How to Install an SSD in Your Notebook

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Whether your notebook is three years old or brand new, upgrading from a mechanical hard drive to a solid state disk will dramatically improve its performance. With speed boosts as high as 250 percent on the tasks that matter most—opening apps and files, copying files, and multitasking—an SDD will make you think someone replaced your system with an identical, but must faster, replica.

Unlike mechanical drives, which use a tiny metal head that rolls over a rotating magnetic platter like an old-fashioned record player, solid state drives have no moving parts, so they can read and write your data at lighting-fast speeds of up to 500 MBps. The lack of a physical head also means that SSDs can more easily survive a fall. With prices hovering around $200 for a 120GB model, upgrades are not cheap, but they’re worth it—especially if you paid more than $500 for your laptop.

What You Need

To install a new SSD in your notebook and transfer your files over, you will need a Phillips head screwdriver, disk-cloning software, and an external drive enclosure that allows you to connect the SSD to your notebook’s USB port while you’re copying the data. Enclosures start at less than $10 and serve the purpose of both connecting your SSD to the notebook for the initial copy and turning your old hard drive into an external backup disk once it has been removed. For our testing, we used a Zalman ZM-VE200 enclosure. Our favorite disk cloning software is Acronis Migrate Easy, which typically costs $39.99, but is available as a free demo download for 15 days (www.acronis.com).

Check Your Data, Ground Yourself

Once you have the SSD, enclosure, software, and screwdriver, you’re almost ready to start your upgrade. But before you put hand to screwdriver, you must first make sure that your current hard drive does not have more space in use than your new SSD can hold. So, if you have a 120GB SSD and your 320GB hard drive has 150GB of data on it, you will need to delete some things or move them to an external drive. You can check the amount of space you’re currently using by clicking on the Computer icon (My Computer in Windows XP), right-clicking on your hard drive letters, and selecting properties.

Once you’re sure you have the space, follow these steps to install your SSD.

1) Put your SSD into the enclosure and close it.

2) Connect the enclosure to your notebook’s USB port.

3) Launch Acronis Migrate Easy and select Clone Disk.

4) Select your computer’s hard drive as the source disk.

5) Select the external drive as the destination disk and click Next and OK a couple of times. If asked whether you want to delete the partitions on your destination disk, say yes. The computer will reboot and take anywhere from 20 minutes to more than an hour to copy your data to the new disk.

6) Turn off your notebook once the cloning process is complete and unplug it from power.

7) Remove the SSD from the enclosure and place it somewhere safe.

8) Open your notebook’s hard drive upgrade panel, removing any screws that hold it in place. Typically, the upgrade panel is on the bottom of the notebook and is marked by a tiny icon of a cylinder. However, on a few notebooks (such as the ThinkPad X200 series) the panel is on the side of the chassis. If you can’t find the upgrade panel, check your user’s manual. Remove any screws that fasten the hard drive to the chassis and pull the hard drive out with its mounting bracket or rails still attached.

9) Swap the mounting bracket from the old hard drive to the new SSD.

10) Insert the SSD back into the notebook’s drive bay, screw it in, and close the case.

11) Boot your notebook to test the SSD. If the notebook does not detect the drive, re-open and check to make sure your SSD is connected to the SATA port. If the drive is connected but has no operating system, repeat the cloning process.

12) Put your old hard drive into the drive enclosure. You can now connect it to the notebook to use as a backup drive.

Note: Whenever you are working on the inside of a notebook, take steps to avoid static electricity, such as using a static wrist strap.

Video Demonstration

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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13 comments
  • Phat Says:

    I'm using ASUS n56vz with 750 GB 5400Rpm Hard driver. I heard that I can replace my DVD driver with a ssd. I'm not sure if it's possible for me to use both the hard drive because I store a lot of information. Thanks

  • Vanjohn Lee Says:

    Tell me how I order from ?

  • Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    @arturo,

    I'm not sure why the Windows experience index stayed the same. Perhaps you already had a high storage score. More importantly, how fast does it feel?

