Beef up your notebook's storage
Nov 18, 2007, 14:07 GMT
Washington - They say the only things you can count on in life are death and taxes. But if you use a notebook computer, you can probably add 'not enough storage' to that list, as well.
With multimedia files and digital photographs proliferating, the hard drives delivered in most notebook computers can fill up faster than you imagined. And notebooks can seem impenetrable when it comes to upgrades. But upgrading a notebook's hard drive is something that anyone who is handy with a screwdriver should be able to accomplish.
- Know your drive
First, you should know that virtually every notebook computer today comes with 2.5-inch hard drives, so when you buy a replacement drive from a local store or an online retailer such as Amazon.com, you'll want to be sure you're buying a 2.5-inch drive rather than a 3.5-inch drive, which are for desktop computers.
Before you start shopping, you should also know the type of interface the hard drive has to your notebook. Most notebooks older than six months or so will typically use the IDE interface. More recently-made models, however, may very well use the newer SATA interface.
Be sure that your replacement drive uses the same interface as the one currently in your notebook. The manufacturer of your notebook may be the best place to find this information if it's not in the sales documents or manuals that came with it.
- Start shopping
Equipped with this basic information, you can start shopping. Find a hard drive that has enough storage capacity for your needs.
Figure on buying a drive with at least twice the amount of space that you currently have. You'll find reasonably-priced hard drives with capacities ranging from 80 to more than 160 GB these days, so finding a drive with ample storage should be no problem.
Focus, too, on drives with spin rates of 7200 revolutions per minutes (rpm), since these will give your system an overall performance boost over older hard drive models, which typically spin slower. 7200 rpm drives may cost a tad more than the slower 5400 rpm models you see on the market, but the extra money will be well spent, since today's operating systems and applications often see a noticeable performance boost from improved hard drive speed.
Along with the hard drive itself, purchase an external USB hard drive enclosure for a 2.5-inch hard drive. These are inexpensive 'shells' that allow you to hook up a hard drive to your notebook computer using a free USB port. Search for 'external enclosures' at your favourite online computer retailer.
The other tool that you'll need in your upgrade kit is hard drive imaging software. Look at Acronis's DriveImage Home software, or search the Internet for free imaging software.
This type of software will allow you to create a perfect clone of your existing hard drive onto a new hard drive. After the image is created, all you'll need to do is install the new drive in your notebook, boot up, and everything should be exactly as it was before - except that you'll have a lot more free hard drive space.
- Prepare to clone
Once you have the drive, the enclosure, and the software, install the software and slide the hard drive into the enclosure as specified on the instructions that came with the enclosure. Then attach the hard drive enclosure to your notebook computer using the USB cable and launch the imaging software.
Follow the wizard to create a complete hard drive image of your current notebook. Note that you may need to use the imaging software to create a bootable CD-ROM, boot from that, and then launch the cloning wizard. This is especially true if you use Windows Vista. Once started, the entire cloning process may take several hours.
- Swap the drives
When your notebook's hard drive has been cloned successfully, you'll want to remove the new drive from the external enclosure and install it in your notebook in place of the existing drive. Replacing a hard drive typically requires only a small Philips screwdriver and instructions, which are usually provided by your notebook manufacturer, either in the manual that came with your notebook or online. Dell, for example, provides on the Internet instructions for swapping the hard drive on all of its notebook models.
With the new hard drive installed, you should be able to boot up your notebook and enjoy the extra storage space. Note that if you use Windows Vista, you will probably get a message upon bootup saying that you need to insert the original Windows Vista disk into your CD- ROM drive and select Repair once the installation process has begun. Do this, and in a jiffy Vista will activate the new hard drive, allowing you to boot normally.
Once you have determined that everything is working properly, you can insert your old hard drive into the external enclosure and use it as a backup device or as some very handy and plentiful mobile storage.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur