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Hard Disks for Laptops and Notebooks

Form Factors

AFAIK there two form factors for harddisks used in laptops the common 2.5" format and the 1.8" format (the format of the IBM MicroDrive seems to be something else). These formats are available in different heights:

  • 18mm: laptops build before 1996 usually have drives 18mm high
  • 12.7mm: Acer Travelmate 512T
  • 11mm: since 1996 the drives are 11mm high
  • 9mm: many laptops, including the subnotebooks, now use a 9mm-high disk drive.
  • 9.5mm: Toshiba Libretto L70 and L100
  • 8.45mm: Toshiba Libretto 20, 30, 50 and 60
  • 6.35mm: Toshiba Libretto L1000

It might be possible to use a hard disk wich doesn't fit with some case modifications.

Removable HDD

Some laptops come with a removable primary hard disk in a tray, for instance the KAPOK 9600D. See also the survey of removable harddisks in laptops.


There seem to be no SCSI drives for laptops available. Except the UltraBookIIi (Solaris) from Tadpole.

Laptops with Two Hard Disks

Some laptops feature a multi-bay option. Where you may use the bay to put a CD/DVD drive, a PCMCIA-Slot or a hard disk into. This works fine with Linux, though I couldn't test hotplug capabilities yet. And some laptops are equipped with two hard disks actually, for example the Toshiba Qosmio Q30.

2.5" Adapter

With these cheap adapters you may connect a 2.5" laptop harddisk to a 3.5" IDE connector in a desktop PC. It seems that this scheme of jumper settings for the device selection works for every 2.5" harddisk. Actually it was taken from a Fujitsu MHN2100AT 10GB 2.5" harddisk.

.  backside view of the harddisk case
.  Pin 43 -----v     Pin 1 ---------v
.      +---------------------------------------+
.      !       oooooooooooooooooooooo oo       !
.      !       oooooooooooo ooooooooo oo       !
.      +---------------------------------------+
.  polarity mark ----------^
.  detailed view, xx marks the jumper position
.        Device 0     Device 1     Cable Select
.         -----+       -----+       -----+
Pin 1 --> o oo !       o ox !       o oo !
.         o oo !       o ox !       o xx !
.         -----+       -----+       -----+

The following scheme is from a Samsung 30GB 2.5" hardisk.

.  detailed view, xx marks the jumper position
.        Master       Slave        Cable Select
.           CA           CA           CA
.         -----+       -----+       -----+
Pin 1 --> o oo !       o xx !       o oo !
.         o oo !       o oo !       o xx !
.         -----+       -----+       -----+
.           DB           DB           DB

PCMCIA Adapter

You might also use an IDE PCMCIA adapter to connect an external 2.5" HD to a laptop, (e.g. the one made by Argosy) see PCMCIA Survey for details. But this method is very much slower.

USB Adapter

You might also use an USB adapter to connect an external 2.5" HD to a laptop, (e.g. the one made by Argosy or Datafab's disc enclosure product MD2 USB ) see here for details and kernel driver.

External HDD

Disks are available for PCMCIA, SCSI, USB, FireWire and parallel ports.

Other storage solutions: Memory Stick, IBM MicroDrive, PCMCIA hard disks, USB sticks, ZIP drives, tapes, floppies.

Hard Disk Upgrading

See the Hard Disk Upgrade Mini How-To - How to copy a Linux system from one hard disk to another.

Upgrade and repair tutorials for laptop and notebook hard drives.


Check BIOS for capability to handle bigger disk. For disk greater 8GB you may probably have to use a DiskManager. Since the DiskManager resides in the MBR you may have to fiddle with LILO.

Utilities - Tuning


hdparm is a shell utility to access/tune ioctl features of the Linux hard disk and (E)IDE drivers. Primary use is for enabling irq-unmasking and IDE multiplemode.


To improve the settings of the hard disk or check an IBM hard disk you may try the IBM Hard Disk Utils. Parts work even with non IBM hard disks.


  • Betina Young Andersen <betina_at_young-andersen.dk>

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© Werner Heuser 1997-2015 · http://tuxmobil.org/harddisk.html · last change Mon Nov 12 2007