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Alienware M18x UPGRADE OPTIONS & Mods

Telekine5i5

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Jul 29, 2012
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Dear M18X owners list some of the upgrades you have performed and mods you performed to your M18x

* Question Have you Removed the Optical Drive and Installed a SSD OR HDD in there ?;)

Thanks
 

AeonSoul

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Feb 21, 2012
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Why would you need to remove the optical drive? M18x should have at least 2 HDDs/SDDs bays.
 

Maelstrom

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Feb 25, 2012
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Dell gives you the options for three HDDs/SSDs and an optical drive so I don't know why you would want to take it out.

Also, there is this mod for the AlienFX if you want to use it.
 

SWAT_Glock

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Yeti

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Mar 10, 2012
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Nice! What kind of performance boost did you get? Oh, can you upload your pics to gallery here too? They would be great there too. Thanks
Sure thing - I never really got much interest on my posting on AWA. I see a few fellow AW owners that are 'afraid' to perform their own upgrades. I was going to do a step-by-step with pictures.

As for the performance boost - I never really did a 'before' and 'after' benchmark. I could still do one, any tips on benchmark program?

I will say, however, it absolutely flies now compared to before. That SSD and 1866MHz makes it feel so much faster
 

preiddiwr

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Aug 21, 2012
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Im new here, not new to Alienware though. I have a New R1 I got a good deal on has never been used, new in the box. I have it torn down right now to the bones. I am taking my 2960 out of my 17x r3 along with my 32gb of corsair vengence and dual OCZ Vertex drives. Waiting on my second VC to come then I am going to slap it back together. Cant wait to put it back together, I have more fun building these machines than I do playing games on them lol. Also where do we post pictures in this forum I would love to post pictures on the build. I also have 4 17x r3's im building along with a 18x r2.
 

Mr. Fox

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Aug 10, 2012
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Installing Additional HDD in Optical Bay / External Optical Drive Mod

Dear M18X owners list some of the upgrades you have performed and mods you performed to your M18x

* Question Have you Removed the Optical Drive and Installed a SSD OR HDD in there ?;)

Thanks
Yes, I did this a while back and it works great. For those interested in adding a third drive to the M18x R1 for SSD RAID0 plus a data drive, it is easily done. The entire conversion was about $40USD grand total, and it works really great. If you own an M18x R2, you could set up two RAID0 installations... one with two SATA 3.0 SSD for the OS and two higher capacity HDD in RAID0 for data storage and program installation.

The internal bay I am using is this one:
https://www.jacobsparts.com/items/HDDBAY-01/

Here is the external enclosure I am using for my BluRay burner:
5.25" USB 2.0 CD/DVD Slim Notebook External SATA Drive Enclosure (Black) N-URW-ESATA

Here is the bezel for the slot-load drive in the external enclosure: Silver Bezel for Panasonic 12.7mm Slot-Load Drive-PAN-BEZEL-SS-SI

And here is what it looks like:


Note: The HDD in the optical bay runs at SATA-2 3GB/s and that is all most platter drives run at anyway. (You will not be able to set up SATA-3 6GB/s RAID0 with more than 2 drives because the HM67 and HM77 chipsets only support 2 SATA-3 ports.) SATA-2 is plenty fast for data storage and it works great for installed applications. The above linked optical drive bay caddy from Jacob's Parts will also support 12.7 mm 2.5" 1TB drives that are too thick for the standard M18x HDD caddy.

As an additional mod, I "gutted" the external enclosure and used foam tape to hold the drive in the plastic housing. I removed the small PCB card for USB interface and chopped out the right side to use an eSATAp interface, which is much faster than USB 2.0. (The eSATA port on the M18x is SATA-2 and can be used to boot a full Windows OS from an external drive as though it were installed permanently.)

I obtained the eSATAp cable here:
eSATAp Cable, connect HDD, SSD or ODD (optical drive) externally
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 27, 2012
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Mr. Fox,

I should have known that you would address the exact issue I have been researching for my M18X R1!

