How to Upgrade Your Dell XPS 13's SSD

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step24One of the best laptops on the market, the Dell XPS 13 comes standard with a speedy SSD inside. However, if you bought the laptop with a 128 or 256GB drive and want more storage space, you can perform your own upgrade, using a third-party SSD. All you need is a few minutes of time, along with the correct upgrade SSD, a couple of small screw drivers, an external backup drive and a USB flash drive. 

Getting the Right SSD and Tools to Install It

To determine, what kind of SSD you need, first check to see whether your XPS 13 has an Intel 5th gen (aka Broadwell) or 6th Gen (aka Skylake) processor. If your CPU's model number begins with a 5 (ex: Core i5-5200U), you have Broadwell but if it begins with a 6 (ex: Core i5-6200U), you have Skylake. 

Both models require an M.2 Type 2280 SSD on a chip, rather than a traditional 2.5-inch drive.  Though both the early and late 2015 laptops can take M.2 SSDs with a standard SATA interface, the newer Skylake models can accept blazing-fast PCIe SSDs as well. A standard SATA M.2 SSD such as the Samsung 850 EVO costs as little as $85 for a 250GB model and just over $150 for a 500GB capacity. A speedy PCIe M.2 drive like the Samsung 950 Pro costs $100 to $200 more but is triple the speed.

Samsung 850 EVO

To open up the XPS 13's chassis you'll need two different screw drivers: a small pentalobe we could find and a tiny Phillips Head #000. You'll also need a 4GB USB Flash Drive to serve as a rescue disk and an external hard drive to back up your software and files.

Boot Disk and Rescue Media

You don't want to take your old SSD out without being able to put your Windows operating system, applications and files on the new drive. In order to transfer your data, you need to create a backup file on an external hard drive. Any USB hard drive -- or even a large capacity Flash drive -- should do the job. In these steps, we'll show you how to make a backup and rescue media before you get down and dirty with the hardware. We'll be using free software called Macrium Reflect. Here's how:

1. Download and install Macrium Reflect. You can find it here.

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2. Open Macrium Reflect from the Start menu.

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3. Click Yes when prompted to create Rescue Media. This is what will allow you to recover your data later on.

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4. Click Next in the Rescue Media Wizard.

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5. Click Next if your drivers are all up to date. If they aren't, you may need to update them.

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6. Plug in a USB Drive and select USB Device. Choose your USB device as the location for the ISO image and click Finish.

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7. Click OK when the process is complete. You'll want to try booting from it to make sure it works.

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8. Click "Create an image of the partition(s) required to backup and restore Windows" in the left pane.

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9. Choose your backup drive and click Next. We're using a Seagate external hard drive.

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10. Click Next.

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11. Click Finish.

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12. Name your backup and click OK.

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The backup will run. This may take a few minutes, so go get a snack or something.

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13. Click OK when the process is complete. You can exit Macrium Reflect.

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Boot From The Rescue Media

Now that you have your backup and rescue media on your USB drive and external hard drive, you want to make sure your XPS 13 will boot to the rescue media after you put in your new SSD. Here's how:

1. Go to Settings > Update & security

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2. Under Recovery, click Restart now. It's under Advanced startup.

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3. Click "Use a device" in the "Choose an option" menu.

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4. Click Advanced options.

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5. Click "UEFI Firmware Settings."

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6. Click Restart.

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7. Click General > Boot Sequence and move your USB drive to the top of the list after you're taken to the BIOS.

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Now, next time you boot the laptop with the rescue drive attached, it will load up the Macrium Reflect software.

Switch Out the SSDs

Time to get your hands dirty. Now that your XPS 13 is prepared to boot from your rescue media so that you can restore your backup, it's time to open up your laptop, take out your SSD and put in a new one. You'll need two screwdrivers -- we used the smallest pentalobe we could find and a Phillips Head #000. Don't forget to use a cup or bowl to store your loose screws so you don't lose them.

1. Place the XPS 13 face down on a table or desk.

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2. Remove the eight screws along the outside of the base, which hold the bottom of the computer to the deck. You'll need a pentalobe driver for this.

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3. Flip up the magnetic XPS badge and remove the screw underneath. We used a Phillips Head #000 for this.

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4. Pry off the base. It's on tight, so this will take patience. We managed to get the base off with a plastic scribe, but if you don't have that, you can try a guitar pick or be really careful with a flathead screwdriver.

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5. Remove the screw holding in the SSD. You'll want to use the Phillips head again.

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6. Carefully lift the existing SSD out of its setting.

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7. Place the new SSD into the setting. Make sure the contacts are completely aligned.

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8. Replace the screw that holds in the SSD.

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9. Put the case back on and replace the screws.

Restoring Your Backup

With the new SSD is your laptop, it's time to restore your backup so you can get back to using your laptop.

1. Plug in your USB drive with the rescue media and external hard drive with the backup .

2. Boot up your XPS 13 into Macrium Reflect and click "Browse for an image or backup file to restore."

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3. Choose your external hard drive. 

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4. Select the backup that you made.

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5. Click Restore Image.

