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Regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (probably aborted...)

X60/X61 series specific matters only.
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flyingfishfinger
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Regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (probably aborted...)

#1 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:32 pm

Hi-
I've got an X61 7675, and was wondering whether I can add an SSD in addition to a regular 2.5".

I've read many of the threads that attempt to do this by replacing the turbo memory with ssds (like this http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=102387 for example) mostly to little success, but I haven't seen any that try what I'm thinking.

Before you call me nuts, I'd like to know if this makes any sense, assuming I can fit things in physically.

1) I like the look of this here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820148611. I know it won't go into any slot I already have, but something like this should do the trick: http://www.hwtools.net/Adapter/SSDMC.html.

2) I'd like to store the SSD from above in the PCMCIA slot, I never use that. I'm not averse to designing a PCB to hold the conversion circuitry that the adapter from above contains, it looks like SATA -> mSATA is a step-down converter, while mSATA to SATA is a boost regulator.

3) I never use Turbo Memory, so I thought I might use one of these http://www.hwtools.net/Adapter/PM362.html. It's short, so the half-height restriction of that slot won't be a problem. I'd then wire this to my regular hard drive in its slot.
However, I've heard that the Turbo Memory card isn't actually wired to the mPCIe bus, is that correct? That may present a problem but I've also heard of people shuffling their wireless cards into the Turbo slot. I know about the whitelisted BIOS requirements for this.

Tell me I'm totally bananas, but this sounds like an interesting experiment to me, especially with Black Friday coming up.
Thanks,

Rafael
Last edited by flyingfishfinger on Fri Jun 06, 2014 7:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#2 Post by twistero » Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:13 pm

This is something I've been thinking about, and I'm surprised that no one seems to have tried it (and bothered to write about it somewhere).

The WWAN slot (where turbo memory would go) in the X61 is a full-fledged PCIe slot, so theoretically the SATA controller card you linked to should work.
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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#3 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:12 pm

Well, that's good. Hopefully someone can back that up :)
Something I also thought about was that the height of the SATA connector on that controller is probably too tall to fit as is, it might need to be modified.

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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#4 Post by Fixed_Rider » Sun Nov 18, 2012 10:25 pm

Oh your are totally bananas!!!! :banana: :banana:

And we need more poeple like you in the world to push the boundaries.
Good luck, I shall follow with great interest.
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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#5 Post by twistero » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:05 pm

The SATA connectors will definitely be too tall. You'll have to desolder them and solder SATA cables directly.
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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#6 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:26 pm

Yeah, I'm ok with that. There's also the minor problem of needing a SATA power splice, but they do make Y-harnesses for that.
Now, if the mSATA SSDs were a little bit cheaper...hopefully I can pick up a deal this week.

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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#7 Post by twistero » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:44 am

You might take power directly from the mini PCIe slot as well, since mSATA and PCIe mini card share the same power supply pins and voltage.
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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#8 Post by flyingfishfinger » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:54 am

Perhaps, but I'll be wanting the mPCIe-SATA board to drive my mechanical hard drive, not the mSATA one (since the whole point of the exercise is to have a bootable SSD, and mPCIe isn't bootable afaik). Unless I'm missing something...?

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#9 Post by flyingfishfinger » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:23 am

Update: Flashed Middleton BIOS yesterday in case I need to move my WiFi card.

In other news, still cringing on the $$ required for the materials in this experiment...

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#10 Post by dmdsoftware » Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:58 pm

I thought there was a whole thread on here that mSATA didn't work in the X60/1 hardware because neither slot in the X61 (ones that have two slots) were wired to the bus.

Also the comment made in the thread about mSATA devices not being bootable, not sure if that is a general hypothesis or one just related to the X61. I use both a 2.5" SSD and mSATA SSD in my T420, and I boot off the mSATA.
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Re: SSD & 2.5" idea...theoretically feasible?

#11 Post by twistero » Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:29 pm

flyingfishfinger wrote:but I'll be wanting the mPCIe-SATA board to drive my mechanical hard drive, not the mSATA one (since the whole point of the exercise is to have a bootable SSD, and mPCIe isn't bootable afaik).
You're in for some serious modding then, since you'll have to somehow disconnect the HDD from the motherboard, wire it up to the SATA controller card, and wire the mSATA SSD to the motherboard. I don't see how you can do that short of removing the SATA controller from the main hard drive bay.
However, even if BIOS does not support booting off hard drives connected to the SATA controller card, I bet there are some boot loaders out there that can. Then you simply install the boot loader to your HDD and let it handle booting off the SATA controller.

Also, it's most likely possible to steal power from the mini PCIe slot for your mSATA drive while the controller card is installed in the slot, so the slot is powering two devices at the same time.

dmdsoftware wrote:I thought there was a whole thread on here that mSATA didn't work in the X60/1 hardware because neither slot in the X61 (ones that have two slots) were wired to the bus.
You are correct, mSATA drives does not work natively in X61. The OP is trying to install a mini PCIe SATA controller card, then hook up and additional SATA/mSATA drive to the controller.
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#12 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:15 pm

The way I see to do it is that there's a small interface board which connects the regular HDD to the motherboard. If I remove that, I believe there's enough room to put right-angle sata connectors on the HDD while it's in the bay, then make a custom cable for whatever connector is on the main board.

