One of the most effective and noticeable upgrades you can perform on your PC is to add a solid-state storage hard drive. So-called SSDs are much quicker than traditional platter-based hard drives, and will revolutionise your computer's performance, making everything that much quicker and more responsive, including cutting loading times for Windows and all your programs. This guide will show you how to upgrade your computer to a SSD drive, from fitting the drive to copying the contents of your old drive to your new one. Your old drive will continue to be used as a data or backup drive, maximising the value of your upgrade.
WARNING: You can render your computer unbootable if you’re not careful. Take a full drive backup before you begin and make sure you’ve created your Advent rescue discs or USB stick too. If in any doubt about the procedure below, use Knowhow’s Hardware Install & Check service and we’ll upgrade your computer for you.
1. Check potential upgrade issues
First, verify your computer supports the newer SATA hard drive interface. Older computers with IDE slots can't be upgraded to work with SSD drives, which all utilise the current SATA standard. See this Wikipedia article to help verify your current hard drive.
Second, laptop users should check to see that there's convenient access to the existing hard drive. With your laptop powered off and unplugged, turn it over and locate a drive panel that can be removed to reveal the hard drive. Some Advent laptops don't have easy access to hard drives and other components. If your PC falls into this category, follow the Knowhow route (above) to have the SSD drive fitted for you.
2. Purchase correct equipment
If you're upgrading your laptop's hard drive, you'll need to purchase a 2.5-inch USB drive enclosure in which to house your SSD drive while you copy onto it the contents of your old drive. Once complete, you'll swap drives and your old drive will become a dedicated backup or data drive. You'll find a range of drive enclosures to suit all budgets at Pixmania.
If you're upgrading your desktop, then you'll need to purchase a desktop adapter kit so the 2.5-inch SSD drive can be fitted to a 3.5-inch space in your case. Dynamode's SSD Hard Drive Rail Kit (£4.99, PC World) fits the bill perfectly, as it also comes with additional data and power cables for your new drive.
3. Fit new drive into your desktop
If upgrading your desktop PC, make sure it's switched off, unplugged and that you've earthed yourself before opening the case. Start by fitting the SSD drive to the desktop adapter kit, and then slot it into a vacant space in your computer before screwing it into place.
4. Connect cables to computer
Now plug in the SATA data cable. One end goes into the smaller L-shaped plug on the back of your hard drive, the other into a spare SATA data port on your motherboard. Next, connect the larger L-shaped plug to your computer’s power supply, either directly using a spare power plug on the PSU itself, or by using the supplied Molex adapter that comes with the SSD Hard Drive Rail Kit. Close your computer when complete.
5. Fit SSD drive into enclosure
Laptop users should start by fitting the SSD drive into the drive enclosure following the instructions given. It should be a simple case of unscrewing the front or back of the enclosure, sliding out the chassis and plugging the drive into this, securing it with screws. Then slide the chassis back in and replace the frontplate.
6. Transfer data
When Windows loads, click the Folder Explorer icon on your taskbar and then click the Computer link in the left-hand pane. Right-click your existing hard drive and choose Properties. Make a note of the ‘used space’ figure – this needs to be at less than the size of your new SSD drive, and ideally at least 10GB less than the new drive’s capacity.
If your old drive has too much data on it, you’ll need to move data off the drive to another backup drive (not the drive you just purchased). You’ll find most space-hogging files are found in your personal Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos folders. Move these to another drive until the drive’s size drops to an acceptable level.
7. Install free drive cloning software
Now download MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition and install the program. Once complete, leave the box ticked and click Finish to automatically launch the program. Verify the existence of your new drive – it should be marked as Unallocated as shown above.
8. Set up cloning process
Click the Copy Disk Wizard link under Wizards in the left-hand pane. Click Next, select your old drive (Disk 1 in most cases) and click Next again. Select your new drive and click Next. Leave “Fit partitions to entire disk” selected and click Next followed by Finish.
9. Clone drive
Nothing actually happens until you click the Apply button on the main screen. Once clicked, read the warning (it applies only to laptop users) and click Yes to start the process. The wizard will display a progress bar showing you how far the cloning process has got – after the recovery partition is copied, you’ll be prompted to restart to copy the main Windows partition. Do so and leave your computer to finish the task.
10. Verify successful clone
When Windows reboots, launch Partition Wizard again. You should see that Disk 2 now contains an exact copy of both your recovery partition and C drive. Verify the status of the new System Partition is set to Active – this indicates the drive is bootable. Once done, close Partition Wizard and shut down your PC.
11. Desktop users
With the new drive now an exact copy of the old, you want to instruct your PC to use the SSD as your boot device. Start your PC, tapping the key prompted to enter setup (typically [Del] or [F1]) to access the BIOS Setup utility. See here for a basic guide to navigating the BIOS if you need it.
Look for a section relating to boot devices or boot priority. Locate an entry relating to Hard Drive Order if it exists and make sure your new drive is listed as the first drive. Save your changes and your PC should now reboot from the new drive. You should immediately notice it’s much quicker. Once you’ve verified your new drive is working correctly, you can format the old drive and use it as a dedicated storage or backup drive.
12. Laptop users
Open up the drive cover on the bottom of your laptop to reveal the original drive inside. Carefully remove it – look for a tab to pull up allowing you to gently remove the drive from its slot. Now remove the SSD drive from the drive enclosure. Check the original drive carefully – it may have additional elements attached to it that require removing and fitting onto the SSD drive.
Once in place, carefully push the SSD drive back into the slot in your laptop, then secure the drive cover. Turn your laptop over, switch on, and your laptop should boot using the new faster drive. You should immediately notice the improved performance. Once successfully booted, you can now fit the old drive into the drive enclosure, then connect it to your laptop. You're now free to format the old drive and use it exclusively for data or backup purposes.
TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: if your PC doesn’t boot from your new drive, reverse the final step to make your existing drive the default boot device again. Windows should now load correctly, allowing you to investigate your issue further.