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.
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).
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.