Thunderbolt for the dangerously shoddy!

So, because I’m having sort of a lousy day, here’s a silly one for you.

As has recently become popular, “Thunderbolt” is the shiny, new, way of connecting PCIe devices to laptops.

It is, however, by no means the only way.

As one might expect from the name, the ‘mini PCIe’ slot provides 1x PCIe lanes(plus USB).

I grabbed an unsuspecting netbook and decided to bestow upon it the glorious expandability tragically denied to so many of its station. With a little screwdriver work and Fleabay’s finest adapters, it now has a true PCIe slot!

But, you can’t fit anything really worthwhile into a 1x; so a second of Fleabay’s finest: PCIe 1x to 16x, And yes, that is a USB 3 cable; no they are Very Much Not supposed to be used for PCIe; but apparently they can manage it. A nearby dual GbE NIC volunteered to provide a little enterprise flavor.

And; much to my surprise, it actually worked. Not only did it POST and make it all the way to the login screen, lspci can see the thing…

Doing this to the poor little netbook is obviously fairly pointless; but I’m encouraged that it worked; because I’ve got a punchier laptop that suffered a broken screen; but would make a pleasantly efficient little server if it weren’t so bereft of expansion slots. If it cooperates, I should be able to remedy that; possibly even getting 4 slots if it doesn’t freak out at a PCIe port multiplier being added.


very nice. I have a a reasonably well spec’d SBC that would make a nice NAS box if it had more SATA. And I’d pondered going this route, but wondered at the mini-pcie to pcie slot. Perhaps I shall renew these plans.


You can get mini-PCIe SATA cards; but I’ve only ever seen them in two port flavors, presumably because space is rather tight.

If that is enough, or you can find one with port multiplier support, that might spare you some of the more…elegant…aspects of this approach. If not, this does appear to actually work. I actually wanted to test an 8 port SAS HBA here first; but it was on the shelf because it was misbehaving when installed appropriately in another system, so having it partially work and misbehave here didn’t tell me much about the source of the problem.

It did get as far as loading its option ROM, so the result might actually have been bootable; but that card’s RAID controller had a nasty habit of failing to boot or locking up; and this arrangement didn’t make it behave any better, so I had to go with a known-good card.


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