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Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9
Published by UnaClocker
12-20-2008
Default Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9

Editted for the RunCore drive, removed information about the defunct Generic SSD this article was originally about.

And a video, on YouTube.
How I figured this out.. The STEC SSD uses a controller that is BGA, meaning all of it's pins are underneath it. But the RunCore SSD has a controller with all of it's pins accessible. So that's what started my gears moving. I started with getting the tech sheet for the controller on the RunCore SSD. It is a JMicron JM20330. That got me the pinout of that controller. I knew that if you tapped a certain wire on a standard PATA ide cable, you could use that wire to drive an activity LED. I did some googling and determined that it was pin 39 out of 40. Some more googling and I found that the name for that wire is "DASP". Looking at the pinout for the controller on the RunCore SSD, it was pin # 42 on the controller. That pin is the 2nd pin in from one of the corners. I wasn't looking forward to soldering to that leg, that far in. Luckily, I noticed a trace leading directly away from that leg. I followed it to a resistor. I used a Meter to confirm that's where it lead, since there was some silkscreened writing on top of the trace obscuring it. Once I confirmed that it was going to that resistor, I simply soldered to that side of the resistor. MUCH easier to solder to. I tried my best to take a picture of which resistor you are soldering to, I think it's pretty clear from the picture. It's normally under a sticker that you'll have to peal back. Please do not do this if you don't think you are a soldering wizard. And be aware, this WILL void your warranty. Say goodbye to that warranty.


Next, I needed some power. Being an LED, 3.3v is plenty. So I googled up the pinout for the MiniPCI-e slots, and saw that 3.3v was available at pin52, among other places. So I ran a wire from the unpopulated MiniPCI-e slot's pin 52.

Next, I quickly put the machine back together to do a quick trial on my desk to see if my research had been correct and this really would get me an HDD light.


Bingo! It works. Just for the record, I used a 3mm LED, 1k resistor (far more than I needed, but very safe, and you have to go a lot farther overboard on resistance before the LED starts getting dimmer)
Now I went and downloaded the disassembly guide from Dell and took the machine all the way apart. I found that I could tuck the LED right up next to spot where the lights come out the front of the unit. Unfortunately, I didn't snap any pictures of the LED installed. I used some superglue to hold the LED in place. If you go to do this after me, this step should make itself pretty well obvious. I used heatshrink tubing to protect the bare leads at the LED.
So that's about all there is to it. The hard part really was the research. Check out the video I linked at the beginning to see the light in action.
And before anyone asks.. I know someone is bound to.. No, this will not even SLIGHTLY affect your battery life. The LED draws 20ma at most, and is on a very small portion of the time the machine itself is on.
And one other note.. I did not disable the low battery LED. It'll still blink orange when the battery gets below 10% like it always has. When the low battery light is flashing while the hard drive is accessing, you get a kind of pinkish color.
Final note, again, this article was edited from the original post regarding the now discontinued "Generic MLC SSD's".. I kept most of the wording the same and just changed the names and some of the facts. I liked the way I had written it last time.
If you don't want to void your warranty, there are some software solutions.
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  #1  
Old 12-20-2008, 12:54 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9 - RunCore

I went ahead and deleted the whole thread from before, revised my original post, and started a new thread. The replies from the original thread just won't apply much to this one. This is a MUCH harder soldering trick than last time. Sorry, not much I can do about that. Maybe MyDigitalDiscount can talk RunCore into putting a header for this onto their boards in the future.
I'd like to thank Google for helping me find these pinouts..
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  #2  
Old 12-20-2008, 01:47 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9 - RunCore

Quote:
Originally Posted by UnaClocker
I went ahead and deleted the whole thread from before, revised my original post, and started a new thread. The replies from the original thread just won't apply much to this one. This is a MUCH harder soldering trick than last time. Sorry, not much I can do about that. Maybe MyDigitalDiscount can talk RunCore into putting a header for this onto their boards in the future.
I'd like to thank Google for helping me find these pinouts..
i don't think it's wise to delete the last thread, since those with a OEM Dell SSD would have still found it to be useful. But of course it's your thread, so take it for what you will.

