Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

I’ve previously described my reasoning for buying a business laptop like the HP 6910p, http://geekswithblogs.net/twickers/archive/2008/07/08/123643.aspx. I’m now feeling even better about that decision after the latest ‘upgrade’ to my main laptop; adding a second internal hard drive to simplify my use of virtual machines.

The problem

I use virtual machines quite regularly. One major client has a legacy application that requires Visual Studio 2003, which in turn requires Windows XP Professional as an operating system.  My daily operating system has been Windows 7 since the beta was released in January. So I created a virtual Windows XP machine with the data (source code, SQL Server 2000 databases) on a separate virtual drive image (in a ‘neutral’ VHD format).

I have run this XP/ VS2003 image in various host software; Virtual PC, VMWare workstation and VirtualBox. Currently it is running within VMWare Workstation 7 (recently released) and to improve the performance of the virtual machine, I placed both the guest operating system virtual drive image and the data virtual drive image on a separate hard drive to the host operating system.

I used a separate drive, in an external USB 2.0/eSata enclosure from Akasa. This accepts a standard 2.5” notebook drive, allowing both power and data to be handled by a single USB to mini USB cable. 

Using an external drive has it's advantages. It is very portable and you can easily take the drive with you or move it between different systems.  There is, however, one downside.  Using it on public transport, even a train, can be a bit awkward; where do you put that hard drive to stop it getting knocked?  Even at home I have been known to drop it more than once, fortunately when it was powered down, but still not ideal.

The solution

The advantage of the business laptops, like this HP series, is they usually support removable drives. In the case of HP this is called a MultiBay.  This is a simple caddy system for the optical drive, which can quickly be switched for other devices allowing easy upgrading of the optical drive, or placing the optical drive in your docking station and filling the slot with a plastic spacer to shave 150g off the overall weight of the laptop. 

I have been using one of these plastic spacers for the last six months or so, so I definitely knew that for me having a DVD/CD drive was an optional extra.  I have enough USB flash drives and external hard drives that I no longer use optical discs unless archiving.  As long as I have access to an optical drive via the laptop docking station for the odd occasion when I need one, that will do me fine.

One of the available MultiBay items is a simple hard drive caddy, which takes a standard SATA notebook hard drive and places it in a standard MultiBay format.  If you buy it from HP it arrives with a drive already in place, for what I can only describe as an extortionate amount of money.  Fortunately you can pick one up on empty version on eBay for £20, as long as you are prepared to wait a week of two for delivery from Hong Kong.

Well, I received my MultiBay caddy about 10 days ago, and in less than five minutes I had a new hard drive installed in my laptop.  It’s a joy to have an internal drive and no longer have to worry about accidently knocking it while it’s running. In daily use, running my VS2003 development VM, it’s worked beautifully. 

No longer are my host and guest operating systems fighting over access to the hard drive, and both the host and guest are smoother in use as a result.  It is a shame that the MultiBay standard is USB 2.0, so even though the drive is housed internally I don’t get full SATA transfer speeds. The only other minor niggle is that the drive activity does not cause the ‘optical drive LED’ to flash on the front of the laptop. For this you have to check the red LED on the face of the MultiBay itself, but at least you do get a drive use indicator.

Future upgrade

Of course, this has just left me wanting more.  That boot drive is very likely to be replaced by an SSD drive, and with two internal drives available.  Two drives means I can install a smaller (read cheaper) SSD drive for booting and running my development tools and applications.  The old fashioned MultiBay can handle data storage and virtual machine images.   Now all I need are 4Gb SO-DIMMs for a reasonable price so I can upgrade to 8Gb in total ....

The upgrade in images

External Akasa USB 2.0 caddy

This is the Akasa caddy I use for most of my external drives (I have four currently), the cost around £15 including the eSata, USB and ‘USB power’ cables, and can take both PATA and SATA drives.

320Gb SATA 2.5" notebook drive

I removed the 320Gb Western Digital drive from the caddy.

Original optical drive (DVD/CD) from HP 6910p

I removed the optical drive from the laptop. Note how the MultiBay ‘format’ is effectively based on the standard format for a laptop optical drive with a single extra circuit board on the rear to convert the connector to the ‘HP’ standardised connector.

My new empty hard drive MultiBay caddy

This is the £20 hard drive caddy which will slot into the laptop in place of the optical drive ...

Final configuration - hard drive moved into the new MultiBay caddy

... and here is that caddy with the hard drive in place, before slotting back into the laptop.

