How to build your own Ultrabay drive

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Optical Ultrabay drives like CD-ROM and DVD drives or burners are usually a bit more expensive than their non-IBM counterparts. Additionally more modern technologies are not available for discontinued Ultrabay standards. A solution to this annoyance is to take a standard slim form factor notebook drive and turn it into an Ultrabay drive yourself.

ATTENTION!
No warranty of any kind is given for the correctness of the following instructions. Following them can damage your machine. Proceed at your own risk.
NOTE!
This article is written with Ultrabay 2000 drives in mind. But should be appliable for UltraslimBay and other kinds of Ultrabay devices as well. However, see the warning below.
ATTENTION!
Ultrabay Enhanced (and possibly Ultrabay Slim) formfactor uses a proprietary connector which is soldered to the board. No standard drive can be modified to be used in Ultrabay Enhanced (Slim?) equiped Thinkpads.

The basics

The "big secret" about Ultrabay drives is that basically they are just standard slim form factor notebook drives equipped with an Ultrabay frame. This frame is just a mechanical addition with an integrated connector adapter.

The standard SFF-8552 "Specification for Form Factor of 5 1/4" 9.5mm and 12.7mm Height Optical Drives" is defined by the SFF Committee (SFF = Small Form Factor), the connector on the back of the drive is known as JAE KX15-50KLD, JAE = Japan Aviation Electronics Industry, Limited, the Ultrabay 2000 frame is propriatary IBM.

As curious people found, the inner connector of an Ultrabay frame is nothing more than a standard interface for such drives. Hence, it is generally possible to disassemble an old Ultrabay drive and attach the frame to a newer or better one.

There are, however, some things to consider...

The limitations

Even though these slim form factor drives seem to have a standard form factor at first look, it turns out that there are marginal mechanical differences. This makes it hard if at all possible to know beforehand if the Ultrabay frame from your old drive will perfectly fit onto the new one. The fact is that different Ultrabay drives even for the same Ultrabay standard have frames with different mechanical characteristics. Small differences can sometimes be adjusted by modifying parts of the frame, but this is of course not the nicest solution.

The most varying part is the Blending, which is usually not compatible even among drives of the same manufacturer. The positions of the eject button, the drive LED, the emergency eject hole and the way the blending is attached to the drive all vary a lot. Do precise research before you buy anything. One solution here is to keep the original blending of the drive, since the Ultrabay blending is independent from the rest of the frame. The disadvantage is an optical one: the standard blendings are usually flat whereas the Ultrabay blendings usually are a bit thicker at the top and thinner at the bottom. Also, for some Ultrabay standards you would have to cut out the lower right edge of the blending, since the standard drive blendings are usually rectangle shaped.

Ultrabay 2000

The Ultrabay 2000 frame consists of four parts: Front bezel, left wing, right wing and the back plate containing the connector interface.

The left and right parts are attached with little screws in holes which are at standardized positions and should usually fit among all drives. However, the actual drives show tiny variations in width, which are leveraged by the left and right parts. Hence these can be a bit thicker or thinner (fractions of 1mm). Putting a somewhat wide frame part onto a somewhat wide drive might result in an Ultrabay drive that doesn't fit into the bay at all because it's just a tiny little bit too wide. This can be dealt with e.g. by sanding one of the side frame parts, but it's better if all components fit correctly in the first place. Also, the side frames have hatches fitting into the holes in the back part. Among frames these hatches vary in thickness and length and hence, again, might not fit easily. Again, they can be adjusted by cutting them a bit.

Ultrabay 2000 drives and compatible alternative drives
Ultrabay drive IBM part number actual drive compatible drive needed steps to make fitting
Ultrabay 2000 CD-ROM Drive 27L3435 TEAC CD-224E Samsung SN-082H I took the left wing, right wing, and the back plate from the Teac drive, the screws for the back plate was too long, when fitted with the "long" screws the drive could not open, the new screws is 1-2 mm shorter and now the drive opens without problems, i'm currently looking for a front bezel, that comply with the SFF-8552 standard, or I will cut away the the lower-right corner, but this will void warranty on my new drive. The new drive was recognized without any problems by Windows XP Pro. on my A31 (2652-M3G)! (Bezel photo 1) (Bezel photo 2).
Ultrabay 2000 8x-3x DVD Drive 27L3447 Matsushita SR-8175-M ... ...
Ultrabay 2000 Ultralight 8x DVD-ROM Drive 08K9648 Matsushita SR-8176-M Toshiba Samsung TS-L532A (Don't buy this drive!) Only the left wing, right wing, and the back plate from the original drive was used, I got the TS-L532A drive from a clearance sale of Compal CL56 parts = very cheap! The front bezel was too high, too wide and I also had to cut away the lower-right corner. Tested in both A31 and T30, the new drive is compliant with the SFF-8552 standard (Enjoy the photos) DON'T BUY this drive is unstable!
Ultrabay 2000 8x DVD drive ... Hitachi GD-S200 8x DVD+-RW NEC ND-6650A Commented photo manual by Markoff

HowTo for NEC ND-6550A
NEC ND-6550A's front bezel with cut off edge

Ultrabay 2000 6x DVD drive ... Toshiba DVD-ROM SD-C2302 LiteonIT Slimtype SOSW-833S DVD+-RW Judging by the pictures, this Liteon IT drive looks a lot like the NEC one in Markoff's guide above. Notes:

1) It seems it's not necessary to cut away the lower-right corner of the front bezel, at least on a T23. It'll take a bit more determination than normally to close the drive, but it doesn't look like the bezel is suffering from the bent (photo). Also, it was a bit tricky to get the new drive to actually stay locked in the bay, but once you get it to fit (and don't need to swap drives), it'll stay.

2) Burning DVD-Rs at "maximum speed" produces valid DVD's but with a scary, unstable sound, and the net speed fluctuates between 1 and 2x (also on a T23). Choosing 2x keeps the burn process stable (and noiseless!)

Ultrabay 2000 CD-RW DVD-ROM Combo IV Drive ... HL-DT-ST GCC-4240N NEC ND-6650A Building the drive from scratch was pretty easy and straightforward. I got wing and backplane from ebay. On the front bezel it's necessary to cut away the lower-right corner. It seems to be possible to mount the original front bezel with small mods -- the notches seem to be in the same position.
Ultrabay 2000 Multi-Burner 22P7015 Panasonic UJ-840 NEC 8X SLIM DVD ND-6650 Eschewing the Ultrabay 2000 bezel, a small section needs to be cut out of the lower right corner of the original front bezel. This can be removed from the drive for this purpose; the other Ultrabay parts screw directly into the drive which fits without further modifications.
Ultrabay 2000 CD-RW 08K9617 Sony CRX700E ND-6750A DVD±RW (8x/8x/8x) It was very easy to install this into a T30 model 2366-91U. I took the left wing, right wing, and the back plate from the CD-RW that came with my T30 and installed them on the new DVD burner. It was a little bit tighter fitting than the previous drive but it slid in fine and clicked. I tried to find a way to use the IBM bezel that was on the original drive but there was no way to make it fit (I had a crazy idea to cut off the little tabs and crazy glue on the bezel but I chickened out). The Ultrabay eject lever is on the left side so the bezel did not need trimming on that side. Unfortunately, I had trouble closing the drive tray because it was hitting the infrared window. I had to neatly cut out a small section on the lower right side of the bezel. Everything turned out great and I now I have a DVD burner on my T30!
Ultrabay 2000 CD-RW DVD-ROM Combo II Drive (FRU 27L4359) (ASM 27L4358) KME UJDA720 Panasonic UJDA700 series verified same bezel: PCC UJDA760

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