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Firewire Direct's Portable Firewire Hard Drive Kit
How it Compares to VST's Superslim Drives
by Mike
Published: 5/27/2000
(Updated 5/30/2000)

Mounting a Drive and Assembling the Kit

Step 1: Remove the 4 screws from the bottom of the drive housing. Then remove the plastic cover from the bottom.

The photo at the right shows the circuit board that is exposed once the bottom cover plate is removed. Gently invert the case to allow the circuit card to fall free from the case. (The FW Direct provided photo provided for illustration shows inserting the card back inside the case; it's not possible to to grab the edge of the card to remove it with the case in this position, so inverting the case is required to remove the card.)

(Observant readers and engineers will note the one wire added to the circuit board shown in the photo. That was the only indication of a post-pwb design circuit mod I saw.)

Photo by FW Direct

Step 2: The 2.5" IDE notebook drive mounts on the 'top' side of the circuit board you just removed. Note the IDE interface connector on one end of the board and 2 Firewire connectors at the other end.

It's not visible in the photo, but there is a clear mylar insulating sheet covering conductive pads (circuit 'stitch holes') on the circuit board to prevent shorting against the metal hard drive chassis.

CAUTION: I did not have a problem with this sample, but a reader on 5/30/2000 wrote that his drive kit had a sharp edge on one of the solder joints under the mylar sheet. This sharp point pierced the mylar after mounting the drive he said, causing a short. (He reported the drive seems ok luckily). I highly recommend checking for this before mounting the drive (feeling with your finger for any sharp raised edges on solder joints under the mylar sheet).

As an added safety measure, I disassembled my drive kit and added a layer of electrical tape to areas where there were solder joints under the mylar sheet. I've made several suggestions to Firewire Direct about preventative measures and inspection checks for this issue.

If you see any sharp points or if the raised solder joints prevent the drive from lying flat, contact Firewire Direct. Attempting to screw the drive down firmly if the solder joints prevent it from lying flat could stress the drive and/or cause the mylar sheet to be pierced (causing a short circuit, which could damage the drive or firewire controller). I placed additional layers of black electrical tape (insulating) over the solder joints on this sample and have not had any problems so far - but watch out for this 'canting' the drive depending on the height of the solder joints. If there is any question on this issue contact Firewire Direct immediately.

One common question I get on notebook drives is the 'rattle' they may when inverted. This is normal. The Toshiba drives often have a note on the label stating this.

Photo by FW Direct

My Suggestion to FW Direct: Since circuit board artwork changes are expensive, result in scrapping existing boards or reworks (not possible in some cases), here's my suggestion to eliminate the issue of short circuits with a fairly low cost solution.

At the component placement stage of the circuit board build (prior to soldering), an insulating shim is put under the IDE connector (there are hollow glass beads for this very purpose, I've used them many times. They are put on the corner pins of a device and act as a standoff to keep the component off the board, yet stand up to soldering heat). Then a set of 4 hollow plastic discs are used to standoff the HD at the mounting screw hole areas. I'm no artist but the sketch below shows my idea (the connector shim is exaggerated as the tiny glass beads would be hard to see in the sketch).

My solution to the shorting problem

The IDE connector has to be raised a bit with any solution that increases the thickness of the insulator sheet/raises the drive. Ensuring that all solder joints are flush would be more costly (hand labor, increased inspection costs). A thicker insulated pad is another option, but would have to have a foam backing to allow for the solder joint irregularities, and would still require raising the IDE connector off the board a bit as well as being a potential trap for heat. I don't think a thicker pad would be as cost-effective or as good a solution as the method in the sketch.

Place the hard drive (label side up) on the circuit card and gently but firmly slide the drive onto the mating connector. (Aligning the connectors as you go.) *DO NOT* press down on the top cover of the hard drive - always grasp it by the sides. (Toshiba drives have a warning on about this printed on the drive label.) There are no jumper settings required for the drive as the default setting is master/single drive. (I would have taken a better photo of this step personally but it's a fairly straightforward operation)

Photo by FW Direct

Step 3: Use the 4 included screws to secure the hard drive to the circuit board. Gently holding the hard drive by the sides, invert the circuit board to attach the 4 screws through the holes in the card into the threaded holes in the drive.

There's no need to over-torque the screws - snug them firmly, but don't use excessive force. Also check that any raised solder joints are not preventing the drive from lying flat. If the drive is canted due to a raised area on the circuit card, then screwing it down may place stress on the drive. Contact Firewire Direct if there are any concerns over this issue.
(Despite this note in the original article, one reader wrote he tightened the screws to where he claims the drive was flexed. This Toshiba appears too rigid to flex, but again do not over-tighten the screws. Also remember the previous warning - do not press on the top cover of the drive.)

Photo by Mike

Step 4: Carefully place the circuit board back in the case's shell (drive side first). Of course make sure the 2 firewire connectors on the card are facing the end of the case with the corresponding port holes.

Now you can place the bottom cover plate back on and install the 4 screws to secure it. Tip: I remove any plastic residue that may be present on the screw threads.
photo by FW direct

Step 5: Note the bottom cover has cooling vents - therefore it's important to install the 4 rubber 'feet' so that the drive case is kept off the surface (to help airflow). In fairly heavy use I did not notice the drive getting hot. (VST portable drives have no cooling vents so they get a little warm as well. Their interface card uses less components to allow for the compact size and lack of venting.)

Now that the drive is complete - we're ready to install the software.
photo by mike

Next Step: Installing Drivers/Formatting the Drive

Yes - show me!

No, take me back Home.

Index of Portable Firewire Drive Kit Project

Intro | Case Assembly | Software Install | Benchmarks

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