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Advice for a Novice Replacing Laptop Hard Drive?

Cliff posted about 10 years ago | from the save-money-by-doing-it-yourself dept.

Data Storage 100

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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Uh? (4, Interesting)

ag0ny (59629) | about 10 years ago | (#10467608)

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? (3, Informative)

NanoGator (522640) | about 10 years ago | (#10468028)

"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.

Re:Uh? (1)

bofkentucky (555107) | about 10 years ago | (#10468849)

Strayig OT, but does it have a USB and/or Firewire port, buy an appropriate enclosure and mount a cheap cd-rom in there, atatch cables and boot.

OTOH, Are there any "PXE boot" options in the BIOS, you may be able to bootstrap a *nix install on there.

Re:Uh? (1)

shepd (155729) | about 10 years ago | (#10475189)

Small fishing tackle boxes (like this [] one) are even nicer. Once you close the lid, those little itty bitty screws don't end up all over the floor when you (inevtiably) bump it. Most of them have curved edges which makes retreiving the screws later a simple task.

Beats me why they don't just call them screw boxes. :-D

Keeping the screw straight (3, Informative)

RedLeg (22564) | about 10 years ago | (#10476892)

Don't make it any harder than you have to...

Take two sheets of paper, label one FRONT and the other BACK.

With the notebook upside down, as you take a screw out, place on the BACK piece of paper in the same relative position it came from on the bottom of the notebook. If you have to flip it and pull screws from the top side, use the other sheet of paper.

Once you're ready to re-assemble, reverse.....

Simple, worls like a charm.....

Re:Keeping the screw straight (1)

unitron (5733) | about 10 years ago | (#10490741)

Excellent idea, except secure screws to paper with clear tape, otherwise Mr. Murphy's personal gremlin will be along presently to jostle the paper.

Re:Uh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#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? (2, Informative)

bersl2 (689221) | about 10 years ago | (#10468190)

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? (2, Interesting)

Artifex (18308) | about 10 years ago | (#10468570)

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.

Re:Uh? (1)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#10469211)

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.

Re:Uh? (1)

ksheff (2406) | about 10 years ago | (#10471365)

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.

Re:Uh? (1)

Artifex (18308) | about 10 years ago | (#10475001)

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? (2, Informative)

bersl2 (689221) | about 10 years ago | (#10474426)

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.

Re:Uh? (1)

Artifex (18308) | about 10 years ago | (#10475033)

Hey, cool, at least you tried.

Yikes, which model of laptop do you have that fries PCMCIA cards? Do us a public service :)

Re:Uh? (1)

bersl2 (689221) | about 10 years ago | (#10475725)

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? (3, Informative)

Sentry21 (8183) | about 10 years ago | (#10468254)

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.


Sears sells Torx and Square drivers (3, Informative)

binaryspiral (784263) | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Sears sells Torx and Square drivers (1)

Infinite93 (664963) | about 10 years ago | (#10468937)

FYI, larger T# = Larger bit. The T-6 I use to remove harddrives from the laptops we work on is significantly smaller than the T15 and T20 I use to remove docking stations from Police Cruisers.

Re:Sears sells Torx and Square drivers (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | about 10 years ago | (#10480808)

AH, I stand corrected, thank you for pointing it out. Now I check my tool kit, I see that I apparently have a shitty memory.

Re:Sears sells Torx and Square drivers (1)

Infinite93 (664963) | about 10 years ago | (#10484115)

It happens to all of us.

Re:Sears sells Torx and Square drivers (2, Informative)

Clubber Lang (219001) | about 10 years ago | (#10469457)

Somebody already mentioned that T-5 is smaller than T-8... but another little interesting point is that "square drive" is actually properly called Robertson, at least in Canada. These screws are everywhere here, and they're great! Nearly impossible to strip. Unfortunately for Mr Robertson, Henry Ford wanted exclusive distrubution rights over the screws in the States and Robertson refused (or so the story goes).

Robertson screws []

3a - buy the right spec drive (2, Informative)

jamesh (87723) | about 10 years ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

webagogue (806350) | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Not ENTIRELY True with the BIOS Issues... (1)

thecampbeln (457432) | about 10 years ago | (#10467699)

I'm not sure if Laptop HDDs (Hard Disk Drives, we nerds LOVE our acronyms!) have reached the 120gig+ range yet, but you COULD have some issues with your laptop not recognizing the entire drive. I know it's apples & oranges, but I recently had to dig up a BIOS update for an old Shuttle case I have when I put in a 200gig HDD in it (as it only saw the first 120gigs).