I'm still not sure which is easier for power...steal it from the mPCIe slot or from the regular SATA connector. Either way, I'll have to do some ribbon cable work I think.

Also, I'm currently stuck because my WiFi card won't work in the WWAN slot (see my other thread if you know anything!). I need the left-side slot for the SATA controller... :( Until I fix that, I don't see much point in going on with this stuff, short of shopping for component deals.

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#13 Post by twistero » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:38 pm

Why do you need the left slot?
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#14 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:41 pm

Because I don't feel like modifying the card I initially linked, and I don't know if SATA data cables are shielded. In which case I'd be incurring possible transfer errors by splicing one in place of the regular connector that card has, I think.
I'd rather use the Startech one (http://www.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/ ... PEXSATA22I, but I can get it for the same price as the first one plus its shipping).
It's got the connectors coming out on the left-hand side of the card, but they're flat so no modification would be required. If I were to put this in the right slot though, the wlan card would be in the way.

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#15 Post by axur-delmeria » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:53 pm

and I don't know if SATA data cables are shielded
They are shielded. Looks a bit like aluminum foil under the insulation.
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#16 Post by twistero » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:06 am

Most likely you will have to modify the controller card anyways because I don't think there's enough space even for a horizontal SATA connector.
If it turns out there's actually enough clearance, then it's also likely that you can install the controller card in the right slot just fine as the SATA cable will pass over the WiFi card.

But really, the first thing you should make sure of is that the SATA controller card actually works in a X61. I remember seeing reports of these mini PCIe controller cards being not compatible with some laptops and preventing them from booting at all. Can't remember whether they are thinkpads or other brands.
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#17 Post by flyingfishfinger » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:01 pm

Ordered one of the StarTech SATA controllers. I'll see how it fits when I get it (hopefully this or next week), but looking at the wlan card and a sata cable, I'm not sure I'll be able to run it over the wlan card if I put the controller in the right-hand slot. I'll post up what works soon.

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#18 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:50 am

Alright, I got some new hardware:)
Lots of interesting things to report, none of them seem very good except one though...

1) mSATA SSD: Put it in an adapter and into the normal hard drive bay. Installed Windows...and it's AWESOME. Boot times are amazing and CrystalDiskMark gives excellent results (SATA II bios mod is definitely working).

2) mPCI SATA controller in left slot: No luck with this one so far. It doesn't break anything but doesn't pop up new hardware either. It does give an "unknown device", but I couldn't try installing drivers since it sits in my WiFi slot(see issue 3) and I don't currently have a hard line.
This card also makes the machine sit on the startup screen (not Windows, the one with the Intel logo when you first turn the machine on) for a long time but throws no errors.

3) mPCI SATA controller in right slot: No luck either. This also hangs on the startup screen, then throws the error "Expansion ROM not initialized -PCI on motherboard" then gives an address that I believe corresponds to the right-side slot. I can escape this and the system boots fine but doesn't detect the device either.

4) WiFi card issues: I did a clean install of Windows with the WiFi card sitting in the right slot, but I forgot to tape pin 20 during that process. If I tape it, I have the same problem as in my other post (see update over there).

So, that's as far as I've gotten for now. Does anyone have any input on #2 and #3? I'm not really sure what to try next (except get a hard line and try to install the drivers for the controller in the left slot)...
Oh, and the controller gets EXTREMELY hot in whichever slot I put it. One of the chips becomes too hot to touch, but I don't know if this is normal or not.

I hope everyone's having a great weekend otherwise :)

R

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#19 Post by Raceboy » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:33 am

It is because the mSATA has reversed positive/negative lines on Rx/Tx pair compared to miniPCIe standard. It would work if you unsolder those two pins and solder very short cables instead correcting the pinout. Also +3.3V supply lines are positioned a bit different but supply is in other pins also so that doesn't matter for the mSATA device (don't know if it is necessary to unsolder the pins from the connector though, i.e. if it affects the system board somehow).

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#20 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:12 pm

Raceboy, I think your advice may be for the wrong device.
I am not connecting the mSATA SSD to the mPCIe ports, since the X61 CPUs don't natively support mSATA. What I am doing is installing a regular SATA controller in the mPCIe slot (specifically, the Startech MPEXSATA22i) and trying to get this to run.
Thanks though,

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#21 Post by Raceboy » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:08 pm

Ok.

Regarding "supporting" mSATA, it has nothing to do with CPU's, mSATA is a regular SATA device and providing the correct signals from the southbridge it works. Physical packaging is different issue though.
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#22 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:12 pm

Yes, I meant that the X61's don't provive mSATA lanes on their mPCIe slots, sorry.

I'm starting to think the thing may be DOA, since it doesn't appear in HwInfo in any PCIe slot. Does anyone know how to determine if the card is in working order at all?
Thanks,

R

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#23 Post by dmdsoftware » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:34 pm

flyingfishfinger wrote:Yes, I meant that the X61's don't provive mSATA lanes on their mPCIe slots, sorry.

