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Install A Hard Drive Or SSD In Your Notebook's Optical Bay

Tiered Storage In A Single-Bay Notebook

Of course you'd rather have a notebook with a nice, larger SSD. You get significantly better responsiveness, higher data transfer rates, and lower power consumption, translating into longer battery life. 

Why, then, do most notebooks still come with hard disks rather than solid-state drives? Unfortunately, SSDs are still very expensive per gigabyte of capacity. A 128 GB SSD sets you back at least $140, depending on how fast it is and who's selling it. At that price, you could buy a 1 TB hard disk instead. Smaller SSDs around the 64 GB mark are naturally less expensive, but then you have to start worrying whether your operating system and applications will even fit, let alone your movies, music, and pictures.

That's an easy problem to solve on the desktop. Simply use an SSD and a hard drive together in the same machine. The SSD hosts the operating system and a few hand-picked, performance-sensitive applications, while the mechanical storage is used for user data.

Most notebooks don't give you the luxury of using both technologies, though. Equipped with a single 2.5" drive bay, they force you to choose between a big price tag and small capacity, or more space and lower performance.

But if your mobile machine sports one hard disk bay and an optical drive slot, we'll show you how to make a minor compromise to get an SSD and conventional disk running cooperatively.

Borrowing Space From The Optical Drive

There are already kits available that let you swap out your optical drive and replace it with a 2.5" storage device, be it a hard drive or SSD. MCE Technologies makes them for Macs and NewMode Electronics sells them for a number of PC vendors. We used a kit called OptiBayHD, available in Germany. In every case, the idea is to replace the optical drive with a special caddy that holds any other component that fits. In this story, we're going to swap out the original hard drive, replace it with an SSD, and then drop the disk into the OptiBayHD caddy.

The OptiBayHD comes in 13 different flavors, which differ slightly with respect to internal and external connections, height, supported hard disk height, and front panel color. Between them, you're able to achieve compatibility with notebooks made by Asus, Dell, Fujitsu LG, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba. The cost is $68 (found on hantz.com), plus shipping. Optional USB or eSATA cables allow you to use the OptiBayHD caddy like an external drive, too.

On the following pages, we'll show you how to add an SSD to a Dell Latitude D630 notebook, specifically, using the OptiBayHD caddy.

  • thehidecheck
    Lol, this reminds me of the floppy disks of yore. Still, there is alot of utility in this, I see it having a good future.
    Reply
  • phamhlam
    I thought about doing this. It gives you the speed of a SSD and the space of a HDD. When you need your DVD drive, slide it back in or just use a USB one. I ended up selling my laptop and getting a desktop haahaha.
    Reply
  • Xajel
    I think having a 128 - 256 GB mPCIe SSD will be much easier to have :D

    + it will give you the ability to have another HDD for large storage if you can't life with just 128 or 256GB :)
    Reply
  • mswezey
    I've already done this 2 months ago! Best thing you can do for a laptop!
    Reply
  • But what about heat? As far as I can see there are no venting holes or I might just be mistaking. :)
    Reply
  • Reynod
    Great idea ... I like it.

    Can you run some tests on the drive please?

    Compare it to the main drive for speed?

    Cheers
    Reply
  • serhat359
    I also thought about this but it's just too expensive!
    Reply
  • Pyree
    But what about heat? As far as I can see there are no venting holes or I might just be mistaking. :)
    Have that set up on my laptop. SDD in the normal HDD bay, HDD in OD bay. No issue on heat for HDD. HDD about 38-40c on load.
    Reply
  • ivyanev
    Isn't eSATA usb 3 and other ports designed to accommodate external hdd? I agree that external isn't as convenient as build in ,but can be used in several laptops.
    Reply
  • jamesedgeuk2000
    Lmao I did this back in 2006, the dell drive bay in your pic is one of the multibay drives used in the first ever XPS and the i9100.

    Hears another newsflash, you can also replace the optical drive with hot swappable extra battery's for extra power time! :O
    Reply