So in summary, this sort of BIOS issue won't keep a new HDD from working, but if you can't see all of it, you may need a BIOS update.

Good luck! It really is quite easy (says the experienced computer nerd...)!

Re:Not ENTIRELY True with the BIOS Issues... (4, Informative)

rasteri (634956) | about 10 years ago | (#10467907)

you COULD have some issues with your laptop not recognizing the entire drive.

Actually, as long as he uses a reasonably recent OS (windows or linux) he shouldn't have any problems. Most modern OSs speak directly to the HD controller, bypassing the BIOS, and are therefore only limited to what the OS can support.

Re:Not ENTIRELY True with the BIOS Issues... (1)

thecampbeln (457432) | about 10 years ago | (#10467972)

Well, I am running Win2k SP4+ on my Shuttle box (waits for the boos and hisses to subside from the Linux zealots out there), and I had to do the BIOS update for the 200gig drive!?!

Re:Not ENTIRELY True with the BIOS Issues... (1)

rasteri (634956) | about 10 years ago | (#10468252)

I once installed a 200gig drive on an early pentium, the BIOS detected it as a 13 gig hard drive, but linux detected it and partitioned it to its full capacity.

Re:Not ENTIRELY True with the BIOS Issues... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10467935)

Cases have bios now? FAR OUT!

For the uninitiated... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10467967)

Shuttle cases come with the motherboard (and hence the BIOS), smartass ;)

Re:Not ENTIRELY True with the BIOS Issues... (1)

sbryant (93075) | about 10 years ago | (#10467970)

That's not all either! Some BIOSes will recognise larger drives as being larger, but may not directly be able to access all of them. The operating system will not normally access the drive via the BIOS, so it's not too much of a problem, but the boot loader may well still need BIOS support.

This is a problem that has been continually cropping up, with boundaries at 8GB, 32GB and 128GB, among others, for various reasons (I'll leave out the technical details).

To minimise problems, make sure that your boot partion (C: drive if you're on Windows) is the first partition on the disk, and isn't larger than 128GB or so. If your laptop supports save-to-disk to a hibernate partition, that should probably also be in the first 128GB of the disk, so you could make it the first partition and your boot partition second. Just as long as both fit in.

One other thing: when I first got my laptop, I accidentally broke one of the levers to eject a PCMCIA card. Dell's tech support said explicitly that the drive should be removed before the laptop was sent in, which was easy as it's a single screw. Not all laptops are made so that parts are difficult to replace.

BTW, if the drive is being upgraded, I'd recommend more memory too!

-- Steve

Re:Very simple (3, Interesting)

cbcbcb (567490) | about 10 years ago | (#10467915)

The one in my Sony Vaio was 8.5mm. You can't buy 8.5mm drives any more - they are all 9.5mm and I had to bend the mounting bracket to fit it...

Small electronics (5, Informative)

jclinux (64175) | about 10 years ago | (#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? (4, Informative)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | about 10 years ago | (#10468980)

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?

Screws (1)

pavon (30274) | about 10 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

CaptPungent (265721) | about 10 years ago | (#10473660)

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 (4, Informative)

rduke15 (721841) | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:The hard part (1)

cakefool (801210) | about 10 years ago | (#10470484)

Not a big deal: you would just loose a few Gigabytes,

send them to me - my box is still running on 9Gb total due to lack of funds

Caution! (1)

heistgonewrong (808413) | about 10 years ago | (#10467717)

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.

Re:Caution! (1)

dn15 (735502) | about 10 years ago | (#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? (3, Insightful)

rmull (26174) | about 10 years ago | (#10467718)

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.

Re:difficult? (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 10 years ago | (#10467879)

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? (2, Interesting)

Exocet (3998) | about 10 years ago | (#10469398)

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.

Re:difficult? (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 10 years ago | (#10590475)

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).

Re:difficult? (1)

Exocet (3998) | about 10 years ago | (#10590671)

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.

