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IBM Ultrabay Terminology

Discussion in 'Laptops' started by Richard Kaplan, Jan 17, 2004.

  1. I am trying to understand how the IBM Ultrabay technology works.

    If I buy an IBM R50 notebook, are the standard hard drive and CD/DVD
    drive modular or just drives in the Ultrabay?

    If I want to be able to swap a hard drive between two IBM notebooks,
    do I thus need to buy an extra hard drive and the Ultrabay adapter?
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 17, 2004
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  2. Richard Kaplan

    Slashed Zero Guest

    Standard hard drive: 'permanently' fixed. CD/DVD: Ultrabay. So, yes, you do
    need an extra Ultrabay adapter to swap hard drives.

    It's also really not hard to simply take out the harddisk and put it in the
    other Thinkpad (you just need to untighten one screw and pull the hard disk
    out), but IBM advises against this, as the hard disk connector is not made
    for frequent swapping. Swapping hard disks also increases chances of hard
    drive failure and data loss, as hard disks are not meant to be juggled about
    (although laptop hard drives more so than desktop models).
    Slashed Zero, Jan 17, 2004
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  3. Richard

    As far as I know, the main harddrive is always a fixed drive - not an
    ultrabay. The DVD/CDRW's on the other hand are ultrabay devices that can be
    swapped freely. Secondary drives are also ultrabay, and you probably could
    swap it between systems, depending which OS you're running, and what
    filesystem the second HDD is formatted with.. (eg. NTFS, you may have to
    'take ownership' when you swap out the disk to another NT/W2K/XP system...

    Richard Santink, Jan 17, 2004
  4. That might work just fine. The goal is not frequent hard drive
    swapping but rather for me to have a backup plan if my laptop fails
    and I want to use another laptop in my office with my own data while
    my personal laptop is being fixed.

    If I buy an R40 Thinkpad, is the hard drive specific to that model or
    can I swap it with various otehr Thinkpad models as well?
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 18, 2004
  5. What is an ultrabay "adapter"? If I buy a second hard drive do I need
    an adapter to make it work in the ultrabay slot? Do I need an adapter
    only if I want to swap to another Thinkpad?

    Do ultrabay hard drives work in ANY model Thinkpad or only certain
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 18, 2004
  6. Richard Kaplan

    JHEM Guest

    It's a HD holder that allows you to install a _second_ HD in the UltraBay
    slot of your laptop. You wind up with one HD internally and one HD in the

    Yes, you can't just stick it in the bay. The adapter converts the IDE
    connections on the HD to something that can be recognized by the Ultrabay
    connectors and takes the place of your optical drive.
    No, simply remove the original HD from the Thinkpad and install _your_ HD in
    it's place. That's assuming you're swapping HDs between two similar systems,
    e.g. T40 to T41 or R40, and wouldn't result in the OS going crazy looking
    for new drivers for a dis-similar system, e.g. T40 to a 600X.
    I don't understand. The "Ultrabay HD" is just a standard HD in a holder that
    allows it to be installed in the Ultrabay. Barring considerations as to size
    (e.g. 9.5mm vs. 12.5mm thick) you can install _any_ HD internally in a
    Thinkpad or in an Ultrabay adapter.


    JHEM, Jan 18, 2004
  7. Thanks for all the help.

    I am (or will be) new to IBM and instead I am used to Gateway/HP and others
    where hard drives are often unique to a specific model computer.

    Does the Ultrabay adapter truly allow any Thinkpad hard drive to work in any
    other Thinkpad computer as long as you buy an adapter for the new computer?
    That would be terrific and a huge plus compared with the nightmares I have
    had in the past swapping hard drives when one laptop breaks.
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 18, 2004
  8. Richard Kaplan

    JHEM Guest

    No problem.
    Welcome to the fold, you'll find it a different world.
    Well, there are _some_ limitations. You can't put a 12.5mm thick HD in a
    machine that will only accept 9.5mm thick HDs, like the T4xx series. In
    those instances, an external USB device would work best.

    The BIOS will allow you to BOOT from either installed HD with a 2nd HDD
    adapter in Thinkpads, but you _will_ run up against problems with file
    pointers in the OS looking for files on the wrong HD, e.g. C:\ whereas they
    now reside on D:\. The 2nd HDD adapters are best used in those instances
    where you want to clone a HD, or recover files from the HD out of a dead

    For those instances where a machine won't start because of a hardware
    failure and you have a similar machine to hand, simply take the HD from the
    dead machine and swap it for the one in the backup machine.

    If you need any additional help, feel free to join the forums at
    www.thinkpads.com and you'll find the answers.



