Dude… I put a CD-RW drive in a Dell!

Last Updated on September 30, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

Dude… Putting an aftermarket CD-RW drive in a Dell is a bigger deal than it should be.
I tried to put a Plextor 40X CD-RW in the Dell workstation at church we use for video editing like a month ago, and it scarred me for life. I can put a CD-RW in a Micron in five minutes in my sleep with one hand tied behind my back. And it’ll work.

I can do the same thing in an IBM or any whitebox PC.

As for my sleeping habits, don’t put it past me. I’ve done stranger things. One night at my aunt and uncle’s house, I woke up standing in the corner. And one morning this summer I woke up in my hallway. I’d gone to the closet, gotten out clean sheets and a pillow, and made myself a nice bed there. For me, that’s harder than installing a CD-RW drive.

But that Dell drove me sane. I think it’s an Optiplex 530, but I’m not sure. I’d say Dells are all the same, but they’re not, which makes for even bigger adventure sometimes.

This week, I revisited the revolting thing. And I conquered. It now has a working, living, breathing CD-RW drive.

Anyway, the first thing I did was remove the factory CD-ROM drive and look at its jumper settings. It was set to Cable Select, not master, not slave. I think Dell’s the only manufacturer who does that. OK, fine. I set the Plextor to Cable Select, plugged it into the other IDE connector on the chain, fired it up, hit F2 to go into Setup (and mutterred about why they can’t use F1 or delete like normal people), set the secondary slave drive to Auto, and… Unknown device. I let the system boot. Secondary slave failure. Oh bippity boppity.

So I ripped out the Plextor, set the settings to master, and connected the cable up to the empty, unused, primary IDE controller. I fired it back up, hit F2, set secondary slave to none, set primary master to auto, and… Unknown device.

Double plus ungood, and they weren’t even nice enough to put ice cream on top. But whatever it was they did put on top smelled rank.

Then I got an idea, and it didn’t involve a roof, or a pond, heavy blunt objects, explosives, or even any obscene words.

I powered the machine down. I waited 10 seconds. Then I powered back up. I hit F2 to go into Setup, and, boom-shakalaka, there it was! Primary master: CD-ROM Reader! I cursored over to it and hit Enter. Indeed, it was a Plextor 40-something device!

Theoretically, I could have switched the drive back to cable select, put it on the other chain, done that power-down-and-back-up thang, and it would have worked. I decided to just hang on to that theory and let it remain a theory. I had something that worked and I wasn’t gonna mess with it any more. So I made it all look pretty, put the system back together, and installed Easy CD Creator. And it worked.


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4 thoughts on “Dude… I put a CD-RW drive in a Dell!

  • August 10, 2002 at 10:31 am

    You swapped the CD drive with the power live? At least for me, at least 10 seconds would go by while I was changing the drive. I wouldn’t be totally shocked that you had to fully power down and reboot to get the bios to recognize the drive.

    I wonder if it’s due to the particular base bios (Phoenix, AMI, etc)?

  • August 10, 2002 at 11:48 pm

    Oh no, you never swap any IDE device with the power live. The system absolutely won’t recognize it if you do that, and you risk damage to the system and device.

    Theoretically you can get away with that with SCSI, but it’s a really bad idea.

    Most PC BIOSes (AMI and Award, at least), after you add a drive, will recognize a drive as soon as you tell it it’s there. With this Dell, I had to plug in the drive, power up, tell the BIOS the drive was there, power down, then power back up.

    I think this Dell had a Phoenix BIOS. Whatever it has, I like Award a whole lot better.

  • August 11, 2002 at 9:48 am

    Ah, I get it, you hadn’t powered down after the bios detect. I have to admit I thought that would work too.

    I couldn’t believe that you would swap IDE hardware with the power live, but I didn’t realize exactly what you had done differently.


  • January 14, 2004 at 11:50 am

    comment I recently added a dvd-r to my dell GX1 600 and I must have lucked out. Computer recognized it immediately on power up. The instructions with the drive said to set it as master on the secondary IDE cable(HD is master on primary cable)and any other drive as slave on same cable. Anyway it worked fine for me.

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