Make your laptop faster by upgrading your hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD)!

Upgrading the components of your laptop can make it run faster. The hard drive and the RAM memory are the components that can be upgraded relatively easy. Even though if you not experiencing excessive lag when starting programs or opening files you might want to consider using a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a hard drive. Basically a solid state drive is a hard drive but it is much faster because it consists of flash chips instead of rotating magnetic disks. It runs silent, uses less energy and is more resilient to shocks. See the video below to check the different internals of hard drive and a SSD:

The performance of your laptop depends on several hardware components:

CPU: The processing power of your CPU (central processing unit). Examples of processors are Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, AMD Athlon X2 and Pentium Dual Core. Currently most laptops that are sold have a Core i3, i5 of i7 processor.
o The speed of the CPU is indicated with GHZ. However nowadays a high GHZ doesn’t directly mean it’s faster than a lower clocked CPU due to modern CPU architecture.

RAM memory: Speed of your RAM memory. This is a relatively small data storage component for quick random access of data to read and write. As the name indicates this memory can be used to randomly read/store data. This is different than the hard drive where data is read sequentially.
o The RAM memory is indicated with GB. Most modern laptops have around 4 or 8 GB. Enough for doing multitasking with several programs at the same time.

FSB: Speed of the front side bus (FSB) on the laptop motherboard. The FSB connects the hardware components on the motherboard and act as the nervous system. Slow FSB can be a bottleneck of your laptop performance.
o The FSB speed is often not mentioned in the system specs of your laptop. The FSB is indicated with MHZ.

Hard drive (HDD): Although it does not seem that the hard drive is a component that would influence the performance of the laptop enormously, it actually does.
o Data transfer speed
The speed of transferring data from position to another position is depended on the physical architecture (high density limit rotational speed) of the hard drive as well as the software architecture (e.g. format type, fragmentation).
 Interface speed. The interface speed is the allowed speed for transferring data. For instance a SATA2 hard drive allows an interface speed of 300 MB/s. However most hard drives are not able to achieve this interface speed due to hardware limitation. Same as for optical drives that can be connected with the SATA2 interface.
o Time to access data. The time that is needed to access the data on the hard drive before reading or transferring the data. In traditional hard drives you have shorter time-to-access-data with higher RPM drives (e.g. 7500rpm vs 5400 rpm).
 Time to access data is depended on the characteristics of the hard drive. The seek time is often indicated with “ms”.

To make your laptop faster you can upgrade your:

CPU, however this is often soldered to the motherboard and cannot be upgraded
RAM memory, if you are doing a lot of multitasking (e.g. opening different windows, listening to music, photoshop, and text processing at the same t ime) and you experience some lag. You might want to upgrade the RAM memory for more storage.
Hard drive (HDD), similar as limited RAM memory. When your hard drive is a “slow” hard drive you will experience some delay when opening files or programs.

Both RAM memory and hard drive (HDD) are easy to upgrade. These components are often user replaceable parts that won’t void your warranty. In most laptops they are hidden behind a cover that is mounted with several screws at the bottom of your laptop.

In the picture below, the RAM memory is hidden under the memory cover. When we remove the memory cover we see two sticks with a total memory of “MB”.

In the picture below, the hard drive is hidden under the hard drive cover. When you remove the memory cover you will see the hard drive that is connected to the data interface of the motherboard. In order to secure the hard drive. A hard drive bracket or HDD bracket is used to mount the hard drive in the laptop. When upgrading your hard drive you can use this HDD bracket to secure your new hard drive.

The connector of the hard drive can be a PATA(IDE) or SATA connector. In the picture below you notice the differences of the connectors. The PATA(IDE) connector is an older type of connector that consists of several pins located on the side of the hard drive. The SATA connector is much slimmer is characterized as two horizontal bars with each a set of pins.