    Go Eagles!!
    JHEM, Jan 18, 2004

  9. If I buy an R50p, can I then use the R50p primary hard drive only in another
    R50p or will it work in an R40? How about in a T40? I know I sound
    incredulous, but if the primary hard drives really are swappable among most
    (all?) ThinkPads, that truly is an advantage compared with other brands.
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 18, 2004
  10. Richard Kaplan

    JHEM Guest

    An R50p HD would work just fine in a T4xx, they're both Centrino machines
    built on the Intel 855PM chipset. You'd have to load some T4xx specific
    drivers to ensure everything worked, but it would BOOT and run without any
    major problems.

    An R40 would be pushing it as it's built on the Intel 845MP chipset with a
    P4-M processor, but you could always put it in a 2nd HDD adapter or external
    USB housing to get files off it.

    If you're not concerned about OS problems, there's nothing to stop you from
    putting ANY current laptop HD in any Thinkpad other than physical size


    JHEM, Jan 19, 2004
  11. Richard Kaplan

    Ian S Guest

    The "primary" hard drive in the IBM models is like other laptops in that it
    is removable only by some disassembly of the laptop. In that sense I suppose
    they are "swappable" but whether they would work in another laptop would
    depend on BIOS capability among other things but there is really not a great
    difference between switching out the primary drive of a laptop and switching
    out the primary drive of a desktop.

    The Ultrabay is entirely separate and distinct. I have four different
    Ultrabay components for my T22 none of which can be installed at the same
    time: DVD/CD reader, floppy drive, secondary hard drive, and an empty bezel.
    The latter is useful when you want to travel as light as possible and don't
    want a gaping hole in the side of your thinkpad. The secondary hard drive is
    simply an old notebook drive that I mounted into an Ultabay adapter for that
    very purpose and it serves as a backup drive. I'm not sure but I suppose the
    bios could be set to have the laptop boot from that Ultrabay drive assuming
    I had the OS set up on it. I suppose it could also work in another IBM
    thinkpad with an Ultrabay and even boot the other laptoip with it but I've
    never tried. When you want to switch out an Ultrabay component, you follow a
    process similar to switching out a PCMCIA card component i.e. you use the
    Windows software to stop the device and then you have a lever arrangement
    for physical removal of the component. Then you just insert another Ultrabay
    component and it is automatically recognized.
    Ian S, Jan 19, 2004
  12. On most ThinkPads, that "disassembly" is only a single screw. On a few
    models, there is more involved than that.
    Just a note on that... An easier way to do it is to slide the little slider
    that makes the removal lever pop out, and then wait. This automatically
    notifies Windows to stop the device--it's exactly the same thing as if you'd
    clicked the tray icon and stopped the device that way, just more convenient.
    Once Windows notifies you that the device is stopped, you pull the removal

    Michael Geary, Jan 19, 2004
  13. I don't have personal experience with the R series, but it's pretty routine
    to swap a drive from one ThinkPad to another. As long as the drive
    physically fits, then it's just a matter of dealing with the hardware
    differences between machines. You can't put a 12.5mm drive in a machine that
    only takes the slimmer 9.5mm drives--but all the new drives are 9.5mm

    As an example, my current main XP installation has three hardware profiles
    for the different ThinkPad models I have here: A30p, A21p, and 600. I can
    put the drive in any of those machines and boot it up. This XP installation
    started out as Windows 2000 on a ThinkPad 600, later upgraded to XP and
    moved first to an A21p and later to the A30p. Each time I moved it, I added
    a new hardware profile for the new machine so I could keep the old hardware
    profile for the previous machine, making it easier to boot if I needed to
    swap it again.

    The 600, A series, and T series all use the same little metal tray that
    partially encloses the hard drive. Any drive mounted in one of those trays
    will fit any of these machines. I presume the R series uses the same
    tray--maybe someone with an R series machine can confirm this.

    Note that this tray is not the Ultrabay and has nothing to do with the
    Ultrabay. The Ultrabay is used for secondary drives, not the main hard
    drive. One of the best gadgets to get for a ThinkPad is the second hard
    drive adapter, which lets you put a hard drive into the Ultrabay. The hard
    drive is first mounted in the metal tray, and then that assembly goes into
    the second hard drive adapter, which then slides into the Ultrabay.

    While the Ultrabay is a standard retail item, the metal mounting tray is
    hard to find. You can get them from Bill Morrow at www.thinkpads.com and
    possibly from a few other sources.

    There is one serious problem you might run into when moving a main drive
    from one ThinkPad to another (or from any machine to another), the notorious
    IDE plug and play problem which will prevent Windows XP or 2000 from booting
    at all. Here is a Microsoft article about this:


    Michael Geary, Jan 19, 2004
  14. Is the "tray" sold separately from and not included with the "Second HDD
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 19, 2004
  15. Very interesting... Does anyone happen to known which Thinkpad models -- if
    any -- have the same PnP-ID as the R50p I just ordered?

    Is it possible to boot from a hard drive in the Ultrabay and if so would
    that help solve the problem?

