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How to Replace Your Hard Drive with an SSD to Make your Laptop Faster

by on October 17, 2019
in Tips & How-Tos, Computers and Software, Computer Safety & Support, Laptops, Tech 101 :: 35 comments

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There are many ways to make a slow laptop faster, but few are as easy and cost-effective as replacing your existing hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). Making the swap will, in most cases, dramatically reduce the time it takes to boot Windows, load programs, and perform any activity that involves significant amounts of disk access (video editing, gaming, transferring files, etc.). When I swapped out my hard drive for an SSD, my Windows boot time dropped from a very-painful almost 10 minutes to well under a minute. And programs like Adobe Photoshop that could take a minute or more to open, now open in seconds. Your old computer won’t just be as good as new; it will be better than it ever was.

With an SSD, you’ll also get the added advantage of greater ruggedness (SSDs are much less susceptible to damage from drops than hard drives because they have no moving parts), better battery life and quieter operation.

Despite the advantages of SSDs, in the past, upgrading wasn’t an attractive option for many people because of the high cost. But with 1TB SSDs now available for around $100, it’s almost silly not to make the switch. And you don’t need advanced technical skills to do it. As long as you’re comfortable using a screwdriver and running a simple cloning program (which literally makes a clone of your existing drive, so your operating system, your programs and settings, and all your files will be exactly the same and ready to go on your new drive), this is a task anyone should be able to handle. 

Here are the simple steps to swap out your hard drive for an SSD.

1. Buy an SSD drive

What size SSD to buy

When looking to buy an SSD, the first thing you should determine is what size drive you need. You should choose one that is at least as large as your current hard drive. If your current drive is getting low on space, you should consider stepping up to something larger. I would suggest not going smaller than 500GB and, ideally, going with 1TB, which should provide ample storage for most people.

What type of SSD to buy

Assuming your laptop currently has a standard hard drive, it is almost certainly a 2.5 Inch SATA drive. So, you will be replacing it with an SSD of the same size and interface (internal connections). You may see people refer to other things – NAND technology, SATA III, etc. – don’t worry about that stuff, 2.5-inch SATA is all you need to know.

What brand/model to buy

There are hundreds of SSD models from dozens of brands on the market. But since the drive will hold all your computer’s critical information, this is not the time to just go with the cheapest model. Nor do you need the ultimate performance models intended for large server applications. I read through numerous reviews and tests of SSDs from professional reviewers and consumers to narrow the choices down to two models that I would recommend.

Editor's PickMy top recommendation – and the one I installed in my own laptop – is the Samsung 860 EVO. It is consistently rated at or near the top in performance tests versus competitive models and offers a leading 5-year or 600 TBW (for 1TB model) warranty. TBW (terabytes written) is a good indication of the drive’s robustness – the more the better. Under normal usage, you would never come close to hitting that TBW limit (600 TBW is equivalent to about 200 million photos). Samsung also comes with Samsung Data Migration software, an easy-to-use program for cloning your existing drive onto the SSD. As of the time of writing, you can get the 500GB version for $74.99 or 1TB for $129.99 on or Amazon. [NOTE: There have been reports of counterfeit Samsung drives being sold through Amazon. Make sure you only buy directly from Amazon or other well-known sellers.]

Samsung EVO 860 SSD

Editor's PickIf you want to save a little money, the Crucial MX500 is arguably every bit as good as the Samsung 860 EVO. Data transfer speeds will be the same and Crucial offers its own Acronis True Image software for easy drive cloning. The Crucial MX500 also comes with a 5-year warranty, though its 360 TBW limit for the 1TB model is lower than the limit for the Samsung 860 EVO, meaning it may be slightly less robust (realistically, that’s still far, far above what most people would ever hit). As of the time of writing, you can get the 500GB version for $66.99 or 1TB for $109.99 on or for a few bucks less on Amazon.

Crucial MX500 SSD

2. Buy a SATA to USB data transfer cable

The data transfer cable is what you will use to clone your existing hard drive onto your new SSD using your laptop’s USB port. All the cables are pretty much the same, and you can pick one up for under $10 on Amazon. The Sabrent USB 3.0 to SATA gets solid reviews on Amazon and will do what you need it to do.

Sabrent USB 3.0 to SATA cable

This is also a good time to check to make sure that you have a screwdriver that will fit the screws on your laptop (small phillips head will work on most computers, though some manufacturers use non-standard screws). If not, pick up a basic computer screwdriver set, too. This screwdriver set has tons of heads (including the non-standard ones) and a tool to help you open your laptop case, if needed.

