How to build your own personal computer - Kitchen Table Computers - Tablet Version
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Installing DVD Drives and Other Auxiliary Drives


There are several different types of auxiliary drives available for your homebuilt computer, such as CD-RW and DVD-RW drives, ZIP drives, tape drives, and drive-like devices such as card readers. The installation procedures for all of these devices are pretty much the same.

Before I go on, however, my site stats indicate that some people arrive at this page because they need to know how to replace a failed CD or DVD drive, not because they want to build a computer. If that's why you're here, you need to make sure the new drive is compatible with your computer.

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You see, until a few years ago, most CD and DVD drives used the PATA (or EIDE) interface, but nowadays almost all optical drives use the SATA interface. In fact, the only reason I even talk about PATA drives anymore is because, like I said, a lot of people come here to learn how to replace a drive, not build a new computer. So I decided to at least talk a little bit about PATA.

The most important thing to remember is that PATA and SATA are not interchangeable, so you have to buy the right kind of drive. The easiest way to tell them apart is this: PATA drives usually use a flat, ribbon-like data cable that's about two inches wide. SATA drives use a thicker, but narrower cable that looks like this. So when replacing a DVD, DVD-RW, or other optical drive, make sure you buy the right kind.

For this demonstration, we will be installing a CD-RW drive on an EIDE interface. Other types of interfaces also are available (SATA and SCSI). The process is exactly the same for installing a device like a card reader, except that there may be an additional connection to the USB header on the motherboard, or to an add-on card.

Like any other EIDE device, the first step in installing a CD-RW drive is to decide where it will be positioned in your particular drive configuration (that is, as a master or a slave), and to set the jumpers accordingly.

If you don't remember how to do this, please review the pages on hard drive configuration, which begin here. (And if you're using all SATA drives, ignore all this talk of masters, slaves, and jumpers.)


Prying off the drive bay cover with a screwdriver.Once you have decided on the drive configuration and have put the jumpers where they belong, you can begin to physically install the drives. When deciding where to place the drives, keep both convenience of use and cable routing in mind.

In most cases, You'll have to remove both a plastic cover and a metal plate from the drive bay where you will be installing the drive. Most often, you do this by removing the plastic cover, and then prying the metal plate from the rest of the case using a screwdriver.

Always wear eye protection when doing this, and please be careful not to cut yourself and get blood all over your new computer.


Inserting the CD-ROM drive in the computer case.The next step is to insert the drive in the case. This is usually easiest to do from the front. Gently slide the drive back until it's faceplate is flush with the front of the case.

Be careful not to catch the drive's faceplate against the bezel of the case, or you may mar or damage the drive or the case. Also, don't push too hard. If the drive won't go in all the way, check to see what's blocking it before pushing like Samson.

Also be careful that the drive, once inserted, doesn't come too close to fans or push up against motherboard components. Some drives are slightly longer than average, and if you push them in fully without looking first, you may damage something on the motherboard.


Tightening the mounting screws.Finally, secure the drive into place with the mounting screws, and connect the data and power cables.

The power and data cable connections are made in the same way as when installing a hard drive, but there's less consistency regarding power connectors on optical drives. Some still use Molex connectors, some use SATA connectors, and a few even use old-fashioned floppy-type power connectors.

Some optical drives also have a legacy audio connector that connects to the sound card. It's obsolete technology and chances are that you don't need it. But it does no harm to connect it if your sound card or motherboard has a connector for it.


Installing the Cabinet Fan

Installing the cabinet fan.While we're at it, let's also install the cabinet fan. On our case, the cabinet fan is mounted in a fan shroud, which is in turn snapped into the computer case. Other cases simply have holes for the fan to be directly mounted to the case using special screws that come with the fan.

Some people always mount the cabinet fans to blow the air outward, to avoid sucking dust into the computer. Others say you should install the front panel fan to draw the air inward, and the rear panel fan to blow the air outward. We say it depends. If the computer is going to be used in a dusty place, point the fan to blow the air out to avoid dust. If not, then point it in to increase airflow.

Either way, a cabinet fan or two will go a long way towards keeping your computer cool and comfy.


Next, let's install the Panel Connectors






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