How to Upgrade Your Laptop’s Hard Drive to an SSD

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There's no better way to speed up and upgrade a laptop than to replace its mechanical drive with an SSD (Solid State Drive). It's a no-brainer, but if the thought of reinstalling Windows 10 and all of your programs and then tweaking all of their settings gives you the chills, don't worry. In an hour or two, you can easily be up and running with a clone of your current system -- except now your laptop will have blazing performance.

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Here's how to do it.


Before You Begin: Check Upgradability

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The process of upgrading your laptop to SSD is fairly simple if you have easy access to your hard drive via a removable panel on the bottom of the laptop. If you have an Ultrabook or your laptop doesn't have that kind of easy upgrade access (e.g., the bottom panel is sealed), it's a whole different ballgame, and you'll need to consult your laptop manual for instructions on getting to that drive and finding the right replacement drive. Otherwise, this tutorial will help those of you with the removable panel through preparing your laptop, cloning your system, and making the big swap.

Find the right SSD form factor and interface. The other thing you'll want to check before you go out and buy a replacement SSD is your drive's form factor; you need to make sure the drive will fit in the laptop. Most laptops have 2.5-inch drives, but ultraportable notebooks may use the 1.8-inch disk size. Also, even 2.5-inch drives can have different thicknesses-- 7 mm or 9.5 mm--and different interfaces (SATA or IDE, usually in laptops from 2008 or before). Laptops most widely use 2.5-inch SATA drives , but you should check your laptop manual or specifications to make sure you buy the right size SSD with the proper interface. Alternatively, you may be able to find this information by visiting Crucial's Advisor Tool or looking at your current drive's label: Open the access panel and look on the drive itself to see if it says 2.5-inch and SATA and what thickness you need. Generally, 7mm, 2.5-inch SATA SSDs will fit even in the 9.5mm slots and some come with spacers for a tighter fit.

MORE: 8 Biggest Tech Rip-Offs and How To Avoid Them

What You'll Need

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An SSD, of course. In addition to getting a drive with the right form factor and interface, you'll want to get an SSD with at least enough room for the Windows partition and any system recovery partitions. A 250GB Samsung SSD is currently about $89 on Amazon and a 500GB version is about $120. For most people, the 250GB drive should be fine, but the 500GB one offers more flexibility, for only a little more investment.

An external enclosure or adapter to connect that SSD to your laptop. For this how-to, we used a StarTech SATA external hard drive enclosure , although there's an updated USB 3.0 version you might prefer ($24 on Amazon). Either way, the enclosure comes in handy not just for connecting the SSD for the cloning process, but also afterward to turn your current drive, once it's replaced by the SSD, into an external one for backups and other storage.

Small Phillips screwdriver.

Separate external hard drive (optional). You might need this if you have large folders, such as photos and videos, that might not fit on your SSD, and also to create a full system backup at the start.

MORE: 12 Dumbest PC Default Settings (and How to Change Them)

Prepare Your Current Drive for Cloning

First we need to do a little prep work on your current drive.

1. Make a full backup of your system.  Create a system image backup in Windows 10 by going to the Control Panel (hit the Win+X keyboard shortcut and select Control Panel), then go to "Save backup copies of your files with File History" (under System and Security). In the left menu, go to "System Image Backup" to create a system image on an external drive or network location.

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2. Move large folders that don't need to be kept on the SSD. Chances are your hard drive is larger than the SSD you are transferring to (for example, moving from a 500GB HDD with lots of media files to a 120GB SSD). If this is the case, move larger folders--such as those containing your photos, videos, games, and personal documents--to an external drive or other location to make enough space on your drive for cloning to the smaller SSD.

3. Clean up your drive for additional space. This is also the time to uninstall programs you aren't using anymore and delete unnecessary files that you don't want carried over to your SSD. Make one last uncluttering sweep with freeware CCleaner, which deletes old temp files and other space hogs, or at the very least run Windows' disk cleanup (in Windows search -- look for "disk cleanup," then choose "Free up disk space on this PC").

