Apricorn Notebook HD

Apricorn Notebook HD Upgrade Kit 5-Star review  

 This is our 2003 five-star review of the Apricorn system. We still rely on Apricorn in 2008.

Apricorn Notebook HD upgrade kitApricorn“. You keep wanting to say “apricot”. People keep asking “what the heck is it?”Apricorn is one of a few of, I suspect, a host of companies to figure out and exploit the natural synergy of USB and small format storage media.

Apricorn sells USB 2.0 storage and backup systems, notebook hard drives, and notebook hard drive upgrade kits.

My interest was in upgrading my Sony Vaio R505 hard drive, a project I put off for over a year because, frankly, I was intimidated by the idea of taking the laptop apart. First I would like to dispatch the (to me) unpleasant subject of USB versus Firewire hard drives.

(a) I took a horrible little excursion into the PC Firewire world in my review of the ADS/Pyro Firewire kit. I used an Adaptec USB 2.0/IEEE 1394 combo PCI card with my desktop. Readers of my review will note a couple of things. The Pyro worked great with the Vaio, which is IEEE1394-ready. For whatever reason, my experiences with the Adaptec card was catastrophic. This was not my first low-level sudden death adventure with an Adaptec PCI card (I used to use SCSI), and will be my last adventure with that fine old company.

(b) My article prompted a discussion on Firewire DOS drivers on the old Summitlake YABB forum. Folks are still trying to figure out how to get these things to work with Ghost. Come on, PC owners: life shouldn’t be that complicated. My solution: either use USB, or buy a Mac. Dammit. There, I said it, and thanks.

OK, what is the Apricorn kit, and how do we use it to upgrade a notebook hard drive?

I bought mine from PC Connection for $76.46. It includes an external plastic 2.5″ HD case, USB 1.1 or 2.0 ready, with a USB connector cable, power supply (normally not needed), and a PS/2 power cable (normally not needed). It also includes a driver floppy for older W98 installations, and a CD containing Apricorn’s EZ Gig II Data Transfer Utility.

Although Apricorn sells replacement and upgrade hard drives for just about any laptop ever manufactured, I bought a new Hitachi 60GB 7200rpm drive with 8MB buffer, $289.99, also PC Connection. If you are unsure which hard drive you need for your laptop, Apricorn’s site is very helpful. You are almost always going to need a 2.5″ hard drive, 9.5mm thick (0.37 inch). Older machines may have a BIOS limitation on maximum size. My 2001 laptop didn’t have a problem going from 15 to 60 gig.

  • Take your new HD out of the box and put it in the plastic case with four screws. Time: about 5 minutes.
  • Connect to the laptop with the USB cable. Time: about 10 seconds.
  • Start the connection software and let it do its thing using auto defaults. Click, click, click, click; go to dinner. Do the dishes. Setup is a no-brainer, the most well-thought-out upgrade or drive copy software I’ve ever used. For 15GB of data copy it took 4 hours over my old, slow USB 1.1 connection.
  • Swap out hard drives. Total time 10 minutes. Use the old HD as a portable external for photos, tunes or backup.

Software: The software runs flawlessly from the bootable CD. It locates the old internal hard drive and the (temporarily) external new hard drive. The old 15GB HD had two partitions, a roughly 6GB boot C drive, and roughly 9GB D drive. Apricorn presented a proposal to copy this data over to two new proportionally sized partitions on the 60GB drive, roughly 24 and 36GB. I accepted. That was all I needed to do.

I was extrememly pleased with the result. The Vaio seems twice as fast at boot-up, I have tons of room, and I have a truly portable shirt-pocket 15GB external storage device in the bargain.

Running backup softwareHoly cow, what a wiring mess on the wall! Here, the backup software is about 90% complete with the clone operation. The new HD is in the left foreground, connected by the USB cable.To access the Vaio HD area, remove two front rows of 3 screws per row from the computer case underside. The metal panel with the touchpad then lifts out from the top. Gently place it over the keyboard, revealing the HD. One more keeper screw removes it, after detaching from IDE connector.
Apricorn case with old HD installedFinally, swap side rails from old HD onto the new HD, reinstall, and put the laptop back together again. After all my fears, this whole operation took me 10 minutes to figure out and perform.Here is the old HD, now inside my new Apricorn case, after the transfer and drive swap is complete. A quarter dollar sits on the bottom of the case, for scale.posted by Alex Forbes December 6, 2003

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