How To Upgrade A Notebook’s Hard Drive

Getting Rid Of Outdated Hard Drives

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We’ve already looked at the impact on performance and battery runtime of replacing an outdated notebook hard drive with a more current offering. This time around, we want to show how easy it can be to upgrade and move your existing Windows installation from the old hard drive to the new one. All you’ll need is a screwdriver and a spare external hard drive to help shuffle your Windows system’s data to the new drive.

Investigate Hard Drive Details

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Almost all notebooks today utilize 2.5″ SATA hard drives. Whether you’re using SATA at its original 1.5 Gb/s speed or second-generation 3.0 Gb/sec is fairly irrelevant because internal disk speeds are the true performance bottleneck, not the interface. Should you decide to install an SSD for superior performance, though, make sure it’s on the faster SATA 3 Gb/sec interface. Keep in mind that some netbook and subnotebook designs are based on 1.8” hard drives, so you can’t install a 2.5″…

Get a Replacement Drive

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Toshiba’s 640GB 2.5” drive, the MK6465GSX, offers plenty of storage and solid efficiency. Other vendors have similar products. The drive on the right is a Toshiba HG2 flash SSD drive, which is only sold to OEM customers. We wanted to replace our existing hard drive with a higher-capacity model, so we grabbed the MK6465GSX, which, as mentioned, serves up 640GB. Other drive vendors, such as Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and WD, have equivalent products. You could certainly install a flash SSD.

Locate The Hard Drive Bay

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There are a few laptop designs that require removing the keyboard in order to access the hard drive bay from above. In most cases, though, the hard drive is either accessed from one side of the laptop or through a panel on the device’s bottom.

Open The Drive Bay Cover

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Wherever the drive bay is located, you’ll probably have to remove a plastic cover held in place by one or more small screws. With our Toshiba Satellite, two screws have to be removed before youcan pop off the drive bay cover.

Access The Hard Drive

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Once the cover has been removed, you can access the hard drive. Depending on the notebook design, there may be an additional drive cage or sled for more secure mounting. You’ll need to carefully wiggle the drive away from the system’s SATA connectors. Just be sure you’ve removed any of the screws that were holding it in place first.

Hard Drive Removed

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Once you’ve removed the old hard drive, you should be able to see the SATA interface.

Dismount Old Drive From Drive Frame

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The hard drive is attached to a mounting frame. Unscrew all four screws to remove the drive. The old unit shown here is a 160GB MK1637GSX.

Install New Drive Into Drive Frame

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We’re halfway there. Here you can see the new hard drive, the 640GB MK6465GSX. Be sure you screw it into the frame properly, just as the old drive was mounted.

Insert Drive Into Laptop

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Carefully install the hard drive mounting frame with the new drive into the drive bay. Be sure to plug the drive firmly into the SATA connector.

Shut The Drive Cover

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Don’t forget to screw the drive bay cover back on

Install Windows, Or Secure Your Old Installation

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Wait! If you want to retain your existing Windows installation, you’ll need an additional hard drive. In our case, we used a portable USB 2.0 drive. If you followed all of the preceding steps, then your laptop should be ready to boot with its new hard drive. Usually, there’s no need to change any BIOS settings. Most laptops will automatically detect the hard drive. As a general rule, we recommend a fresh installation of Windows, if only to clean out the inevitable, system-clogging..

Start Windows Backup And Restore

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Go to the Windows Control Center, navigate to System and Security, and launch Backup and Restore (Windows 7). In Windows Vista, this is called the Backup and Restore Center. Select the “Back up computer” option.

Select Backup Target Drive

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After launching the backup, you have to select a target hard drive. Be sure a suitable additional hard drive is attached to the system, partitioned, and formatted. Any internal or external interface should fine, but USB 2.0 is probably the most universal and convenient. The drive must provide enough capacity to store your entire system image, which can easily be 20GB and more, depending on how many and which applications you have installed. In our case, we connected a portable 320GB hard…

Confirm Settings

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So, that’s all there is to it? Yes, indeed. The beauty of Windows’ integrated backup feature is that it’s simple to use. You’re ready to create a full system backup now.

The Backup Process

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Although most USB 2.0 hard drives deliver similar performance, aware that a full system backup might take quite a while. Large system images can easily take several hours. You could use the time to locate your Windows disc, which you will need to boot and to initiate the system restore.

Initiate Restore

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At this point, we’ll assume that the full system backup has completed successfully, and that you have gone through the process of replacing your old hard drive with the new one. If you want to continue with the Windows system restore process, you’ll have to insert your Windows disc and make sure your system can boot from it. Many laptops have this ability as the default setting. Some systems will prompt you to verify that you actually want to boot from an optical disc. And on other systems,…

Select The Recovery Drive

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Selecting “Repair” will have Windows setup enter the recovery mode. Since there is no Windows installation on the new hard drive, click “Next” to continue.

Initiate Windows Complete PC Restore

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The Windows Complete System Restore function recreates an entire installation from a backup. This is exactly what we want to do now.

Select Restore Set

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If your external hard drive containing the backup set has been attached throughout this process, it will automatically be listed as the recovery option in the latest available backup. You can also select other backup locations.

Define Restore Parameters

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Formatting and repartitioning cannot be changed. This is necessary for the restore process.

Summary Before Restore

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This screen confirms the restore process about to take place.

Restore: Are You Really Sure?

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Yes, these final confirmations always feel extraneous and silly. Just remember that some programmer somewhere made an honest wage writing that feature. Maybe he’s out there right now, silently thanking you for your patience. Regardless, Windows gives you this last chance to wake up from your sleepwalking session and stop the restore process about to erase all data on your new hard drive.

Restore Process

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You know how long you waited for your backup to save? Well, now you can wait about that long again for the restore process. Put your Windows disc in a safe location. Grab lunch. Go watch a National Geographic special. Once the system restarts, you’ll be booting your familiar Windows installation on a freshly installed, higher capacity, and probably faster hard drive.

 

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