Re:difficult? (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 10 years ago | (#10591474)

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 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:You are gay -- I wholeheartedly agree (-1, Offtopic)

denthijs (679358) | about 10 years ago | (#10467866)

OT, i know, but DAMN, wtf?
who's in charge here, .. for the past year we've seen the quality of /. articles deteriorate and deteriorate, .. but this without a doubt tops 'm off...
a _frontpage_ thread that isjust one big rtfm flame waiting to happen
anyhoo,.. /me is packing my bags and upping. c'yall on [] , [] and / or [] hopefully the newsvalue of /. rises above the current [] in a year or so,...
in other words;
screw you guys, .. I'm going home

... remember ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10467877)

remember when slashdot was all white, suburbian, male and COMPUTER-LITERATE ???

good times...

Re:... remember ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10467911)

What's the point of mentioning "all white"?

Re:... remember ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10468608)

yeah, u r right, .. it still is all white male heterosexual trash.
the only difference is the computer literacy really

Is this Slashdot? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10467770)

Or is it Computing 101 for Dummies? Or are you too lazy to Google?

Re:Is this Slashdot? (1)

nimimbu (577233) | about 10 years ago | (#10469436)

I agree. This is not a place for someone who is to lazy to go out and find an article on the web. Come on!!! What is happening here.

Re:Is this Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10471325)

You must be new here!

You have backups? Whats the issue? (1)

Fubar420 (701126) | about 10 years ago | (#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?

Re:You have backups? Whats the issue? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10468327)

The issue is a physically replacing the drive. RTFQ.

So he's new to this. You were once too. Give him a break.

Can't resist... (5, Insightful)

DarkDust (239124) | about 10 years ago | (#10467887)

So now Slashdot has turned into a helpdesk ? There goes the neighbourhood... ;-)

Re:Can't resist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10468120)

yes, yes it has

History and other details.... (2, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | about 10 years ago | (#10467889)

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 [] .

Re:History and other details.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10468526)

I had to check your link, as I thought you were referring to Captain Murphy of Sealab 2021! I suppose the name may be more than coincidence... :)

Differences... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Differences... (1)

jsupreston (626100) | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Differences... (1)

willpall (632050) | about 10 years ago | (#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?

Moving data (1)

Stephen (20676) | about 10 years ago | (#10468037)

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.

Re:Moving data (1)

kryzx (178628) | about 10 years ago | (#10474396)

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.

Re:Moving data (1)

kryzx (178628) | about 10 years ago | (#10474421)

Oh, and the one I used was USB.

Re:Moving data (1)

JohnQPublic (158027) | about 10 years ago | (#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! (5, Insightful)

EvilNutSack (700432) | about 10 years ago | (#10468069)

Has /. become the IT Support Centre for the world? Have we been outsourced?

Re:Use Google! (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about 10 years ago | (#10468725)

We were outsourced LONG ago. We still exist only because some people didn't get the memo yet.

Do, do not. There is no try. (4, Informative)

Large Green Mallard (31462) | about 10 years ago | (#10468076)

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.

Re:Do, do not. There is no try. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Do, do not. There is no try. (1)

Large Green Mallard (31462) | about 10 years ago | (#10482149)

Who -are- you?

Re:Do, do not. There is no try. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Do, do not. There is no try. (1)

Large Green Mallard (31462) | about 10 years ago | (#10482122)

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 ;)

Re:Do, do not. There is no try. (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 10 years ago | (#10590601)


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 (3, Interesting)

NewStarRising (580196) | about 10 years ago | (#10468312)

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 ...

"Ghost" image the original drive to the new disk. (1)

Nonesuch (90847) | about 10 years ago | (#10472233)

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.

Re:"Ghost" image the original drive to the new dis (1)

trewornan (608722) | about 10 years ago | (#10477916)

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.

Or by a USB external enclosure - they're very good and give you a nice 10gigs you can carry in a pocket.

Re:OS (1)

trewornan (608722) | about 10 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

cerberusss (660701) | about 10 years ago | (#10468345)

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.

Re:Additional question (1)

bmac (51623) | about 10 years ago | (#10469154)

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,

If you fear Murphy ... (2, Informative)

Tux2000 (523259) | about 10 years ago | (#10468382)

... 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.


Power ... (1)

FonkiE (28352) | about 10 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

adl99 (779447) | about 10 years ago | (#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!

how did this get here? (1)

intheory (261976) | about 10 years ago | (#10469645)

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...

New or old laptop? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 years ago | (#10469857)

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..

