Upgrading Your Laptop Optical Drive
Upgrading Your Laptop Optical Drive – Introduction
Thinking of upgrading your laptop optical drive?
Does your notebook or laptop PC need a little boost in the optical drive department?
Maybe you want to be able to burn DVDs and CDs and your laptop optical drive is a read only type?
Do you want to be able to watch HD movies and need a Blu-ray optical drive?
The laptop PC has been with us for a number of years now and started out without any form of optical drive, then moved on to a CD-ROM drive and now the latest models boast Blu-ray and HD capability!
There are lots of you out there who would like to upgrade your laptop optical drive and this guide will show you how.
A DVD writer is a must on a laptop or notebook for backing up your precious data or maybe for business users to transfer data to give to prospective customers etc.
With a DVD-ROM you can watch films on your laptop and a Blu-ray ROM will let you watch them in High Definition – a DVD or Blu-ray writer will let you burn your own!
So, you want to upgrade your laptop optical drive but you’re not sure how to or even if you can?
Don’t worry, there are lots of ways to add or change your optical drive.
You could add an external optical drive for instance that connects to your laptop or notebooks USB or Firewire port.
Better still, many laptops will allow you to fit a new optical drive as they mostly conform to a common standard allowing you to simply swap your old drive for a new one with better capabilities – much better, no extra boxes and cable to lug around with you :)
Upgrading Your Laptop Optical Drive – Choosing a Drive
Now, not any old drive will fit – you will need to do a little bit of research here to determine whether you can swap out your old drive and what type you would need to replace it with.
Laptops have many methods for holding the optical drive in place – some use rails attached to the side of the drive and some use a special removable tray to hold the drive.
You will need to remove your old drive and check the mounting method used and the shape, dimensions etc to determine whether or not you can replace your drive with a replacement drive.
Note that some manufacturers of laptops only allow certain drives to be fitted but you may be able to get around this with a BIOS update for instance.
Pay special attention to the drive to rail and / or enclosure fixing points and check that the drive you are intending on buying has matching mounting holes.
Check the drive interface – most will have a 50 pin slim-line PATA type fitted but some may use a different format of interface so check carefully.
Some may use an adapter like the one detailed in the next section to interface between the drive connector and your laptop internal connector.
You will also need to confirm that the fascia will be transferable to your new drive. These are usually clip on and again you will need to check that the fascia will fit your new drive and whether the eject button is in the same place.
You could just remove the fascia but its not going to look pretty!
What type of drive will you be looking to replace your old drive with? You’ll probably be looking at upgrading to a DVD writer unless you have a very powerful laptop with good graphics capability which will allow you to use a Blu-ray optical drive. Expensive though!
Upgrading Your Laptop Optical Drive – Fitting Your New Drive
Fitment of a new laptop optical drive should generally be very easy for anyone happy to use a screwdriver and follow a few simple instructions.
Windows XP (With Service Pack 2 installed), Windows Vista and Windows 7 should automatically detect a new optical drive but older versions of Windows such as Windows 95 and Windows 98 may not.
You may need to install drivers and these will require installation prior to fitting your new drive.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and install the drivers first unless instructed otherwise.
This is also the time to install any disc burning and playback software such as Nero and Power DVD etc.
Remember to remove any discs from your drive, power down your laptop and then remove the AC adapter power and laptop battery pack.
Now, time to remove the old drive.
Again, check the laptop manual or visit the manufacturers’ website for details of removal.
Most will fix the drive in place using a couple of screws at the underside front lip of the fascia.
Place your laptop upside down on a soft surface covered table top and locate the screws holding the laptop optical drive in situ – place them carefully to one side where you won’t lose them.
You should now be able to slide the optical drive out of your laptop – note that there may be a small catch to slide to allow release of the drive caddy.
Once removed you will need to examine the drive to see if you can remove the drive enclosure – note this will invalidate any warranty that you may have left for your laptop!
The drive enclosure is sometimes simply clipped into place around the drive or it may be held in place by screws or a combination of both.
You need to take great care when removing the enclosure as you will need to reuse it for your new optical drive.
Note that some drives may have an adapter fitted like the one shown below. You will need to replace this carefully onto your replacement drive during fitment noting carefully the pin alignment.
The optical drive fascia must also be removed for use with your new optical drive – these are made from quite thin plastic and easily damaged so take care when removing – prise off very carefully and set to one side for later.
Fitting your new drive will be a simple reversal of the above process.
Your old drive fascia must be checked first to see if the layout matches your new drive.
Next attach the old drives side rail mounts and / or tray enclosure ensuring that you line up the rail mounts exactly as they were for your old drive.
Now slide your drive back into the laptop housing and replace any locking screws etc.
Refit your battery pack and you should now be all set to go.
Upon boot up enter your laptops BIOS and confirm that you drive is recognised.
When powering up for the first time, Windows should automatically assign a drive letter and you will be able to see your drive listed in ‘My Computer’.
If your laptop doesn’t recognise your new drive make sure that you have installed the necessary drivers etc. This should usually be done prior to fitment of your new drive but check the manufactures instructions to confirm.
Congratulations! You should now be up and running and all set to burn your first DVD or perhaps watch a Blu-ray movie or two :)
Return from Upgrading Your Laptop Optical Drive to PC Tips and Tricks homepage