I’ve had the optical drive in every Mac Pro that I’ve owned because once in a while there is a time that I need to burn a DVD or install software from physical disk media. Those situations are becoming more seldom as time passes. I also have a pet-peeve with the Mac Pro that directly relates to the optical drive. Let me explain: When I’m working on the keyboard I’m usually a little turbo-typer. I’ve become known as “Jasper and his quick keys” by others. In my frenzy I frequently hit the eject key on the keyboard by mistake in the top-right corner when I really want to press the delete key. This causes the optical drive to open on the Mac Pro everytime it happens and it’s very annoying. I have a MacBook Pro with an optical drive for burning DVDs so I have decided to replace the optical drive in the Mac Pro with two Hard Drives in the optical drive bay. Internal SATA hard drives are available in capacities as large as 4TB. With this method you can have a total of 6 hard drives installed in the Mac Pro, which can potentially give you up to 24TB of storage on your Mac Pro. Here’s a step-by-step of how I accomplished this task on the Mac Pro.
The first thing you need to do is turn off your Mac and open the case. Pull the optical drive sled out of the optical drive bay and then unplug the SATA and power cord that is connected to the optical drive. This will free the sled from its tether to the Mac Pro. Check out the image below.
This step is pretty easy. There’s 2 screws on each side of the optical drive sled that attaches the optical drive to the optical drive sled. Remove these screws and then slide the optical drive out of the optical drive sled. When you’re done with this step you’ll have an empty optical drive sled. Be careful when you’re removing the screws because the optical drive will be flopping around in the optical drive sled when you’re removing the screws and the edges of the optical drive sled are kind of sharp so be careful not to cut yourself from the edges of the optical drive sled when you’re removing the optical drive.
I bought this cool little piece called an X-Swing that allows you to connect two hard drives side-by-side for this project. The X-Swing is basically just two pieces of aluminum. It’s got cool little rubber feet that kind of loosely pop into nipples on the X-Swing and the rubber feet have holes on the other side that allow you to screw the feet into the optical drive bay. This method allows the connection to absorb noises that are caused by vibrations from the hard drives. It also prolongs the lifespan of the hard drives by limiting vibrations in the hard drive that would otherwise contribute to inevitable hard drive failure.
The X-Swing is discontinued now but you can get a similar item at OWC.
Another thing to note when you connect the X-Swing to the hard drives is that you want the connections of both hard drives to be lined up on the same side. That way you won’t have to twist the connection cable around to try and connect the hard drives to the Mac Pro later on. Check out the pics below of the X-Swing connected to the hard drives.
This step is pretty basic but there’s a few things I wanted to point out. Remember those rubber feet on the X-Swing that I was talking about in the last step? When the X-Swing is attached to the hard drives and you’re attaching this combination to the optical drive sled you should be careful about those shock-absorbing rubber feet because they can easily pop out of the nipples that connect them to the X-Swing. I usually don’t have a problem with this step as long as I’m careful that the rubber feet do not pop out of the nipples in the X-Swing. Here’s a pic of the hard drives attached to the optical drive sled. There’s not enough room to fit two 3.5″ hard drives AND an optical drive in the optical drive sled so bye-bye optical drive.
Slip that puppy back into the area formerly known as the optical drive bay and plug in the hard drives to the SATA/Power connectors that are available. Put the cover back on the case and fire up your Mac Pro. I went to Disk Utility and created a RAID for these hard drives.
For maximum performance I highly recommend upgrading your system HD to a PCI express SSD hard drive. These puppies are pretty expensive but they will give you AMAZING read/write speeds on your hard drive (up to 820MB/s).
You can check out some of the PCI Express Solid State Drives at OWC -> HERE
Jasper Thayer is the developer of FinalCutProX.net
He has over 15 Apple Pro Certifications for video editing and special effects including Apple Certified Trainer for Final Cut Pro X and Apple Certified Trainer for Motion 5.
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