Form factor and height

The hard drive fits in your hand palm. Hard drives consists are available in different form factors.
Currently you have 3.5”, 2.5” and 1.8” basically these “inch” numbers indicating the length and the width of the hard drive.
– 3.5” hard drives (14.6cm x 10.2cm). These hard drives are meant for desktop PC. They have a length of 14.6cm and a width of 10.2cm. They are available with thickness of 1.9 or 2.54cm. These drives do NOT fit in your laptop.
– 2.5” hard drives (10cm x 7cm). These hard drives are OFTEN used in laptops. It is most likely that your laptop has a 2.5” hard drive. The dimensions of the 2.5” hard drive are: 10cm x 7cm. These 2.5” hard drives are available with a height of 5, 7, 9.5, 12.5 or 15mm. Most used height is 9.5mm. This is the same for solid state drives (SSD).
– 1.8” hard drives (7.1cm x 5.4cm). These are small hard drives and are not used very often. You can find these in very small thin laptops or tablets.

If you like to upgrade your hard drive you can do two things.
– Remove the hard drive and bring it your local PC specialist and ask for a better hard drive
– Remove the hard drive, order online:
o Form factor is: 2.5” and height is: 9.5cm
And install it yourself.

Upgrading with SSD

As you have noticed there is an upcoming trend to replace the hard drive of your laptop with a solid state drive (SSD). What is a SSD? Different than hard drives the SSD uses flash chips to store data. To be precise NAND-based flash chips. These chips retain stored data without power; this is the same as magnetic disks in the HDD. Previously we mentioned how a hard drive (HDD) can influence the performance of your laptop. Various factors were the speed in which data could be accessed and be read in the hard drive. Because a hard drive consists of magnetic disks the speed to access and read is often depended in how fast the disks can spin and how fast the electronic arm can read. Different than the other components CPU and RAM memory, the performance is often limited due to its mechanical nature. An electronic connection or the transfer of electronic signal is much MUCH faster than having to read from rotating disks. This causes the hard drive be the main bottleneck in the performance of your laptop. Having to wait for your program to start or your file to open, is often caused by the hard drive.

Compared to a hard drive, a solid state disk or solid state drive (technically it is neither a disk nor drive) is much faster in reading and accessing data. Besides the speed benefits it also less sensitive to shock, it runs silent and uses less energy. When using a SSD, opening files or programs is often 5 times faster than using a hard drive. SSD can tremendously improve the laptops’ performance and user friendly experiences.

The downside of SSD is the price. You pay more per GB than for a traditional hard drive. However 128GB SSD’s are available for around 100 Euro. In terms of upgrading your laptop with SSD or buying a new laptop it’s relatively not expensive. Also new laptops are often not supplied with a SSD which makes newer laptops often slower than older laptops equipped with SSD.

Which SSD is compatible with your laptop? As mentioned before the most common form factor of the laptop hard drive is 2.5” (10cm length x 7cm width). Solid state drives uses the same standard as the hard drive. SSD’s are also available with a form factor 2.5”. When purchasing a new SSD make sure you note the:
– form factor, basically the 2.5” is the most common
– height, 7mm or 9.5mm. 9.5mm is the most common. 7mm is often used in small laptops or ultrabooks.

Sizes available are up to 1TB, but that can be expensive. 128GB is the most ideal if you are using Windows or Mac OS X. 64GB can also be used but please note that you may want to install some (large) programs on a secondary disk.

Currently the most popular SSD’s are the Samsung 830, 840 Pro / Eva and Crucial M4. These brands/models score relatively the highest in SSD comparison tests.

If you have purchased a new hard drive or SSD the most preferably way is to install a clean Operating System. But you can also clone the contents of your hard drive to the SSD. Please check “how to clone to new SSD tutorial”.

Because SSD’s are relatively expensive, you can save money by:
– Purchasing a SSD that is large enough for your Operating System and your most used programs
– Purchase a HDD Caddy that fits in your laptop. Check our shop.
o Put your old hard drive in this HDD Caddy and use it for extra storage or small/less used programs