Laptop Hard Drives

by Rod Dunne on June 10, 2010

in Articles, Backup Software, Laptop

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Over time, laptop hard drives can fill up to the point of becoming almost useless. Using cheap external hard drives is a great option for simply moving large data over (music, pictures over to the external drive) or doing a full laptop backup. Alternatively, it is also possible to upgrade the hard drive and put in a larger capacity disk. Here, we’ll look at the pros and cons of each option.

Option A: Using External Hard Drives With Your Laptop
The obvious benefit of using an external laptop hard drive is that there is no fiddling about with the internal circuits of the computer. You simply plug it into a USB port and start transferring over your data. It is easy to synchronize files between the two and recover lost data if necessary. You can also improve slow laptop performance by allowing the internal drive focus on processing operating system commands, leaving all personal data on the external drive.

One disadvantage is that you now have an additional piece of kit to carry around with you. One more thing to go missing!

The main recommendation is always to go for drives that support USB 2.0 connections (most modern ones do) as these are substantially faster for file access than USB 1.0 specification disks. And pick a reputable brand – a better quality brand is more rigorously tested so less likely to fail (losing all your precious data). USB data recovery is still possible with a corrupted drive, but you’d rather it doesn’t happen in the first place.

Option B: Laptop Hard Drive Upgrades
It can often be surprising to find out that it is possible to upgrade laptop hard drives, and as the cost of the newer, larger capacity, internal hard drives is plummeting it has become an economical way of rejuvenating a laptop which is hitting full capacity.

The advantage of upgrading is that the newer drive will have a much larger capacity and probably have faster disk access (that can speed up laptop boot times and general performance). In addition, you won’t need any external kit as the drive uses the existing hard disk compartment. Having more disk space can also help to fix computers that are running slow, since the extra disk space acts as virtual memory for the Windows paging file.

The sole disadvantage is that you need to be technically proficient to swap hard drives. That said, you could always just let a PC/laptop repair shop make the PC upgrade for you. And they can also do the research of selecting a new drive that is compatible with your laptop.

Steps For Upgrading Laptop Hard Drives

If you do feel like upgrading the internal hard drives yourself then here are some general pointers to get you started. This uses the EZ Upgrade Universal Notebook Hard Drive Upgrade Kit to step through the process. The benefit of using the kit is that it comes with a drive holder for the old drive which turns it into a backup external drive. Other vendors (e.g. Kingston) who have similar notebook upgrade kits but the upgrade steps are generally similar.

Steps:

  1. Research which new laptop hard drives are compatible with your system. Only purchase one that is confirmed as being universal or specifically suitable for your laptop.
  2. Clean hard drive contents from the old disk by clearing out old applications, caches and unused data to free laptop disk space prior to data transfer. Use tools like CCleaner to help clear temporary/cached files.
  3. Defragment the old internal laptop hard drive.
  4. Run a laptop data backup of all personal/application to an external drive (in case you need to recover hard drive data at a later stage, or something goes wrong with the drive removal).
  5. With the laptop switched off clone the data to the new drive. Using a product like the EZ Gig Disk Cloning application makes this child’s play.
  6. Remove the laptop battery before the next step (so as to avoid any damage from surges).
  7. Swap the drives – the laptop manufacturer’s website should have details of how to remove/replace the drive.
  8. Reinsert the battery and power up. If the new laptop hard drive is not recognized then go through the steps to revert back to the old drive. Check the new drive documentation/website for any compatibility issues.

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