How to Install an SSD in Your Laptop

A budget-conscious upgrade with high-performance results

Upgrading from a hard drive to a solid state drive is among the best things you can do to make your laptop faster. The whole process of installing an SSD can be a little overwhelming it helps to have some guidance. Here's how to install an SSD in your laptop.

Before You Begin

Check the upgradeability of your laptop to see if you can access and remove the the hard drive. This involves accessing your hard drive from a removable panel on the bottom of your laptop. If your laptop has a sealed bottom panel, then it’s going to be more difficult and you might need to consult the laptop’s manual to find out how to access your hard drive.

This article assumes you can remove the panel on the bottom of your laptop to access the existing hard drive you intend to replace.

Make Sure the New SSD Fits Correctly

Find an SSD that's the right fit for your laptop. Most laptops will take a 2.5-inch hard drive, though the smaller ones take 1.8-inch disks. Thickness is also a factor, with most hard drives being either 7mm or 9.5mm thick.

As for the interface, there are the SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) and IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) interfaces. SATA is the more modern one, while the IDE interface is more commonly found in laptops made before 2008. Most laptops will take a 2.5-inch SATA disk, but check your laptop’s manual to be sure. A 7mm disk will fit in a 9.5mm slot, plus you can add spacers to give it a tighter fit.

Gather the Items You'll Need to Install the New SSD

You'll need the following:

  • The SSD
  • A small Phillips-head screwdriver
  • A separate external hard drive (optional).

The available storage space on the SSD must be at least large enough to accommodate the operating system partition and any required system recovery partitions. A 250GB or 500GB SSD should do. While you’re at it, purchase a SATA to USB adaptor or an external enclosure for your SSD for the cloning process.

The small Phillips-head screwdriver is for opening the back panel on your laptop, and the separate external hard drive is for any large folders you may want to back up that won’t fit on your SSDs. The external hard drive is also be useful for creating a full backup of your system.

How to Install the SSD in Your Laptop

Now you're ready to install the new SSD into your laptop. It may take a little time, especially during the backup and restore process, so take your time and be patient.

  1. Before you begin, create a system image backup. Open Control Panel, then select System and Security > File History > System Image Backup, then select an external network or hard drive.

    Screenshot of Setting up Backup on Windows

    For folders too large to fit on your SSD, such as media and personal documents, consider getting an additional external hard drive to back them up to. That way your SSD will have enough space to clone the system files.

  2. Clean up your drive by deleting unnecessary files and uninstalling programs you no longer use. To uninstall programs, open Control Panel, select Programs > Uninstall a program, then select a program and select Uninstall.

    Screenshot showing the Control Panel
  3. Connect your SSD to the laptop via the SATA to USB adaptor. The SSD should show up immediately. If not, initialize it via the Windows Disk Management tool.

  4. Under Create and format hard disk partitions, right-click the SSD drive and select Initialize Disk.

  5. Make sure the C: drive is allocated a space smaller than the SSD while you’re in Disk Management. If not, select Shrink to resize it.

  6. Use paid or free disk backup and cloning software to clone your existing hard drive to your new SSD drive.

  7. Once the cloning is done, turn the computer off, disconnect everything, including any external hard drives, and the battery if it is external.

  8. Remove the laptop's back panel, then use the Phillips-head screwdriver to unscrew the hard drive from the laptop.

  9. Lift the hard drive at a 30-45 degree angle and gently pull it back to disengage it.

  10. To install the SSD, place it at a 30-45 degree angle in the slot, then push it forward until it snaps into place. Once done, screw it in and replace the back panel on your laptop.

  11. Boot up your computer. Your SSD should be ready for use.