Selecting an adapter to install a second drive in the optical bay

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by a random John, Apr 29, 2011.

  1. a random John, Apr 29, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011

    a random John macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    I've posted my research on various optical bay adapters on my blog, but thought I'd share my findings here as well.

    A few weeks ago I purchased a new MacBook Pro. My old machine was plenty fast, but it has developed an overheating problem related to the x1600 graphics card and it can’t stay stable under normal use, to say nothing of attempting to play a YouTube video. But it lasted a good 4+ years as my everyday machine and has held up better than any Thinkpad that I ever used, which is saying something. I think Thinkpads are fine machines, built to take a beating, but my MacBook Pro lasted better than any of them.

    Given that I can’t have my development machine locking up several times a day I procured a new Macbook Pro from Expercom, the local Apple shop. They are much closer than the Apple store and have much, much better parking.

    I had intended to buy a 15 inch machine. But when I began to add up the cost of getting the anti-glare screen (a must for me) and the high resolution upgrade I began to wonder why I wasn’t getting a 17 inch instead. I don’t travel much so portability isn’t a huge issue, and I’d get all those extra pixels plus an express card port. So a 17 inch with 8GB of RAM it was.

    Sitting in my old machine though was my secret weapon. A Crucial C300 265 GB SSD. Given that I’m doing data mart development having a drive than can plow through random reads is a huge benefit. So I wanted to move it over to my new machine. As I thought about it more though, what I really wanted was to have the storage of the 750 GB hard drive that was already in the machine as well as the speed of the SSD. So I began to look at the options for putting a second drive in the optical bay. I really rarely use the DVD drive anyhow and I’d rather occasionally plug in a DVD drive than always be plugging in the SSD.

    So I did a bunch of googling and found several options, all with various pros and cons:
    1. MCE Optibay
    2. Lots of cheap, generic caddies on Amazon, eBay, and
    3. PowerBookMedic Dual Drive
    4. Optical Bay Kit
    5. OWC Data Doubler

    Here are my thoughts on each of the options...

    From what I can tell the MCE Optibay is the most popular product, but there are reports of terrible customer service, and of caddies not working or not fitting well. It costs $99 for the empty Optibay and that includes an enclosure for your now homeless optical drive.

    The generic caddies are a compelling option if you are price sensitive above all else, but from what I could tell they don’t allow you to screw the hard drive into the caddy. It is secured by the SATA plug and perhaps some duct tape if you want to apply some. I just dropped a ton of money on a new laptop, and I’m not about to secure my $800 (at time of purchase) SSD with tape. Also, it seems that on most of them you have to rip parts off of them in order to make them fit. Prices range from $9 to about $20.

    The PowerBookMedic Dual Drive looks like a step up from the generic caddies but for $59. It wasn’t clear to me if you could bolt your drive into it or not. is interesting. They appear to have the same (or nearly the same) adaptor as the OWC Data Doubler. It is a simple metal frame with holes to secure the drive and other holes to secure it to the case of the computer. The adapter alone costs $72.75. But the interesting, and compelling thing is the super drive enclosure. If you add that the total comes to $89.00. This is by far the best looking enclosure I saw in all my searching, and it is built for slot loading drives. By itself the enclosure is $24.95. I wish I had bought it. The only downside I see here is that the design of the site is pretty terrible. Rather than having a page for each product they have a giant page with a ton of extraneous info and then a drop-down to order a particular product. That didn’t inspire confidence. Perhaps I’m judging a book by it’s cover.

    Finally I’ll discuss the OWC Data Doubler. After all my searching and seeing complaints about all the various adapters I was very impressed by both the apparent quality of construction of the Data Doubler and the fact that you could secure the drive to it and it to the computer. But what put it over the top were the installation videos which demonstrate installing the product in a variety of machines. This not only let me see the product from a variety of angles, so I knew what I was getting, but it also showed my exactly how it would install and fit. This was a huge selling point. I had some confidence in them as I’ve ordered from them before, so I went ahead an ordered the product. I also ordered an enclosure for my Super Drive and got the cheap tool kit as my current tiny screwdrivers are getting a little stripped and I didn’t have a spudger.

    And now for a brief digression…

    I had understood that both the hard drive SATA port and the SuperDrive port were SATA3 ports capable of 6gbps. This would have given my C300 SSD a nice performance boost. The plan was to leave the original hard drive alone, clone it onto the SSD, and put the SSD in the optical bay. The would leave the hard drive with its little rubber shock absorbers, giving it some additional protection from drops and bumps, and avoid any thermal issues that might arise from putting it in another location.

    It turns out that the SATA port to the optical bay is a SATA2 port capable of 3gbps. So perhaps I wanted to put the SSD where the hard drive was. I wasn’t excited about this but was considering it.

    But then I learned that lots of people are reporting issues getting 6gbps SSDs to work in the hard drive spot. There seems to be an interference issue with the cable for the battery indicatory lights. OWC is selling a little bit of shielding for the wire that resolves it for some people but I decided not to mess with it.

    So I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting full performance from my SSD.

    The kit came and I commenced a series of backups using SuperDuper to get my old computer backed up and then to put the image of the new system on the SSD.

    I ran the video from OWC as I disassembled the new MacBook Pro, removed my optical drive, and installed the Data Doubler with my SSD. The only issue I encountered was that the connector cable in my 2011 machine seemed to be a little different from the one in the video, which shows a 2010 machine. In my machine the SATA adapter cable is attached to the frame or the motherboard solidly. So I just popped one end out of the Super Drive and left the cable in place. Then I attached it to the Data Doubler as I slid it into place.

