Optical media has been around for the better part of 30 years; it’s been steadily moving into obsolescence due to proliferation of high speed Internet – just imagine trying to download a game or DVD movie on the 56k dial-up connections of years past! Computer makers have recognized this trend; the optical drive is being left out of some modern computers such as low-profile Ultrabooks. This trend represents a small percentage of the notebook market however; the majority of notebooks sold still include an optical drive (usually a DVD burner).
How a Storage Drive can work in the Optical Bay
Optical drives connect to the computer in the same fashion as the storage drive; therefore, a storage drive can use the same connection. Most notebooks produce in the last five years utilize a Serial ATA (SATA) connection for the optical drive. The alternative is an older Parallel ATA (PATA) connection – we’ll talk about what your notebook has later on in this DIY guide.
- This DIY is meant to be a guide only; the steps are ambiguous to apply to the largest number of notebooks. In other words, the steps listed here are not step-by-step for any notebook in particular.
- Follow this DIY at your own risk; NotebookReview.com takes zero responsibility for any damage caused.
Two items are needed to make this conversion happen: a storage drive of your choice, and an optical bay “caddy” to hold the drive. Our first task is to figure out the specifications of the optical bay caddy we need.
The logical way to figure out what kind of optical bay caddy is appropriate for your notebook is find the make and model of your optical drive; this can be accomplished by looking at the Device Manager within Windows:
- Open the Run menu by pressing [Windows Key] + [R]
- Type devmgmt.msc
- Press [Enter]
- Expand the section ‘DVD/CD-ROM Drives’ by clicking the arrow icon next to it:
- The name you see there serves as the make and model; you’re best off searching the Internet or asking in our forums to identify:
- The height of the drive (9.5mm or 12.7mm)
- The type of connection – either SATA or PATA
This is the SATA connection on the end of my optical drive:
eBay is a good place to start looking for a caddy: for example, search for ‘12.7mm SATA optical drive caddy.’
Use the Hard Drive or SSD of Your Choice
This decision more or less boils down to how much storage you want/need. If your computer’s 250GB hard drive is almost full, then plan on buying a drive at least 250GB in size. I typically buy drives with two to three times the capacity I need to accommodate my future storage requirements.
You can use both hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) in the optical bay caddy. See our SSD Upgrade Guide for a technical explanation of the difference between an HDD and an SSD, and which one is right for you.
The first specification to make sure of when buying a storage drive is that it has a SATA connection – nearly every consumer drive sold today is SATA, but double-check the product’s description to make sure.
The second specification to watch for is the height of the storage drive. The optical drive caddy you purchase may be limited to housing 9.5mm height drives or less. The 12.7mm height caddies usually accept 12.5mm drives, but double-check the caddy’s product description to be sure.
1. Install the Storage Drive in the Caddy
The installation’s first step is to install your storage drive in the caddy. In my case, it was a matter of lining up the storage drive with the connectors and securing the drive within the caddy with the four included screws.
Notice here how I’m lining up the drive’s connector with the caddy’s connector carefully. Don’t force anything; it only goes one way.
Note that your caddy may not have a faceplate that matches your notebook’s existing optical drive – we’re going to transfer that in the next section.
2. Remove the Optical Drive from the Notebook
Let’s take some safety precautions first; in order:
- Unplug the notebook
- Remove the notebook’s battery
- Hold down the notebook’s power button for a couple of seconds to drain any excess electricity
This process can vary; most notebooks will have a process similar to what is shown below. There will likely be a screw in the bottom of the notebook located underneath where the optical drive sits. Remove the screw and leverage the optical drive out. As always, don’t use unusual force. A little wiggling may be involved. Ask in our forums if you need help.
3. Transfer the Faceplates
Now that you have the optical drive out of the notebook, it’s time to transfer the faceplate to the storage drive caddy. There should be plastic tabs on either side of the optical drive’s faceplate you can press in to remove the faceplate; reverse the process to install it on your storage drive caddy.
4. Install the Storage Drive Caddy
This is going to be the reverse of the process to remove the optical drive; slide the storage drive caddy in and replace the screw. Then reinstall the battery, plug the notebook in and start it up.
5. Verify the Computer Sees the Drive
Your newly installed storage drive may not show up in ‘My Computer’ right away, especially if it’s a brand new drive. This is probably because the drive isn’t yet formatted and/or partitioned. Perform the following to format and partition a new storage drive using the Microsoft Disk Management Console:
You should see your new drive listed here; right-click on the drive and select the ‘New Simple Volume’ option; this will launch the New Simple Volume Wizard, which will guide you through the process of making the drive usable. Microsoft has a walkthrough of this process here.
Utilizing the optical drive bay in your notebook can help you add more storage space to your notebook, which you would otherwise have to do via an external storage device or Cloud/Internet storage. More importantly, it can increase the usable life of your PC – instead of having to lug around a DVD burner you likely don’t use very much, you can install a super quick SSD for your operating system, and keep your bigger hard drive around for storing large amounts of data.