Here's How to Upgrade or Replace Your Hard Drive

Category: Hard-Drives

When your hard disk drive is crammed full of data, or the buzzing of the bearing says it’s nearing the end of its life cycle, then it’s time to consider a new drive. That used to be a simple matter of choosing a bigger drive; maybe one that spun faster; or one with speedier I/O bus. But today, your options are multiplied and decisions are more complicated. Read on...

Hard Drive Options

You have traditional magnetic platters, still the work horses of mass storage. They’re reliable and cheap; a 500 GB HDD that will last five years can be had for about $20, and I've seen 1 terabyte (1000 GB) drives, space unheard of on desktops just a few years ago – online for $40 or less. In fact, most new PCs now come with 2 TB drives as the standard.

The minimum spin speed of a magnetic hard drive is 5400 rpm; 7200 rpm costs very little more; and some HDDs spin at 10,000 or 12,000 rpm. Faster is better, of course.

Then there are Solid State Drives (SSD), essentially enormous flash memory arrays like a USB thumb drive on steroids. With no moving parts they really make data fly; Windows will boot up in under 30 seconds, and video editing proceeds as fast as Word document editing. SSDs are available for less than $30 in capacities up to 240 GB. A one terabyte SSD will run you about $100.

Upgrade Your Hard Drive

In between are hybrid drives, part SSD and part HDD, integrated to optimize overall read/write speed and access. Essentially, you get a HDD with a very large cache. Frequently used files are kept on the SSD, while less frequently used files go the HDD. Prices are closer to inexpensive HDDs than to pricey SSDs.

Hard drive sizes are not limited to 1 or 2 terabytes. I found a Seagate 14TB Exos Enterprise Hard Drive on Amazon for $360. That works out to about 2.5 cents per gigabyte, which is amazing when you consider that just ten years ago, the price per GB was about 12 cents. Go back 20 years, and you had to pay abut $10 per gigabyte! But while faster is always better, bigger is not. In fact, bigger can be the enemy of faster; excessively large drives tend to come in slower spin speeds. And data can be scattered all over a nearly empty disk, necessitating frequent optimization.

Before you rush out to buy a multi-terabyte drive of any kind, ask yourself how much of that capacity you are really going to use. I have a laptop that came with 500 GB of storage; in five years, I’ve yet to fill half of it.

Backups Ebook Are you prepared for a total loss of your hard drive due to a virus, hardware failure or other disaster? Are you confused by the terminology related to backups? Read my ebook Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS, where you'll learn about backup strategies and how to protect the data in your computer, tablet, smartphone and online accounts.

Clone Your Old Drive

How can you move all of your data from the old drive to the new one? The best method is cloning: making an exact bit-for-bit copy of your existing drive and transferring it to the new one. Cloning gives you a bootable new hard drive, with operating system, applications, and data all exactly as they were on the old drive.

When I bought a my Dell Optiplex computer about three years ago, I ordered a 250GB SSD drive to replace the 500GB hard drive that shipped with it. The Samsung 850 EVO came with software called Samsung Data Migration, which made it super-easy to transfer everything from my existing hard drive, and make the new SSD my primary C: drive. If your new hard drive doesn't come with a migration tool, there are commercial cloning utilities such as Norton Ghost, but many penny-pinching geeks swear by the open-source Clonezilla. Before cloning, you can install the new drive as a second internal drive in your PC, or connect it externally via USB with a $20 kit. The latter option is ideal for laptops, or desktop systems that don't have room for another internal drive.

Finally, what should you do with the old drive? I don't recommend selling or giving away your old hard drive. Even if you delete everything and reformat it, the drive still contains recoverable data that you may not wish anyone else to access. My articles Securely Erasing Your Hard Drive and How to Destroy a Hard Drive will give you some practical options to destroy the data on the drive, or render it useless.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome! Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Here's How to Upgrade or Replace Your Hard Drive"

Posted by:

AlanRC
11 Oct 2019

Anybody still using a hard drive as a boot drive should replace it with an SSD. SSD's are much faster than hard drives, and ideal for running the operating system and installed programs. Use the hard drive for storage of documents, pictures, music files, and archives. You can also back up your boot drive and save the backup copy on your hard drive. I use Acronis True Image for backing up the "C" drive.


Posted by:

Charley
11 Oct 2019

Regarding getting rid of your old drive, when I am sure I am ready to toss it (after I am sure the new drive works and I have current backups), I wait until there is a shredding event in my area (in my area they have them periodically). They shred the hard drive into little pieces of metal.


Posted by:

bill
11 Oct 2019

Thanks AlanRC for being so condescending that what you like must the the only way for everyone else.


Posted by:

Dianne
11 Oct 2019

Does cloning the drive allow you to use the old programs? I'm afraid I'll lose all my programs which is why I'm still working off an old hard drive, and not all of them have disks or downloads available.


Posted by:

GregC
11 Oct 2019

Although faster eg 7200 rpm HDDs are faster they generate much more heat and generally will wear out faster. If you want speed, go for a SSD.