3. Clone your hard drive

If you’re worried about the effort to transfer Windows to your new drive, reinstall all your programs and transfer all your files, don’t be. The cloning program that comes with your SSD – Samsung Data Migration, Acronis True Image – will make an exact replica of your current hard drive on your new SSD, so there’s no need to reinstall anything. If you purchase a drive that doesn’t include the software, there are many free disk cloning programs you can download yourself.

To get going:

  1. Install the cloning software on your laptop
  2. Plug your SATA to USB data transfer cable into your laptop (ideally into a USB 3.0 port, for the best transfer speeds. USB 3.0 ports will have the blue tab on the inside)
  3. Plug your brand-spanking new SSD into the SATA cable
  4. Follow the instructions in your drive cloning application to clone your existing hard disk

The cloning process will take a while to transfer your data onto your new drive. Don’t use your computer will the cloning process is happening because any changes you make to settings or files may not be cloned to the new drive. This is an excellent time to go out for dinner, binge-watch Netflix or get in a good night’s sleep.

[Editor's note 11/4/2020: The process Acronis uses to clone your drive is different than what Samsung Magician uses (which is what I described here). For Acronis, you will need to swap the drives, boot using Acronis media (e.g., flash drive), then clone. Other cloning programs may have their own procedures, so it's always best to follow the directions specific to your software.]

4. Install the SSD drive

Once your cloning is complete, you can now get that new drive swapped into your laptop.

  1. Unplug the SATA to USB cable and SSD from your laptop
  2. Unplug your laptop power and remove the battery (if removable)
  3. Open the laptop case by removing the screws. If you’re lucky, your laptop will have a handy little door with a couple of screws that give you direct access to the hard drive bay. But if you have a more recent “unibody design” model, you’ll have anywhere from 10-20 screws to take out (have a little cup ready to store them in). Then open the bottom part of the case to get access to your drive. You may need to use your fingernails, a flat-tip screwdriver or the handy tool that came with the screwdriver kit I recommended above to CAREFULLY pry it open. If you are unsure how to do this with your laptop, googling your laptop model and “open case” or “replace hard drive” will usually turn up plenty of YouTube videos for guidance.
  4. Once your case is open, unscrew the mounting bracket holding your existing hard drive and remove your drive. It should come out pretty easily. Now put your new SSD into the mounting bracket, slide it into the connectors on your laptop and screw the mounting bracket back into your laptop.
  5. Replace you case by snapping it back into place (putting it back on is usually easier than removing it).
  6. DO NOT SCREW THE CASE TOGETHER YET - we want to check and make sure everything is working first. Turn on your computer (it should boot really fast now!) and verify that everything – programs, files – looks just like it did before. Assuming all is fine, turn the computer off and get those screws back in.

5. Install your manufacturer’s drive management software

Most manufacturers have a drive management program, like Samsung Magician, that will keep your drive firmware up to date and allow you to customize the performance and other settings. It’s worth installing for the firmware updates but leave the other settings alone unless you really know what you’re doing. Your SSD will be plenty fast out of the box and most performance tweaking will have limited benefit in normal use.

That’s it! You can now enjoy the huge performance boost from your new SSD. And while your SSD should be more reliable than your old hard drive, if you occasionally clone your new SSD to your old hard drive using the USB to SATA cable, you’ll be able to use it as a fully-functional replacement, should you ever need it.

[Image credit: Samsung, Crucial, Sabrent, Bigstock Photo:laptop upgrade]

Discussion loading



From Diana Hammond on October 18, 2019 :: 1:35 pm

If I want to do this to my desktop since I don’t own a laptop, how different would the process be?



Desktop Variation

From George Mells on October 19, 2019 :: 2:06 am

To Diana:  Assuming your desktop has SIDE ports it will be very similar but you might not need the USB adapter.  There should be a second SIDE port and power connector for a second drive.  You would connect the new drive to port 2, perform the drive copy, and then change the port connectors around to make the SSD the primary drive.  If all is good you could then erase the old drive and use it for additional storage.



Same perfromance gain

From Josh Kirschner on October 20, 2019 :: 10:55 am

Follow George’s advice for desktop installation. You will see the same level of performance gain on a desktop as you would on a laptop. Though if your desktop has a larger 3.5 inch drive bay, you may need an adapter to fit a 2.5 inch SSD. You can get one like this on Amazon for about $7:



Change drivs

From on October 22, 2019 :: 11:21 am

You really make it look easy! I have a very old laptop that is still in wonderful condition and you have given me a very good idea as to what to do with it. One question: have the drive connections within the laptop/desktop changed over the last 7-10 years?



Connections should be the same

From Josh Kirschner on October 22, 2019 :: 12:08 pm

Your laptop drive connections should be the same from 7-10 years ago as they are today. The format I describe above (and what most laptops have today) is actually the “old” technology (vs the newer M.2 format).


Changed to new SSD now laptop won't stay on

From Evan Dickerson on October 28, 2019 :: 6:43 pm

Hi, great article, I have changed from a HDD to a SSD in my Dell laptop and the performance is great. One persistent problem I have is that
now the laptop will not operate unless it is plugged in to power, within a few minutes of unplugging the power cord, it will just turn off. It is a recently replaced battery and works fine with the old HDD. Any help would be appreciated, thanks.



Likely the battery

From Josh Kirschner on October 29, 2019 :: 3:48 pm

I know you said you just replaced the battery, but this still sounds like a battery issue. If it was recently replaced, perhaps it is still under warranty and you can have it checked/replaced. Also, want to confirm whether the battery “works” fine with the old HDD or “worked” fine with the old HDD - that is, did you put the old HDD back in and you don’t have the battery issue or did you not have the issue back when you had the HDD, but the issue cropped up since you had the SSD? The latter supports the faulty battery diagnosis, the former suggests a different issue.

If the battery really is working fine with the HDD, then perhaps it is something related to your power management settings. Try turning off sleep mode when it is running on battery and see if that fixes things. Not clear why the SSD would cause that to happen unless the laptop is expecting a HDD and when it doesn’t sense that activity it goes to sleep (this one is a long shot, IMHO). Some forum threads for Dell owners with similar issues have also suggested changing the battery settings in the BIOS or upgrading the BIOS. Though, in the end, it doesn’t seem like this worked for most people - it was a bad battery issue.

Let me know what you figure out.



SIDE Ports

From Anthony Smart on November 13, 2019 :: 12:22 am

What is a SIDE port?  I’ve never heard the term and Google could not find any reference to it either.



SATA port

From Josh Kirschner on November 13, 2019 :: 9:23 am

Many desktops have two or more SATA ports, which makes this process easier. Depending on the configuration of your desktop, you may still need a second SATA cable to connect it, which your desktop may or may not already have installed.

Also, your desktop may have a M.2 PCIe slot on the motherboard available, even if it shipped with a standard hard drive.  M.2 PCIe SSDs offers faster transfer speeds than SATA SSDs, though at higher cost and with some capacity limitations. For normal home use, though, you probably won’t see a significant difference between the two, so you’re better off going with the lower-priced 2.5 inch SATA SSD.

I think SIDE may have been an autocorrect problem.



Blue screen

From Abdulrazaq on November 13, 2019 :: 6:24 pm

I bought an HP SSD in my Dell laptop while still retaining the HDD inside. I made the SSD the OS disk and HDD as just additional drive (I can still view my files in there though). I noticed that after the installation I do get the death/ blue screen once in a while and sometimes twice a day. I tried formatting and reinstalling the OS but still the same. I get messages like
Stop Code: System service exception
Or Unexpected store exception.



How did you set up the SSD?

From Josh Kirschner on November 13, 2019 :: 9:05 pm

I’m not clear on your setup. Are you running the OS from an external SSD while keeping your HDD internal for files only? That would seem rather backwards, since you would always need to carry an external drive to boot your laptop when you travel.

But, regardless, how did you set up the SSD for Windows? Did you clone your SSD or install a new version of Windows on it? If the latter, it’s possible your BSOD is being caused by not not having the proper drivers for your Dell laptop’s hardware (which is why I recommended cloning above). That would be the first thing I would check.

If you are running the SSD externally for boot, I would swap it with the internal HDD and see if that resolves the problems.

If neither of those things work, I would access the BSOD DMP files on your PC and try submitting to the Microsoft help forum. More info here:



Blue screen

From Abdulrazaq AbdulKareem on November 16, 2019 :: 9:01 pm

Thank you Josh,
Both the SSD and the HDD are inside the laptop. the SSD 500GB functions as the OS disk while HDD serves as additional storage 1TB. Agreed I didn’t clone it, I only installed directly. Could it that the two disks are conflicting?



Still think it's the drivers

From Josh Kirschner on November 17, 2019 :: 11:41 pm

It would be easy enough to test whether the disks are conflicting by removing the HDD and seeing how things go. But I suspect it’s still something to do with the drivers. So if Windows is still on your HDD, it may be worth going back and doing the clone thing for your SSD and see if that resolves it.

Also, I’m assuming if you have two drives in your laptop that you installed the SSD in the optical bay? That should be fine, but you ever know.


Existing hard drive no good

From Bob Sample on November 16, 2019 :: 8:14 am

If my existing hard drive has crashed, and I install a ssd card, will my computer work again?



Yes, it should work fine

From Josh Kirschner on November 17, 2019 :: 11:45 pm

If the cause of your failure was due purely to the hard drive crashing, then buying a new SSD, installing Windows and swapping that in should get everything back up and running. You may need to install specific drivers from your manufacturer, too, for your computer model.

Note: we are talking about Solid State Drives (SSD) here, not Solid State cards (SD cards). Want to be clear on that since you mentioned “card” above.



SSD Upgrade for a HP Elite m9515f

From David on December 23, 2019 :: 4:51 am

My HP Pavilion Elite m9515f hard drive is about to die; so, I took it to Fry’s and asked them to upgrade it, if possible, to a 1T SSD.  Due to a contract dispute, they we’re completely out of stock on all SSD drives.  He said to order one on Amazon and reminded me to order a 3.5” one as it’s a tower.

Well, I went to and on all my searches only 2.5” SSDs came up.  Does it matter in a tower whether its 2.5” or 3.5”?

The other issue I encountered was on the interface.  Couldn’t find any with just SATA.  According to HP’s specifications on my model’s hard drive; the Interface: SATA, with a Transfer rating: 3.0 Gb/sec.

Will the Samsung 860 EVO work in my older unit?  I would imagine I’ll need a USB to SATA Cable to clone my drive; is this correct?

Your expertise would be so greatly appreciated.

Happy Holidays



That's sounds like bad advice

From Josh Kirschner on December 23, 2019 :: 1:34 pm

Unless you misunderstood him, there are no 3.5” SSD drives. There are 3.5-inch “hybrid” drives, which are essentially a regular hard drive with a small SSD integrated into them to speed up certain processing tasks and programs, but those aren’t what you want. Hybrid drives used to be popular when SSD storage costs were much higher. But with a 1TB true SSD running around $100, your savings with a hybrid drive will be minimal and you’ll end up with a far inferior drive.

Instead, order a 2.5” SSD from Amazon (like the 860 EVO), along with a 3.5-inch mounting kit like this one for around $6: If your desktop already has two SATA cables internally, you may not need the USB to SATA cable for cloning. Else, you will either need a second SATA cable (best solution if your desktop has two SATA drive ports and a second drive bay, because then you could run both drives internally) or the USB to SATA cable.



Do i have to worried about C drive / D Drive

From rick on July 10, 2020 :: 4:52 pm

If my laptop HDD has already splited into C drive and D drive, do I need to do anything in advance to clone my hdd to the new SSD ? Thanks!




From Marie on July 15, 2020 :: 4:37 pm

I’m wondering if there is a limit as to how big the SSD size I am allowed to install on my Acer Aspire Switch 10. It has original 500GB HDD size and I want to switch into a 1TB SDD. Can I do that?



There shouldn't be an issue

From Josh Kirschner on July 17, 2020 :: 10:47 am

For practical purposes, there shouldn’t be a capacity limit on installing an SSD, so going from a 500mb HD to a 1TB SSD will be fine.




From JOVAN VUKOVIC on August 22, 2020 :: 1:07 pm

I have to solve first one issue to switch HD to SSD
My ASUS TP550L can not work without charger.
It is like this when I got it. I have red owners comments with the same issue for this type of laptop. Some changed battery some changed monitor and did not solve the problem.
Monitor start flickering when charger is OFF.
Any idea what can be?
Thank you




From Josh Kirschner on August 24, 2020 :: 10:41 pm

My first guess would have been the battery, but is seems like that isn’t the fix. Others have indicated that updating with a clean Windows 10 install and using the default Microsoft display driver solves the problem. Maybe. It’s also possible the battery isn’t able to supply the power the system needs to operate all the components, and upgrading from HDD to SSD will reduce the power consumption and fix the issue - but this is a gamble to put more money into an unstable machine.



nvme m2 ssd to 2.5" SATA adapter

From alex on August 26, 2020 :: 4:53 am

I’m trying to install an nvme m2 SSD (1TB Kingston A2000) in the secondary drive slot of an HP Envy 19” (SATA slot, HP Envy 19” 2020). What type of adapter do I need? It’s not easy to navigate among all the different types.
Thank You for your advice!



