Tech Blog

How To: Upgrade your Windows 7 notebook with an SSD

by Blogger ‎08-31-2012 08:30 AM - edited ‎08-31-2012 08:32 AM


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Solid State Drives have been an expensive option for the longest time. While these are faster and more reliable than platter based Hard Drives, they have also been limited in availability and storage space. The good news is, that is all changing.

Future Shop has a growing assortment of notebook SSDs available from Intel, Corsair and others.

Anyone who has an out of warranty 2-4 year old PC notebook can benefit from installing a fast SSD drive which speeds up performance considerably and makes your old machine feel new again in almost anything you do. Installing an SSD in a newer PC might voide your warranty so contact your PC's manufacturer to find out how best to proceed.

 

Benefits of Solid State Drives

SSD’s offer faster boot-up times, quicker file searches and boost file copying and transfer times. Applications startup faster and power consumption is much improved. Anyone who does video editing on their PC will enjoy at least a 30 per cent speed increase.

 

SSD's have no mechanical moving parts (less things to break or that malfunction) and are very similar to the storage in SD Cards and CompactFlash cards. This means they can theoretically take a pounding and the data is likely to survive. 

Before you begin, you need to make sure that you are confident in opening up your notebook and replacing the old hard drive with a new SSD drive.

If this worries you, I suggest you talk to a PC technician and get them to do it. Don’t proceed if you aren’t comfortable opening up your notebook!

The first and most important part of any hard drive installation is securing your memory and files. If you use backup software, then make sure you have two recent copies of all the contents of your drive. If you back up onto a server or external hard drive, then maybe you should burn another back-up on DVDs just to make sure.

Some users install  new SSDs and like to start fresh, which is what I would advise.

This entails installing the SSD, installing Windows (or Linux) and then reinstalling all your necessary apps.

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While this is the most time consuming method, it also ensures that you don’t transfer any system errors or problems to your new drive and it gives you a chance to evaluate and cut out the crapware or any programs or files you don’t really need or use.

SSD drives may have gone down in price but the capacity is still smaller in comparison to spindle based drives so users really want to evaluate how they will fill their space.

Before You Begin

After backing up your files you need to prepare your system for the SSD drive. If you were running Windows XP or earlier, I am sorry to say that it is not optimized for SSD drives so only Vista capable systems or newer should be considered for the upgrade. Ideally, you should be running Windows 7 to avoid any issues.

There are hundreds of models and makes of laptops, so do some research and see if users of your particular model have successfully upgraded to SSDs and note any particular hints or issues. For this article, I upgraded a Lenovo ThinkPad which was quite easy to do since the hard drive is easily accessible and I used Lenovo’s ThinkVantage backup and restore function to move data to the new HD.

Preparing your System for the new SSD

In all cases, it is a good idea to make sure you are running the most recent version of your OS install. Update everything! The BIOS also needs to be the newest possible version.

Windows 7 is  considered the best OS for SSDs as it supports TRIM which helps ensure your SSD's performance is maintained. Various SSD manufacturers include utilities which help overcome Vista's lack of TRIM support.

If you are planning on reinstalling everything from scratch then there is less chance of things going wrong. Make sure the SSD is formatted (by putting it in an external enclosure and connecting it to your PC before you swap out your old HD.

There are options for getting files from the old drive to the new one. You can simply clone your hard drive (provided all your files will fit in the new drive). To do this you can use a variety of solutions like Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image or other similar 1-to-1 applications.

You can also have a fresh install of Windows and then use Microsoft’s restore from back-up feature, this works just as well. Just make sure to keep you old hard drive in the event that something unexpected happens and you need to switch back.

 

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Life with your new SSD

Once you have installed your new SSD and transferred all your relevant files, you will quickly notice how much faster everything is and in some instances, how much cooler your notebook runs.

There are some things to note with SSDs, they don’t require defragmentation. They are silent and run much cooler than spinning drives. They do degrade over time but some are rated at  up to 1.4 to 2.5 million hours mean time before failure. And many of them come with three-year warranties.

 

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The Corsair Force Series 3 180GB solid state drive expands your system's storage capacity while offering reliable protection for your data. It delivers outstanding SATA 3 6Gb/s performance. System startup, application load times, data transfers, and even shutdown times are faster. Without moving parts, it handles shock, vibration and temperature changes far in excess of traditional hard drives.




 

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Comments
by Exalted Expert / Community Ambassador ‎08-31-2012 08:44 AM - edited ‎08-31-2012 11:09 AM

What do you think about hybrid drives?  Near SSD performance while preserving the capacity of a spindle (especially for video editing)?  There's also savings compared to a pure SSD.

by Retired Blogger ‎08-31-2012 10:03 AM - edited ‎08-31-2012 10:04 AM

While the hybrid drives do address the issue of capacity and price, they still aren't as fast, quiet, or economical on power as a pure SSD. So unless you really need to have such as large amount of storage on your notebook, I'd still recommend a proper SSD. 

 

One thing of note, if you are running Windows 7, 100 - 120 GB of SSD storage is the minimum I'd recommend for a modern notebook. Even then you might be tight for space for big applications (games) and files - Windows itself has a habit of ballooning overtime when applications install common shared files - I have a 80GB SSD in my desktop that is supposed to be just for the OS, with my apps on my 2TB regular HD d: drive, and I still only have a couple of gigs of free space left on the SSD.

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