Replace Laptop Hard Drive
My laptop has run out of space on the hard drive and I want to replace it, but I've never done anything like that. Can you give me the steps for replacing a laptop's hard drive?
How to Replace a Laptop Hard Drive
Replacing a laptop hard drive is actually easier than replacing a desktop computer's hard drive. Here's how to replace a laptop hard drive in five easy steps:
- Choose the right replacement hard drive. Nearly all new laptops sold today contain 2.5-inch wide hard drives. But if your laptop is an older model it may need a different form factor. Check the specifications for your machine in the user manual or the manufacturer's support Web site. Keep in mind that even in the 2.5-inch drive category, most drives are 9.5mm thick but some higher-capacity drives are 13.5mm thick. Measure first, so you don't buy a drive that won't fit!
The laptop's hard drive interface must match that of any new drive you buy. Typical modern interfaces include Serial ATA (SATA) and Ultra ATA/IDE. Older standards are available on new hard drives; you just have to be sure of what your laptop's hard drive controller supports.
The rotation speed of a hard drive makes a big difference in read/write performance. Hard drives rotate at 4200, 5600, or 7200 rpm. Faster costs more, but it's well worth the few extra dollars.
The capacity of a replacement hard drive should be about twice what you expect to use. Plenty of empty space on a hard drive makes the writing of data easier on the read/write head mechanism; it doesn't have to split files into as many pieces and write them in different places. Files tend to be less fragmented on a drive with lots of space, making read operations faster and minimizing read errors.
The data transfer rate of a hard drive is another important performance factor. It is the maximum speed at which data can be moved in and out of the drive. Disk cache memory also speeds up data transfers by storing frequently used data in RAM right on the hard drive. The more cache memory, the better (and the higher the price of the drive).
Don't hesitate to buy a high-end hard drive. The difference in cost between the middle and high end of hard drive price ranges is only about $50 to $100. A high-performance hard drive is one the best investments you can make in your laptop.
- Back up everything on your old hard drive to external storage. The easiest way to do this is with disk-imaging software and an external hard drive connected via USB or Firewire. A disk image is an exact duplicate of every bit on your hard drive, including the operating system and user settings; applications; and data files. Your imaging software should also help you create a bootable "emergency CD" to help you restore the image to the new drive. Do not use mere data-backup software or you will have to re-install the OS and all of your application software! See my related article Hard Drive Backup Image for more info, and links to some free imaging software.
An alternative to creating your disk image on an external hard drive would be to create the image on your NEW drive. Then you can simply install the new drive, boot up and go. The only downside is that you'll need some way to connect that new hard drive to your laptop. But you can purchase an inexpensive kit ($20-$30) to turn your new drive into an external drive that can be connected via USB or Firewire cable.
Now comes the gut-wrenching part: totally erasing everything from your old hard drive. You don't want your personal data falling into the wrong hands, do you? Reformatting the drive is not enough; data can still be recovered from it. Use a disk-wiping utility such as Darik's Boot N Nuke to completely and permanently obliterate everything on the old drive. (If you want to destroy the old hard drive for peace of mind, see my article How to Destroy a Hard Drive. http://askbobrankin.com/how_to_destroy_a_hard_drive.html)
- Remove the old drive from your laptop. This is the easiest part, usually. In most modern laptops, removing a single screw on the underside of your laptop that secures a cover plate over the hard drive is all it takes. There may be a clear plastic tab to pull the hard drive out of its bay. If not, just tilt the drive up and out of the bay. Check your laptop's documentation to locate the hard drive cover.
- Install the new hard drive. Just slide it into the empty drive bay. If it doesn't go all the way in, you have it upside down; the connectors are asymmetric so you can't accidentally install the drive incorrectly. Just be careful not to bend any of the pins that must slide into the connector on the laptop. Replace the cover and get ready to transfer your old drive's contents to the new one.
- Configure the new drive. When you power up the laptop its BIOS should detect the new drive automatically. If you created the image on your new drive, you're ready to boot up and go. If you created the image on an external drive, boot from the emergency CD, then use the image disk and your disk-imaging software to transfer all the data, apps, and operating system from your backup copy to the new drive.
Of course you can skip the imaging altogether, boot up with a Windows Setup CD, and install a fresh copy of the operating system on your new, empty hard drive. But don't forget to install anti-virus and anti-spyware software; and visit the Windows Updates website to make sure you have the latest Windows security patches.
Ta-da! You're done! All of this may take several hours if you have lots of apps and data on your old hard drive, but those backup and restore operations can run unattended while you're off doing other things.
Do you have something to say about replacing a laptop hard drive? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Sep 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Replace Laptop Hard Drive (Posted: 30 Sep 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved