Let us explain, please.
The cages we refer to are those thin metal attachments to hard drives that keep them in place inside your laptop. It is important that hard drives seat properly in a laptop for two primary reasons, 1) hard drives are connected to the logic board and if not seated and secured properly they may disconnect and then the laptop will not work, and 2) hard drives are sensitive mechanical and electronic devices. If they are allowed to float around inside a laptop, they may become damaged. This is actually more of a problem, since the owner may lose data if not properly backed up. You back up your data, right?
How about a couple of photos to explain?
On the left we see a 2.5" laptop hard drive. On the right is an aluminum cage that the drive mounts to with the screws. Then the cage/drive pair is mounted to the case of the laptop. Typically, the combo slides in and connects just right for each laptop, and each laptop is different.
We at Laptop Upcycle receive many laptops from our neighbors and from businesses they are associated with. We thank you all of course, and always hope you spread the word.
As a part of our preparation process on donated laptops, we zero out the hard drive as the very first step. We use a secure erase system that eliminates any trace of data on donated laptops. Even with this, we understand if you or your company would like to remove the hard drives before you donate to us. In fact we recently we lucky enough to have two large donations from Milliman and the Boston Consulting Group. All of these donated laptops came to us sans hard drives (and cages). That's OK, since we have some funds from our generous supporters to buy equipment like hard drives for our volunteers to use.
The intelligent reader (aren't we all?) can see the problem we face in such situations. When a hard drive is removed from a laptop, the mounting cage is typically removed with it. To replace the hard drive in these laptops, we need to find replacement cages. Many of these laptops are older and it's hard to find accessories, like cages. If we want to repair these laptops and get them in the hands of students, what is a humble nonprofit to do?
We MAKE our own cages. Again, photos help.
On the left is a donated laptop with the rear cover removed. We've labeled a few of the parts, and note where the hard drive needs to connect in the drive bay. Without a cage it will float around in there - not a good thing. So, we designed multiple versions of possible plastic cages to be 3D printed (seen in the middle). It took many tries since the clearances are tight and plastic has to be a little bigger than metal to retain enough strength, but we did it! On the right, you see three of the final version being printed and below you can see what it looks like when it is installed in the laptop. Now this laptop can get our education image (software install) and get delivered to a student who needs it. Win win!
Have any questions, or want to donate your own laptop (with or without a hard drive)? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.