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Turn your laptop cd-dvd drive into a removable media bay

Nov 21, 2015   //   by wvanbusk   //   Technology  //  Comments Off on Turn your laptop cd-dvd drive into a removable media bay

I wanted to find a way to add two WD Red 3tb desktop drives left over from a rejected Thecus NAS and use them with a low power laptop home server. The server is running Linux and will be hosting a web site and samba network shares for ultrabook storage and backup. The laptop is an asus x551m with a DVD drive and 500gm hdd. There is a usb3 port, but there is also the possibility of using the dvd drive’s sata port. The advancement of this idea was spurred by a youtube video showing how to add a dvd drive to this laptop model that was shipped with no drive. The video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5c8gBnNirg and is titled “tutorial for adding an optical drive to an ASUS F551M (or X551M and possibly similar models)” optical drive bayThe was like a level 3 on a scale of 10 difficulty, so was not too nasty unplugging the keyboard with its touchpad in order to disconnect the dvd drive, which is held in with one screw. I removed the screw and the tiny bracket, two more screws, from the optical drive, which basically makes this a removable media bay since the dvd can now be slid in and out. The drive held in by the resistance of the adjacent surfaces and the sata port, ejecting the tray provides a convenient handle for removal.

We are familiar with media bays from our experience with Dell D600 series laptops. Windows has a utility to safely eject or disconnect removable drives. In the case I am not sure that is applicable since the bios may not have been written to support this function via sata. It may be best to power down the laptop, but removing the dvd after ejection did not seem to cause an issue when operated under AHCI in the bios. The sata used for the x551 laptop dvd is a bit different than a normal sata connector. sata-esataIt is known as a slimline sata connector, which is a common laptop standard. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#Slimline_connector . Fortuitously, the data part of the connector is the same shape as a standard internal sata port on a desktop computer. The port can be used with a regular sata cable, but is difficult to access in an assembled laptop, unless you have experience with the Operation Game and have some long needle nose tool. But that alone is a flimsy securement.
caddyOne answer is to use an optical hdd caddy which runs around $10 to fill the space and add a sata to esata cable to it. Adding the cable requires a small effort  with a screwdriver and file to make space for the cable through the caddy. This sata cable-caddy combo can be easily swapped with the dvd drive as needed is provides a more secure cable connection in the laptop.

So now we have an asus x551 laptop with an esata cable sticking out of the removable media bay that we can plug into an external raid array. Most raid arrays are a little box to encase a hardware raid chip with sata ports and power connectors that may allow hot swapping or cold swapping, depending on design and provide other ports, such as usb. Most of these raid cases are not very expensive (100-300) and have an external power supply and an internal fan to cool the drives. I have two WD red drives, so I am looking for a two bay raid case. Most 2 bay raid enclosures use raid on a chip with jbod, raid 0 and raid 1. One of the most common raid controller chip maker for these is jmicron, which can also be found in some desktop motherboards.raid cases

dual bay docksThere are what I consider passive cooling raid alternatives. I’m not sure of how these developed, but there are dual bay docking stations with raid. A HDD Dock are those tabletop bases with slots that raw drives are plugged into, socket end down, and depend on reliable gravity to hold the drive in its port. Perhaps because jmicron chips that bridge the usb and sata interfaces incidentally include raid, so I guess why not include a way to raid drives in a docking bay, adding market value. It’s a bit risky to create a hardware raid in a dock and then move the drives into a more permanent enclosure or desktop with another raid controller you hope is compatible. It is less risky to just create a hardware raid in-situ. Alternatively, perhaps you have a raid enclosure that failed and you might use a raid dock to restore access or check for drive failure, so it might be used for raid troubleshooting, again, trusting compatibility. Beyond the normal low practicality of a raid docking station as a temporary raid for a desktop or laptop computer, there is the possibility of using it as a permanently installed raid storage solution if the dock can be made more secure with screws and whatnot.