I wouldn't recommend that route

From Josh Kirschner on August 26, 2020 :: 8:22 am

I haven’t found an NVME to 2.5-inch SATA adapter and not sure if that is even possible. There may be some out there, but you may end up with compatibility issues and you lose some (all?) of the speed advantages the NVME gives you. I would stick with a 2.5-inch SSD if that is the slot you have in your Envy. Any potential slight advantages of NVME would seem to be outweighed by the increased complication and costs of trying to make it work.



Thank you!

From alex on August 26, 2020 :: 9:46 am

Thank you for your reply!
My idea was to use a 1GB NVME SSD I already have but I now understand that the feasibility of the project is highly dubious!
Thank you again for your help!



Installing ssd

From Marie on August 28, 2020 :: 9:52 pm

My computer is failing due to a defective stick of RAM.  I can’t get anything off the hard drive so I was planning to replace it (and the RAM).  With the SSD installation is there a right side up or will it matter?

Thanks so much for your time!



Yes, the SSD will only go in one way

From Josh Kirschner on August 28, 2020 :: 10:14 pm

The SSD will only connect into the ports one way. so there is a “right side up”. It should be pretty obvious when you get it. In the photos above, the plain black “Samsung” side (or Crucial, in the other photo)faces up, the side with all the tiny registration logos goes down. You can also see in the photo that the pins on the drive are asymmetrical and will line up with the associated port sockets on your laptop.



Re: installing ssd

From Marie on August 31, 2020 :: 9:15 pm

Thank you!
One more dumb question: is “up” facing the keyboard or literally up when the computer is apart?

I ask because my computer was getting some software at an IT place a while back. They removed my hard drive but voided my warranty.  When I opened the computer to put the hdd in a case to backup my files when I was having trouble it just fell out and dangled by the cable.  So I didn’t see it “right side up”. :(



Edit re: cable

From Marie on August 31, 2020 :: 9:20 pm

I should add: the way the cable sits it could now turn in either direction so it’s not as apparent to me how goes, otherwise it would be easier to know how the drive fits. Poor computer is having a rough time.


What model laptop?

From Josh Kirschner on September 08, 2020 :: 3:16 pm

I would expect most laptop to use a soldered in drive port, rather than a cable. If it has a cable, I would also expect that there should have been a mounting bracket of some sort that it would have fit into, unless the people who repaired it before simply forgot to put it back in…

What model PC do you have? I know that’s not very helpful Perhaps I can research it for more info. Though, the short answer is you should put it back in whichever way fits. And if it will fit either way, it doesn’t really matter.


Clone with the new drive in the laptop or through USB?

From Tempo on November 01, 2020 :: 3:21 am

Per Acronis True Image, “It is recommended to put the new drive in the laptop first, and connect the old drive via USB. Otherwise you will may not be able to boot from the new cloned drive.” However, your instruction is to “plug your brand-spanking new SSD into the SATA cable” that is plugged into the laptop USB port. Why the difference?



Acronis works differently than Samsung Magician

From Josh Kirschner on November 04, 2020 :: 12:18 pm

I should clarify that in the article. The process Acronis uses to clone your drive is different than what Samsung Magician uses (which is what I described in the article). For Acronis, you will need to swap the drives, boot using Acronis media (e.g., flash drive), then clone. It’s somewhat more convoluted to do that way, but that’s what it is. Other cloning programs may have their own procedures, so it’s always best to follow the directions specific to your software.



Samsung Magician

From Tempo on November 06, 2020 :: 1:06 am

Thank you. Will Samsung Magician work with any drive (e.g. WD Blue) or we have to buy a Samsung drive?



Only Samsung drives

From Josh Kirschner on November 09, 2020 :: 1:40 pm

Samsung Magician is made to work with Samsung SSDs. I haven’t tried it, but I don’t think you will get it to work with WD or other non-Samsung models. WD uses Acronis, also.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on the cloning software - you only need to go through the process once. So if you can find a particularly good deal on a WD Blue drive, go for it.




From Brian on December 02, 2020 :: 2:20 am

If I want to change my standard SATA Drive to a SSD following the initial clone if at any time that I would for some odd reason have to reinstall my OS would I have to re-clone from the old drive or reload the SSD with my current OS disk and add my drivers, The reason I ask is because I have an older Asus K 52F and it has the restore partition on the drive so if I clone the SSD will it clone exactly as the original drive with the restore partition thanks


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