Connect the SSD

Now we'll get the SSD set up for the cloning process.

1. Physically connect the SSD. Place the SSD in the enclosure or connect it to the USB-to-SATA adapter, and then connect it to your laptop with the USB cable.

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2. Initialize the SSD.  If the SSD doesn't show up on your computer with a new drive letter, head to Windows' Disk Management tool. Bring up Windows search again and look for "disk management," then choose "Create and format hard disk partitions." In Disk Management, you should see the SSD as a new disk under your current one. If it says "Not initialized," right-click on the drive and choose "Initialize disk."

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3. Resize the current drive partition to be the same size or smaller than the SSD. While you're in Disk Management, check to see if your current disk's primary partition (usually, C:, the one that has Windows and your installed programs) is larger than the SSD. If not, you'll need to shrink the partition so that it and the other system recovery partitions are smaller than the SSD. Right-click on the OS partition and choose "Shrink…"

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In the next window, leave the defaults and click "Shrink." This will resize the primary partition so it's smaller and leave the rest of the space as unallocated. Don't worry; during the cloning process, the cloning software will properly resize and allocate extra space to the main partition on your SSD.

At this time, you should restart your computer to make sure that the partition works before cloning.

MORE: 8 Essential Tips for Your New Windows 8 PC

Clone Your Hard Drive

Finally, it's time to clone your drive to the SSD.

1. Install disk cloning software. For this tutorial, we're using EaseUS Todo Backup Free, which is free for personal use, has a user-friendly interface, and also optimizes the migration to an SSD.

2. Select the source and destination drives in the cloning software. In EaseUS Todo Backup, select the "Clone" option from the main menu. Follow the wizard to select your source disk (your HDD) and your destination (the SSD).

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Note in particular that you should tick the "Optimize for SSD" option when you select the destination drive. This makes sure the sectors are aligned on your SSD and improves your chances of booting from the SSD after the cloning process. (EaseUS notes that it's not necessary to tick the "sector by sector" option, which copies every sector over, even if they're empty or bad.)

3. Review the layout and start cloning. In the next screen, you'll be able to compare the source drive with your SSD. As you see below, EaseUS automatically adjusts for different-sized drives by using the unallocated space on your current drive (which we created in step 3 of the last section).

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Click "Proceed" then choose "Shut down computer when the operation completed." This took us about 45 minutes to complete, but your mileage may vary.

Physically Swap Your Current Drive with the SSD

Now let's remove the old drive and install the SSD.

1. Turn the computer off and remove the back panel. Turn your laptop off and then disconnect both the power cable and any other connected cables -- including the SSD. Then unscrew the back panel and remove it to get access to your hard drive.

2. Look for any screws securing your drive to the laptop. You'll need to unscrew those before you can remove the drive.

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3. Lift the old drive up about 30 or 45 degrees and pull it out.

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4. In its place, install the SSD and put the back panel on.  Install the SSD by doing the reverse of how you removed the HDD: Slide the drive in at an angle and push it firmly into place so it's fully connected to the interface. Then secure it with the screw you removed in the last step and, finally, screw the back panel covering the drive back on.

MORE: Laptop Interactive Buying Guide

Boot Up with the SSD

The moment of truth: Turn your laptop on. If your laptop boots as normal and you see all of your programs and settings just the way they were before (except much faster), all went well.

For one final test to see everything went as planned, let's make sure Windows recognizes your drive as an SSD. Hit Win+S to search for "defrag" and select "Defragment and optimize your drives." In the Optimize Drives window, your drive should be listed as a Solid State Drive. Mission complete!

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(By the way, SSDs should not be defragmented. Windows 10 knows this. If it detects your drive as an SSD, instead of defragmenting the drive, it will optimize it for the TRIM command, which improves the performance of your SSD. By default, your drive will be automatically optimized.)

