Microdrives, on the other hand, are in fact miniature hard drives! That's right -- they are mechanical hard drives within the space and shape of a CompactFlash card. These, because of space, have never gotten above 10 gigabytes (or so). There are a few other pitfalls worth knowing about -- one, they pull a little bit more power than a standard (solid-state) CompactFlash drive; and two, Hitachi and Seagate are very good brands of Microdrive, while GSMagic is one to seriously avoid (they are well-known for making poor-quality Microdrives).

Back to business. This is the adapter that I recommend using for this type of caddy. There are many other adapters, but this is an inexpensive model that works just fine for bottom-mount caddies. (You will need a different model for side-mount caddies, frame-style caddies, and bezel-only caddies.)

So, put the CF drive (or Microdrive) in the adapter. (Of note, my CF drive of choice has an iridescent label. It turns out a whole rainbow of colors in various lighting Laughing )

Now, the next bit is VERY IMPORTANT. Most CompactFlash drives and (as far as I know) all Microdrives are 3.3 volt devices. There are dual-voltage and 5 volt CompactFlash cards, but almost all CompactFlash drives are 3.3 volt compatible. So, you want to set the adapter to be a 3.3 volt device.

There's four pins on one side (on my adapter, it's marked "JP2") with a little plastic widget called a "jumper". You want it to look like this...

There is one other jumper that needs to be checked. This sets a different mode that's just as important. This is the Master / Slave / Cable Select jumper (not my choice of terminology by any means!).

MOST laptops will use the "Master" setting. There are a few very strange laptops that insist on the "Cable Select", but those are few and far between. The best way to tell (that I know of) is to assume it's the Master setting. If the system doesn't recognize the drive, much later on, then pull everything apart again (oh joy Rolling Eyes ) and swap the jumper to Cable Select.

Now that that's over with *ahem* we can put things back together. Put the laptop-to-drive adapter on the CF-to-IDE adapter, if necessary.

Put the adapter assembly in the caddy.

Put the screws back in. Probably easier to put the ones on the back in first, then the ones on the bottom.

Now you have a hard drive assembly, caddy and all, and a laptop waiting for it...

Put the caddy in the computer...

Put the screws back in...

Insert the battery...

And see if it all works!

That's it. DONE. (Phew!)

Feel free to leave comments Very Happy particularly if you follow this guide -- successfully or otherwise.


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