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2.5 inch hard drive in a pci slot

This project started when I was building a slim media centre PC.

I wanted to use a 2.5 inch hard drive to keep the noise level down and to reduce the heat generated inside the PC, since I had a spare PCI slot on the motherboard I thought why not mount the drive sideways on the case bracket, then I remembered that I had see this before back in the Amiga 2000 days, there was a plug in board available for the Amiga 2000 that had an SCSI controller as well as a 3.5 inch hard drive all mounted on a full length card.

So with this idea in mind I set out to make my own PCI card that I could plug into the spare slot on my motherboard.

Using an old PCI card that was not working I removed the bracket and the M3 screws that held it to the PCB, I then used this old board as a template to cut out a blank FR4 copper laminate, I had to etch the board to remove the copper and leave it blank so when plugged into the PCI slot it would not short out the contacts.

I made this new board a little bit taller than the original so the hard drive would not stick out and I could use 4x M3 machine screws to mount the drive from the rear of the board.

The 40 pin IDE to 44 pin adapter I used is a circuit board that plugs into the 2.5 inch hard drive and allows you to run a standard 40 pin IDE cable to the motherboard, you also need to plug a standard power connector into this adapter to supply the +5 Volt power to the hard drive.

This board sticks out quite a bit and I’m not very happy with the look of it but there is another type of adapter (see the photo below) this is a much smaller unit and is only as wide as a standard IDE cable, the power connector is on a flying lead so does not take up any space on the side.

I will replace my IDE adapter with this type when I get the chance.

I have since decided that I will make another unit for use with a small CNC controller PC

You could even have multiple drive cards as long as you have spare PCI slots to mount them in

Another way would be to use an IDE to USB converter board such as is used in low cost 2.5 inch drive enclosures and run a cable to an internal USB connector on the motherboard, with such a unit you would not need to supply the +5 Volt power as this would come via the USB.

I would like to see someone produce a PCI card with the IDE or SATA interface on-board so a 2.5 inch drive could be mounted by the end user with no interface or power cables required, now that would be a neat solution, the retail cost for such a unit should be no more than $20 to $25

I spent some time looking around for my dream product and I did find two items on tomshardware.com page          http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a-hard-disk-a-pci-slot,1061.html  

The two products come from a company called Upgradeware the products are the HD25-I and the HD25-I/IS, the first one is like my homebrew unit in that its just a PCI card that you mount a 2.5 inch hard drive to and plug into your motherboard via a cable, the passive adaptor is built onto the board and power is supplied via the PCI card (Hmmm almost what my dream product should be)

The next unit is the same as the first but this one has a SATA to IDE adapter built onto the board so you connect back to your motherboard using a SATA cable and power is again supplied via the PCI card, SO CLOSE but not there yet, so this got me thinking again.

I have a PCI card that’s an IDE interface, now if I can somehow mount the drive onto this card and then steal +5 Volt power from the PCI slot on the board to supply power to the drive then I will almost have my dream product, it wont need a cable going to the motherboard just a short cable from the card to the drive, I also have the same interface card in SATA so this could be done as well.

The basic Upgradeware IDE adaptor is around $25 US so I might pick one up to play with, since it comes with the adapter built in and includes an IDE cable and hardware it's not to bad, I'm sure I can find it in Taiwan next time I'm there for around $10 and will post it up on this site and let you all know how it goes.

All in all I'm very happy with my homebrew hard drive card it was very easy to build and only took a lazy afternoon to put together, the cost was zero as I had the 40 pin to 44 pin adapter but you can pick this up on eBay for $1.80 AU from Hong Kong with free postage.

                                     Check out the photos below as well as the video

                                                                HAPPY HACKING

This is the non working pci board i used for parts and as a template
you can use an old dial up modem card as they are easy to find

Remove the metal bracket and screws from the old board

This is the board i made just use the original pci board as a template to get the bracket
mounting holes as well as the lower front cutout and the pci keyway notch  in the correct
position, my board is a little taller than the original so the hard drive fits on
remember that the lower part of the board must be etched clean so as not to short out
your motherboard, if you like you can etch the whole board

This is the board with the bracket mounted ready to have the drive fitted

An old 12 gig 2.5 inch laptop hard drive i had and the 44 pin to 40 pin adapter

close up of the adapter i used

hard drive mounted onto the board using 4x M3 machine screws

Adapter ready to be fitted to the board

This adapter sticks out a bit at the rear and above so i wil replace it with the slim adapter
 see the photo further down

rear view

Front view , My bracket has 3 holes because the old pci card had 3 inputs for video
but any bracket will do
 This is the slim 40 pin IDE to 44 pin adapter that i will replace my adapter with, it can be found
          on  Ebay for around $1.80 AU with free postage from hong kong or from computer swap meets
          for about $5 or less.


