If you’ve been considering replacing your conventional hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD) but have been concerned that it’s beyond your technical skills, think no further: it’s not that hard. Stick with me and I’ll walk through the instructions with you.
But first, is a new SSD what the doctor ordered? Here are some considerations: a solid-state drive uses less power and is faster than the Hard-Disk Drive (HDD) that you’re used to. SSDs are essentially super-sized flash drives with an embedded controller, and have no moving parts to use energy and slow the read-write processes. As a result, they’re faster, run cooler, use less power, and are more “rugged” than an HDD with an arm that moves across a disk or disks to find your data. On the other hand, SSDs are more expensive and, at least for now, have a maximum capacity of about 1 TB (terabyte).
Top view of HDD [credit: author]
Bottom view of HDD [credit: author]
First, though, is a new SSD what the doctor ordered? Here are some considerations: a solid-state drive uses less power and is faster than the Hard-Disk Drive (HDD) that you’re used to. SSDs are essentially super-sized flash drives with an embedded controller, and have no moving parts to use energy and slow the read-write processes. As a result, they’re faster, run cooler, use less power, and are more “rugged” than an HDD with an arm that moves across a disk or disks to find your data. On the other hand, SSDs are more expensive and, at least for now, have a maximum capacity of about 1 TB (terabyte).
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and install an SSD, though, here’s one ordinary guy’s experience and instructions. I installed a Samsung 840 EVO (500GB) drive in a 4-year-old Dell T-3500 desktop workstation running Windows 7. Instead of replacing the existing 2TB hard drive, I kept it as a second drive to hold large backup files, mostly completed projects. The operating system and production software (a 3D modeling program used in the oil industry) were installed on the SSD, along with project files.
What You’ll Need
External backup drive or media such as DVDs and flash drives
Solid-State Drive (SSD)
Drive Enclosure (optional, usually needed for for desktops)
Run a cleanup process on your hard drive. The object is to strip everything off the hard drive except for essential files such as the operating system and program files.
Empty the recycle bin, delete all files in temporary directories and empty the temporary directories (cache directories) of all browsers.
Use the operating system utility (control panel) to remove any unused programs.
Back up all data files to external media such as an external backup drive, flash drives, CDs/DVDs or the cloud.
Once you have verified that all backups are secure, delete the data files.
2: Clone the Hard-Disk Drive (HDD)
USB 3.0 Port [credit: author]
Follow the instructions that came with your upgrade kit to clone the HDD to the SSD. A typical kit includes a utility on a CD-ROM that will copy the operating system, programs and settings to an empty drive (a replacement HDD or an SSD).
Connect the new drive to the computer with the transfer cable. One end has a regular USB plug and the other has a SATA connector that will fit the connector on the SSD. Cloning will be faster if you use a USB3.0 port (blue “tongue” instead of black)
Insert the CD-ROM and run the installer according to the package instructions.
Depending on the software, you may be able to select only those files you want to copy. Allow the cloning process to finish.
3: Install the New Solid-State Drive (SSD)
Be safe: first, turn the computer off and disconnect all power cables to prevent electric shock!
Open the computer case to access the hard drive. The method of doing so varies from computer to computer. The entire case or one side of a desktop can be removed. On some laptops, the HDD can be removed fairly easily while in others it is deeply buried. Consult the computer maker for details or search online.
Ground yourself by touching a hand to a metal area of the computer case, Do this often while the case is open, especially if the air is dry – a static electricity discharge could damage some delicate electronics.
If you are just swapping drives, gently remove the SATA cable – it looks like a ribbon – from the HDD and remove the HDD from its carrier. It’s usually mounted with four screws near the corners of the bottom.
Mount the SSD in the carrier with the screws. Plug the SATA cable onto the SSD: it can only go one way. Reinstall the carrier.
If adding a second drive to a desktop, mount the SSD in a drive enclosure and mount the enclosure to the frame. Most desktops will have a second plug on the SATA cable or have a second SATA cable. Plug this onto the SSD.
Close the computer case.
4: Boot the New Drive
If you’ve changed drives entirely, when you turn on the computer for the first time the operating system will boot from the new drive.
If you’ve added a second drive, you’ll need to go into the BIOS (basic input-output system) setup screens during the boot process (usually by pressing F9 or F12: watch the onscreen prompts for instructions). Once you’re there, you can set the boot order to define the SSD as the C drive.
At this point, you can move any data files from backup to the new drive and install any software not included in the clone.
Nothing is ever completely cut-and-dried, of course. You may need to consult help for the SSD or from your computer manufacturer if there are problems with getting the SSD to boot. In my case, I had to enable AHCI on the controller. Neither Dell nor Samsung could tell me what was wrong, but Microsoft had instructions: keep trying!