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How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

When it comes to desktop computer repair, one of the most common hardware failures are CD/DVD/BD drives. If you're having problems with getting the disk tray to eject or disks are not being recognized, it may be time to replace it. Here's how to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer.

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

So you're tired of trying to get your old desktop CD/DVD/BD drive to work and are ready to replace it with a new one. Having to use a paper clip to manually eject your computer's CD/DVD/BD drive tray can get old really quick. Replacing a desktop CD/DVD/BD drive is fairly easy; you just have to make sure you get one with the correct connections and dimensions.

Find a new drive

The majority of CD/DVD/BD drives on the market nowadays will have SATA (Serial ATA) connectors for data and power. But there are still quite a few older systems that still use PATA (Parallel ATA) for data and 4 Pin Molex for power. SATA type drives are the de facto standard, so finding PATA replacement drives can be tricky. Newegg and TigerDirect are good places to find these older style drives.

SATA and PATA drive connections
PATA and SATA drive connections

Desktop CD/DVD drives have standard width and height dimensions, so all you have to do is check the depth of your existing drive. Sometimes you have room to put a deeper drive in and sometimes you don't. Always check to see what kind of space you have available before purchasing a replacement drive.

Uninstall the old software

Once you have your new CD/DVD/BD drive you will need to uninstall the software that came with your old CD/DVD/BD drive. It's usually a version of Nero or PowerDVD and it is branded to your old drive. Once you remove the old drive, the software that came bundled with it won't work anymore. Your new drive should have come with its own disk burning software.

Install the new drive

From here we need to turn the computer off, disconnect the power cord from the back of the system and open up the case. Now there are two possible ways of mounting the CD/DVD/BD drive in the case: screws or quick release rails. You may have to remove the front bezel from the case to get the CD/DVD/BD drive, as it will need to come out the front of the case. Make note of the connections and remove the old drive and replace with the new one.

Drives attached by screws and quick release rails
Drives attached by screws and quick release rails

Install the new software

Once you get the system back together, power it up and let Windows discover the new CD/DVD/BD drive. Windows may require a restart to finalize the setup. After that you are ready to install the software that came with the new drive.

The most common computer video display connectors

When it comes to computer repair, you have to be prepared to work on different types of systems. One of the biggest issues is having the correct video display connector. With more than ten different types of connectors it can be difficult to identify the correct one. Here is a list of the most common video display connectors.

What type of video connector do you have?

Most common video display connectors  
S-Video
3 variations - 4, 7 or 9 pins.
S-Video display connector
VGA (Video Graphics Array)
2 variations - DE-9 (9-pin) & DE-15 (15-pin).
VGA display connector
DMS-59 (Dual Monitor Solution, 59 pins)
It provides two DVI or VGA outputs in a single connector. An adapter cable is needed for conversion from DMS-59 (digital) to DVI (digital) or VGA (analog).
DMS-59 display connector
DVI (Digital Visual Interface)
5 variations - DVI-I (Single Link), DVI-I (Dual Link), DVI-D (Single Link), DVI-D (Dual Link) & DVI-A .
  • DVI-I (integrated, combines digital and analog in the same connector; digital may be single or dual link).
  • DVI-D (digital only, single link or dual link).
  • DVI-A (analog only).
DVI display connector
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
Electrically compatible with the DVI.
HDMI display connector
DisplayPort
Backward compatible with VGA and DVI through the use of adapters.
DisplayPort display connector

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

Most computers (laptop & desktop) nowadays come with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as standard equipment with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as an option. Each drive type has its pros and cons: HDD's are cheaper and have more storage, but SSD's are extremely fast (especially when connected to a SATA3 port). So if your existing computer has a HDD, odds are you could replace it with a SSD. Here's how to upgrade your computer hard disk drive to a solid state drive.

