Whether you like it or not, computers are something we all have to use at some point. Whether it’s for your job or writing an email to grandma, there’s no avoiding it. Unfortunately, one of the most common complaints people have is that their computer is “slow”, but luckily you can upgrade to an SSD and make a huge difference.
The funny thing is that most modern computers are actually pretty fast. Even office computers from five years ago have way more processing power than the average person needs. We’ve gotten to the point where even bottom-end computers ship with high-speed components, but there is still one part of the computer that’s holding them back: the hard drive.
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Back in My Day
Since the first hard drive was invented in 1956, this tech has grown to become the standard way to permanently store stuff on a computer. It’s an amazing machine that spins a disk thousands of times every minute while its reading and writing heads blur back and forth constantly.
As cool as hard drives are, the laws of physics have put a brick wall in their way. While processors and memory have gotten insanely fast, today’s hard drives aren’t keeping up.
So if your computer is slow, there’s a good chance it’s because all the fast parts are waiting for your slowpoke hard drive to give them something to do.
Why Upgrade to an SSD?
What can you do about it? The answer is simple: get rid of that hard drive!
Get rid of that mechanical clunker HDD and upgrade to an SSD, you’ll make the whole thing faster in one go.
Are you skeptical? Just look at these benchmarks. It’s not a fair fight by a long shot.
The fact is that no other upgrade you can do will improve the day-to-day experience of using a computer like slapping a shiny new SSD inside it. Even older computers can feel like new and stay useful for a few more years with one of these.
Are you feeling the need for speed yet? All right! You’ll see it’s not hard to do this upgrade and if you follow these instructions you won’t even have to reinstall a thing!
How do I install a new SSD? – Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
Before you even think of doing anything, you’ll have to prepare all the stuff you’ll need. Don’t worry, it’s not a long list. You’ll need the following:
- A desktop or laptop computer.
- A 2.5 inch SATA SSD drive
- A SATA to USB adapter (if upgrading a laptop)
- Cloning software (I strongly suggest Macrium Reflect Free)
- A screwdriver
- A cup of coffee – or a beer. Hey, no judgement here, OK?
For you to do this upgrade, you have to be comfortable with opening up your computer. Refer to your computer manual for how to remove or install your hard drive.
Although this guide deals with the upgrade to an SSD that uses the SATA standard, there are many other kinds of SSD. SATA is just the most common and uses the same connectors as your current hard drive, so it’s just a straight swap. If you want to know about the other types of SSD, check out this neat article over on TechSpot for the juicy details.
Nothing you’re going to do in this guide should affect your current hard drive or data. If anything goes wrong you should be able to just put it back the way it was. Even so, make backups of your most important files to another storage space.
So, let’s kick this pig!
Step One: The Hookup
The first thing we want to do is get your new SSD hooked up as an extra drive. We aren’t swapping it out yet. Just making it ready to copy all the stuff on your old drive.
If you are upgrading a desktop computer, this is pretty easy. With your computer switched off and the case open, look for a free SATA and SATA power cable. Plug both of those into your new SSD drive.
On a laptop that can only have one drive inside it, use your USB to SATA connector. The laptop does not have to be switched off for this.
Nothing’s stopping you from using the USB connector on a desktop, it’s just an extra expense. It’s your money though, so if it makes you more comfortable go for it.
Step Two: Give it the Boot
Boot into Windows as you usually would. In the file explorer, you should see your new drive ready for business. If you haven’t already, install Macrium Reflect. Once that’s done, start it up.
Step Three: Ask a Wizard
Macrium is so easy to use, even a child could do it. Actually, who am I kidding? Half the people reading this are probably doing a favor for their mom or dad.
To make an exact copy of your current drive you just look for its entry under “Create a Backup” and click “Clone this disk”. That will start up the cloning wizard.
The wizard will ask you to choose which drive you want to clone to. Can you guess which one? Yup, it’s the SSD you hooked up earlier.
If the old hard drive is smaller than new SSD, you’ll want to adjust the partition size on the target disk to use all of the free space. Most of the time, the SSD will be smaller. As long as the used space on the HDD is less than the size of the SSD Macrium will handle it just fine.
You can adjust partition sizes under the setting “Cloned Partition Properties”.
Step Four: Attack of the Clone
Once you have all of the setting the way you want it, just click “next”. You can ignore the scheduling options, just click “next” until you are shown a summary of your options. If you are happy these settings are correct you can click “finish”
When Macrium asks you what you want to do, tick ”run this backup now” and click “OK”. You’ll get a warning that the SSD will be overwritten, but it’s empty anyway so that’s fine.
Step Five: Chill Out
While the drives are busy cloning, drink the coffee or beer you prepared before. Depending on how much data has to be copied, this could take a while. More coffee or beer may be needed.
Step Six: Brain Surgery
When the cloning is done, exit Macrium Reflect and shut down your computer.
On a desktop PC all you have to do is disconnect and remove the hard drive. Make sure the SSD is snug and secure in its drive bay and close up the PC. Your computer should detect and boot from the cloned disk automatically.
If that doesn’t happen, refer to your motherboard manual and this article to manually set the boot disk.
On a laptop, you’ll have to disconnect and remove the internal drive and then reverse the process to install the SSD.
Step Seven: Get Blown Away
If everything went as planned, you should be starting at the same old Windows as before. Everything will be the same, except way, way faster. Seriously, you may want to get a seatbelt for your chair. Congratulations, you’ve just completed the upgrade to an SSD!
Easier Than It Looks
That really wasn’t hard, right? Would you believe that most computer upgrades are as easy as this? Now that you completed this upgrade to an SSD, why not upgrade your RAM or install a new graphics card?
Stay tuned for more tasty guides in the future!
Lead image By D-Kuru (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 at (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/at/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Sata Connector Image By D-Kuru (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 at (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/at/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
All Screenshots by Kees Friesland
Coffee Cup is Public Domain Image (CC0)
Rocket Launch is Public Domain Image (CC0)