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Advice for a Novice Replacing Laptop Hard Drive? 100

Posted by Cliff
from the save-money-by-doing-it-yourself dept.
frugalRepairs asks: "The hard disk in my Sharp PC-MV12W laptop recently died. It gave me warning and I had everything backed up. It was out of warranty and the repair folks want an arm and a leg to fix it. I would like to replace the hard drive myself but I've never done anything like this before. It seems to me that I would just extract the old hard drive, note the physical measurements, purchase new hard drive, and install it. However, I'm expecting Mr. Murphy to visit me as soon as I open the case and would like some advice from Slashdot experts. Do I need special tools? Does the BIOS have special needs? Are all 2.5" laptop drives created equal?"
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Advice for a Novice Replacing Laptop Hard Drive?

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  • Uh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ag0ny (59629) <javi@lavan[ ] ['dei' in gap]> on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:33AM (#10467608) Homepage
    1. Open computer cover
    2. Verify that it's a 2.5" IDE drive
    3. Go to shop, buy new 2.5" drive
    4. Go back home, remove dead disk from computer
    5. Plug new drive when the old one was
    6. Close computer cover
    7. Install OS

    Honestly, there's nothing special to it. But there are two issues that you'll probably find:

    a) Laptops are very crowded inside their covers. Write down where everything belongs as you take it apart. Take photos if possible, to make sure that you put it together in the same way later.

    b) Laptop manufacturers don't like users messing with the hardware. Your laptop most likely has a cover underneath that you can remove by unscrewing a standard screw, and the hard disk is most likely inside it (that's the case with my Compaq Presario). However, it might happen that you have to use some special hexagonal key to reach the hard disk, as is the case on my wife's Sony laptop.
    • Re:Uh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by NanoGator (522640) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:49AM (#10468028) Homepage Journal
      "b) Laptop manufacturers don't like users messing with the hardware. Your laptop most likely has a cover underneath that you can remove by unscrewing a standard screw, and the hard disk is most likely inside it (that's the case with my Compaq Presario). However, it might happen that you have to use some special hexagonal key to reach the hard disk, as is the case on my wife's Sony laptop."

      Worse. Some manufacturers (Toshiba, for example...) like to use a variety of different screws. Somebody a day or two ago mentioned using an ice cube tray to store various sized screws from his iBook. Thought I'd pass that advice along.

      Ah, while I'm on the topic, I hope your laptop has an optical drive. (Yeah yeah, I didn't RTFA) I'm really happy with my Tablet PC, but I'm spooked at the concept of reinstalling the OS on it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:22AM (#10468109)

      Some disk get hotters than others.

      It can make the laptop crash if the new disk is mch more modern and gets hotter.

    • Re:Uh? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bersl2 (689221) on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:50AM (#10468190) Journal
      b) Laptop manufacturers don't like users messing with the hardware. Your laptop most likely has a cover underneath that you can remove by unscrewing a standard screw, and the hard disk is most likely inside it (that's the case with my Compaq Presario).

      How true. I'm currently replacing my Compaq's motherboard, because the AC adapter's power plug (being at a right angle) loosened the power connector from the board. And laptop motherboards are disgustingly expensive. I spent $300 on one, and it was on sale (MSRP = $400).

      One other tip: Putting the right screw in the right place is a good idea. I have bumps in the plastic frame of mine from screws too large.
      • Re:Uh? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Artifex (18308) on Friday October 08, 2004 @08:10AM (#10468570) Journal
        I'm currently replacing my Compaq's motherboard, because the AC adapter's power plug (being at a right angle) loosened the power connector from the board.

        Did you try just buying a new power connector and soldering it where the old one was?
        Sure, SMT is fiddly, but if it saves you $290 (give about $10 for the connector, to be generous), it's worth the hassle.
        • by GoRK (10018) <johnl@[ ] ['blu' in gap]> on Friday October 08, 2004 @09:58AM (#10469211) Homepage Journal
          SMT is fiddly, sure, but a power connector that requires significant strain reliev is going to be thru-hole. But why even buy a new one? Just get rid of the old solder and put down some new stuff. It doesn't sound like the plug was physically damaged.
          • by ksheff (2406) on Friday October 08, 2004 @01:10PM (#10471365) Homepage

            I had a similar problem with a Compaq machine and replaced the power connector with one that was threaded and could be bolted to the case. The problem wasn't the original power connector being bad as it was the solder connections were the only thing securing it to the machine. Given that the users of the machine weren't particularly gentle when plugging the power connector, it didn't take long for the connections to become loose.

          • by Artifex (18308) on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:10PM (#10475001) Journal
            SMT is fiddly, sure, but a power connector that requires significant strain reliev is going to be thru-hole. But why even buy a new one?

            Good point. I made the assumption that the connector was probably at or near structural failure as well as just coming loose.
        • Re:Uh? (Score:3, Informative)

          by bersl2 (689221) on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:10PM (#10474426) Journal
          Well, I had a buddy resolder the part back into place. That lasted maybe a week, during which time I could hear crackling and smell burning from the site.

          This problem is rather common with Compaq laptops; and having read what people say about it, which is that sometimes soldering works, and sometimes it doesn't, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new mobo and a replacement AC adapter from a third-party (yes, 100% compatable) that has a straight plug instead of an angled one.

          And then, once I know it works, I'm going to upgrade the proc. to a 2400+ 35W Barton core Athlon XP and install a mini-PCI wireless card, because even after they said they fixed it, the model of my laptop has a tendency to fry PCMCIA cards.