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6. Click "Select a disk to restore to..." and choose your new SSD. Click Next. We had used our SSD previously, but your SSD will likely be empty.

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7. Click Next.

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Your data will copy over from your external hard drive to your new SSD. This may take a bit, so sit back and make a cup of tea.

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8. Click OK when the process is complete.

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9. Reboot your computer. It should have all of your original data on your new SSD.

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Author Bio
Andrew E. Freedman
Andrew E. Freedman,
Andrew joined Laptopmag.com in 2015, reviewing computers and keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter @FreedmanAE.
Andrew E. Freedman, on
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26 comments
  • Amos Ngola Says:

    Just finished this process on my Dell 9360 going from 128GB to a SATA M.2 2280 1TB. I found the same minor issues in the comment from user "Coriander".

    Similar to other commenters, upon my first reboot, I found I had a very large unallocated space which I could easily partition and add a new drive letter just as Coriander did. However, I prefer to have a single large volume so I downloaded and installed the free version of AOMEI Partition Assistant.

    Once installed, I selected the OS partition and selected the option to "merge this partition". The software then asks which other partition I would like to merge with and gives the unallocated space as an option. I hit apply and the computer rebooted in to "Pre-OS" mode and handled all the operations for me.

    Once it was done rebooting, I had one large OS partition and no remaining unallocated space and all data was preserved perfectly through the process. Awesome!

  • blue9527 Says:

    I need 9360 instruction too, remove all screws but the base is very hard to pry off, no courage to continue because worried about breaking something.

  • Joshua Says:

    Like Ethan, I am also wondering how an 9360 upgrade will work?

  • Ethan Says:

    Hi I'm wondering if anyone bought the XPS 13 9360 and tried the SSD upgrade? Does this protocol still work with the SATA or PCle SSDs?

  • Lee Barnes Says:

    Thank you, Andrew! I bought an XPS 13 with the smallest hard drive, because I planned to immediately upgrade to a 1 TB drive. I invested about $370 in the drive and the drive enclosure, got the free software from Samsung, and it booted right up! Thanks for the help!

  • Trolleydog Says:

    I followed your instructions .. everything went as per your guide .. but the new drive won't boot .. even after using the "Fix Windows boot problems" in Reflect. Any tips on how I can get the new drive to boot?

  • dung nguyen Says:

    Anyone want to sell their old 256GB SSD?

  • Eric101 Says:

    Update: I also read elsewhere that the Samsung 950 PRO pulls 5-7 W of power, compared to the 1-2 W of the stock SSD. Since my XPS 13's warnings all involved either failed POST or power issues, that may be the problem -- there's not enough power for the Samsung (although that's still not a lot of power use). That's also consistent with another comment I read, which was that the Samsung 950 PRO lowered battery life from 10 hrs. to around 5 hrs.

    I think I'm NOT going to swap out the SSD, and I've bought a 4-channel M.2 NVMe PCIe board for a desktop to use the Samsung 950 PRO. Any comments would be appreciated.

  • Eric101 Says:

    I too replaced the SSD with a Samsung 950 Pro 512 GB SSD cloned using Macrium and created a new D: drive via partitioning. It worked great for 24 hours, then wouldn't get past POST (the Dell logo). Replacing the original SSD resulted in no POST at all, just the front side LED blinking two amber and four white lights. The SSD leads had two slots, and the Samsung NVMe SSD worked for a while, so I think the XPS had an NVMe controller. Does that mean it was probably a Windows Boot Manager issue?

  • Marc21 Says:

    I think I have the same issue as Alex Roebuck. I cannot boot into the USB recovery device anymore with the new SSD. Furthermore, I cannot even boot from the new SSD anymore after creating a new partition on the new space on the new SSD. I am stuck at the DELL logo forever. I haven't yet put in the old SSD but I expect it'll work.

    I believe there is an important step missing in this guide. The original SSD has a Windows Boot Manager entry in the boot sequence. This entry missing with the new SSD, suggesting that the boot manager is not cloned automatically! If you then create an additional partition on the new SSD, the BIOS apparently doesn't know what to boot anymore and is essentially stuck.

    There is plenty of stuff on the web on how to add a boot manager to a clean hard drive. Macrium Reflect should be able to do it as well. I'll keep you posted...

  • Alex Roebuck Says:

    My XPS13 will not boot from the USB recovery device with the new SSD installed. If I reinstall the original SSD, then it will boot fine from the USB recovery. How do I get past this?

  • Rod Brand Says:

    Nice Article, however there's one issue. The newer Skylake XPS models don't necessarily have a PCIe drive interface. Maybe some of the XPS Skylake models did; Dell often bids out the parts for each production run including the motherboard. But you can't count on having a PCIe interface in your Skylake Dell XPS.

    I had to return my PCIe drive (Samsung PRO 950) and get a SATA drive (Samsung EVO 850) to make things work on my XPS 13 model 9350. Looking down through the comments here it appears that Ivan Vestergaard couldn't make the PCIe drive work either on his 9350.

    SATA SSD's have two notches cut out in the connector, PCIe SSD's only have one notch cut out. If your stock Dell drive has two notches in the connector, better get some System Info tool to see if you really have a PCIe interface, or just get a SATA drive (there's not that much practical difference in speed that you can notice anyway).

