This handy guide will teach you how to upgrade all of the major user-serviceable components of the Alienware 17 R5, including its memory, 2.5-inch bays, and mSATA slot.
Before You Begin
- Unplug the notebook: Shut down the notebook completely and disconnect it from AC power.
- Find a clean working area: Clear off a table, bar or other hard, flat surface to work on your notebook. You should have at least four times the surface area of the Alienware 17 available. The area should be indoors and well-lit.
- Required tools: a small Phillips-head screwdriver (magnetized recommended), a small tray/container for screws (multi-compartment recommended), and a clean towel large enough to cover the Alienware 17.
Disclaimer: This DIY is meant as a guide only; the steps listed apply only to the Alienware M17 R5. Follow this DIY at your own risk; NotebookReview.com takes zero responsibility for any damage caused to your device, including any warranties voided as a result of following this guide.
What this Guide Covers:
We’ll detail how to upgrade the following components in the Alienware 17 R5:
- Memory (RAM) – all four slots, including those under the keyboard
- Storage – both available 2.5-inch drive bays
- mSATA SSD slot
It’s necessary to follow these steps prior to following any other part of this guide.
Removing the Bottom Panel
Complete the steps listed in “Before you Begin” prior to following this section. Once you’ve finished them, place a towel on your working area and lay the notebook upside down on top of it with the front facing you. Two screws need to be removed in order for the bottom panel to come off; they are the only two black screws located at the back of the notebook behind the air grates. Use the Phillips-head screwdriver to remove these screws, and place them in the small container so they won’t get lost.
The notebook’s entire bottom panel is one piece; to remove it, grab the corners of the chassis closest to you and wrap your thumbs around the front rubber feet, then apply horizontal pressure and pull towards you; some wiggling may be required. Slide the panel towards you until it stops (just less than a centimeter), then lift it up and remove it. Set this aside.
This image details all of the visible components after removing the Alienware 17’s bottom panel; the battery is the black rectangular object located at the bottom center. This must be removed to reduce the risk of electrical problems when removing some of the other parts.
Grasp the end of the shrink-wrapped section of the battery’s cable with your thumb and forefinger and then pull up gently; some wiggling may be required. Use minimal effort; if this appears to be taking too much effort, use your screwdriver to gently push upward on the white connector on either side (USE CAUTION). Once the cable is disconnected, unscrew the two screws holding the battery (note that these are different from the ones you already removed; separate them in your container if possible). Next, remove the battery by placing your index finger in the cutout where the battery cable lies and pulling it towards yourself. Set the battery aside.
As a precaution, drain excess/leftover electricity from the notebook’s circuits by pressing the power button several times. Be careful when turning the notebook over and opening the lid to do this.
Upgrading the 2.5-inch Storage Drives
One 2.5-inch drive is located in the center of the chassis above the battery compartment and the other is to the right of the battery compartment. Remove the four outermost screws on either drive bay, labeled in this image, to release the drive caddy from the drive bay. Once these screws are removed, remove the drive caddy as follows:
- For the center drive bay, pull the black plastic tab on the right of the caddy to the left; the caddy will budge just a little. Use your finger to lift up the left edge of the caddy and remove it from the chassis at an angle to avoid damaging the drive connector.
- For the bottom-right drive bay, use the cutout at the bottom right of the caddy as leverage for your finger; gently pull upward and then remove the drive at an angle.
Four screws hold the storage drive in its caddy. Prior to removing them, pay attention to how the drive is oriented in the caddy because your new one must be oriented in the same way (the drive pins’ positions are particularly important). As a general rule of thumb, the drive’s manufacturer label will always be visible when the drive is seated in the caddy.
After installing your replacement drive in the caddy (secured with its four screws), reinstall the caddy into its slot at an angle. Be careful when doing this; the drive must match up exactly with the slots. No significant pressure is required to make this happen; if it seems resistant, back out and double-check the orientation of the pins. Finally, replace the four screws to secure the caddy once it’s in its bay.
The Alienware 17 has four total memory slots; these are the first two. The others, as well as the mSATA SSD, are located under the keyboard, which is described in the next section.
Note: The top memory module must be removed in order to access the bottom module.
Note: It’s recommended to install memory modules in identical pairs for compatibility and performance reasons.
Using your thumbs, push the retaining clips on either side of the memory module apart; this will cause the memory module to pop upward and sit at about a 30 degree angle. Remove the memory module by gripping either side of it with your thumb and forefinger and pulling directly outward along the angle it’s oriented. Avoid touching the gold pins on the bottom of the memory module after removing this because doing so can hamper functionality and/or damage the pins.
Reinstalling a memory module is the opposite. Pay attention to the notch at the bottom of the memory module where the gold pins are; this will only allow the memory module to be inserted in one way. Grasp the memory module on either side with your thumb and forefinger and slide it into the slot on its 30-degree angle. The bottom memory module must be installed first. Once fully inserted (the gold pins shouldn’t be visible), push the memory module downward so it’s horizontal; the retaining clips will click into place.