          When it's all done, I'll have ended up spending about 3/4 of what I paid for the thing in the first place. It seems like a lot, but I expect to keep this machine for a while, and I don't expect it to break further.
          • by Artifex (18308) on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:13PM (#10475033) Journal
            Hey, cool, at least you tried.

            Yikes, which model of laptop do you have that fries PCMCIA cards? Do us a public service :)
            • by bersl2 (689221) on Friday October 08, 2004 @07:41PM (#10475725) Journal
              Presario 2105US (It's out of production, so don't worry about being surprised at retail. Other than the PCMCIA problem and needing a custom DSDT ACPI table, it makes a good Linux laptop.)

              This is the most they say about the problem: fixes cardbus issue []. I put two and two together when the first card died, and I called D-Link about it, and they didn't have a clue until I told them the make of the laptop, and the tech talked to his boss, and I was granted an RMA.

              After flashing the BIOS and getting a new card, it worked fine for a while. Then I had this power connector problem with the motherboard, and the computer has been continuously disassembled since then, except for the week that the component was resoldered, at the beginning of which I fried the card again.

              I think that sometimes, if the card is in at boot time, the card can be flashed accidentally, because it will power up, but drivers will not load and I can't get any activity.
    • Re:Uh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sentry21 (8183) on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:14AM (#10468254) Journal
      Your laptop most likely has a cover underneath that you can remove by unscrewing a standard screw, and the hard disk is most likely inside it (that's the case with my Compaq Presario). However, it might happen that you have to use some special hexagonal key to reach the hard disk, as is the case on my wife's Sony laptop.

      Or in the case of my Dell laptop (and others I've seen), there is probably a tray that can slide out. On my Inspiron 5150, there are two screws under the Cardbus slot, and removing those allows one to remove the hard drive (the faceplate covering the cardbus is also attached to the hard drive mounting frame).

      My friend's Dell Inspiron (forget what model) has two screws on a faceplate dedicated to the HD.

      On Dell laptops, it is trivial to do anything. Go onto their website and you can get manuals to tell you how to strip them down to the chassis and build them back up again. Easy, if you're careful.

      Just make sure to remember which screws go where. I massacred a UPS by getting two almost (but not quite) identical screws backwards. Not that it worked in the first place anyway.

    • by binaryspiral (784263) on Friday October 08, 2004 @07:13AM (#10468397)
      The "star" bits are really called Torx. And are sold by sizes from T-xx the larger the number, the smaller the bit.

      Most laptops range from T-5 to T-8. If you don't already have a set - go to sears and pick up a set. They are handy to have around because the screws are often used on electronics because they have very good resistance to stripping out and can be tourqed down very accurately.

      Some will with a square drive, but thats rare.
    • by jamesh (87723) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:48AM (#10478395)
      If you can't get, or don't want the new drive to be identical to the old, make sure that the new drive you get is within the heat specs of the laptop. Laptop drives are slow for two reasons - fast drives run hotter, and fast drives consume more power.

      Depending on how much you care, have a look at the noise specs too.
  • Very simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by webagogue (806350) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:35AM (#10467615)
    As with desktop hard drives, yes, there are subtle differences between laptop hard drives (LHD) but basically, yes, all laptop hard drives are the same. While desktop hard drives are 3.5", LHDs are 2.5". The only tricky part is thickness - some older drives are 12mm and newer ones are 9mm. You can't go wrong with a 9mm, so just get that kind.

    There are no bios issues to worry about. Plug in the drive and go.

    Whether or not you need special toold depends on the manufacturer. I've only ever needed a philips screwdriver for my compaq aero, fujitsu lifebook, and dell inspiron.
  • Small electronics (Score:5, Informative)

    by jclinux (64175) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:39AM (#10467629)
    Have you ever opened up small electronics before? A CD player or the such? The best approach is to do an amazing job keeping track of which screws go where, because they're all likely different. Additionally, every piece you take off will likely have a very fragile ribbon cable with a very fragile connection, so just be careful. generally the ribbon cables pull out once a small catch is slid towards them.
    As for the actual hard drive, the bios in all recent (since they went to ide) laptops is completely compatible. Unless you've got a strange laptop that did what compaq desktops used to, with bios-on-disk, but sharp's aren't like that afaik.
    Last thing... all 2.5" drives are not the same. My portege has a 9mm thick drive, and the new portege's and thinkpad x's take like 7mm or something. the standard i believe is 12mm, so you'll likely need one of the (slightly) more expensive models. Get a new one, as anything used could be just as broken as what you're taking out, and believe me its not worth it to pull that thing apart twice!

    If you kept track of everything (screws, cables, etc) and nothing's left over ;) then power up, and so long as everything works (including, and double check this one, the fan) you're golden.
    Good luck, and make sure you aren't over-tired or hungry when you attempt it, it can be frustrating.
    • WHO's the Fool Now? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpuffer_hammer (31542) on Friday October 08, 2004 @09:21AM (#10468980) Homepage
      Use a digital Camera to take pictures as you go along. That way you will have a guide to putting it back together.

      Use a muffin pan or cupcake pan to keep track of the parts. It is often hard to tell which screw is which so put them in different compartmants

      Take notes.

      Use a large work area set the parts down in a way that makes sense

      Make sure you have time to do the job from start to finish. If you have to stop part way thought to go to work, you may forget something. Alternatively, someone may clean up your work area.

      It may seem a little foolish at first but if you can't put it back together, WHO's the FOOL NOW?
    • by pavon (30274) on Friday October 08, 2004 @10:59AM (#10469638)
      The most foolproof method of keeping track of where screws go is to use masking tape to label them. Put each groups of screws on a piece of tape and fold it over, then put a piece of tape next to where the screws came from, and label both peices of tape with the same number or letter.

