IBM PowerPC ThinkPad - Upgrading to a Larger Hard Disk

1999-08-19 After much discussion on usenet and via email it appears to that the largest 2.5" SCSI drive ever made was IBM's 1.2GB which was included with some ThinkPads.  No other manufacturer has ever, to the best of my knowledge, come out with a larger capacity 2.5" SCSI drive.

Please note that you cannot simply buy a standard multi-gigabyte PC notebook drive and hope to have it work in your PowerPC ThinkPad.  PC notebook drives are all IDE/ATA which is completely different from SCSI.

Also, swiping a drive from a Mac notebook probably won't work either.  The new Macs (with large hard drives) all use IDE.  The older Macs used SCSI but are in the same boat as the ThinkPad - the drives are too small and larger ones aren't available.  I did receive word that someone produced a little converter for Macs that would allow a SCSI Mac notebook to use an IDE drive internally - something like a SCSI to IDE bus adapter.  If such an adapter followed the SCSI and IDE standards then conceivably you could use it, barring size restraints, in a PowerPC ThinkPad.

That said, you can always add an external SCSI drive of any capacity to your PowerPC ThinkPad.  Just make sure you get a SCSI cable with a connector that matches the back of your ThinkPad.  As of Aug 1999 SCSI drives as big as 36GB are available from the standard PC drive manufacturers.  Note that it may even be possible to have an external drive as your boot device, but you would then be required to haul the drive with you wherever your notebook went.

Please inform me if you discover anything contradictory to the above and I will promptly update this page.  This information is the amalgamation of many conversations with many people inside and outside IBM and the computer industry and should for the most part be accurate.

2000-06-14 It looks like there might be a source for larger SCSI disks afterall! I have been told a Toshiba 2.1GB drive is available from "Gold Source Computers" on the web. The price at this time is around $350 US$. Note, I have no reports of success or failure regarding the use of this drive with a PPC TP.

Thanks to Aaron Weber for the tip.

2000-06-25 I have been told that stocks SCSI to IDE convertors, which should let you put any IDE hard drive into a PPC TP. Supposedly it comes with a small drive. It seems you can't purchase it by itself. The price I was quoted was around $220 US$.

Thanks to Tony Mori for the tip.

2000-11-06 Further info on adding larger hard drives: According to MCE Powerbook Products, there is an IDE to SCSI adaptor that has been tested with drives as large as 25GB. Theoretically this should work fine in a PPC-TP. If anyone actually tries this out please report to me.

Thanks to Marc Mangus for the tip.

2004-05-31 Missing the caddy? Trying to figure out the wiring for the internal hard drive? It appears that the TP's 60-pin connector is wired straight 1:1 into a normal SCSI notebook drive's 50-pin connector, with the upper 10 pins left unconnected. The drives are standard notebook SCSI drives and you can get a sample of their SCSI pinouts at (This information is based on observation and visual inspection and is not guaranteed accurate.)

Thanks to Stefan Tibus for the tip.

2004-06-01 PowerMonster RX SCSI/IDE convertors ($100-ish) are reported to work in 860's (and hence probably 820/850's). It should be possible to modify the caddy to make room for the drive and the convertor within the normal confines of the notebook. The report I have indicates success with the RX and a 20GB IDE drive. Older PowerMonster convertors may have problems with > 8GB drives and SCSI ID settings. If you hardwire the SCSI ID on the drive jumpers, you should also set the same value in EasySetup otherwise the BIOS may not detect the drive, unless you connect an external SCSI device which forces the BIOS to scan all SCSI ID's.

Thanks to an anonymous source for the tip.

2004-09-21 ADTX SCSI->IDE adapters are reported to work except the are reported to limit you to 8GB. Perhaps there is a newer ADTX version that does not limit you to 8GB. In any case, you can usually put a larger disk in, it will just be "seen" by the system as 8GB.

Thanks for Juergen E. Fischer for the tip.

2004-12-02 There are flash memory-based 2.5" form factor SCSI drive products available. Sizes up to 30GB are available but can get expensive (thousands of dollars). I don't have any reports yet of success using one in an AIX:TP. If you test one, please let me know.

Thanks for Rowan Hawkins for the tip.

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