I currently have the Alienware RAID 0 1TB Semi-Solid State setup, and would like to remove my bluray optical drive and drop a Samsung 840 Pro 2.5-Inch 256 SATA_6_0_gb SSD into that slot. So, I'd be booting from that SSD, and have my 1TB RAID for Steam games. Based on your post, I imagine it should work well (though I do see you have your HDD in the optical slot, and a SSD RAID).

The question I have is, should I get fantastic read/write times using the SATA connection in the optical drive bay? I'm a noob at installing SSD drives, so appreciate any perspective you can provide on that. This question is driven by your decision to put a HDD in the optical bay, not an SSD.

Thanks as always for your ongoing contributions to this community.

Yes, I did this a while back and it works great. For those interested in adding a third drive to the M18x R1 for SSD RAID0 plus a data drive, it is easily done. The entire conversion was about $40USD grand total, and it works really great. If you own an M18x R2, you could set up two RAID0 installations... one with two SATA 3.0 SSD for the OS and two higher capacity HDD in RAID0 for data storage and program installation.

The internal bay I am using is this one:
https://www.jacobsparts.com/items/HDDBAY-01/

Here is the external enclosure I am using for my BluRay burner:
5.25" USB 2.0 CD/DVD Slim Notebook External SATA Drive Enclosure (Black) N-URW-ESATA

Here is the bezel for the slot-load drive in the external enclosure: Silver Bezel for Panasonic 12.7mm Slot-Load Drive-PAN-BEZEL-SS-SI

And here is what it looks like:


Note: The HDD in the optical bay runs at SATA-2 3GB/s and that is all most platter drives run at anyway. (You will not be able to set up SATA-3 6GB/s RAID0 with more than 2 drives because the HM67 and HM77 chipsets only support 2 SATA-3 ports.) SATA-2 is plenty fast for data storage and it works great for installed applications. The above linked optical drive bay caddy from Jacob's Parts will also support 12.7 mm 2.5" 1TB drives that are too thick for the standard M18x HDD caddy.

As an additional mod, I "gutted" the external enclosure and used foam tape to hold the drive in the plastic housing. I removed the small PCB card for USB interface and chopped out the right side to use an eSATAp interface, which is much faster than USB 2.0. (The eSATA port on the M18x is SATA-2 and can be used to boot a full Windows OS from an external drive as though it were installed permanently.)

I obtained the eSATAp cable here:
eSATAp Cable, connect HDD, SSD or ODD (optical drive) externally
 

MattyB

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Mar 19, 2012
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From what Mr Fox says, the optical bay only supports SATA 2 speeds and not SATA 3. This means that you would not get the most performance from your SSD from this bay. If you want to run your 840 Pro at its best speeds you will need to put it into a SATA 3 bay and rearrange your other drives.
 

AeonSoul

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Feb 21, 2012
Messages
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From what Mr Fox says, the optical bay only supports SATA 2 speeds and not SATA 3. This means that you would not get the most performance from your SSD from this bay. If you want to run your 840 Pro at its best speeds you will need to put it into a SATA 3 bay and rearrange your other drives.
What Matty said, SATA 3 runs faster than SATA 2, so if you want the best performances you can get you need to put the SSD in one of the standard bays.
 
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SSD RAID / 1 HDD config versus semi solid state HDD RAID / 1 SSD solution

Guys - this is really helpful - I checked out this Tom's hardware article (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sata-6gbps-performance-sata-3gbps,3110-8.html) on the SATA II versus SATA III question.

Based on this article there are benchmark performance gains on SATA III, but I asked the wrong question in the first place, because while the real-world performance difference between SATA connections may be negligible (according to the article) and so may not be worth the cost of buying more drives for me, the real HD performance difference between Mr. Fox’s drive config and the one I was considering is the:

1) difference in SATA speeds, plus
2) introduction of RAID 0 SSD, plus
3) assumption that some games are kept on the SSD RAID (which will speed up games that stream like Crysis).*

For me to pull the trigger and buy another SSD (and potentially a high capacity HDD for the optical bay), the gains in gaming speeds would need to be significantly affected. I play a lot of heavily modded Skyrim for instance, and would love to never see another hitch in it. Put another way, is the boost of a (SSD RAID / 1 HDD) config versus a (semi solid state HDD RAID / 1 SSD solution) worth an estimated $500 in new drives total (estimating 250 for a second SSD and a high capacity HDD)? We’re getting into 680M SLI territory with those costs.