      While it may be a little bit more work then neccisarry, it is worthwhile, because it prevents you from getting in over your head. I'm sure everyone has had a time when they started taking out screws thinking they could remember where they go, only to find far more screws than they were expecting. This is especially true when you are taking apart a device for the first time, and are likely to take out more screws than you really needed to in hind-sight.

      Or the project may end up spanning over several days because you find you need to get another part and end up forgeting where the screws go in that time. I have a laptop which I took apart months ago, and was able to successfully put it together again just the other day, because all the screws were labeled.

      This also prevents the screws from getting lost or mixed should they spill out of the bowl or tray you are keeping them in - essential if you share residence with pets, children, college students or careless adults.
    • Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CaptPungent (265721) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:03PM (#10473660) Journal
      I can't believe all of the responses. I can understand all of the caution, taking pics and labelling and all, but seriously, taking laptops apart isn't hard. I've personally taken my Thinkpad apart about 25 times now, sometimes just for the hell of it, to learn how it was put together, other times to put in new CPU, the several times after that looking for pins to set the multiplier. I've put in a new HDD on it too, on that laptop though the HDD was in an easily accessable tray that just slid out.

      BUT, the biggest advice one can give is just to simply take it apart. Don't be afraid, just be gentle, and start removing. You'll figure it out.

      Once upon a time (last year) I did repair for a teacher in college's Gateway laptop (I hate those damn things), he broke the damn surface mount for the AC connector, first time just broke the terminal pole connecting it to the board, after that he managed to break THE ENTIRE PLASTIC HOUSING. I repaired it several times, eventually I had to buy a cheap AC connector (couldn't find one that would fit) and cut the plastic off of, and used a flat solder tip to melt to the old housing and encase the replacement terminal pole that I'd shaped from some copper with a dremel. Did I ever do anything like that before? Hell no, just tried it and did it. Thats the only way to learn it.

      that said, I have a bit of a problem, when I buy something the first thing I do it take it apart and put it back together. When something DOES go wrong then I know my equipment inside and out. Just go for it man!

  • The hard part (Score:5, Informative)

    by rduke15 (721841) <rduke15 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:05AM (#10467711)
    Usually, the hard part is opening the laptop to get to the drive. There are many screws, but not all need to be unscrewed. Many parts are simply clipped together. I have opened several noteboks, and usually found out only too late that it would have been much easier if I had known how to open it.

    First, try to search the web for a service manual which details how to get to the drive on your specific model. If you find clear instructions, that will be of great help.

    For the drive thickness issue, as others have said, the recent thinner drives will work to replace older thicker drives, so you shouldn't have a problem.

    If the notebook is old, the BIOS may not support the full capacity of your new drive. Not a big deal: you would just loose a few Gigabytes, but the drive will work perfectly with the lower capacity.
  • by heistgonewrong (808413) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:06AM (#10467717) Homepage Journal
    To add on to what has already been said, be careful of wires attached from the removable hardware to the case, when opening your notebook. aside from that, try to purchase a similar (although in this case, you might want to choose another manufacturer because the drive you had doesn't seem to be to reliable) hardware.
    • by dn15 (735502) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:11AM (#10467928)
      be careful of wires attached from the removable hardware to the case, when opening your notebook
      Yes, exactly. I've opened a few laptops and it's often quite difficult even with the service manual because things are packed in so tight. It's probably best to not even try it until you have the official disassembly instructions.
  • difficult? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rmull (26174) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:07AM (#10467718) Homepage
    It doesn't have to be so hard... I had a thinkpad where you could remove the hard drive be removing just one screw, one that could be turned with a quarter actually. And my current compaq has a reasonable way to access the drive too, iirc.
    • by fm6 (162816) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:51AM (#10467879) Homepage Journal
      Yes, many Thinkpad hard disks come in special modules that are easy to replace. But the idea is not to make the laptop easy to repair, it's to keep data secure and allow you to boot up various configurations. Most other makes require you to open up the case to get at the hard disk.
    • Re:difficult? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Exocet (3998) * on Friday October 08, 2004 @10:32AM (#10469398) Homepage Journal
      Actually, most modern Dell laptops use one or two screws (externally accessable) to attach a drive bay to the laptop. Just like a Thinkpad (which I own), they're easy to swap out. I've got a crappy P4 Toshiba laptop next to me and it looks like it also has an one screw drive removal deal.

      I have, however, seen VERY old Pentium-based IBM laptops where the drive was absolutely buried in the system. This is a stupid design and would be cause for me not to purchase a similar system.

      When I read this Ask Slashdot I was confused: all the laptops I've ever deal with, except the aforementioned ancient one, the laptop HD's are one of the few ultra simple things to replace/remove, along with the RAM, battery and CD/DVD drive.

      BTW: If the submitter of this Ask Slashdot has an IBM Thinkpad from recent years, be aware: IBM has instructions on their web site for replacing damn near everything in a laptop, including the motherboard. I'm not a laptop technician but I did replace the mobo in my T20 earlier this year and while it was quite nerve racking it was a successful operation. This is why I will probably always buy IBM laptops.
      • by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr@bhtooef[ ]rg ['r.o' in gap]> on Thursday October 21, 2004 @02:39PM (#10590475) Homepage Journal
        Going slightly offtopic, but WHY can't someone create a SIMPLE standard for DIY laptops? [] is a quick job in MS Paint of a "standard" for a laptop with up to a 15" display. The motherboard takes the entire area not taken by drives or speakers. The hard drive/PCMCIA thing would work like my Dell Inspiron 1100 (don't buy one). The CD drive may require removal of the keyboard/mouse assembly, but that's simply popping the tabs and lifting it off.