    Here is the situation I am trying to resolve: I just ordered the R50p for
    myself and I would like also to buy one or two more ThinkPad computers for
    different missions which do not require as much capability as an R50p
    delivers. In the event the R50p breaks, I would like to be able to put its
    hard drive into another computer and continue on with minimal downtime.

    What less expensive model ThinkPad could I buy which would have the same
    PnP-ID as the R50p and thus have an interchangeable primary hard drive?
    Richard Kaplan, Jan 19, 2004
  16. That's right, it's a completely separate item and is not available from any
    of the usual retail channels, only from a few specialty dealers like Bill

    IBM sells hard drives pre-mounted in the metal trays for about 2-3 times the
    price of the drive itself! These are called "IBM Options" drives.

    You *can* put a plain unadorned drive into a Second HDD Adapter, but it is a
    loose fit and really isn't recommended. If you do it, cut a piece of
    cardboard the size of the drive and put it in the bottom of the HDD adapter
    to raise up the drive a bit and insulate its circuit board.

    If you want to put a drive in the main bay of a ThinkPad, you need the metal
    tray--no way around that.

    Michael Geary, Jan 19, 2004
  17. The R50p uses the Intel 855PM chipset with an 82801DBM I/O controller (which
    includes the IDE controller).

    The R50, T40, T41, T41p, and X31 also use the same chipset and IDE
    controller, so you should not run into the IDE PnP mismatch with any of
    these machines.

    The T30 and R40 use an 845MP chipset, but they do have the same 82801DBM I/O
    controller, so I think they should be OK too.

    Some of the older machines also have similar I/O controllers (e.g. 82801CAM,
    which seems reasonably likely to have the same PnP ID).

    The video cards vary in these machines, but that's easy to deal with using a
    hardware profile--and for emergency use, you don't even need the hardware
    profile, just boot in the other machine and then update the video driver.

    So where do you find out all this information? In the famous TBOOK series of
    PDF files, which you can get here:


    tabook.pdf covers all current models, tawbook.pdf covers recent but
    discontinued models, and the other t*book.pdf files cover older models.

    If you know what spare machine(s) you'll be using, it's a good idea to set
    up hardware profiles for them in advance. You don't need to install drivers
    in the alternate profiles, just set them up so that you can select one if
    you have to boot in a spare machine. I set mine up with a five second
    timeout at boot time--that way it doesn't delay booting much, but if I do
    need to swap machines I have enough time to select the other profile. Then
    once it's booted up in the alternate machine I make that hardware profile
    the primary one for the time being.
    You may be able to boot from it--I'm not sure--but it wouldn't make any
    difference with this problem.

    One thing the Ultrabay second hard drive adapter is really good for is
    making backups. I use three or more identical hard drives, one in the main
    bay and two that live permanently in second hard drive adapters. I use Ghost
    or Drive Image regularly to clone the main drive onto one of the spare
    drives, alternating between the drives and doing a full disk-to-disk copy.
    Then, if the main drive fails, I can swap the most recent backup drive into
    the main bay and be back up and running in minutes. I don't even have to
    restore from a backup!

    This is also handy if I want to do some dangerous testing on a duplicate of
    my main work environment. I either make a backup, or in most cases just take
    the older (and therefore more disposable) of the two backup drives and swap
    it into the main bay--or into a spare machine--for the dangerous testing.

    Actually, for most kinds of dangerous testing I use VMware and test in a
    virtual machine--that way I don't even have to reboot. But if I need to test
    on a physical machine I use a backup drive.

    This would also be a good way for you to verify your plan of swapping your
    drive into a spare machine in case of emergency: Clone the drive and put the
    backup drive in the spare machine. That way if anything does go wrong you
    haven't endangered your main drive.

    Michael Geary, Jan 19, 2004
  18. Richard Kaplan

    P.T. Breuer Guest

    Doesn't make much sense to me, unless you are trying to *boot* from the
    disk you shifted to the second machine, when of course you would have
    had to already have had drivers for the second machines controllers
    (if not plain IDE) on the disk before you started.

    But why try and boot from a disk you are trying to backup to/from?

    As to "PnP id" - sounds like gobbledegook. IDE controllers are PCI, not
    PNP (which is an ISA bus add-on). They just mean that they don't have
    the specialist drivers for things like promise controllers already
    linked in to their kernel.

    After all, if the following were really true in the literal sense:

    The PnP-ID information of mass storage controllers for the backup
    computer must be in the registry before startup so that Windows can
    initialize the correct drivers.

    then they would have solved the chicken and egg problem! If they can
    read the registry then they already have drivers for that controller
    (on which the disk is hanging!) running installed and working, so they
    don't need to read the registry in order to find out if they should be
    able to read it or not ...

    Which all in all adds up to a confusing picture. I'm pretty sure that
    something doesn't go right from their description, but quite what it
    is sounds somewhat like their own knife through foot.

    P.T. Breuer, Jan 19, 2004
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