Bottom line, would an SSD RAID smoke my semi-solid state RAID (+ SSD boot drive) for game performance by a significant FPS margin? I just have to decide if that performance is worth approx. $500 more (beyond SSD I already bought), or should I just wait until 680Ms are available for the M18X R1's and put the $$ towards that.

Thanks so much for your advice! Also, I’m trying to make this decision quick...amazon is honoring cyber Monday all week. If I do it, can anyone recommend a fast/cheap/high capacity/reliable HDD for the optical bay?

* Point #3 above assumes that Steam allows users to install some games on the SSD RAID and some on the HDD. Not sure if Steam has the flexibility to allow some games to be installed in one location and others installed in another, but seems like it should. Anyone know this?


What Matty said, SATA 3 runs faster than SATA 2, so if you want the best performances you can get you need to put the SSD in one of the standard bays.
 

MattyB

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I could be way off here but your SSD won't make any FPS difference while playing. It will help load the game and new areas quicker but I believe that's about it. Forgive me if I'm wrong though. I did not notice any difference in FPS after switching to SSD.
 

AeonSoul

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I could be way off here but your SSD won't make any FPS difference while playing. It will help load the game and new areas quicker but I believe that's about it. Forgive me if I'm wrong though. I did not notice any difference in FPS after switching to SSD.
You're right.
 
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I could be way off here but your SSD won't make any FPS difference while playing. It will help load the game and new areas quicker but I believe that's about it. Forgive me if I'm wrong though. I did not notice any difference in FPS after switching to SSD.
Another Tom's article shows you are essentially correct about FPS, but that there can be choppiness (inconsistencies in FPS) in the game that SSDs can help with.

These cursory benchmarks confirm that, when it comes to frame rates, storage is not your bottleneck. Speeding it up won't yield bigger numbers. Almost always, graphics is what holds you back. Less often, processor performance gets in the way. The improvements facilitated by SSDs are seen in game and level loading.

Why, then, do gamers love SSDs beyond those two benefits? Well, solid-state storage does empower your machine with the ability to maintain extremely high throughput as queue depth increases. As a result, you can run into performance-degrading situations when multiple apps are running concurrently, reflected as choppiness when you're playing a game. It's not a constant phenomenon; rather, you see periodic hiccups that interrupt the suspension of disbelief made possible by really great games. You don't see it with an SSD installed. The best (and perhaps most typical) example of this is when an anti-virus app launches a full scan in the background.

We end up with slight choppiness when the system is forced to wait on the disk to finish read or write operations issued by the other application. However, between each stutter event, frame rates are going to be the same for SSDs and hard drives. It's the choppiness that causes the average frame rate to drop. With that full virus scan going on in the background and periodic stutters occurring as a result, average performance drops to 53.5 FPS on our hard drive-equipped platform with a GeForce GTX 580 rendering Ultra Quality settings. Compare that to 59.6 FPS on the same machine, unmolested.


I play a lot of Skyrim and the system stutters a little when I initially pan back and forth, then it's locked at 60 FPS after that initial panning is done. Seems like something (textures?) is being read into memory, and once it's there the 580Ms have no problem. The above is from : http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/battlefield-rift-ssd,3062-13.html

I was hoping against hope that people might be experiencing faster gameplay in general when an SSD is involved.
 

MattyB

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I have played a lot of Skyrim too. Most of which was played using the HDD. I can't say I have really noticed any difference now that I am playing off an SSD. There are still moments where the FPS will drop down briefly before coming back up to 60 or 120 (on my Optx Monitor). This is with no anti-virus going in the background.

I love my SSD's and I would definitely suggest you go for it in your machine. I wouldn't think you would see a huge real world difference in gameplay at the end of the day though.

Let us all know if you see a marked difference though once you do the swap!
 
Joined
Nov 27, 2012
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I am leaning towards putting the SSD in the optical drive bay at this point, even if the SATA interface is not optimal for the Samsung. I can keep my current RAID intact and save some money. Unless anyone feels strongly otherwise.....?
 
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