        I forgot to provide for upgradability of the GPU in that, and I also forgot Mini-PCI (RAM is on the bottom, that's a top view with keyboard/mouse assembly and display assembly removed). Back ports were not drawn - they'd vary from mobo to mobo.

        There'd be no ribbon cables, and very few wires (speakers would have wires).
        • by Exocet (3998) * on Thursday October 21, 2004 @02:57PM (#10590671) Homepage Journal
          Same reason cars are so hard to work on - because the marketing department likes to give everything exciting new lines at least once a year and that changes the space that you've got to work with.

          Plus, with computers - and laptops in specific - there are a variety of needs. Some people want a built-in CF reader. Some people want a super-slim laptop with no CDROM. Stuff like that.

          I think it's the nature of the beast. Best you can do is look over the laptop before you buy it and take in to consideration how hard it's going to be to work on it.
          • by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr@bhtooef[ ]rg ['r.o' in gap]> on Thursday October 21, 2004 @04:08PM (#10591474) Homepage Journal
            OK, the design could be modified to allow for a 3.5" laptop bay, enough for a 4-in-1 reader.

            I can see why a super-slim laptop and expandability don't go hand in hand.

            BTW, on fancy lines - it can be a feature of the case itself. Look at ATX cases. They're all generally compatible, even though some look completely different. There'd be room on the outside to do anything. They could go out of spec (if connectors were tall), and make a 3" thick laptop with a HUGE heatpipe setup.
  • You are gay (Score:-1, Offtopic)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:14AM (#10467754)
    This is officially the gayest question. are you 12 years old or something? why don't you research it the issue on the internet, or experiment. if you can figure out enough to ask slashdot, you can figure out enough to do this inane task on your own. you little bitch.
  • Is this Slashdot? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:18AM (#10467770)
    Or is it Computing 101 for Dummies? Or are you too lazy to Google?
  • by Fubar420 (701126) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:34AM (#10467825)
    If you have data backups:
    If linux, boot knoppix, mkfs.{fschoice}
    copy backups to new fs.
    If windows, boot dos disk,
    fdisk, partition, etc
    Copy backups into place.

    If it's IDE, SCSI or standard, whats the issue?
  • Can't resist... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkDust (239124) <> on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:54AM (#10467887) Homepage
    So now Slashdot has turned into a helpdesk ? There goes the neighbourhood... ;-)
  • by fm6 (162816) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:56AM (#10467889) Homepage Journal
    I'm expecting Mr. Murphy to visit me as soon as I open the case...
    Sound logic. But it's not Mister, it's Captain [].

    But if you want advice that goes beyond cute offtopic stuff like the above, you probably should check out the manufacturer's customer support site [].

  • Differences... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:00AM (#10467898)
    There are differences between drives, but as with desktop 3.5" hard drives, they're minor. You might not notice most of them. Plus, most of the drives sold these days have broadly similar specifications.

    Here are some of the differences you might want to keep in mind:

    Physical size, as other have noted, is the most critical difference. Your laptop probably requires a 12mm drive or smaller, but make sure before you buy one. Old 2.5" IDE drives could be as big as 18mm! New ones are usually 9.5mm or 9mm.

    Speed varies between drives: 4200, 5400, and now 7200 RPM drives are available for laptops. 5400 and 7200 RPM drives usually have better transfer rates and seek times, but may consume more power...but might not in comparisons between all drives. Check the drive specs. Like desktop drives, cache size also varies. Most models have 2MB caches, but some have 8MB, and this can affect both read/write speed and power consumption. The larger cache probably won't affect the cost of the drive very much, but may speed up certain IO operations. I recommend the 8MB cache.

    Power Consumption & Heat: Just as with desktop drives, 2.5" laptop drives can generate considerable heat. It's harder, however, to get rid of heat from cramped laptop interiors than from desktops, and laptops may, errmmmm, generate certain heat related issues that would be a problem with a desktop under only the most contrived and embarrassing circumstances...if you know what I mean. ;-) Along with heat comes power consumption, which may a particularly important issue to laptop users since portables may often be running from battery -- on the other hand if you mostly use the computer plugged in on a desk, this might not matter to you. Spinning a metallic disk at X RPMs is a very serious draw on your battery. If you use the computer on your lap or running from battery try to compare manufacturer's power requirements.

    Noise: Hard drives can be the chief source of noise in laptops. Old drives with mechanical bearings will often be distractingly loud. This can be a problem during meetings or when working in a otherwise quiet office. Fortunately many newer drives have fluid bearings and are very, very, quiet. Definitely look for a drive with fluid bearings.

    Capacity: 2.5" hard drives come in a variety of capacities. I'm sure you're shocked to hear that! The largest laptop drives I'm aware of are 80GB. You can still find 10 and 20GB drives for sale new, but prices are rarely significantly lower than for 40GB drives. A pretty reasonable price on a 5400 RPM 40GB drive is probably in the vicinity of $80. A drive with twice that capacity will probably be a bit less than twice the cost, but you'll pay a noticeable premium for a 7200 RPM drive.

