Upgrade your laptop with an SSD

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How to upgrade your laptop
If you’ve been laptop shopping recently, you’ll have noticed a big variation in the amount of storage space on offer. While some laptops have huge 1TB capacities, others only offer 128GB or 256GB, but still command much higher prices. The reason is the SSD — the next generation of laptop storage — but you don’t need to buy a new laptop to get it. David Bayon, Contributing Editor at PC Pro, shows you how to get the benefit of an SSD right now with a simple upgrade.
Buying an SSD
If you don’t know what an SSD is, head over to our SSD Buyer’s Guide for all the details on why you should consider one for your laptop. As long as your laptop is no more than five or six years old, it should have the necessary internal SATA connector for an SSD — and you’ll want to be running Windows 7 or 8 to get the full benefit of its speed.
A selection of SSDs
Preparing for the upgrade
Before you start taking your laptop apart, make sure you have everything you need from it old hard drive. Some SSDs come with data transfer kits that connect the SSD to the laptop via USB to copy all the data— and the entire Windows installation, if necessary — before you remove your old drive. If so, follow the instructions and transfer whatever you need, but take note of how much data you’re copying, since there’s a good chance your SSD will be smaller than the hard drive it replaces. If so, you might have to make some hard decisions about which data you keep.
What do you do if you don't have a transfer kit?
If you don’t have a data transfer kit or if you want to make a clean start on the new drive, you can use an external hard drive as intermediate storage, or for a smaller number of files, you could use a cloud storage service. Don’t worry too much about applications as you can usually download and install them again, but take note of any product keys you might need to reactivate them on your new system.
Locating your laptop’s hard drive
Locating your laptop’s hard drive
First things first — make sure the laptop is completely powered down and unplug its power supply. The majority of laptops make it pretty easy to locate the hard drive and it’s usually beneath a rectangular cover on the underside. You’ll need a small cross-head screwdriver and make sure it’s the hard drive bay you’re opening, not the memory expansion — a small disc symbol and a crisscross memory chip symbol should help you to differentiate the two.

If you can’t immediately spot the hard drive cover, check your laptop’s manual or look up its support page online, as you may have to get to it via a different route. Often this means removing the keyboard and accessing the drive bay from the top, which is more involved, but still relatively straightforward.
A solid state drive (SSD)
Remove old drive and install the SSD
Once you’ve located and unscrewed the hard drive bay cover, you’ll see your old hard drive tucked neatly in place. With a fingernail or the tip of a knife, prise up the end furthest from the connector until you have it between your fingers, then with the other hand, gently break the connection and slip the drive out.
You should now be able to see exactly how the drive was connected (with SATA drives, it’s one wide data connection and one thinner power cable), so take your new SSD and slot it back into the bay in the same manner, ensuring that the ports line up and click into place. Give it a final push to make sure the connections are firm, then press the other end of the drive down into the bay and screw the cover back into place.
SSD data transfer kit
Powering up
If you used a data transfer kit, you should be able to turn the laptop back on and jump straight into your existing Windows installation. If it doesn’t boot first time, enter the BIOS and make sure the new SSD is top of the boot order list, then restart and try again.

If you only have your data stored, you’ll need to reinstall Windows before you can get started. Insert your Windows install disc into your DVD drive, or boot from a Windows USB stick and follow the instructions. Then transfer your stored files back from your temporary storage medium and reinstall your applications.
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