Stupid Computer! Part 1 of the Dell Inspiron 1545 SSD Saga

Sometimes, writers get antsy when they’re not writing. We feel like if we’re not writing, we aren’t striving towards our goal, or that we’re lazy. I’ve been feeling this way for the last two weeks since my laptop died. I keep telling myself that by working on fixing my laptop, I am actually working at writing (in an indirect way). This is all progress.

Yet I still feel like I’m going backwards!

The epic saga:

In my last post, I have a screen shot of the multiple errors that occur when trying to boot my laptop…everything from thermal failure to no SATA devices detected. I immediately assumed the 10 year old laptop’s motherboard had bit the dust (not the 1 year old pro-level SSD within it).

So, I bought a second laptop of identical model (Dell Inspiron 1545 circa 2009) from eBay for $50 and put the SSD in that. This should have been an easy fix. With the exact same hardware configuration (I was eventually planning to swap my processor and ram into the new unit since I had upgraded those), Windows should have no problem activating.

But it didn’t work!

Two Identical Dell Inspiron 1545s

I was flabbergasted. Was my enterprise-grade, nearly new SSD dead? I decided to try the regular Seagate hard drive that came with the eBay laptop, and gosh darn it that sucker worked fine in either laptop!

I’ve built somewhere along the lines of twenty desktops, and customized many laptops, and I run a blog about energy efficient computing in the name of science. I was so sure the laptop itself was dead. I must be losing my touch, I thought. There was nothing for it but to obtain a new SSD and try to warranty the old one. So, while I ordered up a brand new Samsung drive, I decided to try the dead drive in my gaming desktop. I mean, why not? I had nothing to lose.

Imagine my surprise when I found out it actually worked! What sort of weird defect would make an SSD not work in laptops but work fine in a desktop? Confused yet happy, I set about extracting the data off of the drive. I was able to save the latest drafts of my stories, plus all my other files. On a whim, I reformatted the drive, thinking that might have something to do with the indigestion it seemed to give my laptop. No dice…it still wouldn’t boot (no drive detected in either machine). Tearfully I resigned myself to having to reinstall Windows 10 on the new drive and go through the whole process of rebuilding my file system just the way I like it.

Fast-forward a few days, and the new SSD is here! Ferociously I open the package and gaze down at the shiny Samsung 860 Pro drive…the best SATA SSD money can buy! Soon, I will be happily typing away, working on outlining the sequel to Sagittaalong with my stand-alone StarFighter novel Hrain. 

samsung ssd
Samsung’s PRO SSD’s are advertised as some of the most reliable drives you can get.

But it wasn’t to be. The new drive wasn’t detected either. I got the same stupid message.

No hard disk drive detected. Please reseat the drive and try again.

What was going on? Two laptops, two Samsung SSDs, no joy. I had to be missing something.

On a hunch, I separated the exterior bezel trim from the hard drive caddy and maneuvered the drive into the side of the laptop. I found that if I used a butter knife, I could maneuver the end of the drive caddy just so to get slightly more resistance as I pushed the drive into the computer. Thinking back, it did feel like it was just sliding in their a bit too easily.

Here’s a view of the drive installed without the exterior trim. Notice it’s sitting in there a bit funny. If the trim were installed, it would have forced the end of the drive lower towards the bottom of the laptop.

inspiron laptop hdd bezel
SSD within Hard Drive Caddy – Installed Without Exterior Bracket (trim)

I press the power button, and VOILA! It worked!

Then, my face falls as I realize the error message the computer has been giving me the whole time was 100% correct (for once). The drive was fine, it just had become unseated. It turns out the hard drive bracket on a Dell Inspiron 1545 doesn’t work quite as well with a slimmer SSD, such that installing it causes it to miss the internal SATA plugs within the laptop. When I upgraded the machine last year with the SSD, I must have gotten super lucky to get it to connect, but even that grip on the plug was tenuous. It had come undone when my 2-year-old was “practicing” typing his name.

So, now I get to re-install Windows 10, try and dig out my Office licence key (assuming I can even find the disc), and re-do the whole thing. Sheesh!

TL;DR: I reformatted my perfectly good SSD thinking it had failed and spent a bunch of money on a laptop and a new drive that I didn’t need, when all that had happened was the drive got unseated and was perfectly fine.

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