NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2003
A Notebook Burner Upgrade
by Ed Maxey
(click to email author)

A top of the line Gateway Solo 9300 CX notebook was purchased in August, 2000. Lifetime support was included in the purchase. Among the accessories was a CD-R drive, CD-RW drives being unavailable at that time. Gateway still has no CD-RW upgrade. The wish to have a CD-burner led to investigating other sources.

Who made the Gateway CD-R drive? The Solo’s operating system is WindowsME. Sequentially clicking Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Information, Components, Storage & Drives yields, "CD-ROM Drive." No help here but a similar sequence shows, "TEAC CD-224E CD-ROM Drive…." with Windows98SE.

There is another way to find the manufacturer. This drive is removable by sliding a catch on the bottom of the notebook and tugging the drawer pull attached to the drive itself. Upon removal one finds a Gateway part number on the top and “TEAC CD-224E” on the bottom. TEAC is pronounced tee' ak.

Knowing the manufacturer gets one started. A query was placed with a computer memory firm which also handles accessories. A TEAC DW-224E93 was recommended. A visit to our NWA-PCUG web site, http://pcgroup.nwark.com, got me to Google where a search for TEAC DW-224E93 found a much better price than that originally quoted. Curiously, the same identification also yields prices in the $2,300 range; apparently indicating a DVD burner.

Google produced front and back images plus physical dimensions of the drive. Immediately apparent were two problems; the connector on the rear is different than that of the Gateway drive and the bezel on the front of the CD-R has a notch to accommodate the Solo’s removable floppy drive. These were serious obstacles. Without an adapter a new TEAC could not run in the Solo. If one cut a notch in the bezel of a new drive that drive would not be returnable.

Should one proceed? The Gateway CD-R drive was removed from the notebook and its adapter inspected. There were two very small Philips head screws holding the adapter to the drive. A screwdriver from a glasses repair kit was used to remove the screws and the adapter was lifted from the drive. The drive connector now looked exactly like that seen in the Google rear image of a TEAC DW-224E93. Might one gamble that the adapter from the Gateway would also work with the TEAC DW? Hmmm.

There were other problems. The Gateway drive had a black plastic drawer pull held in place by four almost microscopic Philips head screws. Could these screws be removed? Would the drive work without the drawer pull attached? Hmmm.

What about the notch? Could it be sawed out of the black bezel of the TEAC DW? Hmmm.

A hand file was used to reshape the glasses screwdriver. Soon it fit the near microscopic Philips screws and they were unscrewed. The drawer pull was removed. The adapter was replaced. The Gateway drive, sans drawer pull, was put back in the Solo and the computer booted. The CD-R drive worked. Question one was answered favorably. The gamble decision was made.

A TEAC DW-224E93 was ordered. The week it took to arrive was replete with cogitation. Would the screw holes be the same as those in the Gateway? How might one notch the bezel? Had the better part of $150 just been flushed away? Fret, brood, stew, worry....

The TEAC DW arrived about 7:00 P.M. one evening. The screw holes and threads were promptly checked and were the same on both CD drives. Whew. A second problem was favorably resolved.

Next day the notch required was outlined on the TEAC bezel using masking tape. The drive was then gently clamped in a rubber clad hobby vise. Vise Grip pliers were used as a handle for a 24 TPI saber saw blade. It was gripped with sharp end toward the pliers so that the cutting thrust on the plastic would be from front to rear. The notch was cut. Finishing was with a hand file. Bingo another problem.

The adapter was placed on the TEAC DW being careful to position the CD-R’s two layers of insulation under the rectangular spot on the approximately 1 x 10 cm. adapter circuit board. The TEAC DW was placed in the Solo and, taking a deep breath, Windows98SE was booted. A click on My Computer and, voilà, the TEAC was recognized. MP3 music was never more welcomed.

PowerDVD was installed and there were movies. Fate was favoring the project.

The TEAC CD burner was not recognized after Roxio Easy CD Creater ver 5.1 was installed. A couple phone calls and several e-mailings to tech support at both TEAC and the supplier did not help. Prof. John Clark thought some software drivers might be needed. He had no other suggestions.

Several hours of Googling turned up an NWA-PCUG Newsletter piece on CD-R updates by Ken Fermoyle (which inspired this article) but failed to find any software drivers for the TEAC DW. Then the TEAC web site was checked and it passed an apparent death sentence, "There are no drivers required for the TEAC internal slim-line DVD/CD-RW combo drives."

Had fickle fate dropped her final shoe?

A last resort phone call to Gateway's lifetime support reached a young sounding lad named Chad. He suggested updating the ROXIO. The update downloaded in about 2.5 hours. Roxio EasyCD Creator ver was installed. You guessed it. The TEAC 24x16x24 burner came to life.

The drawer pull was placed on the TEAC DW and the four near microscopic Philips screws tightened. The project was finished. System Information now yields, “TEAC DW-224E CDROM….”

Fate was kind.

    Summing up:
    1. CD-R drives can be upgraded without the notebook manufacturer's support.
    2. The failure to provide such upgrades undoubtedly frustrates Solo owners and hurts Gateway’s business.

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