    As for manufacturers, I'm fond of Hitachi (formerly IBM). I've purchased at least a half dozen IBM & Hitachi 40GB drives with fluid bearings, in both 4200 and 5400 RPM versions, and haven't been disappointed yet. They are marvelously quiet, reliable, fast, and efficient. On the other hand, I've been so happy with them that I haven't bothered to check out competition from other manufacturers so my opinion may be out of date. And like I said at the beginning of the post, you're likely not to go too far wrong with any drive as long as it physically fits, since most manufacturers offer devices with broadly similar capabilities.

    Good luck. I don't think you'll have much trouble.

    • by jsupreston (626100) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:19PM (#10473180)
      This is a very good posting from an AC (you should've logged in and gotten the karma). This covers pretty much everything you probably need to know. Just remember to see if there is a bios upgrade to your machine if you buy a larger capacity hard drive. I'd hate for you to shell out the cash, install the drive at it not work. Depending upon the age of the machine, you may want to consider a used drive off eBay or one of about a gazillion other sites that sell used and/or refurbished hardware.
    • by willpall (632050) <pallwill-slashdot&yahoo,com> on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:57PM (#10474893)
      Power Consumption & Heat: Just as with desktop drives, 2.5" laptop drives can generate considerable heat. It's harder, however, to get rid of heat from cramped laptop interiors than from desktops, and laptops may, errmmmm, generate certain heat related issues that would be a problem with a desktop under only the most contrived and embarrassing circumstances...if you know what I mean. ;-)

      Actually, I have no idea what you mean. Seriously. I don't get it. Umm... What do you mean?
  • by Stephen (20676) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:51AM (#10468037) Homepage
    If you need to move the data from the old drive to the new drive, I recommend a product called EZ-GIG from Apricorn []. [1]

    This is basically just a cradle for holding a laptop drive, with a cable and a PCMCIA card [2] to turn the drive into an external drive. The idea is:

    1. Plug the new drive in as an external drive;
    2. Use the supplied software to copy the old drive to the new drive;
    3. Swap the drives over;
    4. You now have a laptop with a larger drive, and a smaller drive which you can use for backups.

    It's pretty reasonably priced, as I recall, and it saves finding a large backup device and copying everything twice, and/or reinstalling the OS. Also, you have a large backup disk at the end of it.

    This is beginning to sound like a shill, but I'm just a satisfied customer!

    [1] There may be other similar products, I don't know.
    [2] I think there may be a USB version too.

    • by kryzx (178628) * on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:07PM (#10474396) Homepage Journal
      I whole-heartedly concur.

      Simlarly, not affiliated with the company, but a happy customer.

      I used this recently to upgrade drives for a couple laptops and found it to really make the process easier. Since it clones your drive you get everything, data, applications, registry, etc. Ba-da-bing, running with the new drive like nothing happened, and you have all your data on the old drive, too, just in case. When you feel you don't need that any more you can wipe it and use it as an external drive for backups or whatever you want. I use mine for music.
    • by JohnQPublic (158027) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:18AM (#10479193)
      The last time I looked, Apricorn's EZ-GIG software limited the number of times you could use it (something really small - 5 or so?). This was clearly intended to sell more copies to large organizations rather than limit individual users, but it still has that effect. I see that Apricorn is now selling "EZ Gig II" - does anybody know if this restriction has been lifted?

      And no, Google hasn't helped with any answers :-)
  • Use Google! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilNutSack (700432) <> on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:02AM (#10468069) Homepage
    Has /. become the IT Support Centre for the world? Have we been outsourced?
  • by Large Green Mallard (31462) <> on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:06AM (#10468076) Homepage
    As other have pointed out, since you have a 40GB drive in there, pretty much any modern drive you buy will likely be ok as a replacement. The fun part then is actually replacing it. You'll either find it's easy, like most laptops from Acer, Toshiba, Dell. Or as hard as hell like anything from Apple (except the 15 inch TiBook).

    Since it seems to be a sub-note, I wouldn't be surprised to find its the second one, but you might be lucky.

    Generally, take off any panel on it which is only held on by 1-4 screws and look for something that looks like a laptop hard drive. Look also for little plastic tabs to pull on to remove it if there are covers on the side. Also, philips screws are a good sign for finding the hard drive. Torx bits are engineer's way of saying "here be dragons".

    Good luck.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2004 @11:47AM (#10470169)
      Hey LGM!

      Good to hear from you! I thought we might not see you here for a while after a whole pile of your countryfolk got taken down for possessing bad stuff on their hard drives.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:34AM (#10479287)
      Or as hard as hell like anything from Apple (except the 15 inch TiBook).
      True enough. But the 15 inch was a piece 'o cake. Here's how I did it
      1. Go to store and buy a 2.5" drive. I bought a 5400 RPM Toshiba 40 Gig (I had no need for anything bigger).
      2. Back up old hard drive to external firewire drive using Carbon Copy Cloner (free)
      3. Shut down, remove battery.
      4. Remove six identical screws on the back.
      5. Pop open case.
      6. Remove two screws on side of drive.
      7. Pop out drive.
      8. Remove cable.
      9. Attach cable to new drive.
      10. Put new drive in.
      11. Screw in the two screws.
      12. Put case back on.
      13. Screw in the six screws.
      14. Pop in battery, boot up off of external firewire drive.
      15. Restore internal drive with Carbon Copy Cloner.
      16. Reboot.
      Steps 3 through 14 took me eight minutes.
      • For added difficulty points, I once did 2-16 in a tokyo youth hostel in some of the most humid conditions I've ever experienced ;)
      • YIKES!

