Is it possible to use a USB hard disc enclosure with a CD-ROM?
February 8, 2007 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to use a USB hard disc enclosure with a CD-R/RW?

I'm trying to install Ubuntu on a laptop without a CD drive. I've looked into using a USB flash drive, but apparently the installation is fraught with peril. However, everyone agrees that installing from an installation CD is easy as pie.

However, I don't have a USB CD drive either.

What I do have is a USB hard drive that's collecting dust, and an internal CD-R/RW that is also collecting dust.

I know that the CD-R/RW will not actually fit in the enclosure, and that the whole thing would be jury-rigged as all hell, but I only need it to work until Ubuntu is installed.

So, could I hook the IDE port of the CD-R/RW to the IDE interface at the back of the enclosure, the power port to the power port on the enclosure, plug the power cable of the enclosure into the wall, and plug the USB port into the laptop, thereby making the HDD enclosure act like a CD-R/RW enclosure?
posted by Bugbread to Technology (11 answers total)
I'd say....yes but.

It depends on the controller at the back of the external enclosure. I personally have an empty enclosure that you can put whatever drive in it you want, and I *know* it would work, but yours sounds like it was only ever a standalone hdd enclosure, so I'd be wary.

You could also try the network install option, but I've never done that myself.
posted by TomMelee at 10:13 AM on February 8, 2007

Go ahead. The worst that can happen is you damage things that were collecting dust.
posted by ardgedee at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2007

I did once the same and it worked. A case with an adapter IDE -> USB should work for all IDE devices. BTW, is your computer able to boot from USB? Maybe you have to change some BIOS settings.

Good luck
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2007

Usually. IDE is IDE. Just make sure your CD drive is set to Master.
posted by fvox13 at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes YOU CAN... I am 100% sure of this.
There are no production 3.5 and 5 inch external IDE enclosure that aren't compatible with both IDE 3.5HDD and IDE CD drives.

BUT... of couse, there may be some incompatibilities between manufacturers... there should not be any damage caused by connecting incompatible IDE drives on those external interfaces...
posted by curiousleo at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2007

Ok, cool, and thank you all very much.
posted by Bugbread at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2007

Before you go and do all this, I'd heed Yoyo_NYC's suggestion and check the BIOS settings. If the computer can't boot from USB, there's no point in messing around with the enclosure and the CD drive. Most recent systems can, but some earlier ones cannot...and/or you might need to update the BIOS to be able to do it.

If you can't boot from USB, then you are looking at some less-attractive options for installation...maybe trying to boot up from a floppy with network drivers and then doing a network install.

People have installed Linux on everything, up to and including toasters, so you can certainly do this; it just might take a little creativity if the machine won't boot from USB. Investigating that would be my first priority.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 AM on February 8, 2007

I'd be slightly worried about your BIOS not knowing what's attached. I believe the USBflash bios boot option just has a bunch of usb flash drive drivers there. I guess there's only one real way of finding out.

If that doesnt work try a boot floppy with networking support and tftp like this guy did.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2007

I'd also search/ask at the ubuntu forums.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2007


I tried it out this morning, but no beans. The drive light came on, so I know the power supply to it was existent, but the eject button wouldn't eject the tray. I turned everything off, then used the paperclip-eject-hole to open the drive, loaded the CD, then turned everything on and tried again, but, sure enough, nothin'. Just a little green light telling me that the CD drive was indeed receiving power, but, no, that wasn't enough for it to do anything like eject the CD when the button was pressed, or spin, or do anything else fancy.

Regarding the USB CD drive bootability in the BIOS, I'm sorry, I should have mentioned that I've already confirmed that the BIOS supports USB CD booting, and I made sure that the CD was given boot priority first, before the hard drive.
posted by Bugbread at 2:03 AM on February 9, 2007

It'd be easiest to remove the drive from the laptop, and use another computer to do the install.
posted by blasdelf at 2:50 AM on February 11, 2007

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