  • arturo Says:

    thank you so much for this guide. I had been hesitant about making the swap to an ssd because i was afraid i would mess up something, but your guide being so simple encouraged me to do it. My laptop starts up a lot faster and launches everything really fast, however windows experience index stayed the same even tough crystal disk mark gave read and write speed almost 4 times faster, do you know why is this? Its a samsung 830 series 256gb drive. Again Thanks a lot for this guide!

  • Penny Haulman Says:

    P.S. It had already 2G ram memory, so its not necessarily slow.

  • Penny Haulman Says:

    Thank you for this instructional video. You, Mark, delivered it so that it will be a simple change over for those of us who might be a bit timid about changing computer hardware. I am writing from a Latitude D600 with a 20G HD. Bought this nice laptop at a garage sale for $50.00 that has absolutely no issues, except the 20G HD. It is an excellent machine. I am though, getting an SSD for it. I am so glad I found the article about this and then found your video. Again, thanks a bunch!

  • Kennii Says:

    hey everyone i'm a noob when it comes to ssd upgrades. just got my new laptop a couple days ago, it's and HP envy 17, the specs are pretty awesome except it has a 1tb 5400 rpm hdd. i am a student who loads a lot of rendering and coding programs so i need a quick machine. i have decided on purchasing a 256gb ssd.

    my question is; will i be able to follow the instructions and install the ssd (Samsung 830 - Series MZ-7PC256N/AM 256 GB 2.5 Inch SATA III MLC Internal SSD Laptop Kit with Norton Ghost 15) for booting up the OS and programs and then have the much larger 1tb hdd as a secondary drive solely for music, movies etc? like do i just need to clone my old drive and then remove it from it's current slot, that i'm assuming is a primary load slot and put it in the currently empty slot then put the newly acquired ssd in the slot where it was before? if that's the case after i do that am i done?

    i know this seems to be what was stated in the guide above but i'm just trying to be super super careful as i need this machine for school and cannot risk damaging it. ANY advice would be greatly appreciate as well as a reference to a more detailed guide. here's the link to the drive i plan on getting

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005T3GPXY

    it comes with an installation kit... my email address is kennysmart662@hotmail.com, if u took the time to read this thank you very much.

  • Gabriel Says:

    Hi, i just bought a Lenovo ideapad p580, i got a really nice price but it wa coming with a 750 Go + 5,400 Rpm hard drive, wich i find quite slow. I am really interest in putting a intel 520 SSD 120 GB or 180 GB, but i have a couple of question if i's possible to answer.

    1)Is my laptop compatible ? How do i find that information ?

    2)Should i get a 120 GB or a 180 GB knowing that i am a student i will do a lot of work mostly and run 1 or 2 games.

    3)Wich enclosure you would you suggest using ? (Zalman ZM-VE200 enclosure, the one you use is around 40 or 50 $ i think is there any cheaper that do the job?)

    4)So basically, after the upgrade i will be able to use my enclosure+hard drive as a external back up disk. Does it work the same as a portable external disk, i connect it with a USB and i can make back up or put work or musique and movie on it ?

    Thanks a lot

  • Chris Says:

    I would caution anybody who plans on buying a laptop in hopes of adding their own SSD later on research just how easy (if even possible) it is to open up the laptop & swap drives. I've come across many machines (*ahem* Apple) with screws so tight and SO small or unconventional that you risk breaking the computer trying to get into them. Cached SSDs on new laptops also may be hidden under something causing you problems.

  • jusplyn Says:

    ya what hee said^^^ i guess i just format old hd and clone that sucker to the ssd eh. to bad i cant just throw it in and throw ina windows cd and install. whats the technical reason this cant be done or am i just not doing it right. i usually have just enough knowledge to get myself in trouble but usually can dig my way out. but since putting in this ssd i cant even boot my live cd's anymore even though boot from cd is picked first in bios. wierd eh.

  • Hee Says:

    if i want a fresh new os install can i just swap in the ssd but do i need to update the firmware or anything before swapping it?

  • Celia Says:

    Mark: I used Kingston Hyperx upgrade kit. The software on the cd included fixed it for me. I just made sure I didn't have more on my HDD before cloning than the new disc could manage. It adjusted the rest for me. -Celia

  • mark Says:

    Do you ever get an issue with different sizes between the built in HDD and SSD?