I'm starting to think the thing may be DOA, since it doesn't appear in HwInfo in any PCIe slot. Does anyone know how to determine if the card is in working order at all?
Thanks,

R
Try to see if you can get someone with a newer T or X Thinkpad to try the card. I honestly think it's the X61 and NOT the card. I think you're trying to do something with the Mini PCIe slot that simply was never meant to be done on these machines. I'd love to be wrong, but if it doesn't supply the necessary connections for mSATA, then I don't think a controller will run off the slot either.

Why not install some custom SATA controller over the cardbus?
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#24 Post by flyingfishfinger » Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:33 pm

Hmm, I can see if someone else with a Thinkpad will let me try, yeah.

But isn't this http://www.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/ ... PEXSATA22I what's needed?
The whole point is that the mPCI slots DON'T supply mSATA connections, so the above controller should do the trick...at least that's what I've been assuming this whole time.

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#25 Post by dmdsoftware » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:44 pm

flyingfishfinger wrote:Hmm, I can see if someone else with a Thinkpad will let me try, yeah.

But isn't this http://www.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/ ... PEXSATA22I what's needed?
The whole point is that the mPCI slots DON'T supply mSATA connections, so the above controller should do the trick...at least that's what I've been assuming this whole time.

R
Reading about even newer Thinkpad hardware (X200), it seemed someone in this thread (http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=102387) tested with one of these cards and the test failed for him too. I think the consensus was that it looked good in theory but practically didn't work. Looks like both type of cards require the extra routing. But if you are good with soldering and circuitry, you might be able to accomplish the routing of the extra lines that are required (or at least that was what was insinuated in the other thread).

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#26 Post by flyingfishfinger » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:15 am

Hmm yes, I've read that thread before. I'll talk to Startech and see what they say. I didn't see anyone in that thread finding a reason as to why it didn't work.
Otherwise, if I understand correctly, I would need to ADD SATA lanes to the mPCIe slot, since the X61 predates mSATA / mPCIe combination slots. As opposed to modifying the cards....I think.
I'm getting a bit confused...

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#27 Post by Raceboy » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:27 am

To test it, just re-route two data lines as per the schematic I posted above, cover the power supply lines on the card and solder short wire to provide supply to the correct pin, that's it. Just read the schematics :D
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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#28 Post by flyingfishfinger » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:44 am

That's almost a tempting idea, but I don't understand why it should be that way. If it's a SATA controller meant to run in a real mPCIe slot, why would it need what you're suggesting?
Anyway, I made some observations that support your idea, at least as far as I could make them on the power pins.

1) The three pins at the end of my card (in your schematic, mSATA A24-A26) have nothing connected to them, which supports your idea. Neither do pins A01 and A02 though. These should be the power pins according to you, right? To make things more confusing, if you look extremely closely at this picture: http://img.misco.eu/resources/images/pr ... 0x1600.jpg you'll find that indeed, your power pins do seem to be tied together and going somewhere, disappearing into the shadow of the regulator. But that's not the case on the card I'm holding.
My card seems to draw 3.3V from pin 2 on the bottom side (D15, at the top end of your MINI PCI-e schematic, see here http://pinoutsguide.com/Slots/mini_pcie_pinout.shtml). This goes to the input of the regulator. So I think I shouldn't need to do anything with the three power pins.

2) If you look closely at this picture of an Intel Wifi card: http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/19748.jpg you'll see that there is stuff connecting to the lower three pins (A24-A26 on your MINI PCI-e schematic), suggesting it is using the 3.3V provided by that group of pins.

So as far as I can tell, your idea checks out on the power pins, with the minor difference of where my card is getting its power. I wouldn't know how to verify the data pin switch, which is something I'd want to do before I go cutting traces...

But, I'm pretty determined to work on this and at least learn from it 8)

R

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Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#29 Post by flyingfishfinger » Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:15 am

Update time!
I couldn't get the StarTech controller to work. This one works great though (it's not bootable on an X61, as far as I can tell):
http://www.hwtools.net/Adapter/PM362.html
Interestingly, it doesn't seem to require taping pin 20, even in the WWAN slot!

I also very nearly bricked my laptop by messing with the HDD bay SATA port and shorting 5V to GND.
I found out that SATA data cabling is very sensitive to noise, aka shielded cable is a requirement, but that's as far as I was able to get. Once I had trimmed down the mSATA adapter to fit in the PCMCIA slot, Iit stopped working after a few attempts. I'm hoping it's that, and not a fried SSD...but I've got no way of verifying that at the moment until I get myself another mSATA adapter. So I've reverted to my non-SSD regular setup in the meantime.
That's all for now, to be continued...

R

thinkpadrobert
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 8:29 pm
Location: australia, perth, wa

Re: 2.5" regular HD & mSATA SSD experiment (in progress)

#30 Post by thinkpadrobert » Sat May 25, 2013 1:46 am

Did you solve your problems? I'm keen to try this out!

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