When installed on an SSD, Windows not only boots and shuts down quicker, but applications load faster, and the computer generally feels more responsive.
SSDs have benefits for desktop computers as well as for laptops. (See our guide to installing an SSD inside your laptop). Since they’ve fallen in price considerably in recent months, an SSD is a great upgrade for your PC. We’ll show you how to install an SSD in a typical desktop computer, with your old hard disk as a second drive.
Just about every PC case has internal bays for adding extra hard disks, which are 3.5in wide. SSDs tend to be 2.5in wide, though, so it’s likely you’ll need a mounting bracket to fit one in your computer.
The SSD we’ve chosen is a 240GB Kingston HyperX 3K upgrade kit, which costs roughly £180. It comes with the necessary mounting bracket and screwdriver to complete the job.
SSDs have Serial ATA (SATA) data connectors, of which there are three versions (1, 2, or 3), that can transfer data at 1.5Gbps, 3Gbps or 6Gbps, respectively. The Kingston Hyper X 3K is capable of reading and writing data at 500MBps via a SATA 3 port.
It doesn't matter too much if your computer doesn’t support SATA 3. SSDs are backwards compatible, and raw transfer speed isn’t the only reason for SSDs’ improved performance. More important is their much-reduced latency over conventional hard disks, as it takes considerably less time to access data from an SSD’s NAND flash memory than for a hard disk’s mechanical arm to move into position.
There are a few disadvantages to be aware of, though. SSDs cost more, per GB of storage, than conventional hard disks. Plus, their capacities top out at around 512GB, which is well short of the current 4TB maximum for hard disks.
It makes sense to keep Windows and your applications on the SSD, which will benefit from the improved loading times, and large media collections on a separate hard disk. We’ll explain how to configure the BIOS and Windows accordingly.
For this guide, we’re using a desktop PC with an Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard and a Fractal Design Define R3 case, which has internal space for SSDs, but our advice applies to any desktop computer.
You can install a fresh copy of Windows 7 (we'll do this here) or transfer your current operating system. There are plenty of programs for doing this job, such as Acronis True Image HD, which is bundled with the Kingston HyperX 3K.
How to install an SSD
1. Unscrew the sides of your computer’s case then remove them from the chassis. Some have latches holding the sides in place, which must be pushed open. Make sure you have clear access to the motherboard’s SATA ports and hard disk bays.
2. Place the SSD into its mounting bracket or a removable bay, line it up with the holes underneath, then screw it in. Position the mounting bracket into a spare 3.5-inch hard disk bay and secure it using holes at the side.
3. Connect the L-shaped end of a SATA cable to the SSD, and the other end to a spare SATA port (SATA 6Gbps ports are blue). Connect a SATA power cable to the SSD. For a fresh Windows installation, disconnect any other hard disks inside your PC.
4. Switch the PC on, insert the Windows 7 DVD, then (typically) press Delete or F2 to enter the Bios. All motherboards are different, but there should be a menu with a boot order option. Select your DVD drive to be first, save the settings then reboot.
5. Press a key when prompted to install Windows 7. The installer should start and, after a while, you should see a language screen. Choose English (United Kingdom) from the Time and currency format box, click Next, then click Install Now.
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