How to replace a hard drive with an SSD in a laptop

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SSD is one of the components indicated when carrying out any hardware renovation due to its multiple advantages over the hard drives that until a few years ago dominated the storage section. We share how to replace a hard drive with an SSD in a laptop.

There have been dozens of articles that we have been offering you about these solid-state drives. Including analysis of the best in the market and today. We are going to leave you a more practical article of the steps to replace a hard drive with an SSD in a laptop. Looking mainly to improve performance and/or storage capacity.

The scenario of use in a laptop is not unique and an SSD is today also a  clear bet to mount it on a desktop PC. We can install it independently if we do not need high capacity. Or we have a large budget to buy models of 1 Tbyte (or more). And also in a hybrid system that some of us use and is perfect as a transition. That is an SSD as the main unit for the operating system and main applications, and a hard disk (or several in RAID) for mass storage.

Today we focus on a laptop but the way to do it is the same in a desktop and the benefits of its installation blunt in any case, in times of startup, opening applications, the speed of data transfer, etc. To the point of resurrecting old equipment that does not allow for more.

How to replace a hard drive with an SSD in a laptop

1.- Choose and buy the SSDreplace a hard drive

Until recently the possibilities (for offer and price) of buying an SSD went almost exclusively through the standard format of 2.5 inches and the SATA interface. Nowadays the offer is much wider. In desktop computers, it goes through a PCI-Express card-punched solution, while in laptops, the ideal is an M.2 module, also PCIe. If your laptop supports it, value the purchase of these M.2 because the improvement of performance, consumption, and weight is remarkable and you can also take advantage of the 2.5 “bay to increase storage.

If you are going to mount a 2.5-inch SSD, you will only have to evaluate its thickness, although you will not have a problem because they are all available in 9 or 7 mm sizes. In the case of the M.2, make sure you support the PCIe-NVMe interface (there are others connected to SATA, but they are not worth it). In terms of storage capacity is something that only you should assess depending on your needs. There are very cheap units of 120 or 240 GB if you want to combine it with other units. And good prices in 500 GB or 1 TB if you are going to mount them as a single unit.

Samsung, Kingston, WD, OCZ (Toshiba), SanDisk, Crucial … Currently, any of the major manufacturers will offer you warranty and performance in SSD in both 2.5-inch and M.2 formats. You can consult our SSD Guide, which offers everything you need to know about these units. And purchases with updated prices for dozens of units.

2.- Save the datareplace a hard drive

If the purchase of the SSD is motivated by the failure of a hard drive we can not do too much. Remove it immediately and on other equipment use specialized tools from the manufacturer or third parties for low level or another formatting. If the bugs are partial we would also remove it to try to save data with recovery applications that you can review in this article that examines five free solutions.

If the hard drive 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 total cloning of the hard disk to conserve the operating system,  applications, files, and user configuration. Many SSD manufacturers offer applications for this and third-party developers offer free apps. You will need an external drive to do it or directly in the SSD with conversion kits and/or wiring that passes the data from a  USB to the SSD interface, usually SATA.

If you do not need cloning you can use the recovery discs that the manufacturer of your laptop provided you.

If you do not have manufacturer recovery discs or want to create customized backups. All current operating systems offer tools for backing up,  which on the other hand is a very convenient task that is part of maintaining 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 in any medium or in the storage service in the cloud that you use

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

3.- Mount the SSDreplace a hard drive

Once we have saved the data we need and having the boot disk or backup copy on hand to install the system. We go to the assembly. Each laptop is a world, but checking its back will not have too many problems to locate the situation of the hard disk. There are models that have a dedicated hole or others that there is to dismantle the entire lid. We are doing a practice on an MSI Leopard, a team that you already know because we use it for tests. We remove any type of connected peripheral, the power cord and the battery. Check your back, remove screws to access your interior.

Soon we will locate the storage units. The bay where the hard disk is installed and the additional M.2 to PCIe slot.

If we are going to install a 2.5-inch model, remove the screws that hold the hard disk. And use that bay to install the SSD:

The same if we have chosen an M.2. We remove its fastening screw, assemble and screw it back in order to secure the unit.

Little more remains to be done than to reassemble the lid of the laptop, connect the battery, power cord or peripherals. This is the first step to replace a hard drive.

4.- Configuration, system installation, and datareplace a hard drive

If you have used an SSD to PCIe and will also maintain the hard drive (or an SSD), make sure that the PCIe is the first boot device. This section is configured in the BIOS / UEFI.

If we have done previous cloning of the SSD, we will only have to start the computer. If we have not done so and depended on the type of backup we have made. We will have to install the operating system and/or applications, restoring the backup or installing from scratch. It is the next step to replace a hard drive.

After the first boot, we only need to properly configure the SSD to work on the computer. Because it has some peculiarities on the hard drive. Some of us have already commented on other articles. Such as deactivating the defragments or making sure that we have activated the TRIM command. Most manufacturers of SSD offer an application for your configuration that 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 disk data if needed.

All ready. A user who has not tried them will be surprised by the “life” that recovers any old laptop that replaces the hard drive with an SSD. This type of update can also be performed on a desktop PC and with various configuration options. Be only with SSDs or hybrid systems where we would use the hard drives to have more storage capacity. And the SSD as the first boot to install the system and the main applications taking advantage of its higher performance.

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