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VST Portable Firewire Drive Swap:Return to Accelerate Your Mac!

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VST Portable Firewire Drive Swap
By Mike Breeden, 3/14/2001


Although I performed this operation successfully, I cannot recommend you try this since your results may vary and you can damage the case or electronics if you're not careful. You may not have as good a luck as I did getting the adhesive backed wrapping off and could end up with a useless drive.

Drive Height Notes: The case I used in this article is the thinner of two VST models I have seen. It takes a maximum of 9.5mm high drives and the case is under 3/4" thick. Another VST case I have is just over 3/4" thick and can take up to 12.5mm high drives. Check your case thickness and the height of the drive you want to use first. (There are up to 40GB 9.5mm high drives and up to 60GB 12.5mm high drives. (See OWC site specials page for examples.)

About a year ago while writing reviews and guides of portable Firewire drives and case kits, I commented on how I liked the tiny VST portable firewire case over any other I'd used. (It is thinner and smaller as shown in comparison photos in other reviews/guides.) What I didn't like was the high cost of their drives and the fact the case is "sealed", preventing replacing the drive easily as you can with other brands. A few readers had sent comments they had replaced the drive, but the end results were not pretty due to the use of (somewhat brittle) adhesive backed wrapping around the VST drive. (The VST portable drive was never meant to be end user upgradeable.)

VST's pricing has dropped in the last year but I still didn't want to pay for a complete new drive. The other night I noticed my 3GB VST drive (about $329 delivered last year) was making more noise than it ever had before. This and the fact it was only 3GB made me decide to replace the drive with a spare 12GB Toshiba I had on hand.

The first thing I did was remove the front label from the case (carefully so as to not bend or damage it) and set it aside for reuse. The next step is to remove the 3 tiny philips screws under the rubber "feet" of the case. I carefully peeled back the rubber enough to expose the screw heads and removed them with a properly sized screwdriver tip. The photo below shows the screw locations.

screw locations

The next part is the most difficult to do well and I may have been lucky in getting it done as well as I did. In hindsight a blow-dryer or adjustable industrial heat gun may have helped (set to a low temperature as you don't want to melt the plastic). Using a utility knife I cut the case wrapping along one side seam (careful not to press too deep which could protrude into the case and damage something). Peeling back the outer (red in this case) wrapping at first try still showed an insulating layer on the bottom, covering the drive mounting screws. On the second attempt I got under the 2nd layer of clear adhesive backed insulation which exposed the drive screws on the bottom. (Repeated flexing caused one area of the wrapping on the opposite side of the case to crack, but not badly.) The photo below shows the bottom of the case with both layers of wrapping/insulation peeled back.

screw locations

Removing the 4 hard drive mounting screws allows you to slide the hard drive off the connector in the case. The photo below also shows the 2 adhesive backed rubber pads at the front and back edges of the drive that you should peel off and re-apply to the replacment drive.

screw locations

(Note - the photo above is just for illustration. I had to hold the camera with one hand and use the other to hold the drive. I don't recommend putting pressure on top the drive cover - grasp the case in one hand and hold the drive by the _sides_ to pull it off the connector in the case.)

The photo below shows the case with the drive removed. You can see the 4 mounting pads/screw holes for the hard drive and the connector at the right end that mates with the connector pins on the drive.

screw locations

After applying the two rubber padded strips to the new drive it slides onto the connector on the circuit board in the case. You then secure the drive using the 4 screws removed previously. * DON'T* press down on the top cover of any notebook drive during handling - as noted in the PowerBook HD upgrade guides here, this can damage the drive. The replacement drive I had was originally in a powerbook G3 and needed no reformatting after transferring it to the firewire case.

With the drive secured and the wrapping back in place, use the 3 tiny case screws removed previously to secure the two case halves.

Once the replacement drive is secured, press the wrapping/insulation back over the bottom of the drive making sure that it lays flat. The adhesive in this area was still tacky and adhered well to the bottom. The side seam area was another story. During the peeling back operation the adhesive was affected and would not stay flat. I used a sized and cut strip of clear packaging tape to seal this area. I wish I had used a better utility knife and cut more carefully for a smoother edge. As the photo below shows, it's a noticable repair area but I may later replace the clear tape with a closer color match if I can find it. (The red color on the wrapping is not a common shade however.) If the surface is not clean, depending on the quality of tape used the edge may start to peel back over time.

screw locations

I then reapplied the front label on the case. Although the repaired edge is noticable, the end result was worth it for me. Again your results may vary.

Related Reviews and Articles:

See the Firewire articles page for other case kit articles as well as reviews of drives and Firewire controllers.

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