You can now put your old drive in the enclosure and wipe it in Disk Management, perhaps moving your media files to this drive. Just make sure your automated backup system (you have one, right?) covers both your new internal drive and connected external ones.

Another way you can tell the migration worked? You're now booting up, launching programs, and multitasking so much faster than before.

Speed Tests: No Contest

To see just how much switching from an HDD to an SSD would affect performance, we timed how long a Dell Inspiron 15 5000 with 8GB of RAM took to open a Word document with one page of text, a blank Excel spreadsheet and a new instance of Google Chrome. (We ran each test multiple times and took the average.)

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The 1TB, 5,400 rpm Seagate HDD that came with the Inspiron took 31.9 seconds to open the Word document, 19.9 seconds to open the Excel spreadsheet and 14 seconds to open Chrome.

With a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD installed, the laptop opened both Word and Excel in 1.8 seconds and Chrome in 1.1 seconds.

Additional contributions by Andrew E. Freedman

Add a comment
  • allan westhead Says:

    i have read many thing about upgrading to ssd and this is the best that i've come across easy to understand

  • Ekke Kok Says:

    Updated 2011 Sony Vaio with a 1 TB Samsung SSD. But it doesn't boot, showing a hal.dll corrupt error. I used the Samsung included cloning tool rather than suggested freeware. Might have to try it again with the freeware tool...

  • Daniela Says:

    What if all i want is to swap my HDD for clean SSD without wanting to transfer any file? Can i just place the ssd drive and be over and done with??

  • AdamL Says:

    Thanks for this article! It helped a lot. Also though, I had an issue with my computer not recognizing the new SSD as a bootable device. After hours of searching, my girlfriend's mom, who happened to have just had the same problem, called and said her tech person had asked her to disable secure startup in her BIOS, and then to enable legacy startup in Advanced Boot Options. It worked perfectly for me, and now I'm trying to spread the word everywhere!

  • AlanRC Says:

    I agree totally, an SSD is vastly superior to a hard drive. But the devil is in the details. The newer laptops are very hard to open without damaging something. Or you could pay a computer shop about $90 to do it for you. But it's better to buy one with the SSD already installed. I'm looking forward to that becoming the rule rather than the exception.

  • Peter Says:

    Instant success! Thanks a lot for publishing this article. My Dell is now running x-times faster.

  • Connie Says:

    nice article and very helpful. btw those can't use easeus todo backup smoothly could try aomei backupper standard.

  • Florin Says:

    The procedure worked like a charm on my 6 year old Toshiba Satellite Pro S500-115, with Windows 10 on top of a Win 7 Pro.

    Thank you for your help!

  • Mark Martino Says:

    I never ever ever leave comments but I felt I really needed to.

    This was a great tutorial and it helped greatly. Worked like a charm!


  • Bob C Says:

    Very helpful tutorial. One question: Won't my new SSD require different drivers than my current hard drive?

  • John B Says:

    Have working Dell laptop with SSD drive. Windows 10 pro installed & working perfectly. Bought new Toshiba laptop with hard drive, not an SSD.
    Swapped hard drives. Now problems. Toshiba now says "No bootable device". Anyone have remedy.

  • D.frey Says:

    Seems like it was working trying to install windows 7 but SSD will not boot i think my master boot record is missing ? BiOS does see SSD just unable to boot to it

  • Dr John Wells Says:

    Need an adapter for SSD pins to fit where the existing hhd was installed
    Is such an adapter available ?

  • Paul 25 Says:

    Upgraded win 10 laptop following these instructions, it boots now in 15 secs, was 80 secs before. Everything more responsive, it will save me buying new laptop.
    Laptop was a win 8 Lenevo B5400, where the MS upgrade to win 10 had run last year.

  • Rahoul Says:

    I didn't work on my Dell and Windows 10.