Re:New or old laptop? (1)

middlemen (765373) | about 10 years ago | (#10469982)

If u need a drive, i have some 4GB 2.5" harddrives from my old IBM thinkpad, they work perfectly, i have tested them... u can buy them from me:)

No offense meant, but. . . (1)

Excen (686416) | about 10 years ago | (#10470980)

your computer is really friggin' old. When did you purchase it, before the .com boom?

Re:No offense meant, but. . . (1)

middlemen (765373) | about 10 years ago | (#10472739)

NOt really, my office had this laptop which they were not using coz it was slow, so i took it home. i like laptops and esp opening them and checking what's inside. the disk i have is an original IBM disk made in 1998 and it works perfect fine. U cna install Linux on it and use it just as good.

765 . (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 years ago | (#10475753)

Its a ibm 765L, and while not 'new', its still more then enough to run freebsd: a 133mhz, 80mb ram, with 1024x768 resolution.. Docking station.. etc..

Still quite useable as an average productivity machine......

A few hints (not sure how many apply to a Sharp) (1)

phorm (591458) | about 10 years ago | (#10469926)

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.

Interface voltages (1)

ToUnderstand (820230) | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Get off the Stage! (1)

james11111 (804249) | about 10 years ago | (#10471513)

Why is this in /. . Get a book i=on hardware (A+ course book, Upgrading and reparing laptops etc.

Be careful with the screws, have the right tools (1)

Nonesuch (90847) | about 10 years ago | (#10472093)

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.

Do yourself a favor... (2, Informative)

davidsyes (765062) | about 10 years ago | (#10472989)

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 several, so use Google or something to find them, or go to WWW.LINUX.ORG , at least and THEN diligently seek and buy ONLY a laptop that is power/CPU friendly to Linux/BSD/etc.

It's useful at times to have TWO PCMCIA slots if you have such a modem AND require an additional NIC and don't want to use USB-based devices or USB-based device aren't available or just cost too much.

Try to find a laptop with at LEAST 1 serial in addition to the parallel.

It's not often necessary to get multiple (3 or more) USB ports unless you despise the accessories needed to expand. On the other hand, if you like redundancy (in case you damage your sole USB port via heavy usage), get at least two, or look for extension devices.

DON'T discard or leave behind your PCMCIA dummy inserts. Depending on your laptop's design, you may need them for cooling efficiency so the fan does what it's supposed to do. Besides, if you're around drinks, you want to reduce the opportunity for spills to splash inside, especially soda or coffee. Even if your box doesn't short or fry, why encourage pests to take up a home inside. (I once disassembled my OWN Vaio while it was energized. I dropped a screw and it promptly shut down my laptop as the screw was almost welded to the MoBoard. Fortunately, the LT didn't die...)

As for what to strongly consider when buying a laptop, look for:

-- side-removable HDD.

-- CRT connector in the BACK (why on Earth do they put this connector on the side on some laptops? It just consumes disk space that interferes with a user whose primary hand happens to be on the CRD pin side

--Look for a SIDE-removable DVD or Floppy bay if you travel and have space in your seat to remove and reinsert media; otherwise, get a chest-side removal-featured laptop if your desk or home space is very tight, or you commute in a small car

--Look for manual dials for LCD brightness if your Linux distro is fighting with (SONY!!!! at least with my model) brightness and contrast settings

-- Look for manual dials for volume controls (SONY!!!!) to adjust your music/movies or system audio

-- Look for one that has as slim as possible a power supply brick as you can get; the smaller the better because you then have more backpack or carry case options, in addition to weight-savings benefits

-- Look for a laptop that is easy to clean, has sturdy and yet flexible/soft/responsive keys. You never know when you want to resell the thing, so getting one that's easy to maintain and keep clean will pay rewards.

Also, for the "slobs", it helps keep the thing clean. I can't count how many times I see hair-filled, booger-stuck-on, dandruffed/acne-plastered mice and keyboards and speaker grilles. Makes ME want to put on surgical gloves or not touch the box at all.

Also, TEST the store-display/demo laptop if it is on, by feeling underneath. If it is off, turn it on and run some graphics, or the screen saver at the most intense settings you can push, and then let it go on for several minutes. If it is possible, lift it and put the inside of your hand under there and test for heat. Since you likely can't put it in your lap until you get home, then place the back of your hand there and determine how much of that heat you can handle. (Be careful since some models can run hot as hell, but go unnoticed by unsuspecting consumers, and non-forthcoming sales people!)


