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.

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!



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    3 Discussions


    Tip 4 months 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.


    2 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?


    3 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!