Friday, October 4, 2013

HP Envy 17 CTO j000 additional hard drive kit review

I recently purchased HP's Envy 17t Quad CTO (custom to order) j000 (Haswell) model. 

During the purchase process you have a choice of a primary 1TB HDD and a secondary 32GB SSD (solid state drive) performance booster. There was no option to use a single SSD - I suspect this is a way for HP's suppliers to reduce inventory of HDDs and SSD caching devices since they are going the way of the dinosaur. The 32GB SSD is some sort of caching device that works with the Intel chipset and or Windows 8 and stores the frequently accessed files to reduce Windows' start-up times etc. It is affordable, but there's just no substitute for having your primary boot device with all your programs and games on an SSD. The performance gain cannot be emphasized enough.  Most computer users are migrating to SSD drives these days since the cost per gigabyte has decreased, even with the higher price compared to a regular mechanical HDD for the massive improvements in speed.  

I declined the SSD booster drive and just went with the single 1TB HDD but being aware of the wild increase in performance an SSD offers, I ordered the Samsung 840 EVO 250GB ($190 at time of purchase) (now updated to Samsung 850 Pro) and sat the 1TB aside. My boot time went from nearly 35 seconds to 12. The factory 1TB HDD has a max transfer rate of about 70MB. 

I do a little video editing and casually play games so I knew that 250GB wouldn't suffice, but the 500GB model was out of my price range. I then went on a search for the hard drive caddy and SATA cable to connect two hard drives so I could use the 1TB as a storage location. This wasn't an easy feat and required some patience.

 Because the Envy 17 j000 model is new (introduced in Q3 2013) there is a lack of documentation of part catalogs. It would seem I could just buy the cable that would have come with the unit if I had got it with the secondary booster SSD but after searching through the entire HP PartSurfer list I found nothing. Many of the items had vague descriptions and my model number actually wasn't even in the catalog so I was searching by Envy 17 - which is a completely different model from the j000 variant. Some of the other weirdness I saw in the catalog was a plain ol' power cable for $30+!

After Googling around I found a company, newmodeUS, that specialized in laptop drive caddies and cables. They had one for the older Envy 17, but not the j000 model (** is in stock now**). I contacted them last month and production for the new HP series was on schedule for an early October 2013 release. I received prompt answers and they even wrote me when the product was ready to ship. The kit was a bit pricey at $29.85 (+ tax and shipping) considering that it's a wire and 2 rubber strips but there aren't really any other choices. I will acknowledge that the connector to the board side is very specialized with a very small T shaped press down clip and small wires, so there's some R&D that went into this for the cost. It is designed properly for the most part with the correct length to reach the hard drive and not intrude. I'm sure it's based on the HP OEM wire for the 32GB booster SSD. Because of the quick responses I got a good feeling from newmodeUS.

My kit arrived in a nice box. Included were the two rubber sides for the drive, and the SATA cable. The rubber strips actually don't fit properly so I had to cut about a 1/16th of an inch off the ends. See the video for more details.

Installation - 

Begin by powering off the laptop. Flip it over and remove the battery by sliding the release lever and lifting it out. Take a small properly sized phillips screwdriver and loosen the screw. Note that it does not come out completely, it's designed that way so it doesn't get lost. Pull up from the edge near the screw and go around the cover and use some force to lift it off. You will hear some snaps- don't worry. 

At the time of this writing the rubber caddy strips are too long to fit in the bay at least with the Samsung SSD. I took a X-Acto knife and trimmed off 1/8 to 1/16th of an inch from the end. I've reported this to newmodeUS.

Connect the motherboard side of the cable. Please be careful and move slowly. The connector must be inserted precisely. The first time I thought I had it in it didn't work. Use some pressure to push it so the T shape plastic goes behind the matching key. Reference the #1 connector if needed. Flip the lock lid down and reverse the disassemble process.  

The Envy UEFI BIOS has no option to disable/enable the SATA ports. They are always powered on. It also does not see the hard drives as separate boot devices in the boot selection area of the BIOS, however the F9 boot menu will see 2 if there is an OS on both. If it's a blank drive as an addition there should be no issue besides initializing and formatting it in Windows. 

Thanks to newmodeUS for a product that works great. I just hope they can make a slight change in production for the caddy strips.

Here is a short video I took during the process. 


  1. Hey! Just got the same laptop. But installing Windows seems to be hassle. Trying to do it from recovery discs. Failed last time. Did you change anything on Bios?

    1. Hello, sorry for the late reply. Installing Windows was very much a hassle. I found the recovery disc to be useless if the system had been modified in any way. If you changed an option in the BIOS or added a second drive, or used a different primary the restore will fail. Basically the recovery disc is literally as it's named, to be a original configuration restore.

      Fortunately for me I have access to the Microsoft ISOs through Technet so I had to do a fresh install with the SSD. However-there are no official HP drivers as of a few days ago that work with a clean install of Windows 8.1. Some of the 8.0 drivers work, but for example Blu-Ray playback won't work with the outdated NVIDIA / Intel drivers they provide. There were many hours of frustration getting this thing to work. What I ended up doing was an in-place upgrade as much as I didn't want to. I installed everything in 8.0 then went to 8.1 Everything works, but what a screwy situation.

    2. Nevermind, they published 8.1 drivers in the last few days.

    3. Hey LVG, by any chance of taking a clone of original HDD from HP to the SSD will work. pls suggest.

  2. Hi. I ended up buying new Windows 8 Pro :) And after installation I found out that it was still Windows 8 (not PRO) - I guess the key in BIOS made sure of that. But that's fine.

    Still haven't updated to 8.1. Too many people have issues with so many programs and even with hardware. I hope I can avoid upgrading as long as I can. Thanks.

  3. I ordered this product a couple of days back. It did not work. They sent a new SATA connector and that did not work as well. The SSD is detected by the system when I connect it to the 1st HDD (that came with the laptop). However it does not get detected if I connect using this connector from NewmodeUS.
    Wonder if I am missing something and there is something else that needs to be done.

    1. hey - did you get that solved. Should i order from NewmodeUS or directly from HP.

  4. Just to be sure, you have the j000 version of the Envy? I initially had trouble too but it was because I didn't have the board side of the connector on correctly. It was really a precise fit. Also, I don't know if this matters or not, but I have the SSD in the left bay, and the HDD in the right (bottom facing up). I'll add a picture of the bottom of mine with the HDD removed later today as a reference.