We recommend following our thorough Notebook Memory Upgrade Guide for additional tips and tricks on how to ensure your memory is installed correctly.
This part of the guide is recommended for experienced users only; it requires removing a great deal of screws and taking the notebook completely apart with a much greater risk of permanent damage.
First, follow the directions in the “Upgrading the 2.5-inch Storage Drives” section of this guide to remove both storage drives (the caddy must be removed even if the second bay has no drive).
Remove the optical drive situated in the bottom left of the chassis; unscrew the four screws holding it in place and then carefully remove its connecting cable from where it’s routed in the top of the optical drive. After that, gently remove the optical drive by lifting up either the bottom or top edge but only move it far enough that you can detach its connecting cable on the optical drive’s lower right; grasp and pull directly outward. This should require minimal effort. Set the optical drive aside.
A white cable is under where the optical drive was; this is the connector for the keyboard and touchpad. This must be gently removed before proceeding; flip up the connector where the white cable enters the slot and then pull the cable straight back (horizontal with the chassis).
The other screws that must be removed are indicated in this image; unscrew and set aside. Note that any screw labeled “P” indicates “palm rest” and must be removed. This image also indicates any screws that are longer than the others with the letter “L.” If you don’t have a magnetized screwdriver, you may have to turn the notebook upside down in order for the screw to fall out; we recommend you only remove one screw at a time if you have to do this. Otherwise, many may fall out and get lost.
Great care is required for this next part. Once all the screws above have been removed, reorient the notebook so it’s still upside down but with its back is facing you. Press the spot indicated in this image with your thumb until the first clip comes undone (it will pop).
After the first clip pops, turn the notebook upside down so it’s facing upward as you would normally use it. Continuing to press in from the center on the indicated spot, and keep gently pressing as more clips come out which are holding in the top of the chassis. Slide your finger in between the top and bottom of the chassis as necessary to ease this process.
Note: If the clips are NOT coming apart with relative ease, RECHECK and ensure all of the screws are removed. You can severely damage the notebook if you use excessive pressure.
Once the top of the chassis pops free, DO NOT lift it away, instead, look inside towards the back right where a narrow white cable connector resides. Gently pull this out of its connector. You can then completely remove the top of the chassis and set it aside.
This image displays the locations of the two memory module slots and the mSATA slot.
The two memory modules are located in the middle, centered to the left; the removal and installation process for memory modules is the same as described earlier in this guide.
The mSATA slot is located at the bottom left; installation for this is similar to a memory module. Pay attention to how the pins are oriented on your mSATA drive; they must line up with the connector on the motherboard.
Putting the Alienware 17 Back Together
This is generally the reverse of the process described above. If you took the chassis apart completely to access the parts under the keyboard, be absolutely sure to connect the white cable at the back right before snapping in the top of the chassis. If you look closely at where it connects, a small white hinge on the front of it flips upwards; insert the white cable’s connector and then snap the white hinge closed. When snapping the top of the chassis back into the bottom of the chassis, start at the back of the notebook and work your way towards the front. Take great care to ensure the clips are lined up. There shouldn’t be any gaps between the top and bottom of the chassis when complete.
Do the following to finish putting the Alienware 17 back together:
- Use the image referenced in the last section to identify where to use the longer screws. The longer screws go in holes labeled with 2.5XL8 (8 stands for 8mm); the smaller screws go in holes labeled 2.5XL3 (3mm). You can cause severe damage by using the 8mm screws in holes designed for 3mm screws. Absolutely make sure the four screws that go in under the optical drive are the smaller 3mm ones!
- Replace the two 2.5-inch storage caddies in their respective bays as described in the “Upgrading the 2.5-inch Storage Drives” section of this guide.
- Replace the optical drive; route the cable through the slots in the top of the metal caddy first and then connect it to the bottom right of the optical drive. Secure the caddy back into the chassis, taking note of where the cable is at all times (it should not get squashed under the caddy).
- Replace the battery; secure it with the screws first and then insert its connector into the slot.
- Ensure that you have no leftover screws.
- Close the chassis; place the bottom cover on the chassis and slide it forward, then replace the two screws that hold it in place.
- Plug the Alienware 17 into AC power and verify it starts normally. If you replaced the primary storage drive, you’ll need to reinstall the operating system. If the notebook doesn’t start, see the note at the beginning of this section about inserting the thin white cable into its slot before replacing the top cover of the chassis (assuming you took the notebook fully apart). If the keyboard and touchpad don’t work, see the note earlier in this section about reconnecting the cable under where the optical drive resides; this is in all likelihood the reason.
We described the upgrade process for the Alienware 17 R5’s memory and storage drives in this article. This included all four memory slots (including the secondary ones under the keyboard), the two 2.5-inch drive bays, and finally the mSATA slot (also under the keyboard). The primary two memory slots and two 2.5-inch bays are the easiest to access and upgrade. We recommend that only advanced users attempt to upgrade the secondary memory slots and mSATA drive.