If you ever run out of disk space on your laptop you might have wondered if you could replace your Optical Disc Drive which you rarely use anymore with another HDD. Turns out that of course you can and there are plenty of manufacturers out there who sell kits to do that. One of the most famous in Mac community is the MCE Technologies OptiBay pictured right.
But I live in Estonia and of course I wanted it NOW, so I went out for a little adventure to see if I can fit one of those el cheapo Akasa N.Stor HDD to ODD cases found in local PC store.
For the imatient: yes I can.
The Slim SuperDrive
I went out and bought myself the aforementioned Akasa ODD bay case, but failed to notice that it had markings for both 12.5 and 9.5 mm HDD-s. What this means is, of course, the case itself is 12.5 mm thick, which is 3 mm too much to fit in place of the SuperDrive. So if you can find a 9.5 mm case, your in luck. I had to be a bit more creative, but more on that later.
What’s in the belly
First things first – unscrew your MacBook and take of the bottom. Note, that the bottom is held in place from the center by two clips and at first it seems that you missed some screws. Just gently pull on the bottom cover to release the clips one by one.
Now behold all of the glory inside your MacBook. More precisely pay attention to the Wireless chip that blocks access to ODD. You have to unscrew it (RED arrows) and then you have the option which of the wires to unplug. Either (a) release the antenna wires (GREEN arrows) or the connection ribbon (BLUE arrow). I opted for the antenna, because it seemed a bit less prone to break. (Though later on I learned that the ribbon reattaches a bit easier than the antenna wires, so pick your poison).
Take out SuperDrive
Now you can access the SuperDrive.
First unscrew the 3 screws (marked RED) that hold it in place and then gently pull on the ribbon cable that connects it to the motherboard (marked BLUE) and remove the drive.
If you ever plan to replace the ODD into your MacBook (maybe when you’re selling it off), your are going to need those screws, so better screw them back in now, before they don’t get lost.
UPDATE: After I received my excellent SuperDrive external closure, I found out that I should’ve unscrewed one additional fixing from the SuperDrive. In the above picture, it is the rightmost RED screw holder is itself attached to the SuperDrive with 2 screws. That won’t fit in the external closure, so instead of taping it inside the closure as I did, you could screw it back in the laptop for future use.
The Creative Part
Now we come to the part where I found out that the Akasa N.Stor was 3 mm too thick for the bay. Fortunately, after I dismantled the N.Stor case (BTW, one screw was behind a sticker), it turned out that the additional 3 mm were added with protruding stands that could easily chopped off (or so I hoped).
In the picture the RED arrows point to some of the stands that need to be chopped off. That part was easy – a sharp pocket knife and a steady hand.
The more tricky part was to thin up the inner rectangle. But I found that small wire-cutters followed up by knife and then a file did the job pretty well.
To avoid dust getting into the computer I washed the case thoroughly and then dried it off.
Stuff it in
Fitting the disk with the remains of the N.Store was easy enough but the problem was that the SuperDrive had screw-holes that the N.Store didn’t. So how would I secure the disk in place?
I found in my drawer some pieces of foam that was wrapped around a VGA cable. That looked like something I could use.
The N.Stor did have a plastic piece that was supposed to hold the HDD in place, but it did not seem to do it’s job that good, so I decided to stuff the HDD too from two sides and then fix the whole thing from two adjoining sides so that it was gently pressed against ODD bay walls.
The frame that held Wireless chip proved to be in the ideal position, so I reattached that first and then stuffed foam between that and the N.Stor case. Another roll of foam was put between the case and the DVD slot.
The last piece was the insulator shield from the N.Store that completed the design. Reattach the back cover and you are done. Viola!
I was a bit nervous when booting the Mac up, but everything worked nicely and now I have a bidrive MacBook Pro with SSD and HDD totalling 750 GB storage – should enough for some time.
At the end it cost me 16 € compared to $90 for the OptiBay (35 € even in the aftermarket here). OK, the OptiBay comes with a free USB case for the SuperDrive which I don’t have, but it turns out that I can get one of those for another 10 €, totalling in 26 € for me. And a bit of exitement from accomplishing something myself.