Upgrading a Palm LifeDrive with a 128GB CF-Card


Caution: I won‘t take any responsibility for any damge! You will lose your warrenty (if you have any...)

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Palm LifeDrive specifications

The Palm LifeDrive is a so called "Mobile Manager" and has the advantage (and disadvantage) of a 4 GB microdrive. (A microdrive is practically only a very small classic hard disk.) One advantage is, that you can store nearly 4 GB of data on this machine. When it came out in May 2005, it was quite a big thing, because most other Palm devices were not able to store more than 2GB via a SD-Card. On the other hand, we are talking here about a a rotating hard disk. Everyone, who has switched from a HDD to a SDD knows what this means: it is slow. And you notice this especially when the device performs normal operations, because the OS is also stored on the microdrive by default. Fortunately, Dmitry Grinberg has addressed this problem and developed a tool that makes it relatively easy to replace the mechanical microdrive with a fast (and power-saving) CompactFlash card. This article explains how to do this.

These are the specifications of a Palm LifeDrive:

OS:Palm OS 5.4.8
upgradable to:-
FlashRom:? MB
Display:16bit color TN LCD touchscreen
Display-Size:3,8 inch
Display-Resolution:320x480 pixel
Touchscreen Type:Resistive screen
RAM (memory):64 MB (55 MB available)
Expansion:SD-Cards (also MMC, supports SDIO)
Audio (In/Out):Mono-Speaker, 3.5mm headphone-jack, Microphone (for Voice-Recording)
Processor:Intel XScale PXA270 416 MHz
Interfaces:RS232 (115200 bps max.), Infrared (IrDA 1.2), Wireless LAN 802.11b, Bluetooth 1.1, USB 2.0
Power supply:built-in Li-Ion battery (1660 mAh)
Size (in mm):121 x 73 x 19
Weight:193 g
Released:May 2005

What is needed?

If you do not have tools to open the device, please do not use a screwdriver or other metal parts. The risk of damaging the housing is too high!

Also: Not every CF-Card is suiteable for this project. You can find a list with card, which are working here .

Instead of this article you can also follow the instructions from the author of "PowerDrive", Dmitry Grinberg: PowerDrive

Necessary steps

  1. First of all, you need to check if the Palm LifeDrive Update 2.0 is needed. Just check the version of "WiFiLib". If it is version 1.0.6 or lower, you need the update. If it is 1.0.7 you already have the update. (See: Palms old "Support Knowledge Library" via web.archive.org)

  2. If the update is needed, you can download it from here. Also follow the instructions on that site to perfrom the update.

  3. After the Update was installed, PowerDrive from palmpowerups.com is needed. Just download it and copy it on the LifeDrive. Make sure it is installed on the RAM and not on the SD-Card. (Otherwise the process will not work - I tested it.)

  4. Next, you need to insert (if not already) a at least 64MB big SD-Card with 32MB or more free space. (I used a 2GB Kingston SD Card for this project). Now, PowerDrive can be started. Directly after the start, a registration is required. Fortunately, Dmitry does not charge any more money for the application and you can simply generate a key here. Just enter the shown unique user ID and click on "GO". Then, enter the generated code from the website in the text-field and tap on "OK".

  5. When the registration was successful, some useful tips are shown:

  6. Confirming with "Done" ("Fertig"), the copy-process is starting:

  7. You can open the device very carefully (!!!) during the copying process. (Or do it after the copy-process has finished.) Just remove the rubber pads from the back and unscrew the two screws with a Trox 5 screwdriver. After opening the hosing with some opening-tools, you will have access to the microdrive.

  8. The copy-process takes some time.

  9. After the process has finished, the most "complicated" part needs to be done: removing the old microdrive and inserting the new CF-Card while the device is powered on! I have been told that the flex cable connecting the Microdrive to the LifeDrive is extremely fragile! So be very careful here, so that the cable does not break. Many thanks to the maintainer of compuseum for this advice! Just peel off the "Warrenty void if removed"-sticker and carefully detach the microdrive. Then the new CF card can simply be plugged in.

  10. The new card was recognized successfully. (But sadly, this is no guarantee that everything will work).

  11. In this case, I defined 1024 MB of RAM. Do not enter more than 1.5GB, otherwise FAT32 will be used as filesystem and this is slower than FAT16.

  12. With the confirmation of the defined RAM-size, the process of copying everything from the SD-card on the new CF-card is starting. This will also take some time.

  13. The copy-process has finished and a reset is reqiured. In this case a hard-reset.

  14. Just move and hole the power-slider and poke the reset button with the stylus or a paper clip (it is located next to the connector). Then release the power-slider and the reset-options are display. A "Quick Erase" is good engouh at this point. (If you do a normal reset by just pressing the reset-button, the device will be stuck in a reset-loop unitl you perform a hard-reset.)

  15. You may see an output of the system error log. Just irgnore it and conforim it with "OK". (I assume, that you only see it, when a soft-reset was performed, instead of a hard-reset in the step before.)

  16. The process was successful. You can now setup the device. (If you do not see the calibration-screen and instead you see a prompt to enter a password, then the CF card used is probably not suitable for the upgrade.)

  17. The new RAM-size gets recognized.

  18. Only the size of the CF-card cannot displayed correctly by Palm OS. But this is a cosmetic-error and does not affect the actual disk-size of 128 GB (~118GB usable).

  19. If the disk gets mounted, Windows (XP) shows the (complete) correct size.