        My Dell Inspiron 1100 has this procedure:

        1. Buy new drive
        2. Back up old drive
        3. Shut down
        4. Remove two identical screws that appear to just hold in PCMCIA slot
        5. Pull it out
        6. Remove screws from drive
        7. Pop out drive
        8. Pop in new drive
        9. Screw in new drive
        10. Screw bay back in
        11. Boot up
        12. Restore to new drive
        13. Reboot

        I didn't ACTUALLY do this, but this is what it would take.

        Now, as for my Toshiba Satellite Pro 405CS:

        1. Buy new drive small enough that BIOS can recognize it
        2. Back up old drive to FLOPPY DISKS
        3. Shut down and remove battery
        4. Remove two screws holding in this thing with a metal tab that is underneath where the battery was
        5. Lift bay out
        6. Remove 4 screws (IIRC)
        7. Remove drive
        8. Put new drive in
        9. Put 4 screws back in
        10. Put battery back in, and boot
        11. Restore to new drive
        12. Reboot

        And the 15" is the EASY model? Man, I'd hate to have an iBook...
  • OS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NewStarRising (580196) <> on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:38AM (#10468312) Homepage
    One thing to watch for is if you are putting the Original (Windows) installation back onto the Laptop. Most OEM Restore Disks check your hardware, not just type/brand/model, but EXACT component. They "Tatoo" the HDD so the Restore knows what to do.

    You may find that you are unable to Restore your OS back onto the new drive.

    Only solutions to this are to put a new OS on it (Retail Windows, *nix, other ...) or to phone tech-support ...
    • NewStarRising writes:
      One thing to watch for is if you are putting the Original (Windows) installation back onto the Laptop. Most OEM Restore Disks check your hardware, not just type/brand/model, but EXACT component. They "Tatoo" the HDD so the Restore knows what to do.

      You may find that you are unable to Restore your OS back onto the new drive.

      Only solutions to this are to put a new OS on it (Retail Windows, *nix, other ...) or to phone tech-support ...

      I've had a 100% success rate with Windows 2000 in using Symantec "Ghost" to image the original drive to the new, larger drive.

      1. Connect both drives to single PC (I use a docking station with an internal IDE controller and a cheap "laptop IDE to standard IDE" cable).
      2. Using a MS-DOS boot floppy, boot into DOS and run "ghost.exe"
      3. When copying from the source drive to the new drive, you can choose to enlarge both FAT and NTFS partitions to make better use of the larger drive, or you can leave some or all of the extra space unpartitioned (handy for dual-boot into Unix)
      4. Make sure that you copy all partitions, some laptops store setup and configuration information in a small extra partition.
      5. Depending on the IDE drive and adaptor, imaging can take a while. Start the process, then go out for lunch... a long lunch.

      You can keep the original drive around as a backup, or take it apart and play with the neat glass disk platters and tiny powerful magnets.
    • by trewornan (608722) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:57AM (#10477908)
      My Vaio came with a restore disk instead of a proper windows install disk (like I paid for) but there was no problem using the restore disk after I replaced the hard drive. Note: I can't actually remember booting into windows since then.
  • Additional question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:50AM (#10468345) Homepage Journal
    I have an additional question while people are reading this thread: I have a Dell D600 which has a severe harddisk heat problem. The harddisk heats up and because it is located under the left palm area, it gets uncomfortably warm there. I wanted to cool this disk, but there's almost no room. Could I try to transfer the heat using some sort of heat-conducting strip? The CD drive bay could be emptied so I could conduct the heat to that place and dissipate it using a small cooler.

    Here's a pic of the internals: []. The harddisk is in the lower left, the drive bay is in the middle right (the big grey cover).

    Questions I have: what sort of strip (material?) should I use to conduct heat to the empty drive bay? Can it be really thin, like 1mm? And would any small cooler be enough? Or could I connect the heat conducting strip to the drive bay cover? (it's made of some sort of aluminium, AFAIK). The drive runs up to 55C. I'd prefer not to use a fan.

    • by bmac (51623) on Friday October 08, 2004 @09:51AM (#10469154) Journal
      My friend was having some heat problems with
      his Toshiba notebook, and found a simpler
      solution: he bought a device that sits under
      the laptop that has a fan or two in it. It
      runs off USB and was, I think, like $10. As
      well, it is only about a half inch thick.

      Sorry I don't have any more info, but google
      is our friend :-)

      Peace & Blessings,
  • by Tux2000 (523259) <> on Friday October 08, 2004 @07:05AM (#10468382) Homepage Journal

    ... just pay the repair folks. They (should) know what they do.

    The other way: get a repair manual, lots of small tools, and a replacement drive that fits mechanically and electrically into the laptop. Fiddle with some of the tools and your laptop. Result: You have a heap of screws, wires, plastic parts, and strange matter you have never seen before, your laptop is now really broken, the new harddrive has not survived, and you have spent more money than the repair folks demanded. Add a large ammount of super glue to the heap,sell it as piece of modern art on ebay, buy a new laptop and make sure it is repaired by experts next time.


  • by FonkiE (28352) on Friday October 08, 2004 @07:38AM (#10468462)
    Try to identify the old drive and look up the power consumption and heating (the manufatuers have it on their web pages even for really olf drives - usually).

    Verify that the new drive consumes less power and emits less energy, because the other way round your battery life decreases ... (idle power consumption may be the most relevant)
  • Caution (Score:3, Informative)

    by adl99 (779447) on Friday October 08, 2004 @10:13AM (#10469296)
    I've just done this myself. Here are the things I did (& would recommend doing)

    1. Get a grounding strap. I've done some whizz-bang electronics before, so I have quite a flash one (I got it from either or - I forget) but you can get cheap disposable ones. Some may say it's overkill, but better safe than sorry IMO. You're working in close proximity to your processor, RAM - all of which are easily fried. Plus, laptops are often not grounded. And no socks on the carpet. ;)

    2. DON'T USE FORCE. Or it will break. With anything. Not even screws. Take your time & be careful. Bits of case can be hard to remove, having lots of catches and things. Ease out the catches with flat-head screwdrivers or the like. Common sense prevails here.

