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Are laptop optical drives always compatible? Do they come in different physical sizes? Are there any specs I need to match on the new drive, such as whether it has SATA?

If so, how would I find these specs for my dell? (the details don't seem to be in the users manual or service manual)


I have a Dell 1720 and want to buy a new optical drive for it - I'm replacing an existing DVD drive with a blu-ray drive.

I almost just bought the first laptop drive I found on eBay, when it occurred to me they might not all be standard in size/interface/power/etc.

The Dell service manual has clear instructions on how to remove/replace it, looks easy:


but no specs on what kind of drive I'd need to replace it with.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

as far as i've seen, laptops still seem to use the old ATAPI interface which is pata based, and from the images of a supposedly compatable drive on amazon (TS-L632) it looks identical to the standard pata drives on my thinkpads - i can easily pop the one on my 3 year old laptop into a significantly older system so its a fairly common standard- so its very likely any drive that meets the atapi standards will work

To be sure you can look it up using a system information software like SIW - There should be a wmi/wmic way to do it as well

Alternately you can look at the make/model of your current drive - you can check this from device manager - and google what its specs are

EDIT: this is the specs for the drive that model is supposed to come with - as long as the replacement drive matches up, it should work - the form factor is standard, just make sure its ATAPI as opposed to slim line sata (which is a beast that's supposed to exist, but i have never seen)

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+1 and my answer deleted - when I went looking, it seems laptop optical drives aren't even sold as PATA or SATA, so although SATA optical drives may one day take over, for the moment they're presumably all still PATA. Certainly an optical drive doesn't need SATA yet to get the full speed, and never will for DVD - maybe not for Blu-Ray either. For Desktops, SATA is taking over for optical drives because the cable is more convenient and less of a problem for cooling, and in the hope of dropping PATA connectors completely from motherboards - not for performance. –  Steve314 Apr 26 '11 at 4:21
Honestly, it was a total surprise to me - one reason the answer is so detailed is I couldn't believe they hadn't dumped ATAPI for sata and did lots of digging. Sata basically makes PERFECT sense as a replacement for Atapi and does exist in roughly the same form factor. It would make it simpler - especially since you could probably pop in a 2.5 or 3.5 inch HDD in a caddy instead and not need to support a 'obsolete' interface, but that's just how it is. –  Journeyman Geek Apr 26 '11 at 4:35

Regarding physical size: all laptop ODs usually come in two sizes - "usual" and "slim". "Slims" are thinner, and because of that often have something peculiar about disk loading and/or ejecting. Other physical dimensions are usually the same.

Of course, some laptops have customized OD physical designs (mostly the ultra-portables with ODs), and their shapes/sizes will require exactly the same physical model for replacement.

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