When I had to move my Dell Win 10 from a 2GB spinning drive to a 500 GB SSD, I used FREE Macrium Reflect. I was able to copy each partition, one at a time, and "manually" resized the main boot drive to fit onto the much smaller SSD. ( boot drive was new and almost empty). It took many tries to find the correct size to use the entire SSD without wasting space or using too much with no room for the remaining partitions. In the end it was perfect.

FYI: SSDs are going to get bigger, cheaper, But SLOWER !
https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/09/new-intel-toshiba-ssd-technologies-squeeze-more-bits-into-each-cell/


Posted by:

AlanRC
11 Oct 2019

Dianne, if you use a program like Acronis True Image to clone your drive, it turns the new drive into an exact copy of the old drive, so you don't have to reinstall any programs that were on the original drive. However, after you clone the drive, you then have to physically install the new drive into your computer such that it has the same drive letter as the original drive. So if you are cloning the "C" drive, the new drive has to replace the original "C" drive in your computer. You have to remove the original drive or reformat it and use it as the "D" drive. Does that make sense?


Posted by:

John
11 Oct 2019

Another way to clone a disk is fairly simple using the dd command, Just boot to any linux live disk (most utility disks are linux) and run the following command:

sudo dd if=/dev/sdX of=/dev/sdY bs=1M count=80000 status=progress

You do need to insure that the input file if=/dev/sdX and output file of=/dev/sdY settings are correct


Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
11 Oct 2019

For added data safety, and if your motherboard has sufficient SATA sockets, consider putting in TWO new HDs, of the same size but if possible from different makers, configured as a RAID 1 array.
This will allow you a avoid loosing any data when (not if) a HD goes West...


Posted by:

Robert A.
11 Oct 2019

I believe that within two or three years, all computers will come from the factory with at least a 250 GB SSD drive, if not a 500 GB drive, for the low end units, and higher-end desktops will have a minimum 1 TB SSD as standard equipment. Expect to see, by then, 1 TB SSDs retailing for well under $100.00, as production explodes, and prices fall, just as prices fell for 4K TVs in the past few years, for top name brands like Samsung or Intel. Secondary and tertiary brands will likely be around $50.00, or less.

The most deluxe computers and motherboards, for the do-it-yourself computer builders, will increasing have plug-in slots for the new M.2 NVMe SSDs drives that are slightly larger than a stick of ordinary chewing gum. The M.2 NVMe technology drops the old SATA connection for a state-of-the-art higher-speed data path that will computers to fully boot up in the five to 10 second range, and file access will be faster than the blink of an eye. At that point, The old HDD technology will be obsolete, just as floppy discs and DVD are now.


Posted by:

Wayne Lindsay
12 Oct 2019

I have used Norton Ghost for a number of years starting at V.11 up to the last V.15.
Unfortunately Norton Ghost is not compatible with Windows 10.

I tried several different backup programs and finally settled on EasUS Todo Backup and have been running it for a couple years now without a problem. Using the Professional version, my backups are scheduled and all I have to do is open the program every now and then to ensure that the latest backups were successfully created on my dedicated 2Tb external drive and it looks after itself.


Posted by:

Wayne Lindsay
12 Oct 2019

I have used Norton Ghost for a number of years starting at V.11 up to the last V.15.
Unfortunately Norton Ghost is not compatible with Windows 10.

I tried several different backup programs and finally settled on EasUS Todo Backup and have been running it for a couple years now without a problem. Using the Professional version, my backups are scheduled and all I have to do is open the program every now and then to ensure that the latest backups were successfully created on my dedicated 2Tb external drive and it looks after itself.


Posted by:

BobD
12 Oct 2019

Yep. When my computer started freezing too often, and chkdsk decided to remap a few clusters on my seven-year-old (!) Hitachi 1 TB disk, I had a local shop replace the disk with a 500GB SSD. Bootup and app startup are spiffy, but some speedup is lost because my application files and backups are on USB 3 and USB 2 external disks, though SSD's will replace them soon, I'm sure.


Posted by:

Richard
14 Oct 2019

If your case has a shortage of drive bays but you motherboard and PSU sufficient sockets/cables you can get devices that can fit 2 smaller (physically) sized drives into a single standard desktop drive slot. I've not tried these but am simply aware of their existence. The reason I looks is I may plan to install a pair off SSD's and then move Windows to one and Linux to the other from my 1TB HDD, the other 1TB HDD is for data and would remain untouched. Linux is OK as it mounts using partition ID's to known mountpoints, Windows with it's silly drive letters may be more interesting.


Posted by:

Dianne
14 Oct 2019

AlanRC ... Yes, that does make sense. Thank you for the suggestion. I'm going to check it out. I don't have the expertise of a lot of people here so I need simple. And I've noticed when I talk to the techs locally who are supposed to help, they say there is nothing to be done but reload the programs. That's not always practical. I know I'm going to have to upgrade soon, and I'm not looking forward to it.


Posted by:

Alan Cordeiro
15 Oct 2019

Dianne, it might be worth it for you to take the computer to a local shop and ask them to swap the drives for you. Any repair shop worth their salt should be able to swap the drives AND transfer all the files so that you don't have to reinstall any programs. That should cost under $100 plus the cost of the new drive. If you have a desktop computer, then the old "C" drive can become the new "D" drive. If you have any friends who are reasonably good with computers, they can do it for you for free.


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