If you’re smart (you’re reading this column aren’t you?) you always keep an ear out for those little changes that make a big difference. This is one of those things that fights off the daily frustrations and lost productivity that comes with modern computing. A small investment and a few hours will make you wonder how you ever got anything done before you had an SSD in your PC!
What kind of hard drive do you have right now?
You probably have a traditional hard drive in your current PC that is slow, bloated, and all but guaranteed to fail.
What will your computer come with in a few years?
A new SSD is your hard drive’s smarter, faster, stronger, and better little brother. An SSD has NO moving parts unlike a traditional hard drive. At the end of the day that means that things are more likely to work from day to day.
Why is it important that I switch?
Your hard drive is more than just a folder (probably the C:/ drive) on your desktop full of cat pictures. Your operating system, or OS, is the base that runs below every program that you use. An OS like Windows or Apple’s OS X can take up a lot of space and the more space that is taken up on your hard drive the more bloated your computer can feel overall. An SSD can give a new lease on life and make everything from boot time to program loading a breeze.
Why don’t I already have one installed in the computer that I just bought?
Flash memory is still a bit expensive. Everything comes down in price with time, but as of now, it would cost me the same $70 to get a 256GB flash drive or a 2TB traditional hard drive. That’s 8 times the storage for the same $70. What is starting to become common is a tiny bit of flash memory that’s specially installed as a “turbo boost” to your traditional hard drive. Results here are mixed though and your best best is to just do a clean swap and get the full benefit.
How complicated is it and can any computer be upgraded?
Not very complicated at all! A couple of screws and a few connections that are as simple as snapping together some legos. Any modern computer should accommodate an SSD. It connects using the same cable that’s already in your PC. The question will be whether you need to replace your existing hard drive or if are able to add a second hard drive into an empty storage bay.
Alright I’m sold, now what?
Luckily the internet holds the key to all things. A few intrepid companies set the pace with great products and for our purposes, NewModeUS is the company that makes this all as easy for the beginner to tackle as it is for the seasoned tech veteran. NewMode provides the tutorials for your machine and the accessories you’ll need (start here to find your model), a company like SanDisk then provides the main event. SanDisk’s Extreme PRO line of SSD’s have a reputation as a top of the heap choice for speed and reliability. When you pick your drive size, enough storage for the OS is the most important thing. It’s a good rule to buy as big a drive as you can comfortably afford. If you don’t buy the storage space now, you can’t add a little more without replacing the whole drive at a later time. Now you have all of the parts of the puzzle and it’s time to get started.
These are the basics steps to a quick SSD swap:
1. First thing, let’s make sure that your OS is booting from the SSD. The easiest way to do this is to install the OS directly onto the SSD and start from scratch. If you already have a computer setup the way you like it, cloning is the name of the game. As it sounds, cloning software leaves you with a carbon copy of your current hard drive. The different companies that sell hard drives also sell SSD conversion kits. These kits contain a cable that allows you to connect the SSD to a USB drive during the cloning process. They also contain the software you’ll need and a few other accessories. The software can be hit or miss and the software in SanDisk’s version of the conversion kit is bad enough to set records. I was so surprised to see such a clearly deficient piece of software paired with an excellent piece of hardware. It was a clear and deliberate afterthought.
2. Now that the SSD has an OS, we need to prepare to install it in your machine. Let’s assume that you’re working on a laptop. Flip it upside down and you’ll notice some screws. NewModeUS has video tutorials that will help you to be sure you’re hitting just the right screws for your model. You’ll remove a flap and you’ll see the guts of your computer. Time to be careful here, first thing is to remove your battery to make sure that you and the parts are safe. I promised that the install would be simple and it will be, just be sure to go slow here and never force anything.
3. We’re moving on to the actual install now that you’re prepped. If your computer has a single hard drive bay, you’ll be replacing the existing drive with your SSD at this point. If it has two, you’ll be installing the SSD in the first position and moving the existing traditional drive to the second position as extra storage. To remove the existing drive, trace the single cable – which connects to the hard drive on one end in a longer black plastic bar – back to it’s connection at the computer’s motherboard. This cable should be fairly short most likely. Pull the cable out of the board with a very slight pressure and be sure that there aren’t any small clasps that you need to remove with your fingernail (or a small tool) before pulling the cable. Once your cable is free, you’ll remove the entire hard drive in it’s enclosure. You might have to remove some screws to do this, but your hard drive is most likely held in place with pressure alone. You’ll now remove the housing from your hard drive, it will be made of either plastic or metal. Take note of the orientation of your current drive while removing it. Now add in your new SSD with OS installed and reconnect the cable and sit the drive into the bay. Secure everything as it was and button things up.
4. That was it! We’re now cloned, installed, and ready to boot. Now re-install your laptop’s battery and press power. Pay close attention to your screen as the drive boots for the last time. It’s also helpful to keep a notepad handy to jot down details or error messages. Ideally, your computer will boot into the OS exactly as it previously was and you’ll notice it moving faster than ever before. If you have trouble, NewModeUS has some very attentive and active customer service that can help you through a bump or two. As for SanDisk’s support, I mentioned how bad their included cloning software was during my testing. When contacting SanDisk directly about the issue, I was actually told to use one of a few known freeware cloning programs readily available. One of the better programs was called EaseUS ToDo backup.
If you didn’t get enough detail here, I can’t stress enough that NewModeUS has wonderful tutorials for most popular laptop models available today.
Here’s the drive that I used while writing this article:
SanDisk Extreme PRO SSD (480gb)
Manufacturer – $209.99
Amazon – $305.00
Among other attractive features, the drive comes with a 10 year warranty. That’s the kind of perk that helps you sleep soundly at night.
Thank you to NewModeUS and SanDisk for providing product for this piece.
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!