But can the usual trick of soldering it to the leg still work? soldering to a resistor can be much more tricky than soldering to a leg, and i prefer not to take risks.
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  #3  
Old 12-20-2008, 01:58 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9 - RunCore

No, soldering to the leg will not work, I didn't re-engineer this trick for my health.. I did the RunCore the same way I had done the generic MLC SSD, and it did nothing. So I had to completely redo this trick. New controller chip to get the pinout for, new trace to follow on the PCB, and it doesn't lead to the PCI-e connector like the generic SSD did.
Has anyone done the old method on an STEC? I didn't hear from anyone with a STEC to confirm that it worked for them. Since this SSD doesn't have the same pinout as the last one, I'm assuming the STEC doesn't either. That last SSD was a bit of an oddball. If someone has done the old mod to an STEC drive, I will put up a thread with those instructions.
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Old 12-20-2008, 06:32 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9 - RunCore

Something I learned about the RunCore drive while researching the JMicron chip.. It would seem the RunCore controller is SATA, and the JMicron chip seems to be a very common SATA to PATA adapter chip. Just an interesting bit of information..
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Old 12-21-2008, 08:31 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9 - RunCore

Quote:
Originally Posted by UnaClocker
Has anyone done the old method on an STEC? I didn't hear from anyone with a STEC to confirm that it worked for them. Since this SSD doesn't have the same pinout as the last one, I'm assuming the STEC doesn't either. That last SSD was a bit of an oddball. If someone has done the old mod to an STEC drive, I will put up a thread with those instructions.
Worked fine on my STEC 16GB, and still does.

EDIT: Actually, I had trouble soldering it to the PCI-E connector, but followed the same connector to a soldering point right next to it. I will post a picture in the morning of where this is located for everyone with STEC's.
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Old 12-21-2008, 08:43 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9 - RunCore

Ok, cool, yeah, that's all they really need is a solder point picture for the STEC crew, and the rest of the instructions above will apply. That's interesting though, the wiring for the STEC is the same as the generic MLC drive was, I wonder why the RunCore isn't wired up that way.
So here's where you should solder to for the HDD light on an STEC drive, this is the negative side of the circuit:

Seems to be labeled pin52, which is funny, since I'm getting power at pin52 on the other PCI-e connector. Lovely standardized connectors.. At least you don't have to solder directly to the SSD on the STEC drive. Hope that helps, and thanks for the confirmation.
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  #7  
Old 12-30-2008, 08:30 PM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9

:mrgreen:

Having finally unwrapped my Mini, I got to work and done UnaClocker's mod too. Brilliant! And whilst I was at it, I also added an USB hub, and attempted to add a 16Gb Flash drive too... That didn't go quite as planned, but at least I got a blog post out of it

http://awooga.nl/modding-the-dell-mini-9
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  #8  
Old 01-07-2009, 11:29 AM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9

A word of caution to people:
Check your cable routing

I turned on my Mini today to find that it paused for about 5 seconds during the BIOS statup and that the HD LED was on permanently. OS X wouldn't boot at all, XP would but was very slow. There were no BIOS errors at all and everything seemed to work fine in Windows apart from it being slower.

After a bit of fiddling and prodding I found out that one of the leads running to the LED was on top of a component and it just happened to be one of the sections where the heatshrink was covering the resistor, well the heatshrink had worn through and a nice sliver of exposed solder was showing through, so I applied a bit of tape to cover it and rerouted it and all is fine again. Just thought I would let people know if they come across this similar problem you may have a short somewhere.
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  #9  
Old 02-07-2009, 09:06 PM
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Default Re: Add a REAL HD Light to your Mini9

It's been a while since I received and installed my RunCore, but today I finally had some time to spend on re-doing the SSD mod.

http://awooga.nl/modding-the-dell-mini-9-part-2

Thanks again Una!
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