If you bought a business notebook, chances are the hard drive or solid state drive on your system is upgradeable.
Upgrading your drive gives your business Ultrabook a new lease on life. You can replace a malfunctioning drive, or you stand to gain faster performance with a high speed drive or more storage capacity. If you're replacing an internal hard drive for a solid state one, you'll benefit from much faster read and write speeds.
Unlike consumer Ultrabooks, business Ultrabooks and mobile workstations come with a removable bottom panel. This panel gives you access to the RAM and SSD inside your laptop. Here are two methods for installing a new drive and transferring your data over:
Before you begin
Before you begin, you'll need to open your Ultrabook and see what type of solid state or hard drive your system contains. There are three popular types of drives available today – SATA solid state drives or 2.5-inch SATA hard drives, mSATA SSD and M.2 SSD.
The procedure for opening your system varies by device and device manufacturer. Systems – like the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 – with non-removable batteries will have a large panel covering the entire bottom of the laptop. This panel can be removed by unscrewing all the visual screws on the bottom of the notebook.
On business Ultrabooks – like the Dell Latitude 12 7000 (E7250) – with a removable battery, you may have to take off the battery first. On the Dell, once I removed the battery, I gained access to two screws that secure the bottom cover. Once the screws are off, I can slide the bottom plate off.
After the bottom cover is removed, you'll have access to your notebook's internal components, including the SSD, RAM and wireless cards. You'll want to examine to see if your SSD or hard drive is labeled as a SATA drive, mSATA SSD or M.2 SSD. SATA drives are the largest of the three, and are sized like a traditional 2.5-inch hard disk drive.
M.2 format drives are narrow, but long, while the rectangular mSATA SSD are wider but shorter. For comparison, the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 uses the M.2 format while the Dell Latitude 12 7000 uses the mSATA format.
After you determine what type of drive your system utilizes, you can order a new drive – either of the same size and capacity as a replacement, an upgrade with a faster speed or a capacity upgrade with more storage – of the same type as the one in your notebook.
For those who have the need for capacity, Samsung recently announced a 2TB SATA SSD, while the mSATA and M.2 formats go up to 1TB and 512GB, respectively.
Option 1: cloning
1. The cloning method
Cloning a drive saves time in that it creates a twin of whatever is on your existing system. Once the drive is cloned, you can pop the new drive into your system and be up and running with all your apps, programs and files in place – there is no need to reinstall programs, and this saves time as you don't need to enter in serial numbers.
Before you clone your drive, be sure that your new drive is at least as large as the drive you're looking to replace.
For example, my Dell Latitude 12 7000 (E7250) comes with a 256GB mSATA format solid state drive. For the cloning to work, I'd need another mSATA SSD with at least a 256GB capacity. For this scenario, I purchased a new Samsung SSD 850 EVO drive in a 1TB capacity.
In addition to the new drive, you'll need free software and some cheap hardware. There are a number of options available for drive cloning software, and you'll need either a hard drive docking station or a cheap enclosure for your drive.
I recommend that you use a drive enclosure, but the process works the same if you're using a drive dock. With the drive enclosure, at the end of the cloning process, if your old drive is good (meaning you're upgrading to a larger capacity SSD and not replacing a faulty drive), you can use it as an external drive and connect the drive in the enclosure over USB to store or backup data.
For my process, I chose an inexpensive mSATA (there are also SATA and M.2 enclosures) for under $20. The enclosure connects my new Samsung 1TB SSD to my Latitude via a USB 3.0 cable, so the process didn't take too long.
If you're cloning a Windows 8 or later system, you'll need cloning software that supports GTP. For this process, I chose to use the free Macrium Reflect cloning software, but there are other free and paid cloning software available on the market.
When I first load Macrium Reflect, the software asks if I want to create a recovery media in case something goes wrong. Even though this is an optional step, it's advisable that you complete this process just in case.
The cloning process is fairly intuitive using the Macrium Reflect software. You'll want to select the cloning option in the Reflect software, and you'll want to be sure to clone over all the drive partitions on your existing drive. Once the cloning is finished, you can swap the new drive into your laptop, and you should be ready to boot up.
Removing and replacing your drive
Depending on your drive and your manufacturer, your internal SSD may be affixed to your system with screws. Even though the SSD board on my Latitude has two screw openings, Dell only screwed the SSD onto the motherboard using one of the screw openings.
You'll want to remove the screws that attach the SSD to your notebook's motherboard. The SSD will then pop up slightly, and you'll need to gently pull the card out from the connector so that you don't damage the system.
Once the card is out, you can attach your new drive by sliding it gently, but firmly into the connector. You'll want to push the drive down so it lies flat with the motherboard, and then replace all the screws to secure the drive.
Option 2: starting fresh
2. Starting anew
If you're looking to start fresh and work off of a clean build of Windows, you won't need to clone your drive. I prefer this method as I can always copy over files that I need later, and I can start clean and install only the software that I want. Over time, old software that you may not need anymore may slow down the system, and starting fresh cleans this out so you'll have a fast machine to work with.
If your system doesn't ship with a recovery USB drive or DVD, you'll want to first create the Windows recovery media. Essentially, this creates a copy of Windows that you can install onto your new drive. Systems running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 won't have serial numbers for Windows installation so you won't need this as it won't be found on the bottom of your notebook, unlike systems running Windows 7 or older.
On my Dell Latitude 12 7000 (E7250), I chose to create the recovery media to a USB drive. For this process, you'll need a USB drive with at least 4GB of storage. Using the Dell Backup and Recovery software that's preinstalled on my system, I was able to create my recovery USB drive with my Windows install. If you have a laptop with a different brand, be sure to look for the manufacturer's version of the backup and recovery app.
After the recovery USB or DVD is created, you'll want to shut down your system, remove your battery (if your system comes with a removable battery) and remove the bottom cover. Follow the instructions above on removing and replacing your SSD to remove the drive in your system and replace it with the new drive you ordered.
Once the new drive is in place, you'll want want to replace the bottom cover and battery, insert your USB recovery drive into the USB port and power up the system for Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 machines.
Once your laptop begins booting up, it will enter a recovery mode with on-screen instructions for formatting the new SSD drive and reinstalling Windows. Be sure to remove the USB drive before you reboot your system after the recovery is complete. After you complete the process, you'll have a fresh installation of Windows.
Now, you'll have a fresh copy of Windows, and you can install any programs that you need.
What to do with your old drive
Remember that old drive that shipped with your system? If you're just upgrading it for performance or capacity, and not replacing a faulty drive, you can use an SSD enclosure. There are housing for the three different types of SSD formats that you can order. Once you install the drive into the housing, you can connect the unit to your laptop and it will act as an external drive – it's similar to having a high capacity USB flash drive or a compact external hard drive.
Once you do this, you can transfer any file you need from the old drive, or you can format the drive and use it as a USB flash drive.
In my case, my Latitude shipped with a 256GB drive, and I installed a 1TB SSD into my laptop. This means that I'll have 1TB of storage on my computer, and I can have a zippy USB 3.0 external SSD drive to backup my files.
If you wish, you can just leave the old drive alone in case the new drive doesn't work out for you, or if the new drive fails. Whatever the case, a hard drive or solid state drive enclosure is a simple, inexpensive way for you to "recycle" and reuse your old drives as an external drive.
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