How do I convert my HP Pavillion laptop's CD/DVD bay to be used as a hard drive ?

Recently while cleaning the fan vent of my HP Pavillion DV4 laptop, I accidentally broke one of the pins on the hard drive connector. Unfortunately in talking to HP, it appears the connector is soldered to motherboard and it needs to be replaced to fix this issue. Laptop is more than 2 years old and the battery capacity is nearly gone, I am not too interested in investing $300 or so to replace the motherboard.

Hard drive itself is working fine ( I am able to put it in an external USB caddy and access from other computers). Is there anyway to continue to use this laptop - for example, will I be able to run windows from the external USB or is there a way to convert the DVD bay into an hard drive bay? I primarily use this laptop (Windows 7, Intel core 2 Duo, 4GB) for Windows Media Center and to watch online videos. No major gaming or productivity software is used.

thank you for the help..
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rindiConnect With a Mentor Commented:
eSATA should be the same as internal SATA. I would try getting an eSATA cable or adapter for your harddisk and just look if it boots normally with the HD attached.
well you can boot your system through usb device...

Hard drive itself is working fine ( I am able to put it in an external USB caddy and access from other computers)

Well i guess you was almost there... Recent mother boards are prepared to boot devices by usb so if you use the external disk in your damaged laptop you can select the boot order to check usb devices first through bios boot up menu or through bios setup. I guess is the best choice still SO will be slower since it will be working through usb... you could try some Ubuntu live cd...
The answer to your question you can't convert a dvd bay in a harddrive bay still you can use dvd to boot some live cd with any open source linux version
Older Dell Laptops used to have special CD bays where you could get inserts for HD's, but those bays had a larger dimension than the CD drive itself has. I don't know of any more modern Laptops that use such a concept. Normally there is just the optical drive with no additional clearance which you can insert. This means that you probably wouldn't be able to fit HD's into that bay because of their height, and so it is highly unlikely that you can get any such CD - HD adapter.

Using USB for your HD is probably also not ideal, as USB 2 is still pretty slow, and when used as a media Center type PC you should have fast HD access. Better would be if you can use a firewire port. But I don't know if you can boot from firewire, and apart from that, whether you use firewire or USB, you'd have to install the OS so it runs properly when using those ports. As you probably only have recovery media and not installation media, you'd have to buy a retail Windows version that can be normally installed, or use a Linux distribution which would be free.

In my point of view the best option would be is to open the case and try to find out whether you or someone close to you with some electronic background can do some special fixing on the connector, then you can probably get a much better price than when you send it to HP. In my point of chances are pretty good that you can repair it this way.

Otherwise the Linux option, or selling it as a parts reservior on ebay is your 2nd best option.
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
Well, I suppose this is possible, though you would have to build an adapter yourself and the work required is precise.  Simpler to buy a used laptop off fleabay or from a local computer recycler.

Parts required (total, about $30):

1.  Dead CD/DVD drive in caddy for the specific laptop model to use as a chassis for the adapter assembly
2.  CD/DVD laptop connector to IDE converter (example)
3.  40-pin to 44-pin IDE converter cable (example)

Tear down the CD/DVD drive caddy and mount the laptop drive.  Carefully mount the CD/DVD to IDE converter so that the laptop connector is in exactly the same position as the original connector.  Run the IDE cable from the converter to the laptop drive.  Bypass the power pins from the CD/IDE converter to the laptop end of the cable.

The end effect is that the hard drive is moved to the secondary IDE controller.
kayyaswaAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all responses.

On the option of booting and using the hard-drive through external USB, I was able to change the boot order and force the system to boot through USB, however, just after "Starting Windows" screen, it goes right back to initial boot screen. As "rindi" says, may have to re-install the OS. Even if I figure all that out, speed seems like will become a major issue, so at this point I will probably not proceed with this option. There is a eSATA port on this laptop, though I wasn't able to find booting from eSATA as an option in the BIOS setup. Not sure if anyone has tried that (this is HP Paviliion DV4t-1300).

I did more research of converting the DVD bay to hard-drive bay. It seems like HP calls this as a "Smartbay" and from what I have read, looks like there is a ready-made caddy available even from HP (about $50) to put in a 2.5" hard-drive to this. See below link:
My only question now is if I don't have the primary hard drive connected, whether I can boot and just use this secondary one as the only hard-drive and run Windows 7 (just want to make sure that this is possible before I order the part from HP). Please let me know if you feel this could be a viable option to proceed.

thank you..
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
Since the system can be booted from a CD/DVD drive installed in the expansion bay, there should be no reason that the system will not boot and run from a hard drive installed in the expansion bay.
kayyaswaAuthor Commented:
Did try connecting through eSATA. It didn't boot. Doesn't seem like it recognizes the eSATA port during boot. May be there might be a BIOS update that might allow me to do?
I wouldn't know. Personally I haven't seen laptops with eSATA port.
kayyaswaConnect With a Mentor Author Commented:
Here is an update on eSATA. I connected the hard-drive from external caddy through eSATA cable to the laptop. While the system didn't boot through this connection, I had a GParted live (Gnome) CD lying around and used that to boot. In the boot menu, there are several options and one of them was "Boot from internal hard drive". I used that and for whatever reason, it automatically recognized the eSATA and booted windows normally and I am back online. Don't see any performance degradation, if anything I am hoping using the hard-drive externally will help in the constant over heating issues I was facing earlier.

I still would like to be able to restart the computer without having to have the Gparted CD everytime. If anyone else has other ideas, let me know.

You'll probably have to use some boot CD to start the bootup if your BIOS doesn't have a direct option, but your options can be other boot CD's than Gparted. One example could be the plop boot manager. This won't make much difference though, except it probably is quicker to get to the proper boot option. If your PC happens to have an internal diskette drive (unlikely though), you can also make a floppy with that tool:

i would use another disk drive on eSata, and try to install the OS on it
that way, you keep the old one, and all your otions to choose if something does not work out
why ? disks are cheap now
kayyaswaAuthor Commented:
Thanks Rindi for suggesting to try the eSATA. That in combination with boot CD like Gparted, I am continuing to use the laptop as a media center as before.

Closing this question out.

thanks all for your responses. Much appreciated.
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