    3. Use the correct screwdriver. Preferably with a magnetic tip (not essential, but screws love to fall into hard-to-reach places). It's worth getting a set of jewellers screwdrivers. Don't use an electric one - it's too easy to strip the screw. I say that from bitter experience (yes, it was silly). Believe you me, it's a harrowing experience drilling out a screw from a laptop.

    4. Have a container for all the screws. There may be differing types of screws, so have a couple ready. Try and remove the fewest possible when dis-assembling. It's best not to have bits of laptop falling all over the place when you don't want them to.

    5. Take care with your connectors. I had a couple of craft (exacto) knives handy to help ease the IDE interface from the hard disk. You have to do it off gently - don't just pull (and don't cut anything).

    6. Love your 'flexi's. There will be (probably brown coloured) 'flexi's. They join bits of circuit board together. These aren't designed to be bent much, so don't bend them much.

    Other bits: I replaced mine with a Fujitsu MHT2040AT. While quiet and quite quick, my first one only lasted about 6-7 months. I don't know if I was just unlucky or what. I'm about to start testing the replacement =]

    Good Luck!
  • by intheory (261976) on Friday October 08, 2004 @10:59AM (#10469645) Journal
    and my "ask slashdot" submission about solar-powered computing get turned down? Maybe if I had asked how to hook a bunch of extension cords together...
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday October 08, 2004 @11:19AM (#10469857) Homepage Journal
    My older IBM wont recognize anything above 6GB.. it just says no HD found..

    No bios update either.. Sort of sux.

    Id check with the manufacturer what it supports before i go out and buy a new drive..
  • by phorm (591458) on Friday October 08, 2004 @11:25AM (#10469926) Journal
    I've replaced a few drives in various laptops, with difficulties ranging from simple to bang-your-head-against-the-table-WTF-were-they-thi nking difficult.

    a) Some laptops have the drive/memory right under the keyboard. Often there are a few little snaps/screws which keep the keyboard in place, and you can pull it up and whammo... 1-2 screws and your drive is liberated

    b) Others (such as my current work machine, Acer 212T) have a safety screw, a little push-button, and voila, ejectable hard-drive bay. Drive pops up in a little metal shell, replace in same orientation and push back in, re-screw the safety screw. I don't really like cheapie Acers but they definately are easy for parts-replacement.

    c) If you wanted to preload some files, you can get an adaptor to plug the laptop-sized drive into a PC with a standard IDE interface and power (I don't recommend preloading a full windows OS as it will go a bit flakey with hardware changes, Linux seems fine with it though as long as kernel CPU settings are compatible). Adaptors should be around $10 or less

    d) Pay close attention to what screws go where. Laptops tend to be rather finicky with different sized screws all over the place.

    e) They're not as sensitive as you might think, but make sure the battery/power are out, and beware the LCD and thin plasticy ribbon cables.

    f) As with a previous post, pictures are quite often a good idea if you have a digital camera, etc. Print in stages showing where screws go.
  • by ToUnderstand (820230) on Friday October 08, 2004 @12:07PM (#10470491)
    Watch out for the interface voltages. I think older laptops and desktops communicate with the hard drive at 5Volts. Newer laptops use 3.3V I think the transition took place back in the days of around 1 GigaByte laptop hard drives. If your computer came with something bigger then you probably won't have to worry. This may also be a concern when using a 3.5inch to 2.5inch adapter to plug a laptop into a desktop. I bought a cheap $10 adapter to get the data off of my old laptop drive and onto my desktop and then onto the new laptop drive. I used the adapter before knowing that the voltages were different. Luckily it worked anyway. However one of the new laptop drives crashed after a few months and the other still makes scary clanking noises.

    Also, wear an anti static wrist strap. With the emphasis on low power consumption in laptops, they're probably even a little more sensitive to static than desktops. What's more, static damage to a laptop is likely to be a lot more difficult to diagnose, and expensive to repair than a desktop.

    The laptops I've disassembled have had secret screws hidden in places that would have been hard to find without the disassembly manual.
  • by james11111 (804249) on Friday October 08, 2004 @01:21PM (#10471513)
    Why is this in /. . Get a book i=on hardware (A+ course book, Upgrading and reparing laptops etc.
  • I just went through this on three laptops (upgrading them to new 40Gb drives). Toshiba Tecra.

    The one thing that tripped me up was the screws. There are six screws holding the drive inside the carrier, all are held in with something like loctite (not exactly, but close), and all are philips.

    Four of these tiny screws came out easily, but on all but one of the machines, exactly two of the screws would not come out, usually the head would get stripped and I ended up using needle-nose or side-cutters to get a grip on the side of the head and break the loctite.

    So my recommendation is to have the right screw drivers, and also a good assortment of other small tools in case you need to force something.

  • by davidsyes (765062) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:03PM (#10472989) Homepage Journal
    Assess how much this laptop is worth. You can find several surplus computer stores selling 500 MHz laptops for $375, but they'll only have 6GB disks.