How to upgrade your computer's hard disk drive to a solid state drive

I wrote an article not long ago on how to upgrade the hard drive in your computer and will be referring back to it often. It describes how to clone a smaller drive to a larger one of the same type. Since SSD's normally have less storage than HDD's, this time I'll have to shrink the existing HDD (80 GB) partition(s) down below the capacity of the target SSD (64 GB) before I can clone it.

As in the aforementioned article, the first thing to do is a Checkdisk of the existing HDD. Doing this will assure there are no errors that may prohibit the cloning of the drive.

Running Checkdisk in Windows 7 / Windows Vista

Running Checkdisk in Windows 8

Now we have to start cleaning up the drive. Windows has a built-in tool called Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe) that works pretty well at getting out the clutter. Try using it from an admin command prompt, that way you'll get more options.

Disk Cleanup Windows 7 / Vista
Disk Cleanup Windows 8

Since we are trying to get the maximum amount of free space we can, we will have to delete some files, which may include documents, photos, videos, etc. Doing a backup right now will insure we have a copy of all of the files if we need to recover some later.

Windows 7 / Windows Vista Backup
Windows 8 Backup

Next thing I have to do is find out what is taking up the space on the existing HDD. For this I'll use a copy of SpaceMonger. After quick view, I see I can free up several gigabytes of space by permanently removing the hibernation file and temporarily deleting the swap file. Windows will warn you about having no swap file, but we will be recreating the swap file once the drive cloning is complete.

Disable Windows hibernation
Disable Windows swap file

The next thing we need to do to the drive is to defragment it. I'll use Defraggler from Piriform for this task. Once the drive is defragged, it's time to shrink it. To do this, open Computer Management, expand the Storage section in the left column and select Disk Management. In the right column, right-click on the partition marked as Boot (usually C:) and select Shrink. Remember to take the size down at least 10-15% below the capacity of the new SSD.

Shrinking a partition down in Windows 7
Shrinking a partition down in Windows 7

Once the partition has been resized, it's time to clone the drive. The following article has all of the details on how to clone you hard drive, including links to the cloning software.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

Note: An issue not addressed in the article above is the form factor; the existing HDD is 3.5" form factor and SSD's are normally 2.5" form factor.
A desktop hdd and an ssd with adapter brackets
This can easily be resolved by using a pair of 2.5" to 3.5" adapter brackets.

Once the drive cloning is complete and the system is running again, we need to expand the boot partition to use any free space that may be available. Open Computer Management, expand the Storage section in the left column and select Disk Management. In the right column, right-click on the partition mark as Boot (usually C:) and select Expand. Once the boot partition has been resized, you can now enable Windows swap file.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Doing computer repair for a living, I get a lot of questions about how to speed computers up. When it comes to improving the performance of your computer, adding more memory has always been the best 'bang for the buck'. And it's not that hard to do. Here's how to upgrade or add more memory to your laptop or desktop computer.

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

When you start to look at upgrading your computer's memory, there are three (3) things you need to know: type of memory it uses, how much memory you currently have and the maximum amount of memory your system can handle. Computer memory is installed into slots on the motherboard. Laptops use SO-DIMM (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module) slots and desktops use DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module) slots. The amount of memory slots varies from laptop (1-2) to desktop (2-8). High performance motherboards, like the ones used in servers, can have 16 or more memory slots.

There are a couple of ways to find out the memory specs of your computer. The first is the tried and true method, the manufacturers manual (either system or motherboard) and physically checking the slots in the computer (some laptops have the memory slots in two different locations). Or you can use an online tool like the Crucial System Scanner to find out what type of memory is in your computer. In some cases, instead of just adding more memory, you may have to replace the existing memory modules with larger ones.

Once you have found out what type of memory you need, it's time to go and purchase it. You can buy it on-line or locally. But remember, if you need to return it, it's easier to do it locally. Also, if you need two or four modules of memory, many vendors offer twin and quad packs of memory for less than the individual price. Once you have your new memory, it's time to install it.

Note: Remember to disconnect the power going to the system before working on it.

