Computers are like cars. They’re outdated and lose their value as soon as you leave the store. It’s not financially feasible to buy the latest and greatest every year. Often it’s not the computer that’s out of date; the system simply needs more space. More space gives your laptop faster access and better reliability. There are two ways to upgrade the hard drive: install a new system or clone the existing drive on to a bigger drive.
While installing a new system has definite advantages, cloning the existing drive is the least time consuming. A new system requires a complete reinstallation of all programs. By cloning the existing drive, your system keeps its current settings and programs while giving you the benefit of a faster system.
Backup your Data First
The first step in cloning the existing hard drive is to back up all the data. The data can be backed up to an online storage site or to an external flash drive. Then the data needs to be copied to the new hard drive. Unless your laptop is really old, the drive is a SATA drive. There are several brands of software to copy the hard drive. If you are using a Seagate or Maxtor hard drive, the drives include the software for making the clone. You will also need an adaptor to connect the new drive to the laptop. The adaptors connect from the USB port to the SATA drive and generally run about $20.
Once the hard drive is connected to the laptop, you can configure the new hard drive by installing the software with the Windows install wizard. After the program is installed, the laptop will need to be rebooted. Then the copying can begin.
When setting up the copy, many programs allow for the automatic transfer of data. This is essentially setting up a mirror copy of the existing hard drive down to the exact partitioning of the drive. While this can result in wasted space on the new drive, it is the easiest way to clone the existing drive. If the laptop has hidden partitions in the hard drive, and many do, it’s necessary to set up a manual wizard. You will want to keep the data and copy as is in order to ensure the existing drive is cloned.
Now you wait. The data is generally copied byte by byte. This takes quite a while, often several hours. This is why it’s imperative that the laptop be plugged in before beginning the cloning process. It’s doubtful the battery will last throughout the entire copy procedure.
Re-install the new Hard Drive
Once the cloning is complete, the new hard disk can be installed. It’s vital that you use the right tools. Be sure the screwdrivers you use to remove the case from the laptop fit the screws. These screws strip easily and since they tend to be proprietary, it’s difficult to find replacements.
Prior to removing the back, the laptop must be unplugged and the battery removed. You don’t want power running through the laptop when you touch a screwdriver to the boards. The old drive can then be removed and the new drive installed. Be careful not to bend any pins or move any other hardware. Once the new drive has been installed, replace the case and battery. Then boot up the laptop.
Test your new Drive
The final step in the process is making sure the clone works like the original and that all data copied. On most systems, Windows has a utility that partitions the C drive to fill up the unused space on the new hard drive so it can be used. Windows 7 and Vista have utilities that make this step easy. Older versions of Windows, like XP, tend to be more cumbersome. Microsoft has online instructions that walk users through how to use the partition utility. There is also software designed to partition hard drives. Once the disk is partitioned, you’re done.
A faster and more reliable laptop is yours for a fraction of the price of a new one. A little research, a few tools and time are all you need to get a laptop that keeps up with the new ones.