    The whole thing took about 15 minutes and was a great deal easier than replacing the drive on my old MacBook Pro, which involves a great deal more screws and seems to take about twice as long.

    I held down the option key as the machine booted and it let me select which drive to boot from. I selected the SSD and now it’s off to the races.
  2. Captain Dynamo, Apr 29, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011

    Captain Dynamo macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Northern California
    Great post!

    Thanks, random John! Great post--a nice synthesis of lots of info.

    The MaxUpgrades package appears to be attractive, especially if they still are including the enclosure for the external drive. You seem to feel that their product is roughly equivalent to the OWC. If I were to go this route, I think I'd go with MaxUpgrades. Does that make sense to you?

    Again, thanks for a very helpful post.

  3. kdoug macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2010
    Iowa City, IA USA
    Ist of all, I'll never buy another thing from OWC because of their 15% restocking fee, opened or unopened it doesn't matter. There are several things wrong with the video that OWC has posted. There are actually 3 more screws that you need to remove than the tutorial shows. If you want a good teardown of the early 2011's, go to ifixit.
  4. johnnyturbouk macrumors 68000


    Feb 9, 2011
    on the yellow [oled] brick road to tech nirvana.
    i found the video spot-on

    but i did read the ifixit guide pre-hand and followed the owc video step by step - on my ps3
  5. a random John thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    As best I can tell from the single good photo on the MaxUpgrades site the design of their product matches the OWC part. It might be the exact same thing given how close they are in price and the fact that the design is pretty unique when compared to the other options.

    As I said, the MaxUpgrades DVD enclosure looks great, and if you want to order everything from a single source that might be the deciding factor. Looking over it all now I do regret not ordering at least my enclosure from them. I have never had any dealings with the company so I can't tell you anything about their customer service. I only know that the design of the website made me nervous.

    If you buy from them please post and let us know how it works and if the enclosure works as well as it looks.
  6. a random John thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Never had a problem with them, but I haven't ever sent anything back after purchasing it.

    I couldn't find anything wrong with the video other than the SATA ribbon issue that I mentioned. I had the video playing (with frequent pauses) during the installation and I am quite certain that SATA ribbon was the only difference. Perhaps you were looking at a different model of computer?
  7. Captain Dynamo macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Northern California
    Will do. I'm kind of flirting with the upgrade--the restless urge to tinker with something that already is working really well. Maybe I'll get a cheap SSD to see if the experience is that much better for my usage, then do the Optibay route.
  8. uplusd macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    Just installed the OWC Data Doubler w/ SSD in optical bay on my Mid-2009 13" MBP. Easy install and everything works great. No sleep issues or anything.
  9. Holoshed macrumors regular

    Mar 24, 2011
    North Carolina
    I went the route and do not regret it.

    I did a lot of the same research and just as you I thought their website was lacking but I still couldnt find another solution that for the money made me want it.

    I received it semi fast and installed it and am using my C300 in the main drive bay and the oem drive in the kit. I have been using it for a few weeks now in my 2011 MBP 2.2 15" and have no complaints.

    I will say if you want a premade kit, go with owc, if you dont mind the stuff being in baggies on its own, then you can go with maxupgrades. I am a DIYer so I didnt mind a little work.

    I will say that it fit PERFECTLY into the drive and did not have to fight with it at all.

    The cd inclosure is nice, but its plastic, I sort of thought it might be metal but hey I can dream lol... It does the job but its a pita to get open if you need to. Otherwise I still say its the best out of the other options I saw for the external enclosure.
  10. DarkFlame macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2007
    You didn't mention the option at! 50 dollars shipped, I find it to be the perfect middle option between a cheap ebay product and the absurd price MCE is charging. The OWC, (even though it is metal) makes me feel like it is too fragile and it is 25 dollars more w/o shipping!

    I figured I would wait until I could get something prettier than a cheap plastic piece im getting charged 100 dollars to put my dvd drive in. It's not like I even use it anyway. The caddy from NewModeUS is great, still only in w/ one screw but it is just a high quality version that supports up to a 6GB link speed for those that enjoyed the silent hardware revision in the optibay. I worried a little about how snugly it fit, but I move my laptop around PLENTY and it fits PERFECTLY fine.
  11. a random John thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    I hadn't seen the NewModeUS site as it didn't come up in my searching. I can't tell from a few minutes on the site what product is intended for Macs. The items I did see look just like the generic eBay specials. Were you able to bolt your drive into it? The OWC part is very solid. I'm very pleased with the construction of it.
  12. thurstmw macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2010
    You will probably/ should put your OS drive in the normal HDD spot and the HDD in the optical bay. The computers tend to have trouble sleeping with the boot drive in the optical bay.

    I just used a generic one and it fits very snuggly with no screws or tape.
  13. uplusd macrumors 6502

    Apr 8, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    My SSD is the boot drive and sits in the optical bay. 0 issues.

    When doing my research prior to performing the mod I noticed that a majority of people with sleep issues had cheaper (generic) superdrive brackets. Perhaps the interposer boards on the cheaper versions aren't carrying the sleep signals properly. Just spitballin' here.
  14. a random John thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2011
    I'd be willing to try that just for the speed boost but I'm concerned about the reports that there is interference in the HDD sport for the 17. :(
  15. mediasorcerer macrumors regular

    Oct 30, 2010
    and thats why i always say,pay more=usually get more,not worth cutting corners with optibays i believe,u spend 2000+ on laptop,and 14$ on cheap knockoff optibay?? no way!!!

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