  • Desktops - Disconnect the power cord going to the computer
  • Laptops - Disconnect the ac charger and remove the battery (if possible)

How to remove a laptop memory module from memory slot

How to remove a laptop memory module from memory slot

  1. Spread apart the securing clips on each end of the memory module slot until the module pops up.
  2. Remove the memory module from the memory module slot.

How to install a laptop memory module into memory slot

How to install a laptop memory module into memory slot

  1. Align the notch in the memory module with the tab in the memory module slot.
  2. Slide the memory module firmly into the slot at a 45 degree angle, and press the memory module down until it clicks into place. If you do not hear the click, remove the memory module and reinstall it.

How to remove a desktop memory module from memory slot

How to remove a desktop memory module from memory slot

  1. Push the release tabs near both ends of the memory module slot until the module pops up.
  2. Remove the memory module from the memory module slot.

How to install a desktop memory module into memory slot

How to install a desktop memory module into memory slot

  1. Align the notch in the memory module with the tab in the memory module slot.
  2. Insert memory module vertically and press down until it snaps into place.

Running your old version of Windows XP in a Virtual Machine

If you haven't heard by now, Windows XP has come to the end of its life. After April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP, which means no more security patches or hot fixes. Using Windows XP as a primary operating system is no longer an option. But you can still use your old version of Windows XP and the installed programs on a newer version of Windows using a Virtual Machine (VM).

A physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP inside of VirtualBox running on Windows 8
A physical-to-virtual migrated version of Windows XP inside of VirtualBox running on Windows 8

The problem most people are having with going to a new version of Windows is that they have software installed on Windows XP that they cannot install or will not run on a newer version of Windows. Either the software came pre-loaded, they lost the installation media or the company went out of business. If you're one of these people, there is hope.

I've written a few times about using VM's to run different operating systems on the same computer. Basically, you create a virtual hard drive and install your operating system inside of it. You can also create a virtual hard drive from your physical hard drive. This way you can upgrade to a newer version of Windows and still have access to your old Windows XP programs.

Note: With the change of hardware from physical-to-virtual, Windows will need to be re-activated. Physical-to-virtual hard drive migration of a Windows installation is a valid function for customers with full retail copies of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

To do this you will need two programs, Microsoft's Windows Sysinternals Disk2vhd and Oracle's VirtualBox. Both programs are free for personal use and the links to the software are below. First thing to do is create a virtual hard drive from your existing physical hard drive. Start up Disk2vhd and you get only one simple menu. Select 'Prepare for use in Virtual PC' and 'Use Volume Shadow Copy' and deselect 'Use Vhdx'. Next select the location for the virtual hard drive file. For the best performance, you should create the virtual hard drive on a different physical drive (network or external).

The Disk2vhd main screen with options
The Disk2vhd main screen with options

Now it's time to install VirtualBox on the new system. Remember to also download and install the VirtualBox Guest Extensions. Once installed, copy over the virtual hard drive you created with Disk2vhd. Next you create a new VM with settings (operating system, memory, etc.) based on your old computer. You then will be prompted to create a new virtual drive or use an existing one. Browse and select the virtual drive that you created.

Modified boot menu in physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP
Modified boot menu in physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP

The first time you start the VM, it will find the new VM hardware and try to install drivers for them. If it fails to find drivers, just go to the 'Devices' tab on the top menu and select 'Insert Guest Additions CD image'. Open Windows Explorer and browse to the virtual drive named VBOXADDITIONS and run VBoxWindowsAdditions. This will install the keyboard, video and mouse drivers. You will have to tweak the settings to get it run flawlessly. If you're migrating a version of Windows XP, I recommend disabling access to the internet, since there is no longer security updates and patches for Windows XP after 4/8/14.

For more information on VirtualBox or Disk2vhd, just follow the links below.

Oracle VM VirtualBox
Sysinternals Disk2vhd

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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