USB head unit + USB hard drive install


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Aug 6, 2007
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Westport, WA
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i described this install in another post and by request, here is the full install with pics of my USB deck and 40 gig 2.5" laptop hard drive (sorry if this turns out to be waaay too long).

head unit: panasonic cq-rx400u
hard drive: western digital 40 gig (old, laying around)
external USB enclosure: penguin gear el-cheapo 2.5" enclosure
power supply: wal-mart "USB device charger"

i had 2 minor obsticles to overcome in order to run my setup:

first, USB head units only read drives formatted in FAT32 or under. the problem is, windows will not let you format media in excess of a certain size (IIRC 30GB is the cutoff) in FAT or FAT32. i had to research and download a simple DOS program to format the drive in FAT32 through a CMD prompt.

second, the 5 volt power supply from the USB jack on most head units only supports a few hundred milliamps. more than enough to power a flash drive, but not enough to power my particular harddrive reliably. fortunatly, my HD enclosure had a 5V DC input jack for supplying power to the drive from a secondary source. so it was a simple matter of running down to wally world and buying a 12v cigarette lighter "USB device charger" for $5 and change, gutting it, and connecting its input to a switched 12v power supply and its output to the jack on my HD case. the "guts" were then wrapped in tape and stuffed behind the dash...out of sight.

my harddrive is wrapped in foam to protect it from vibration, and located in the glove box. the wires run from behind the glovebox and plug into the drive. the head unit gives me complete control over the different folders and songs as well as displaying file names on the screen. this setup plays WMP and MP3 file formats.

loading time is of a concern for most people. i timed the head unit from the time the face lights up and says "welcome" to the time sound comes from the speakers and it was 39 seconds (longer than i thought). its usually loaded by the time i get the heater controls set where i want, seat belt on, and the engine idles down. ive been told that as i load the drive up with more music, load time should NOT increase because the size of the root file does not change with more info on the drive. i started with about 4 gigs of music on the drive and am now up to 8 and i havnt noticed any change in initial load time. song changes are instant....but the time it takes the deck to pick a song when set to "random" has increased to a few seconds between songs.

overall, im happy with how the setup performs. i plan on doing a less ghetto install in the ranger eventually. my main problem is panasonic doesnt make a USB deck with a REAR output, which id like for a cleaner install in the ranger (i dont much care what the escorts install looks like). ive soncidered opening the deck up and soldering in each connection and running my own USB cable out the rear.

on to the pics.

12v to 5v power supply:


identified 5V output connections:

and soldered on 12v input and 5v output leads:

then wrapped up:

the hole in the case didnt line up with the jack so i poked the tip of my soldering iron through it to widen the hole:

HD in its "home":

the "dirty" part of the install. for simplicity sake, i just doubled the USB cord back and into the dash between the plastic trim parts. never mind the ugly crack in the dash :D

so i was playing want to make something of it? :thefinger:

hope i covered everything and didnt bore everyone to death.