  • Rupesh Kumar Says:

    Are the instructions same for Windows 10 laptop? If it differs is there an updated article that explains the steps? Thanks for this article btw - very informative.

  • Wei_CA Says:

    I am trying to upgrade my T530 from HD(450GB) to SSD(240GB). I cleaned up my HD, and it now has less than 100GB used. When I tried to use partition manager to shrink C drive, it says the available space for shrink is only 40GB. I don't understand why this is the case as there are more than 350GB free space on my HD. Would you help to explain and how I should proceed?

  • latebloomerar Says:

    I tried this way and then ended up using the backup I created and the DVD with win 7 backup. Then booted to the DVD and restored it to the new drive. Which was a hybrid samsung from Amazon that was bigger. I then had to use a free partition magic to expand the drives to fill my new terabyte drive. Yea! It worked and no risk.

  • Sansun Says:

    I like to hear from anyone who successfully upgraded a Windows 7 Pro laptop 450MB to 1TB SSD using these tools? I have less than 10MB free space.

  • Boblb Says:

    I just changed over to an SSD . The issue I have is I put in an 240GB but it says I only have a 120GB. Can I fix that?

  • phil trinh Says:

    hi i try to clone my harddrive very successful only one thing not work is my quikbook not work itry many way but still same notwork

  • E V Darden Says:

    Thank you for this article. It worked out perfect. My new SSD was not recognized at first, but that was because it wasn't sitting level inside the bay and not making good contact. Fortunately the new drive came with an adaptor plate for that very purpose. Once I added the plate it fit perfectly and all was good. My laptop has new life and hopefully several more years. Super Fast!

  • Mike Stein Says:

    This was the easiest and most straight forward article on moving between drives.

    Tried similar methods a few times but none of them worked like they said it would, None.
    Except this method.

    Thanks guys you saved me from a long and frustrating evening.
    Much Appreciated.

  • Mike Sein Says:

    This was the easiest and most straight forward article on moving between drives.

    Tried similar methods a few times but none of them worked like they said it would, None.
    Except this method.
    Thanks guys you saved me from a long and frustrating evening.

    Much Appreciated.

  • marc Says:

    I just installed the SSD and I had no problems. In 8.0 I selected CLONE.
    That was the only difference from your instructions.
    Thank you

  • marc Says:

    I followed these instructions and with version 8.0 of the free software everything worked perfectly!

    I don't know what the previous two people in the posts did differently but I am working 100% fine on Windows 8.0

    Did you select CLONE?

  • Kendrick Says:

    Great article thanks. But I have the same problem as Timothy, using EaseUS Todo Free 8.0 I could not boot from SSD after a seemingly successful clone of the HDD system partition C. With SSD in the SATA port my Asus X550J laptop will boot to BIOS only, which recognizes the Crucial MX100 SSD, but does not load Windows 8.1 from it.

  • Timothy Says:

    I followed all of the steps until "Clone you Hard Drive" I installed the EasyUS and it turns out this article is old. The steps listed were according to version 7.0 when the version I downloaded was 8.0. I was on my own from there and none of the steps listed worked. I could find the check marks and buttons you guys said were there(obviously because I have version 8.0). So everything after that step was confusing and when I got to the end where I had to physically exchange the SSD and boot up the laptop... it failed... So now I have an SSD that I bought for $100 not being used. Please update or help me solve my issue.

  • Mahi Says:

    Thanks for the post, its easy and straightforward. I was able to upgrade my Sony Vaio Flip from a HDD to SSD with no issues. However wanted to say that I used 'EaseUS Todo Backup Free' and it took around 15 hours to clone the 500GB harddive into SSD. Not sure if that's common, but it did clone very well.

  • David Says:

    Hi, thanks for this. I have a HDD in my new laptop and it came with 2 partitions C+D. In the clone options I cannot select all except partition D. What do you recommend I do? Should I delete volume partition D?

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