Step 1: Remove the optical drive.

It is ironic that I insisted on buying a laptop with built-in optical drive and now I am getting rid of the optical drive. But, you know, things change.

After I learned how to make a bootable flash drive and install an operating system from it, there seemed to be no more reason to keep the optical drive. I had stopped buying music CDs and movie DVDs for long. And I had been used to download the latest drivers online and keep them in an external hard drive, instead of using the software disc that came with the computer/component. People around me were not using optical discs, either. I simply didn’t see those very often any more. So, I figured it was time to get rid of the optical drive, plus there is the benefit of removing several hundred of grams out of my backpack.

On the XPS 1340, as well as most other laptops, modifications of memory and the (primary) hard drive are usually pretty easy. For the optical drive, it depends. I think most ThinkPad’s have modular design so that you can easily swap out the optical drive for other things, second battery, second HDD/SSD, etc. I didn’t buy a ThinkPad because it was even more expensive than the XPS (ThinkPad’s are ridiculously priced in China, even though they are now Lenovo). Anyways, on most other brands, like my XPS, you have to do a little bit of work before you can play with the optical drive.

This is the ODD that came with my XPS1340. It’s a slot-load made by Hitachi-LG. At the time I took it out it actually was not working very well. Sometimes it couldn’t read a disc readable on other drive; sometimes it couldn’t load a disc. Time for its retirement.
This is the C side (keyboard) view. ODD has been removed. Note the empty space on the right where the ODD occupied. X25-V was visible at the bottom left corner.
Look at all those wires. I can’t image how this thing is designed. Also notice the FOXCONN text engraved. None of those marks or scratches were made by me. There must be so many steps you have to go through to put up a laptop. The scratches must be some bored, angry assembly line worker who hated his job and did something he thought no one’s ever gonna find out.
Keyboard and panel. I love disassembling laptops because they are small, which means it is delicate work. It’s much more challenging than disassembling a desktop. There appear to be more variations in laptop chassis design compared computer cases, which also adds some fun.
The back side of keyboard. You are looking at the back of keyboard, touchpad, and wrist rest. Note the ribbon cables, I almost broke them when I took it apart the first time.

Step 2: Dual hard drive.

Step 2 had been planned long ago, but was not finished until very recently.

Although, amazingly, 40GB capacity served me well under most conditions, it was a much more desirable configuration if I could have a large data storage while keeping the SSD as the boot drive. Step 1 made this possible.

Without the optical drive, my laptop had room for another 2.5’’ hard drive. Since the old 320GB was not in use, I decided to put it back in. But I needed to find a way to securely mount the second hard drive. At first I thought about using tapes, or some sort of glue, and padding to hold it in place. After quite a lot of research I found out that there was a type of adapters that could convert a laptop optical drive bay to 2.5’’ hard drive bay. It seemed to be the ideal solution. The adapter had two versions, 9.5mm and 12.5mm. The 12.7mm version worked quite well in a desktop case as was verified later in my PC-Q09F build, but the 9.5mm version was a different story. The problem was that the adapter itself has some thickness. When paired with a common 2.5’’ 9.5mm hard drive the whole thing isn’t 9.5mm thick any more, and the XPS 1340 was so tightly designed that even an extra 1mm would make a difference.

Second hard drive installed using adapter vs. without second hard drive. Note the difference in the gap between the keyboard panel (grey) and the chassis (black).

When I looked at the two drives, a solution came to mind. The X25-V had a plastic cap that made it to be 9.5mm thick (since 9.5mm was most common) and could be removed (applause to Intel). The actual metal case was no more than 7mm tall. So, I swapped the two drives, putting the SSD in the ODD bay, bu then came another problem: the computer cannot boot from the ODD SATA port.

So there ended my first try. After all, I wasn’t very comfortable putting a traditional hard drive in my laptop because they are much more vulnerable to shocks and vibrations which unfortunately are way too common for a laptop. With the all-flash storage, I can torture my laptop in any way I want without having to handle with care or worry about my data.

Yet, the problem wasn’t solved. I started to feel the limitations of 40GB more and more often as I dealt with more and more data and software. Early 2012 the Crucial m4 went on sale and I got a 64GB drive for 65 dollars. I swapped out the X25-V with the m4 and life was much better. But soon after that, my research under Prof. Talavage required me to have a Linux environment, and 64GB was used up immediately after I installed Ubuntu (should have got a 128GB in the first place). So, here came my second try to house two drives in my laptop.

My old friend X25-V was going to be my second drive because I don’t like spinning disks. The fact that it could be reshaped also made it the only feasible option. Due to the thickness issue with the adapter I decided to not use its chassis, but I still needed the PCB for data and power connection.

This is the Slim ODD to 2.5” adapter. At the time I couldn’t believe there actually are people making such things. How geeky one must be to have demand for this kind of stuff.
The casing will make the drive too thick to fit in the ODD bay so I removed it. I’m left with the essence of the adapter, and it’s something that can’t be too easily DIYed. Note the dirt on pins. Also You can tell the adapter isn’t perfectly flat but it should be.

As for mounting the drive, I brought up the old idea when I build the PC-Q09F: double-sided tapes. On the PC-Q09F the second hard drive problem was successfully solved by the 12.7mm ODD to HDD adapter. Now that the 9.5mm won’t work, this is when my tape magic will shine. The tape is very adhesive. For a heavy duty like mounting a hard drive which keeps all your data, you need some strong stuff to get the job done. Also, it’s soft, which absorbs shocks, making it perfect for hard drives.

After tapes applied to X25-V; adapter PCB connected.

X25-V put in. Although a lot of empty space around the second drive, the tapes do a very good job of holding it firmly in place.
It turned out that even without casing X25-V was still too thick, so I got rid of the plastic cap and used magic tape to seal the drive. Intel is thoughtful enough to make the plastic cap removable, but doesn’t care to provide screws for use in a thinner drive.
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