    But, look at Fry's or CompUSA or MicroCenter and actually TOUCH, pick up, turn around and turn over those laptops and ask the sales rep where the disk access slot is. If they don't know, shame on them. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by looking at some of the Dell Latitude CP models from between 1997-1999. They are an example of owner-oriented laptops. I used to service them when I was in the IT department of a former employer, and I used them, when I transferred to Customer Support and again in Manufacturing. It was nice, because I was able to use NT 4.0 for regular work, Win98 for Half Life after work, and for SuSE (now SUSE) as a demonstrator.

    In Sept 2001, I made a big mistake buying my Sony Vaio PCG-FX-215 as the disk is removed like this (turning it off, after disconnecting the AC, and after removing the battery and pressing the power button to discharge any AC on board, and AFTER grounding myself (well, usually...)):

    1. Remove left-side horizontal screw which holds down the speaker/power panel atop of the laptop; slide plate to right and tilt up;

    2. Disconnect the audio feed from the panel, setting panel aside, and let rooted end dangle over laptop; alternatively, leave connected and just tilt the speaker assy/lid up;

    3. Remove the single vertical keyboard assembly retaining screw;

    4. Use both first fingers' or pinkie fingers' nails to manipulate the keyboard data strip/cable and lift the retaining clip (it doesn't come off, but only slides up or locks down);

    5. Use right middle finger to gently rock then lift up assy and disconnect data feed;

    4. Remove 4 vertical screws holding the HDD cage inside the chassis;

    5. Remove the HDD data bus connector... CAREFULLY! (repetition can destroy the film-thin data lines, and replacements may not be available directly to consumers!)

    6. Holding assembly in-hand, remove 4 horizontal screws holding the HDD inside the disk cage, ensuring to have firm grip on cage so as to not let the disk fall out. (Alternatively, swap steps 5 & 6 to keep disk from falling, but this increases risk of ruining the flat, film data cable)

    7. Swap the disks

    8. Reassemble backward from steps 6 back to 1


    I recommend air-blowing the CPU cooling fan regularly, especially if your box is not using power managment and your fan runs full-tilt when the laptop os energized. This fan will collect "ghost turds" (dust balls or dust layers if it is not spinning full-tilt) and eventually you'll have to open up the laptop to clean the blades with a Q-tip just to keep the weight and resistance to a minimum. BE CAREFUL: That CPU Cooling Fan Heat Sink May Be HOTTTTT!!

    With this model, or any that Sony' uses this one for, removing the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM ENCLOSURE is a pain, but not as much as with the HDD. In this case, I assume you found a Toshiba using the same manufacturer as the DVD or CD-ROM, but which Toshiba conveniently (for themselves) wraps inside a weight-adding shroud. Fortunately, for me, the shroud and the DVD & CD-ROM have the same connector commonality/parts. This is despite the Toshiba enclosure having proprietary connectors and such. I just removed the burner and the CD-ROM from their enclosures and swapped them. Then, I used a Dremel to burnish down the grey Toshiba trim piece that serves as the door.

    BE VERY SURE to not push or mess up an DIP switches, since there tends to not be any description labels. You could very well wipe your BIOS, alter the BIOS/DISK communication, or alter power-related (global reasons?) settings, or you could simply disable features you have and are supposed to be using.

    DON'T remove any grounding wires. You could kill your laptop, or cause problems for yourself (electrocution, if plugged to an AC outlet?)

    AND, Look at the Linux Hardware lists... There are se
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:51PM (#10473540)
    Just went through this recently myself. HP, not Sharp, so YMMV.

    For newer laptops, hard drives are pretty much plug and play. You can get 5400 and 7200RPM drives now. 5400 is more likely to play nice with your battery life. I picked Seagate because they now have a 5 year warranty. Make sure you get the one with the 8MB cache and not the 2MB. The price isn't that different, so why go with the lesser one? Search around. They're about $120 for 40GB.

    You'll need to get the small size screwdriver either phillips or torx depending. The internal screws that attach the hard drive to the frame are tiny. The case screws are usually deep set in small holes, and a regular screwdriver is too fat even if it fits the screw. The one thing that may be a problem is that these screws may be really tightened down, so be careful about a) stripping the heads and b) the screwdriver slipping and damaging something (including yourself).

    Above all, heed all the posts about keeping track of the screws. These little monsters are harder to find either in the carpet or at the store. The antistatic strap is a good idea, too. Go barefoot if you're on carpet, but non-carpet is better.

    As for getting your data off the old hard drive if it's still alive, find yourself a cheapo 2.5" USB enclosure. 2.5" drives use a single connector that handles both IDE and power. The good news is that cables aren't an issue. There are also adapter plugs that let you hook it up to a regular PC. Either one will run about $20 or so. It's worth it if you can get anything off the old drive.

    Put your OS or system restore CD in the drive and boot. The notebook will see the bank drive and should boot off the CD. System restore is perversely better because it's got all the drivers, and since it's a blank drive, you're not losing anything.

    On a well-designed laptop, it's not so bad.
  • by Madcapjack (635982) on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:38PM (#10475219)
    I've a question for me: I have a whole bunch of data on an old laptop hard-drive and I don't know how to transfer it over to my PC's hard-drive. The laptop is totally inoperable, so I'd have to work with just the laptop's hard-drive itself. Any suggestions?
  • by aquarian (134728) on Friday October 08, 2004 @10:07PM (#10476541)
    ...such as this one for my T20:

    62p9631.pdf []

    Other laptop makers make them available too.
  • by brad_f (55421) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:59AM (#10479459) Homepage
    Here's some pictures [] of the harddrive being replaced in a Titanium PowerBook.

Shortest distance between two jokes = A straight line