How to replace a hard drive with an SSD

If you buy a new PC, you’ll have little choice when it comes to storage, because almost all of them will use solid-state drives. If you have a slightly older computer, you should know that replacing a hard drive with an SSD is one of the most interesting updates you can make to improve it and extend its useful life .

There are dozens of articles that we have been offering you about this solid storage technology that has made hard drives obsolete, including an analysis of the best drives on the market and a recent Buying Guide with all the features that a user should know and a selection of offers. Today we are committed to a more practical article where we are going to remind you of the four steps to effectively replace a hard drive with an SSD.

for the walkthrough. we will focus on a laptop, but it would be just as easy to do it on a desktop and the benefits of its installation thinking about improving the forceful performance in any case, in operating system boot times, in opening applications, in recovery from suspend modes or when moving files between internal drives or to external solutions.

1.- Choose and buy the SSD

Until a couple of years ago, the possibilities (by offer and price) of buying an SSD went almost exclusively through the standard 2.5-inch format and the SATA interface. Today the offer is much broader, units connected to PCIe occupy the majority of new releases and are the recommended format as long as your team supports them.

If your laptop has M.2 – PCIe connectors available, there is no debate, this is the form factor to buy . The improvement in performance, consumption and weight is notable and also, you could always take advantage of the 2.5″ bay as a secondary unit to increase storage, be it with other SATA SSDs or even with the old hard drives that you have in a corner.

If you are going to mount a 2.5-inch SSD, you will only have to assess its thickness, although you will not have a problem because they are all offered in sizes of 9 or 7 mm. As for capacity, it will depend on your needs and budget . There are very cheap 120 or 240 GB drives if you want to combine it with other drives and good prices in 500 GB or 1 TB if you are going to mount them as a single drive.

All the major SSD manufacturers (WD, Kioxia, Samsung, Kingston…) will offer you a good guarantee and performance. Regarding prices, the NAND flash memories on which they are based have dropped in price and this has been transferred to the end customer. You can find very cheap units in any type of format and capacity.

2.- Save the data

If the purchase of the SSD is motivated by the failure of a hard drive, we will not be able to do much. Remove it immediately and on other equipment use specialized tools from the manufacturer or third parties for low-level formatting or others. If the failures are partial, we would also remove it to try to save data with recovery applications.

If the hard disk is in use and works well, before any replacement action we have to consider making  backup copies of the disk . This will depend on the needs of each one. We see several possibilities:

  • The most complete would be a  total cloning of the hard drive to preserve the operating system, applications, files and user settings. Many SSD manufacturers offer apps for this, and third-party developers offer free apps. You will need an external drive to do this or directly on the SSD with conversion kits and/or cabling that will pass data from a USB to the SSD interface, usually SATA.
  • If you don’t need a clone, you can use the recovery discs provided by your laptop manufacturer.
  • If you don’t have recovery discs from the manufacturer or want to create custom backups, all current operating systems offer tools to perform backups,  which on the other hand is a very convenient task that is part of the maintenance of the system itself. There are also good third-party apps that can be used.
  • If you are going to perform a clean installation from scratch from DVD/USB that you have prepared with the operating system, simply check the disk to save your personal files (documents, photos…), which you can archive on any media or on the storage service on cloud you use.

If you need, you can check this guide to move Windows from HDD to SSD  while keeping all data.

3.- Mount the SSD

Once we have saved the data we need and having the boot disk or backup copy to install the system at hand, we are going to mount it. Every laptop is different, but by checking the back we won’t have too many problems locating the location of the hard drive.

There are models that have a dedicated hole for the storage unit and others in which the entire lid must be removed. Remove any type of peripheral connected to the laptop, the power cable and the battery, if applicable. Check the back and remove the hardware to access inside.

It will not be difficult at all to locate the installed hard drive, as you can see in this MSI Leopard laptop that we use as an example. If you have chosen a SATA SSD, remove the hard drive retainer and replace with the SSD.

If you have decided to mount an M.2 (because as in this case it also has an available slot), it is even easier, clicking the SSD into the connector and securing it with a single screw.

Little more remains to be done than to reassemble the laptop’s lid, connect the battery, power cable or peripherals that we had installed.

4.- Configuration, system installation and data

If you’ve used a PCIe SSD and are going to keep the hard drive (or another SSD) as well, make sure PCIe is the first boot device . This section is configured in the BIOS/UEFI.

If you have previously performed a clone, you will only have to start the computer. If you have not made a clone and have opted for a partial backup, you will have to install the operating system and/or applications, restoring the backup or installing from scratch . It is done in the same way with any version of Windows or Linux.

After the first boot it is recommended to properly configure the SSD to work on the computer because it has some peculiarities over hard drives. We have already discussed some of them in other articles, such as deactivating defragmentation or making sure that we have activated the TRIM command.

Most SSD manufacturers offer an application for its configuration that it is recommended to activate, because it allows you to configure the unit for optimal performance, view its status, keep the firmware updated or encrypt the data on the disk if we need it.

Do not hesitate. Replacing a hard drive with an SSD will offer you enormous advantages , the most direct in the storage section. This type of update can be done in the same way on a laptop as a desktop PC. The use cases are varied. A single PCIe (or SATA) SSD can be mounted or accompanied by other SSDs or hard drives. It is recommended to install the system and main applications on the fastest SSD and as the first boot drive. From there, different possibilities open up to cover the internal storage of a PC with guarantees.





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