Two HDs in one laptop?
September 25, 2017 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to use two hard drives in my laptop. It only has one HD bay. Please assist.

TLDR: What are my options for running two hard drives on a laptop with only one HD bay?

My laptop has a daily driver hard drive (HD) that runs Arch Linux. I have a separate HD that contains Windows 10. It only has one HD bay.

Because of a class I'm taking this autumn, I'm forced to use the Win10 drive. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any of my bookmarks, favorite programs, and saved files on it, so I'm stuck in a userland that I don't like and isn't useful beyond the needs of my class.

Is there any way to run both drives on the same laptop without having to physically remove one HD from the bay and insert the other?

Win10 will not run from USB out of an external enclosure without a lot of hassle on my part (like a separate installation on a Microsoft-approved disk), and even then I've read it will run much more slowly than it currently does. Similarly, running Arch from an external enclosure should be possible and easy, but I worry it will be slow. And again, Arch is where I want to be most of the time.

Dual booting a new installation of Arch with Win10 is a last resort because neither drive is very big (less than 100 Gb each). The Win10 installation alone takes up a good 20 Gb of space, and I'm dealing with some large program installations and file sizes for the class, so I need all the space I can get.

Are there any options I'm not considering?
posted by mr_bovis to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Does your laptop have a DVD/BD drive? If you don't need to use it, there are adapters that let you put a hard drive in the optical bay. Depending on the model of laptop, this may be a major operation. If this isn't an option, your only real solution is to get a larger drive and put both OSes on it.
posted by zsazsa at 9:42 AM on September 25, 2017

Buy a big, cheap and relatively fast Hybrid drive, dual boot from there.
posted by Oktober at 9:44 AM on September 25, 2017

Option 1: Get a single, bigger hard drive and dual boot. The Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD can be had retail, quantity one, in stock for USD130 the first place I looked. This is the drive I have in my Wintendo, and it hardly sucks at all.

Option 2: Depending on what specifically your class requires, you might be able to run Win10 in a VM hosted under native Arch. I quibble because if you need to drive weird hardware, virtualization may not work out. (Does your lappy have USB 3.x? If so, running a VM with the image on an external drive just got a lot more realistic.)
posted by sourcequench at 9:47 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Zsazsa: I do have a DVD drive. This seems like an easy, cheap option if the enclosure fits well. My laptop model is an old Dell Vostro 3500. Amazon users' questions don't address my exact model, but this isn't a rare laptop. Have you done this before? What was your experience like? I'm not concerned about aesthetics. If I can bend a few metal pieces and cram the enclosure in the laptop, I'll be happy if it boots.

Sourcequench: I only have USB 2. There's no weird hardware a VM would have to support, but the class requires that I use Unity 3D, which already runs at a crawl on my i3, 2.4Ghz. I'd expect a VM to only bog it down more. Is that assumption correct?

posted by mr_bovis at 10:11 AM on September 25, 2017

The optical drive on your laptop is a standard size - check this video for the process to remove the optical and replace it with a harddrive caddy.

The basic process
  • Power machine down, close lid, flip over and remove battery
  • remove the back panel (you will see the original harddrive & RAM sticks)
  • look for the screw anchoring the optical drive - for this dell model it is between the Harddive (silver foil wrapped) and the ram sticks (middle of the device)
  • pull the drive out and pry the plastic trim off the front of the drive and remove the anchor point from the back of the old drive
  • transfer anchor and trim to new caddy with the new hard drive installed, and slide into laptop
  • re-assemble laptop and learn up on dual booting / bios fiddling

posted by zenon at 11:10 AM on September 25, 2017

If you're going to have to buy a second hard drive regardless, maybe consider buying a much larger hard drive, then dual-booting?
posted by mhoye at 11:29 AM on September 25, 2017

Have you done this before? What was your experience like?

I've used similar adapters on ThinkPads for years, but they're an actual supported accessory (they call the optical bay the "UltraBay"). One drive Linux, one drive Windows. Always worked great.
posted by zsazsa at 1:24 PM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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