I bought a Rack Gear backpack for $70. The line was subsequently bought up by Targus and then KILLED OFF. It seems they and SONY both benefit, as the best features of the Rack Gear bag are now labelled with those two names, but they dispensed with the book/notes rack inside. I use my rack, since it lets me organize things. Fully loaded, I've marched, ahem, walked 14 miles (from 1245 AM to 0515 AM) from Mountain View (El Camino & Castro) to San Jose (Winchester & Stevens Creek) once with some 28 to 32 pounds of laptop, accessories, paper, a 5-or 6-plug surge strip and thick 6-foot cable by Fellowes on once side, and my toiletries (toothpaste, brush, mouthwash, toilet seat covers, and other things) on the other side, and such inside it. The worst part of the walk was my shoes, but that RACK GEAR bag was not too uncomfortable. A military friend of mine said that much weight on my 150-lb body frame, in the context of that walk on concrete would more than be sufficient to meet some beyond-normal fitness tests...

Depending on my needs, I can remove some papers or a book and insert my pair of 2-inch thick add-on speakers, the audio converter wire, a small 5-port switch, two 5-foot lengths of Cat-5, 2 or 3 thinwire RJ-45-wired pieces, it's OWN power supply, in addition to the screw drivers and tools. I basically have a 35-lb computer office on my back. Why the hell? I felt I needed a laptop to show the SBA/SCORE my business plan spreadsheets in action rather than on paper. I also stuck inside the bag my Canon BJC-85, 2 or 4 spare or redundant laptop disks, the PCMCIA adaptor for them, and some floppies as well, plus several CDs/DVDs of Mandrake. Yep, talk about ROAD WARRIOR. AND, on the strap side, where the laptop is padded and against my back, there is a section to stick yet MORE paper, between the LT and the racked area of the backpack. I've only seen maybe 3 in use, one in Oregon and maybe 2 in Calif.

The DOWNside of this pack is if you use yours like I do mine, the shelf feet will, after a year of lifting/dragging on bus floors and running to chase buses, wear out the leather bottom. Had I considered this failure point/mode, I'd have placed a thin sheet of plastic, metal or cardboard under them to preserve it. The zippers are tough, and the threadwork is nice and snowing virtually no abuse. But, to have the bottom reworked might cost $30 or more. It's a nice bag, but when dressed up in office attire, one can look somewhat "out of place". One of my friends saw me and asked (disparingly or snidely):

"Goddam, man! What the HELL's IN there?! You look like a BACK-PACK-BOMBER!"

So, now, being a bit self-conscious about that snide remark, I've been for 2 years discriminatingly waiting for another product as nice as RackGear, not a Targus, and not one STUPIDLY BRANDED with "STEAL ME! LAPTOP INSIDE". My current one looks too military from some angles, but the nice thing is the zipper handles have holes JUST large enough that I can use two small (theft/rummage-deterring, but not theft-preventative) locks.

I am sure there are things not mentioned, in this TOME, but...hopefully this spells out some risks and gives some ideas at the same time.

It's not so bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#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.

Yeah, and Here's another Question... (1)

Madcapjack (635982) | about 10 years ago | (#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?

Re:Yeah, and Here's another Question... (1)

Ashtead (654610) | about 10 years ago | (#10478058)

I've had good results with using a 2.5inch-to 3.5inch harddrive adapter, which allows me to plug the laptop drive into a standard IDE bus on a desktop computer, and then accessing the file systems on it from Linux there. It is likely that Windows would be able to do this as well, depends on the file system, but chances are that yours holds one of the FAT variants, and these will be easily readable from Windows.

Re:Yeah, and Here's another Question... (1)

Madcapjack (635982) | about 10 years ago | (#10479908)

Thanks. I had forgot to mention that my old computer was running Win 98, and I'm on XP Pro now.

IBM has repair manuals on the web... (1)

aquarian (134728) | about 10 years ago | (#10476541)

...such as this one for my T20:

62p9631.pdf []

Other laptop makers make them available too.

PowerBook harddrive replacement (1)

brad_f (55421) | about 10 years ago | (#10479459)

Here's some pictures [] of the harddrive being replaced in a Titanium PowerBook.
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