Speed up your laptop in 5 minutes! Quick upgrade guide

Many people have an older laptop and are getting fed up with it being slow at booting and in general use. What if I told you that upgrading just a single component would give it a second life and you could use it for a few more years without the need of changing? Especially if you use it for browsing the web or studying. It will save you money, and we can collectively reduce electrical waste which is a win-win in my books.

What’s even nicer - this upgrade is a 5 minute job, swapping out your older hard drive for an SSD. With the help from Kioxia, we want to talk about what you gain from this and walk you through considerations as well as how to do it. Let’s get right into it.

First off let me cover a few reasons why upgrading to SSD may be beneficial to you, the most obvious being performance. Standard hard drives use spinning platters together with the head that reads and writes data to the magnetic platter. The speed of this is limited by how fast the platters spin and how fast the head can move back and forth. This is reasonably fast for large file transfers as you would write it all in one big sweep. Where it falls short is accessing loads of small files in different locations as it may need to spin the whole plate to one location to get the first file then go to a completely different location to grab another file and so on.

On the other hand, solid state drives or SSD use semiconductor chips rather than magnetic media to store data. It still contains multiple items within to process the data. First is the storage pool itself, these are called NAND flash chips where electrons are stored in a thin film, also known as a cell to hold data. Then we have the controller that keeps a list of where data is stored as well as processes the read and write commands. Usually budget drives end here, but more expensive drives can also have built-in memory to help buffer the data processing to increase the speed of operation.

Since all of the connections are made electronically, the delay between issuing a command and it being executed is much smaller than a standard hard drive, resulting in increased speed overall, especially when looking at retrieving many smaller files which is what happens when booting operating systems and opening up applications.

This is of course an oversimplified version of the process. Let me show you the results in benchmarks: here you can see side by side results on an older laptop. Take note of the bottom row - this is showing the speed of a random 4K test where the drive is accessing random small locations on the drive. When this is low, it makes the whole device feel very slow and clunky. With SSD this speed goes up and PC feels much snapier.

There are also other benefits of upgrading the drive, which include noise reduction as well as longevity, but not in normal operations, rather in resistance to physical damage. Since laptops get thrown around more than desktop PCs - this can have adverse effects on a spinning drive.

If you decide to do the upgrade - this might as well be a good opportunity to also upgrade your storage capacity. For example, the drive we have in this laptop is only 320 GB in size and SSD’s in recent years have really gone down in price so upgrading to 480 GB does not cost that much.

Let’s go over the upgrade itself: first I recommend doing a bit of research to ensure you can actually upgrade your device and that you have all the right tools.

Locate your laptop model number and then use this to look for an upgrade guide (many older models by this point already have either a written guide by the manufacturer or even a video tutorial).

If you have not located any guide, there is a chance this particular model is not upgradable. I would recommend reaching out to the manufacturer to double check.

Once you have confirmed that your laptop has a 2.5 inch hard drive and you would like to proceed with the upgrade then you need three things: SSD that you will be upgrading to (I would recommend increasing your storage capacity to have some spare disc space for the future), a screwdriver (normally smaller philips head), as well as USB to SATA cable or enclosure. Ideally you could get a USB 3.0 enclosure to utilise the existing drive as a portable drive for your laptop.

Once you have all of these items, it’s time to clone your hard drive to the SSD. Place the SSD inside the enclosure and plug it in.

You will need some sort of cloning software to do this, there are plenty of free ones out there. I have always had great experience with Marcium Reflect but now they require you to create an account so we are using AOMEI Backupper. Make sure to turn off all applications and open cloning software, then click “Clone” and select your source drive as well as destination, then begin the process. This can take a while depending on your disk size. Once done you can shutdown the PC.

Now to the fun part! You will need to follow instructions for your specific laptop but generally it’s - flip the laptop around (in some cases you may need to remove the battery), locate the drive cover and underneath you will have a drive caddy - unscrew that and take out the drive. Take the SSD out of the USB enclosure and place it in the laptop drive caddy, then place this back in the laptop - do not push it in too hard. Once done, screw everything back up. Flip over and you should be able to boot. After it’s booted, check your storage. If you used a larger SSD you may need to go to disk management utility to expand the storage of your drive.

If you are using Kioxia SSD, you should install their SSD utility and open it up. Check if you need any firmware updates and you can see your drive status there.

If all is OK, then feel free to place the old drive into the USB enclosure, plug that in, and using disk utility delete all the partitions and create a new one to use as external storage. That’s it, you’re all done!

With this upgrade you can certainly see a considerable increase in speed. For example, we found that simply booting into Windows went from approximately 50 seconds to 14 seconds, opening Chrome used to take between 15-20 seconds and now it takes just 3. We did a quick benchmark on moving a large 18 GB file from one folder to another and found on the older hard drive it took a bit over 12 minutes, while on the SSD it took just 3 and a half minutes.

As you saw it for yourself - upgrading a hard drive to SSD is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to give your laptop a second life so it can last a few more years without the need of sending it out for recycling.