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How to Install a Laptop Hard Drive in 5 Easy Steps

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When deciding on a new laptop or deciding on whether to keep an old laptop you may be tempted to think that your laptops hard drive is a set piece that can’t be easily upgraded. Luckily for us, laptop manufacturers have made it increasingly easier to replace your current hard drive with a better one, or add a new hard drive for additional space. Below we have listed everything you need to know about how to install a laptop hard drive. This can be done either by replacing your current laptop hard drive with an SSD for increased performance, or by installing a new HDD laptop hard drive for additional storage.

The process on how to install a laptop drive is as follows:

  1. Check upgrade compatibility
  2. Backup the files on your old hard drive
  3. Add your new hard drive to your laptop
  4. Install Windows on your new hard drive
  5. Copy across all your backed up files to your new hard drive

Note: If you are just installing a new hard drive for additional space and won’t be using the new hard drive to run Windows, then you only need to follow Steps 1 and 3 .

1. Check upgrade compatibility

Before you go ahead and buy a new hard drive to upgrade your laptop, first you’ll want to make sure that your laptop supports easy upgrades and also that the hard drive you intend to purchases is the right size and has the right connection cable. The process is very simple for most laptops which include a removable panel at the back which can be easily unscrewed to check compatibility and available hard drive slots. You’ll want to look out for something like this:

  1. Use a small star screwdriver to open it up and check inside
  2. Check the writing on the current hard drive to check it’s size (almost all laptops use 2.5-inch hard drives, but some use 1.8-inch hard drives)
  3. Check the hard drive connection, which will either be SATA or M.2 (most are SATA)
How to Install a Hard Drive into a laptop (PC)

You will now know whether you need a 2.5-inch drive or a 1.8-inch drive, and what kind of connection protocol the hard drive uses. When purchasing your new hard drive use this information to make sure you choose a compatible hard drive.

2. Backup the files on your hard drive

If you are replacing an old hard drive then the first thing you need to do is to backup all of the data on your current hard drive to make sure you don’t lose any of your important data. If you are simply adding a new hard drive to your current PC for additional storage only, then feel free to skip forward to Step 3 below.

The simplest way to do backup your files is by copying them over to an external hard drive. There are a few important considerations along the way though, as Windows has many places where they install your important files that you’ll need to manually backup so that you don’t lose any important data.

  1. Check that your external hard drive has enough space to store all of the files that you need. As a general rule, your external hard drive should have more space than the amount of data stored on your internal hard drive. To check the size of your hard drive use the following steps:
    1. Open File Explorer
    2. On the left menu navigate to the bottom where you will see your hard driven listed with a letter and a colon next to it eg. HARD DRIVE NAME (C:)
    3. Right click and select “Properties” from the menu
    4. In the pop-up the section that says “Used space” will have a number on the far right showing how much space is being used eg. “121 GB” – this is the amount of space that your external hard drive should have to hold the backup of all your files
  2. Connect your external hard drive and create a folder called “Backup” on it which we’ll use to store all of the files. From here we need to copy some select Windows folders that Windows uses to store your personal data.
    1.  Desktop – A shortcut to your desktop files can be found in the File Explorer menu on the left under “This PC”. Click on any file in this folder and then type Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select all files. Then Right Click and select “Copy”. Navigate the Backup folder on your external hard drive and create a new folder called “Desktop”. Open it and Right Click and then select “Paste” to begin copying all files.
    2. Documents – While the Desktop files are copying, follow the same process as above for your documents folder, which is also accessible from the File Explorer menu on the left. This time create a folder called “Documents” inside the “Backup” folder on your external hard drive to host these files.
    3. Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos – Again, follow the exact same process as above using the “Downloads”, “Music”, “Pictures” and “Videos” links respectively in the left File Explorer menu and creating “Downloads”, “Music”, “Pictures” and “Videos” folders in the “Backup” folder of your external hard drive for these files to keep them organized.
    4. Additional Folders – If you are an advanced user, you may have created additional folders on your hard drive with important files that also need to be backed up to the external hard drive.

Note: Any files not copied during this step will be lost. Be sure to take your time backing up all of your files to make sure you don’t lose anything! If you think there may be files you are forgetting, rather take your time to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Bonus: You can also use software to duplicate all of the data on your current hard drive onto your new hard drive, automating Step 2 above and Step 3 below for you so you don’t have to do it. That said, we recommend the manual route as reinstalling Windows will improve the performance of your laptop. If you would like to go ahead with an automated solution to save you some time and aren’t struggling with the performance on your laptop which could be due to an old Windows installation, we recommend this tutorial using EaseUS Todo Backup Free .

3. Add your new hard drive to your laptop

Now that you have safely backed up all of your files to your external hard drive, it’s time to go about adding the new hard drive to your laptop. If you are panicking at this stage, relax – though it may seem daunting, adding a new hard drive to most laptops as as easy as pie.

  1. Turn off your computer and then use a small star screwdriver to open up the hatch and check inside
  2. Look for screws securing your old hard drive and unscrew them
  3. Unscrew the current hard drive screws and gentle pull the old hard drive out
  4. Install the new hard drive by connecting it in exactly the same way as the old hard drive was previously connected
  5. Screw the hard drive in back the same way that you found it

Note: If adding an additional hard drive, you will be looking for an empty hard drive bay with an available connection that matches the new hard drive you are wanting to install.

4. Install Windows on your new hard drive

Installing Windows on a new hard drive requires that you download the latest Windows ISO from the Microsoft website and then create a bootable flash drive. For this process follow our guide on how to reformat your laptop and reinstall Windows 10 from Step 2 to Step 8 and then come back here so we can wrap up!

5. Copy across all your backed up files to the new hard drive

Once you have your new Windows installation setup you’ll want to plugin your external hard drive so you can start copying across your backed up files onto the new hard drive. The links for the folders that you’ll need to copy the files to can again by found in the left column of File Explorer under This PC. Simply navigate to the relevant backup folder on your external hard drive and then copy all  of the files to the relevant section under This PC for each backup folder. If you have custom files backed up create the necessary folders on your new hard drive and then copy them across.

Hopefully you’re now all setup with your new hard drive ready to make the most of the speed upgrade or your extra storage space.

 

 

By Joseph Ashburner

Joe is the founder of LaptopNinja and has been reviewing laptops and writing professional laptop recommendations since 2010. With the help of the LaptopNinja editorial team he is dedicated to helping you choose the right laptop for your needs and spreading knowledge about everything tech. Founded in 2012, the LaptopNinja team of motley tech specialists spend countless hours every week scouring the best deals across the web to help save you time and money based on more than half a decade of experience researching and recommended the top value for money and high performing laptops on the planet.

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