2.5 inch hard drive in a PCI slot Video

8th June 2010

Just an update to the PCI card hard drive project


Last week a friends Compaq laptop died, the motherboard had failed so it was end of life for this 4 year old machine.

I gave the tragic news to the laptops father and proceeded to remove the hard drive in an attempt to recover some data and photos.


The drive is a 2.5 inch SATA interface unit with a capacity of 80GB, I hooked up the drive to a PC using a combo SATA / IDE / IDE44 to USB 2.0 cable interface and found the items I was after then burned onto a DVD.


I handed the DVD over to my friend along with the dead laptop, as he had no use for the parts he said just erase the hard drive and it’s yours.


So Now I had this 2.5 inch 80GB Fujitsu SATA drive   Hmmmm what to do

Just the right item to use in my PCI slot hard drive project, Fujitsu has now sold their hard drive division to Toshiba so from now on you won’t see the Fujitsu name on drives.


This PCI slot drive will be used in my PCTV recorder, now 80GB does not sound like much but all there will be on the drive is a cut down version of windows XP the digital TV card driver and a recording utility from Compro.

The Compro card has analog and digital tuners and comes with some nice media software and a remote control, the PCTV will be used to do time shifting so you can pause live TV and also do some recording from the EPG so the 80GB drive will give me around 30 hours of SD recording, good enough for a machine that costs nothing as its all made of spare and left over parts.


If your motherboard has built in SATA then all you need to do is plug in the data and power cable, mine does not have SATA so I used an IDE to SATA interface board I had and this worked out just fine, there is one thing I don’t understand about SATA, when they came up with the idea to make a new interface to replace the old IDE what brain dead engineer said oh lets use two cables, a large multi pin one for the power and another one for the data    AHHH   was there not anyone around to say hey lets save money and make a single cable to supply data and power as does USB and 1394.


Below I have included some photos, this is not the final PC case as it will all go into a Micro ATX desktop case and fit under the TV.   Click on the photos to enlarge.

   The Fujitsu SATA drive mounted onto my PCI slot card along with a   standard to SATA power cord and a SATA data cable

I have trimmed the back part of the board flush with the drive
so the data and power connectors sit flat, while I was at it I also trimmed
the top of the board flush with the drive


shown with the data and power cables connected, if the rear of the board is not flush with the drive the connectors are a tight fit and wont make good contact.

The IDE to SATA interface, about $3.50 with postage from china

This is the 2.5 inch drive mounted in its PCI slot
the end card is the Compro TV board
then the 80GB SATA drive show without it's power and data cables
next to that is a PCI wifi card so i can watch YouTube videos
and finaly an old AGP video card to give the DVI output to the TV

I hooked it all up and it works great, the little SATA drive chugs along and records the digital transport stream just fine using less than 20% cpu

the 2.5 inch drive makes no noise and uses only 3 watts of power so is just right for the job

UPDATE May 2011,       The PCI hard drive card has gone so well that I forgot I had it, it has been working well and makes no noise, 2.5" drives are the way to go now unless you need the super big storage capacity of 3.5" so when a few 2.5" drives came my way I just had to make some more PCI hard drive cards.
One of the drives is a 40 Gig Hitachi SATA from a friend who wanted to upgrade his drive in his Playstation so after we replaced his drive with a 500 Gig monster this 40 Gig unit was mine to play with.
I know 40 Gig does not sound like much but I already knew what I wanted to do with it and it was just right for my needs.
I wanted to setup a stand alone internal drive that would hold an Image of my Windows 7 PC drive, I setup the Windows 7 backup utility to backup the Image once a week and just write over the old backup, this took up around 20 gig so the 40 gig drive was just right for the job.
I backup my data on an external drive and take it away for safe storage so all this 40 Gig drive is used for is to save the windows 7 image with all it's updates and drivers and allows you to restore the image if anything goes wrong.

Here are some photos of version 1.2 of my PCI hard drive card, Tha board is a little smaller as I had to make 2 units from a 100mm x 160mm Blank PCB, this makes the drive stick out the back a bit but is not a problem at all.
for the metal bracket I used a couple of old dial up cards.

Also check out the You tube video "Using end of life laptop parts"