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

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Swapping Drives

Once the drive-cloning process finishes, it's time to physically swap the drives. For different laptops you'll find varying ways of removing installed hardware. The Acer we used had the hard drive under an easily removable panel, accessible after the removal of a pair of small Phillips-head screws.

In our case, no screws held the drive in place once we took off the panel. However, the connector that attached the drive to the system looked potentially fragile, so we took great care in slowly working it off the drive.

You'll have to check your own laptop to see how the drive is connected. Some Dell notebooks have fixed connectors inside the laptop shell, so removal is just a matter of lifting the back of the drive and slowly pulling it straight out. Other laptops also screw the drive into the shell, so watch out for that. In all cases, be very careful about the drive connector--one broken connector or cable, and you're looking at an expensive repair bill.

Our test Acer laptop used a pair of rails attached to the drive to align the component inside the laptop shell. The only gotcha with these rails is that you have to reattach them in the correct orientation for the drive to slip cleanly back into the system. Be just as cautious when reattaching the data and power connector as you were when you detached it.

Once we installed the new SSD, we fired up the laptop and waited. Our Acer Ferrari One shipped with Windows 7 Home Premium, and as a result it booted up nicely. Given that the laptop was new, with a new version of Windows and the latest BIOS installed, the whole affair went smoothly. We've been using the system with the Apex drive installed for a few days now, and it has been running well.

While we didn't run exhaustive drive benchmarks--our test laptop isn't much more than a netbook, remember--we did check boot times and shutdown times with a stopwatch. With the standard hard drive, the laptop booted in 54.59 seconds and shut down in 17.94 seconds. With the SSD in place, it took 38.71 seconds to start up and 13 seconds to shut down. So not only does the system boot about 30 percent faster, but it also shuts down about 28 percent more quickly. Applications seem to launch much more speedily, too. We'll mark this upgrade a success.

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