  • Aaron Bell Says:

    If you use a Samsung m.2 drive, how about just using the Samsung Data Migration tool software along with putting the new drive in an external m.2 case? It worked like a charm for me and there was nothing to restore and the replacement device correctly showed the free space. :-)

  • 1234441 Says:

    Can't I just put the new ssd in and install win 10 on it and install all the dell xps drivers - finish?

  • Inez L. Says:

    I had same issue orig. ssd was 128, new ssd 500gb once i followed the above it only showed the original size, tried multiple times to extend the drive (said it did) but again would show original size..

    Finally figured it out...took a bit on wind10...do at your own risk and worked for my particular issue (and you if same).

    1. run "Disk Management" you will notice that the missing space is actually unallocated hdd space to the "right" of your c drive (if yes, go to 2, if no, no idea if this will work)

    Please perform the following steps:

    2. Open a command prompt as administrator.

    3. Run Diskpart application by typing Diskpart in the command prompt.

    4. In the “Diskpart” prompt, enter rescan command and press Enter key to re-scan all partitions, volumes and drives available.

    5. Then type in list disk and press Enter key to show all hard disk drive available.

    6. Select the disk that contains the partition you want to remove. Normally, with just 1 hard disk, it will be disk 0. So the command will be:

    Select disk 0

    Finish by Enter key.

    7. Type list partition and press Enter key to show all available and created partition in the disk selected.

    8. Select the partition that wanted to be deleted by using the following command, followed by Enter key:

    Select partition x

    Where x is the number of the recovery partition to be removed and unlocked its space. Be careful with the number of this partition, as wrong number may get data wipes off.

    9. Finally, type in delete partition override and press Enter key.

    10. exit command prompt

    11. Go back to "Disk Management" and now you should be able to extend your c: to the right (all space is now unallocated and bam! your done.

  • coriander Says:

    An excellent step-by-step instruction manual. Thank you very much, Andrew.
    I changed the default 256GB for a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro. After following your tutorial, I had everything back perfectly including Office2013 and Photoshop CC.

    A few things I found:

    In Section: Boot From the Rescue Media
    With my version of Windows 10, I found I had to click "Troubleshoot" NOT "Use A Device" in step 3.

    In Section: Switch Out the SSDs
    In Step 4 "Pry Off The Base" I was able to use fingernails to pry apart the base ever so slightly, then an old credit card. Be careful at the mid-front of the unit as the flat printed circuit for the two LEDS is VERy close to the edge.

    In Section: Restoring Your Backup.
    "Next" in Step 7 was greyed out. I clicked "Finish" and image was restored perfectly.

    Finally in (right-click) "My Computer" | Disk Management, I turned the Unallocated Space into a simple volume and now have Drive D: of 238GB as well as Drive C: 237GB.

    HTH.

  • Joshua h Says:

    Worked great thank you! Only thing that was incorrect was step 3 of Boot From The Rescue Media. Instead of "use a device" you should click on "troubleshoot" in order to get to the next menu.

  • Tamer A Says:

    The instructions worked great, except the new windows partition isn't seeing all the free space of the new drive, any thoughts?

  • Riley Price Says:

    I replaced the SSD with the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB. The problem I have is that the C drive is still only the 117GB that the original SSD was. Is there a way to have the C drive take up the rest of the SSD? There is still almost 340GB that is unallocated.

  • Bharata Says:

    The instructions were clear. However when I restart for the second time it all went blank. With only dell logo showing on the screen. Could you help me with this?

  • Scott Says:

    And for those of us with an XPS with the older 4th Gen CPU????

  • Phillipe Says:

    Thank you very much for your article! I have a Dell XPS 13 model 9350. I've replaced the 128GB SSD with a Samsung 850 Evo M.2 500GB SSD. It worked perfectly! Thanks again!

  • Ivan Vestergaard Says:

    My Dell XPS 13 model 9350 256GB with the latest BIOS will not boot from the otherwise bootable USB stick as per your article. This with a new Samsung 950 Pro M.2 512GB SSD installed. Boots fine with the original 256GB Dell OEM drive. Any ideas? Also, the Macrium software has been upgraded noticeably since you wrote the article.

  • Charles Radding Says:

    I got an external case for the new drive; Macrium Reflex was able to clone directly to it and the original drive can then be used as an external drive.
    Also, ifixit calls the case screws T5 rather than pentalobe -- they are certainly 6-pointed rather than 5-pointed -- and I had no success with pentalobe screw drivers.

  • Kevin N Says:

    I also have an XPS 13 (9350) and plan to replace the 128gb with a Samsung 950 Pro 256gb or a Samsung EVO 850 500gb. Which one would you recommend? I've heard that some people complain about the overheating problem of the 950 Pro.

  • RyanJ Says:

    Just bought an XPS 13 (9350)
    I replaced the 128GB SSD with a Samsung 950 Pro 512GB using the instructions you provided.
    Nice job!
    These instructions were clear and the method used here was far easier than the other half dozen or so I've been reading on the web these last few days.

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