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This instructable is a result of the need to replace a rack mount CD player in our church gymnasium. The space is used for various events: meetings, programs, dinners and our annual AWANA carnival.

We thought of using a portable MP3 player, but were concerned about its security. By installing an internal hard-drive of stored music, we no longer have to bring CDs containing background music.

Make sure that your CD deck supports a USB connected drive. We chose an American Audio CD-100 as it has both front and rear USB ports.

Step 1: Tools Needed

Phillips screwdrivers
Utility knife
Dremel rotary tool

Step 2: Choosing Your Drive and Enclosure

Some CD decks only read memory sticks or drives that pull low amperage from the USB port. If this is the case for your unit, you might have to use a drive with an externally powered enclosure.

For our unit, I scavenged an IDE drive out of a dead laptop. Newer laptops will have SATA drives instead. Make sure you get the correct enclosure; I purchased one for $8 at Microcenter.com. The enclosure contains a circuit board that plugs into your drive and provides a Mini-B USB port.

I've inserted the drive into the enclosure in the photo above.


Step 3: Preparing Your Drive

This CD deck insists that the file system of the drive be formatted with FAT12, 16 or 32. 

To check your drive, right-click it in Windows Explorer and choose Properties, if it says File System: NTFS, the deck won't be able to read it (I tried). You will need to format the drive.

Once again right-click on the drive and choose Format. If you're using a hard-drive and not a memory stick, you'll probably run into the 32G limit with most recent Widows operating systems. Since my drive is 125G and I'm using Windows 7 which has this limit, I had to download a program to perform the format.

I downloaded Fat32format.exe which did a fast format and worked flawlessly. Once you've downloaded the compressed file, double-click on it to open it. Copy the fat32format.exe file into your Windows folder.

Attach your drive and make sure you know what the drive letter is. Open a Command Window by pressing Start and typing CMD in the Search prompt directly above the Start button. When you press Enter, you'll be in DOS and can type in:
fat32format [your driveletter],  eg. fat32format E:

Step 4: Testing and Loading the Drive

Copy a few MP3 files on to the drive and see if the deck can play them, if so, you're good to go!

Since our deck did not have the Random Play feature and could only read 999 files in a single folder, we decided to make several folders containing or custom ~playlist selections.

Pressing the Folder button lets you select which one to start in. Files will continue to be played in successive folders in alphabetical order.

Step 5: Installing the Drive

Most CD decks have a few component boards spread about and allow enough space to squeeze a 2.5" drive out of the way.

In an initial attempt to not void the warranty on the CD deck, I decided not to drill holes to mount the drive. Placing the drive on edge against the side wall, I used an office binder clip to hold it in place. (see photo). Replacing the top, holds the clip in place.

Step 6: Routing the USB Cable Out of the Deck

Since we wanted to be able to add or remove files in the future without removing the deck from the rack to access the drive, I wanted to plug it into the rear USB port. This will let us unplug it from the deck and into a laptop to modify the drive.

I finally gave up and notched the rear of the case to route the USB cable out without cutting and splicing it. Adding a split grommet will protect the cable from being cut by the metal case.

Step 7: Song Selection

By turning the navigation knob, you may select the folder of songs you wish to play. Once the song has queued, pressing Play plays them sequentially. The filename is displayed on the display. Since we've renamed the files Artist - Song Title, this information will scroll while the file plays.

Step 8: CD Deck Installed in the Rack

Here's the finished project installed in the rack. It's simple to reach around behind the unit, unplug the USB cable and plug it into the laptop to make modifications to the contents of the drive.

Hope your installation goes well!

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