Print | posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 2:45 AM

Comments on this post

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
What a great solution. I'll be checking out my laptop when it arrives. I too rarely use CD / DVD drives.
Left by Simon on Nov 10, 2009 2:53 AM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
Do you have a HP partnumber for the HD caddy?
Left by Andy on Nov 11, 2009 8:30 PM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
Andy,

I don't have a part number as HP only sell them with a drive in place I think. If you head onto eBay and search for 'Multibay HDD' it is near the top of the list.

I bought it from this seller on eBay,
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=390088879339
Left by Liam Westley on Nov 11, 2009 9:04 PM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
I don't suppose you still have the dvd burner from your HP6910p? If so would you be interested in selling it?
Left by Barbara Gayford on Feb 28, 2010 4:56 AM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
@Barbara Sorry, DVD burner went straight into a docking station multi bay slot so I can do straight disc to disc recording.
Left by Liam Westley on Mar 02, 2010 10:26 AM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
You need to double check if you can install 8GB of RAM.
I remember that 6910p was limited to maximum of 4GB.
Left by Leonid Volnitsky on Dec 19, 2010 10:12 PM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
@Leonid I'm running my 6910p with 8GB of RAM and Windows 7 (64-bit) works perfectly with all the memory.

See http://geekswithblogs.net/twickers/archive/2010/06/01/finally-i-have-my-hp-6910p-laptop-running-with-8gb.aspx#548035 for part number of 4Gb SO-DIMMs I used.
Left by Liam Westley on Dec 19, 2010 10:16 PM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
I have done the same. I do think you are wrong to say (if I have read correctly) that this makes the SATA a USB2 HDD. If you look on the caddy, it says SATA. I have found it to be quicker than the HDD bay and have my only hard drive there as I have 3 caddys and 3 drives I use for different types of work. I cannot say more than that (classified). Also, cannot use more than 1 encrypted drive at a time else the second (not booted from) drive will be corrupted. I agree though that is an excellent solution and the HP equiv part should be cheaper and exclude the HDD. Do think they do this to stop Windows booting from here. Have heard that can't boot windows from the HP multibay HDD version. They are a bit in bed with Microsoft. I got mine from Hong Kong also, a good buy. I also put paper at the back to stop it moving and noise and vibration. Best Regards, Graham.
Left by Graham on Mar 01, 2011 5:08 AM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
Bought also this ceaph cradle to get a second hdd to boot from. But this only works for a few starts, then I get this message: 1792 seconday hdd controller failure - run startup check. When i got this message, it's not possible to get acces to hdd, I must format the hdd before it works again.

Anyone with the same problem? Tried a new Samsung Spinpoint an the original built in Hitachi.

Had the problem with:
- first and second hdd installed
- only second hd installed
- second one installed in primary slot and Win installed from external cd-drive or internal cd-drive and reinstalled in secondary slot
- second hdd installed in secondary slot and Win installed from external cd-drive or internal cd-drive

Tried all possible combinations, but I got very irregular results and many different failures:

- Notebook stucks on start
- lot of bluescreen while starting Win xp from multibay
- "black"screens with failure descriptions

After these failures multibay is no more recongnized in Bios.

But there are no Problems with DVD-Writer in Multibay.

Any suggestions?
Left by Frank on May 11, 2011 7:28 AM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
Is it possible to boot from the Harddrive in the Multibay? I found an entry in a Forum, who says, this is NOT working.

Best regards

Bernd
Left by Bernd polster on Jul 04, 2011 11:40 PM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
@Bernd

Well, I just tried booting off my old HDD placed in the Multibay and it happily booted into both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 - a dual boot drive that used to be in the main drive bay before I replaced it with an SDD main drive.

So not sure why a forum would say it doesn't work. It does for me.

Liam
Left by Liam Westley on Jul 11, 2011 9:36 AM

# re: Installing a second hard drive on my HP 6910p – one step closer to a virtual machine users dream machine

Requesting Gravatar...
i've been trying to install windows off the multibay drive since i don't have a dvd player anymore for my 6910p. however this doesn't work. I've copied the contents of my windows disk to the multibay hdd root and made the partition active in windows. When I try to boot from it it gives an error NTLDR missing... Can anyone confirm if this could work and if not, how i can install windows on my main HD without a dvd but with a usb stick or the 2nd HD in the multibay?

thanks..
Left by epstra on Jul 27, 2011 7:10 AM

Your comment:

 (will show your gravatar)