Toughbook CF-U1 Readily Available SSD Mod

Introduction: Toughbook CF-U1 Readily Available SSD Mod

So I own a pair of Panasonic Toughbook U1s. One is the older MK1 spec, the other a MK2 Ultra with every option.

The issue was, they are slow, horribly slow. Not so much the specs though. MK2 for example is a 1.6GHZ Intel Atom with 2GB RAM and a 64GB SSD. The SSD was the issue.

Benchmarks are attached. One is the 64GB, the other is the faster 16GB SSD from the MK1 in the MK2.

I knew there must be some way to improve on this. Information on these little computers is very limited and parts are even more so. It has a weird tiny ZIF connector for the SSD, and no one had anything published on the main board side so I went digging.

Step 1: Research

I took the MK1 apart and found the connector on the board.

After looking at it, comparing it, then testing it with an Ipod to CF zif kit, it worked!

That done, I set out ordering parts.

Here's that list: [I got it off EBAY, these are links]

M-SATA to ZIF Adapter

Samsung M-SATA SSD

3M Mounting tape

That's it, time to mod. Some kits come with a cable, you will need 50mm of cable to do this mod.

Step 2: Dig In!

Start with the hard drive. Two screws and it will slide out. Remove any SD card in the side and then take out the batteries.

There's two silver screws under the fingerprint reader/cover. It lifts then slides off towards the top.

After that's gone there's 8 screws holding the back on, see the pictures.

Depending on your model you may have a WWAN board. This needs to come out. Simply remove the 3 screws and carefully unplug the cable to take it out of the way.

Unplug the HD cable, I gutted out my HD holder and just tucked the cable back under the board in the PC.

Before we get too far I have found adding a 4UF cap to the MSATA adapter board really helps stability. See the picture, I used a non-polarized cap here.

Once space is made you can install the Msata card and cable to the computer. Simply attach the zif cables in the right directions very carefully, these connectors are kinda delicate.

Once that is done, rotate the assembly and attach with the mounting tape, that's it, job done. The cable should fold on it's own to make the turn, if it's too short it wont make it. In mine the new board touches the bottom mounting post for the back cover but clears fine.

Step 3: Testing and Installing Windows

That all done, case closed and device installed the BIOS should see it.

As you can see from the benchmark it's a huge improvement. Overall it just feels like a better computer.

I hope this helps someone!

Now install Windows and enjoy the speed! Mine is much more usable, it feels like a more modern PC now. I use it for GPS mostly.

Step 4: A Follow Up

After some freezing issues came up I found that the 256GB Samsung SSD I used was known to do that with certain chipsets. I got a 128GB one from Ebay for $35 that works better, no locking up but slightly slower. Not that it matters, it out performs anything stock and is at least double the space.

Also after some more digging I found the chipset that converts SATA to PATA for the adapter can have issues with TRIM on certain drives. TRIM can be disabled and run manually which will be of great help since windows seems to run it with all large file operations leading to the freezing.

Here [] is a link that describes how to disable TRIM and run it manually.

Good luck!

Step 5: Modify the MSATA to Keep It From Reading Low Temperture

OK so these have a thermistor on them. At least stock they do. I finally revisited this and found a termistor on the 1st pin that goes to ground. This drops resistance as it heats up so I put a 5k resistor across it and now it boots every time, no issues!

I used a 40 pin ZIF connection and two cables. I added a 4.7K Ohm resistor to the line closest the top of the toghbook. This is where the thermistor is in stock setup. Then I ran a wire from ground to the other end of the resistor giving it a good 40c or so signal so it never hangs up on warming up the hard drive.

I have designed a 3D printable cover for the former drive slot if you want to remove it completely. Find it here:

Here's a recent video of me making the mod inside a MK2:

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    Question 2 years ago on Step 1

    Is it possible to keep the WWAN-board in the CF-U1 and mount the adapter-msata-combination underneath the WWAN-board?


    Answer 2 years ago

    I didnt try that and am not sure. It's tight in there but maybe under the back metal frame.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I'll try. I ordered everthing yesterday. Should be here tomorow. Let's see ...


    Reply 2 years ago

    I have made the conversion. I have made a cutout in the back cover. The SSD is now located directly under the cover between the two batteries. I've cut an extra rubber seal from an old bicycle tube. Nevertheless, the IP protection class should no longer be in the same way as before. On the other hand, all functions (GPS, WWAN, ...) can be used and the SSD can be easily changed.


    Tip 3 years ago

    I had some difficulty, but figured it out. I upgraded my CF-U1G to a Samsung 860 EVO mSATA 250 GB. When doing the clean install of Windows 7, it would stall at copying files, (0%). What I figured out was that the O/S didn't know how to set up the hard drive. So I booted Lubuntu from a USB and had it NTFS format the hard drive. That fixed it and I was then able to install Win 7. The Windows diskpart and format programs just couldn't get it done.


    Reply 3 years ago

    THIS!!! Thank you. I had the same issue. Messing around with these things all day! Checked the comments here and found yours. Spent hours trying to figure out how to get the Lubuntu Live thumb drive to work, but when I got the right 32 bit version...VOILA!!! I've got three brand new MK2 Ultras that I've pieced together all the ancillary stuff (power adapters, zif cables, m.2 adapters, battery covers, hard drive caddies, etc). Now that I've got them up and running, they'll be up for sale. I'll probably keep one.


    5 years ago

    What zif cable did you use? Cannot get any cables to work, except an old very short zif cable out of an old laptop?


    6 years ago

    I found this very useful, thanks. Machine feels nice and fast now. I used a cheap 64Gb Transend SSD I found on Amazon. Works a treat!