Part 3 of Upgrading a Dell Inspiron 1150 Laptop

This is part three of a four part (part 1, part 2, part 4) post on upgrading my Dell Inspiron 1150 laptop to get better performance out of the admittedly cheap affordable, bottom-of-the-line PC. In today’s post, I will describe how to remove the old drive and install the new Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 7,200 rpm 2.5 inch drive.

Dell HD Drive CoverRemoving the hard drive requires removing two screws that hold the cover of the PCMCIA slot. Attached to the cover is the drive tray and drive itself. But first, remember to read and understand all directions posted in your manual. This includes removing the battery to reduce the possibility of electrical damage to existing components and properly grounding yourself before touching anything.

Dell drive adapterThe drive slid out without problems but I noticed the connectors at the back of the drive was not the same as the new one! At this point, I panicked. Clearly, the new drive was not going to work. That is, until I took a close look at the old drive, which by the way is identified by Dell as an IBM but is actually also a Hitachi Travelstar, and noticed that there seemed to be an adapter (Thank you to Darron Marks for sending the photo.). I was able to *_carefully_* pry one end of the adapter and then the other end and finally lift the adapter off of the old drive. I then removed the four screws holding the old drive to the drive tray and removed the old drive. Using the same screws and drive tray, I inserted the new drive and placed the adapter on the pins of the new drive. The drive and tray slid easily back into the laptop and I secured everything with the two screws removed earlier and replaced the battery.

A short note about the Hitachi drive. I chose to use that drive because that’s what Dell used and because it was cheaper than the comparable Seagate. That does not mean you shouldn’t instead get the Seagate because, I think, it is a very good drive. You choose. Now back to the install.

With that, I was ready to boot up and insert the Windows Vista DVD. How that went is a post for another day. For now, I wanted to talk about a comment Sjon left regarding the old drive and when or if you should wipe it clean:

<snip>I would always first install and test the new drive before clearing the old one (I have had a couple of
new drives fail on first booting).

He is right, I should have waited until the new drive was in and operational before wiping the old drive as anything can happen. As it turned out it didn’t matter, but had I had problems with the new drive, I still could have reinstalled the old one and used my backup CDs to reinstall the data. But that would have taken a lot more time and effort than just reinstalling the old drive. So I agree with Sjon that you should wait until the new drive is in before deleting anything. This, however, begs the question of how to wipe the drive once you are ready to do that. Read below for the solution.

But first, that does not mean you don’t have to or should not do a backup of the drive before you remove it. I think for safety’s sake, a good backup is the best way to go, along with not wiping the drive until later.

Now, I had actually thought about using my old drive in an external USB case as a kind of large portable floppy disk. But I thought that would be too expensive (I seemed to recall that the cost of external cases were in the $100USD range). So, at first, I didn’t try this. But after getting Sjon’s comment, and realizing it would be difficult to wipe the drive once I’d removed it without reinstalling it somehow. I looked into the actual cost and found one at CompUSA for about $20. This seemed reasonable to me so I got one. For $20, you should not expect much and not much is what you get. But it works.[UPDATE: No it doesn’t. Both Windows XP and Xandros Linux recognize that the drive has been attached, but neither is able to access it. I don’t know why but cannot recommend this enclosure.]

[UPDATE 2: Well, the problem appears to be the drive itself. Perhaps it got damaged when I removed it or maybe it was already ready to go and I changed it just in time. In any event, the external case works, it’s the drive that didn’t.]

So, what I could have done in the beginning was do a backup of all my data but not wipe the drive and instead install it in the external case. I then could have installed the new drive and then transfered the contents of the data partition to the new drive via USB, then wiped the drive. Of course, my old laptop doesn’t have USB 2.0 so the transfer would be a little slow, but it would still be more convenient.

The bottom line so far is that the new drive and memory has really brought this old laptop back to life. Everything is faster now. For program loading, it is *_much_* faster. It used to take almost a minute for Firefox to load. Now it almost snaps instantaneously to the screen. Although the great majority of the speed increase is from the faster hard drive, adding the memory also helped.

The down side is that battery run time may go down since the new drive may be consuming more power. But even if this is true, and with advances in electronics and drive mechanisms it might not make that much of a difference, the speed increase is worth it to me. YMMV. Insert disclaimer here.

Part 4 will cover the installation of Microsoft Vista Home Basic and how to install the CompUSA external USB hard drive case. Stay tuned.



8 responses to “Part 3 of Upgrading a Dell Inspiron 1150 Laptop

  1. I found your blog very informative. I just purchased a Dell 1150 on ebay for $455. It is a 2.2 GHZ Intel P4 with 512 of Ram with a 30GB HD. It comes with XP Proffesional. I will wait to see how it runs before I upgrade but your information will help. Have you had any overheating problems or the AC Adapter not stayin plugged in?

  2. Thank you very much for this article! I followed everything you said in this part yesterday night (both RAM and HDD upgrades). It worked first time for me… though I had a bit of trouble trying to get one screw out of the casing for the HDD. All is well now and Windows XP Pro has been reinstalled and working properly. Will try installing Vista one day this week….

    Before I found your article I had already purchased the Hitachi drive 🙂 I’ve noticed a real difference in speed (I had tested the RAM upgrade on its own and there was a real difference in responsiveness).

    Once again, thank you.

  3. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I was about 2 seconds away from returning my hard drive when I read your sentence about the adapter. You saved a lot of time and money. I appreciate your article.

  4. hey, just wanted to let you know
    with the drive in an external enclosure, you may have to set it as active within windows.
    # Click on the Start Button and right click on Computer and select Manage.
    # Expand the Storage section and select Disk Management.
    from there you should see the drive, marked as innactive or offline
    right click on the drive and see if it can be set to active or on line
    then it should be accessible from programs, as well as my computer
    **If any of theses steps don’t work, my appologies
    I had the exact same problem under xp (hard drive in an external enclosure)
    This worked on XP, but may be a complete load of crap for a VISTA system
    good luck, though

    PS, I actually did that on an 1150, and had the same memory problems you described
    I refuse to upgrade it to VISTA, because I still have nightmares from upgrading it to XP SP2

  5. Nice info, my HDD crashed two days ago, because I use to give the laptop 12 to 15 hours of use per day, (with a fan cooler of course) now I’m gonna try to buy a new HDD.. Thanks,


  6. i was tryna figure out which drive to purchase for my 1150 i guess i’ll give the hitachi a whack at it loll

  7. Thanks for the tips on finding the hard drive on an 1150! I’d already pulled out the pcmcia tray and never spotted that the hard disk was strapped to it!

  8. Dan,
    Attempting to follow your directions on the hard drive I inadvertently bought a Hitachi Travelstar SATA drive. Obviously won’t work. There seem to be a variety of other Hitachi’s:eg ATA/100, ATA/IDE, PATA. Will all of these work?

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