fixed : use internal SATA hard drive in LaCie “Mac mini”-form factor housing

Question :

I have an old, square-ish Mac mini (2005 through June 2010), which back-ups to a LaCie FireWire 400 harddrive with the same square-ish form-factor. This morning however, the harddrive inside the LaCie mini has died…

I could just get a completely new external hard drive (with a different design) for my backups now, but I really like the square-ish housing of the LaCie mini together with the Mac mini, so I’ve decided to replace the internal hard disk.

However, it turns out that the internal hard disk of the LaCie mini is an IDE (ATA) hard disk, which are increasingly harder to get than the current Serial-ATA (SATA) hard disks, and generally even more expensive.

Is there a way to use an internal SATA hard disk inside the LaCie mini housing ?

Answer :

Yes, there is.

What you need is this :

– a high-capacity internal 2.5″ laptop SATA harddisk (it is possible using a 3.5″ desktop SATA harddisk, but that is not recommended as explained at the bottom of this post), like a Hitachi TravelStar 1TB SATA harddisk

– a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bay converter-frame, or preferably just the Digitus 2.5″ to 3.5″ bay converter-brackets or alike

– a Wintech SAK-65 bi-directional SATA-to-IDE converter (because of the limited space inside the LaCie mini housing, most other IDE-to-SATA converters will be too bulky too fit in one direction or another)

Note : the Wintech SAK-65 comes with all cables to connect a SATA hard disk to the LaCie mini IDE/ATA-internal

When you have all these parts, the build-in is rather straight forward, especially if you use the manual provided with the Wintech Converter. In short :

1- unplug the LaCie mini form the power and FireWire cables, then remove the white plastic triangular feet from the LaCie mini housing (the are sticker-type feet, so temporarily stick them to a clean smooth surface to store) and unscrew the  screws you find beneath them

2- gently open the housing, unscrew the broken iDE/ATA-hard drive, and take it out

3- gently disconnect the ATA-to-ATA cable, and take it out also

4- then put the new SATA-hard drive in and screw it into place

5- then connect the Wintech converter as outlined in the instruction manual (so, set it’s switch to “Device” and do not forget to connect it to the power using the provided Molex extension cable that includes an extra power connector for the Wintech connector)

6- then connect both Wentronic cables to the hard disk on one end and on the other end to the Molex cable and the Wintech connector

7- then make sure the Wintech connector is slightly twisted in such a way that it is a flat on the hard drive as possible and gently close up the housing (don’t forget the plastic feet)

8- reconnect the power and FireWire cables, and then the LaCie mini will be recognized as and ‘unreadable’ drive by your Mac mini

9- use OSX’s Disk Utility-app to format the drive to “Mac Journaled” format, and it will appear as a healthy drive on your Mac (ready for use, for Time Machine backups or alike)

That’s it



If you really want to build a 3.5″ SATA harddisk into this LaCie mini housing, it can be done, but it will fit so extremely tight that it comes with some extra things you need to address :

1- you will NOT need the 2.5″ to 3.5″ converter brackets

2- the provided cables will not fit in such a way that the housing can be properly rebuilt, so you will also need :

– a Wentronic 4p-Molex-to-angled-15p-SATA power cable (none of the cables with a regular straight SATA-connector will fit, and even most of the angled SATA-connectors will be too bulky too fit, and even this one leaves less than a mm of room for the housing) to extend the “Molex-with-an-extra-power-wire-for-the-converter”-cable

– a Wentronic SATA-to-angled-SATA data cable (most of the other angled-SATA connectors will be too bulky, but the Belkin SATA-to-angled-SATA data cable will fit as well), but you will even have to strip a little extra off the angled connector to enable the cable to make a ‘near-360’-corner

3- the Wintech SAK-65 bi-directional SATA-to-IDE converter needs to be used stripped of it’s plastic housing as it’s too bulky, and you will need to extend the IDE Master/Slave-cable (the wide and flat cable that looks like a lot of tiny wires next to each other) by opening the connection on the converter and putting the original one from the LaCie mini housing in it’s place (after having taken off the connector of that one also)

4- make sure you don’t adjust the 3.5″ SATA harddrive using the screws, just put it ‘on the floor plate'(to make a little extra space)

5- …and then you will have to puzzle quite a bit to fit all of that into the housing

As mentioned before : using a 2.5″ SATA harddrive is far more convenient and straight forward !

Whichever solution you choose :

Enjoy !


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tip : IDE harddrive replacement alternative for iBook G3 & G4

Question :

I am happily using my iBook G4 running MacOSX 10.5 “Leopard”, but it is getting slow because my hard drive is too full. I have looked into buying a new ATA (a.k.a. IDE or PATA) hard drive, but they are rather expensive compared to the current SATA hard drives (mainly in regard to their storage capacity) and they are harder to find as time goes by now… isn’t there any alternative ?

Answer :

Yes ! you do have an interesting alternative…

…it’s far easier to install (you don’t have to open your iBook, which would be quite a hassle)  and you will get lots more GBs of disk capacity for the same price (compared to  IDE-drives) and your iBook will still slide easily in it’s sleeve bag or carrying case…

The solution : get yourself a micro USB-stick !

The type of micro USB-stick I am talking about is any USB-stick similar to the Memorex and Intenso ones, sometimes referred to as “Leave-In” or “Netbook” USB-sticks (which are becoming available in 32GB and 64GB around this time) :

To install :

– just plug in the micro USB-stick in one of the USB-ports

– start up your Mac (or rather : your iBook) and open the Disk Utilities application

– reformat the micro USB-stick to “Mac journaled” format

– then make a complete backup of your Mac (use TimeMachine for instance)

– then copy over all your video (your Video folder), audio (your iTunes folder) and documents (your Documents folder) onto the micro USB-stick

– check if your data has been properly and completely copied, then delete the files from your Mac

– create aliasses (= link-files) of the folders on the micro USB-stick and place those in the original folders where their originals came from (if you’ve done so, you can

– open iTunes pressing the ALT-key and when iTunes ask you where to find your iTunes database, point it towards your micro USB-drive

– that’s it…

Notes :

1- I would normally recommend you to leave just MacOSX and your applications on your internal hard drive, and move all other files onto your micro USB-stick (which reminds some of us to the way a Windows 95 PC would normally be separated into an (C:) and (D:) drive

2- even if your hard drive has crashed, you can use a micro USB-stick to replace your hard drive and use it as your bootable hard drive, by installing MacOSX on it and transferring all your data to it


– to avoid/prevent accidental disconnection of the USB-stick (which might cause serious data-loss), I would recommend to stick a few inches of Scotch-tape over the USB-stick and USB-port

– to be able to neatly place the piece of Scotch-tape, you should take out the iBook’s keyboard for a moment (which is easy to do because of the small keyboard locking sliders on the upper row of keys)