Speeding up a ThinkPad x41 via a SATA SSD conversion

[Marek Walther] uses a ThinkPad x41 tablet for business on a daily basis. Since he’s on the go with the device he figures that hardware failure is eventually going to strike and with that in mind he purchased a second unit – slightly broken – to fix as a backup. He had never been excited about the speed of the tablet so he set out to find improvements. One of the options was to replace the traditional hard drive with a solid state model (translated). But simply dropping in an SSD isn’t going to make things faster. That’s because the stock drive uses a PATA interface. After a bit of snooping [Marek] discovered that the motherboard has a SATA interface that has a bridge connecting to the PATA plug. By removing the bridge and soldering a SATA cable to the board he was able to improve performance while increasing storage capacity at the same time.

Hard drive password recovery

Here’s a guide for recovering protection passwords from ATA hard drives (translated). These passwords are stored in a special area of the hard disk that also contains the firmware for the device. Normally you can’t get at them but [Supersonic] walks us through a method used to grab the data off of a Western Digital Scorpio drive. Booting into a program called MHDD you are able to bypass the BIOS (which won’t allow you to read protected data) and directly drive the SATA or PATA controller on your motherboard. Once you’ve dumped the data it can be viewed with a HEX editor, and if you know where to look you can grab the passwords that are locking the disk.

This reminds us of some of the original Xbox hacks which used a variety of methods to unlock the stock hard disk.

Storage for your hacking needs

Sometimes your project needs a lot of non-volatile ROM, right on cue [Matthew] let us know how to not only connect, interface, read, and write to SD cards with a PIC over serial, but also how to do the above mentioned with an old PATA HDD. For those without a PIC/serial connection don’t fret, [nada] let us know about his Bus Pirate SD card hack, of which our personal favorite part is the creative use of an old 5.25″ floppy connector as the SD card socket.

Acer Aspire One hard drive upgrade


As promised, [tnkgrl] has published part two of Acer Aspire One upgrade. In part one she added Bluetooth and more RAM. This time around she focuses on the storage. The subnotebook comes from the factory with an 8GB SSD. The flash based storage readily unplugs from a small ZIF connector. [tnkgrl] replaced it with a 60GB PATA Samsung drive salvaged from an iPod. It’s a 1.8inch disk and is only 5mm thick, so it can be tucked under the motherboard. Knowing its previous use, it should prove fairly resilient. You can view a video of the swap and more photos on Flickr.

Up next is part three, where she’ll add 3G support.

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