I’ve reported on my new Dell workstation here, and in the immediately following posts. I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t switched over to the new machine. It’s been mostly gathering dust these last few months. The old 7920 is starting to feel a bit cramped, so yesterday I decided to complete the move. The first order of business was to upgrade the four 3.5 inch 1 TB 7200 rpm SATA drives to 18 TB ones. I’d ordered the computer with those drives expecting to upgrade them. The salesperson said that was the only way I could get the drive bays wired, and Dell didn’t offer big enterprise drives on that machine.
I went to the Dell site, entered my service tag number, and downloaded the manual for my computer. I found the section on removing and installing hard drives. It said to look under the panel at the lower right of the front of the workstation. It told me how to access that panel. I popped the left skin, unlocked the panel latch, and pried the panel off with a flathead screwdriver. I could see four 3.5 inch bays, one of which was occupied by a SSD drive. Two bays had empty sleds/carriers/caddies for 3.5 inch drives with 2.5 inch adapters installed. Two bays had 1 TB Seagate Barracudas.
Where are the other 1 TB drives? I had my suspicions, and I picked up the phone and called Dell’s Premier support line. For an hour, I went round in circles with the tech. He didn’t know where the drives were, and he kept sending me PDFs and videos showing me how to access the part of the computer that contained the three empty slots. I asked him if he’d ever worked on a recent 7920. The answer was no. I asked if he’d even seen one. He said, “In the flesh? No.” This was looking like the blind leading the blind, so I suggested he talk to someone who actually had experience with the computer, and get back to me via email.
We exchanged a few email messages, and got nowhere.
While I was waiting, I decided to see what would happen if I installed one of the 18 TB drives in the empty front-access bays I could see a connector back there, so there was a chance it was wired. It took me half an hour of fiddling with the carrier, but I finally got the 2.5 inch adapter out. From there, it was a simple matter to install a drive in the carrier, slide it into the computer, and hit the power switch.
I brought up the Windows disk administration tool, which gets harder to find with each new Windows release. It couldn’t see the new disk. Oh, well. It was worth a try.
After poring over the manual, I determined that the missing 1 TB drives had to be in bays that Dell identified as Flex 3 and Flex 4. I popped the right side panel and could see the bays from the side. There was a black plastic grating over the place where I could get at the sleds. There was a sliding plastic piece on the grating that I thought was a latch, but I couldn’t move it far. I was afraid that I’d break it, so I emailed the Dell tech asking how to get it off.
He spent the day researching the matter, but couldn’t find anything.
After a day or so, I got an email saying he was giving up, and did I want him to dispatch a tech to come and open the panel? I told him that was a waste of the tech’s time and my time, and suggested, if there was a tech who knew how to open the panel, that he call me and talk me through it.
After a couple more days, I got an email from a new service tech asking me to send him a picture of the panel I was trying to open. I did so.
After looking at the picture, the tech said he couldn’t help me further. I asked him to escalate, and he said he’d do so.
A couple of weeks went by, and after some prodding, I got a message from a new tech saying to send him images of the front, back, and sides of the computer. I did so. Then he sent me a video on how to install a rear flexbay, which is what holds the drives I can’t get to. In the video, the tech removes a metal panel from the back of the machine before he installs the flexbay. That panel is not on my workstation, since the flexbay is already installed. In the video, the tech never does install the plastic panel that restricts access to the drive sleds.
I told the tech the video was not helpful, and I told him why.
We went back and forth for a while, and he finaaly said that he was sure the latch was broken and needed to be replaced. Armed with the information, I attacked the panel with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, getting it off, bu destroying the latch in the process. Sure enough, under the panel were the sled holding two 1 TB disk drives. I replaced the drives with 18 TB ones. I don'[t think I’m going to bother replacing the panel.
Brute force to the rescue!
I asked Dell to send my a new panel. They sent me an entire Flexbay assembly, with sheet metal, fans, and cables. I took the panel out and sent the rest back to them.