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

SSD is one of the components indicated when carrying out any hardware renovation due to its multiple advantages compared to hard drives that until a few years ago dominated the storage section.

There have been dozens of articles  that we have been offering you about these solid state drives, including analyzes of the best on the market and today we are going to leave you a more practical article on the steps to replace a hard drive with an SSD in a laptop, mainly seeking 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 a high capacity or we have a large budget to buy 1 Tbyte models (or more), and also in a hybrid system that some of us use and it 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 on a desktop and the benefits of its forceful installation in any case, in  startup times, application opening, data transfer speed , etc. To the point of resurrecting an old team that does not give for more.

1.- Choose and buy the SSD

Until recently 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 wider. In desktop computers it goes through a PCI-Express card-type solution while in laptops, the ideal is an M.2 module also to PCie. If your laptop supports it, value the purchase of these M.2 because the improvement in 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 assess its thickness, although you will not have a problem because they are already offered in 9 or 7 mm sizes. In the case of M.2, make sure it supports the PCIe-NVMe interface (there are others connected to SATA, but they are not worth it). In terms  of storage capacity, it  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 a guarantee 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 buy with updated prices for dozens of units.

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 or other formatting. If the failures 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 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 disk to preserve the operating system, applications, files and user settings. Many SSD manufacturers offer applications for this and third-party developers offer free apps. You will need an external drive to do this or directly to the SSD with  conversion kits  and / or cabling that passes the data from a  USB to the interface of the SSD , usually SATA.
  • If you don’t need cloning, you can use the recovery discs provided by your laptop manufacturer.
  • If you do not have recovery discs from the manufacturer or you want to create custom backups, all current operating systems offer tools to make backup copies,  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 you can use.
  • 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 medium or in the storage service at cloud you use.

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

3.- Mount the SSD

Once we have saved the data we need and having the boot disk or the backup copy at hand to install the system, we go to the assembly. Each laptop is different, but reviewing its back we 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 require removing the entire cover. We are doing a practical 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 cable and the battery. We check its rear part, we remove the hardware to access its interior.

We will locate the storage units soon. 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, we remove the screws that hold the hard drive 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 to make sure the unit is well secured.

Little more remains to be done than to reassemble the laptop lid, connect the battery, power cable or peripherals.

4.- Configuration, system installation and data

If you have used an SSD to PCIe and you are also going to keep 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 a previous cloning of the SSD we will only have to boot the computer. If we have not done so and depending 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 .

After the first boot, it only remains for us to properly configure the SSD to work on the computer because it has some peculiarities about hard drives. We have already commented on some of them in other articles, such as disabling defragmentation or making sure we have the TRIM command activated. Most SSD manufacturers offer an application for its configuration that it is advisable 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.

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

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