Plenty of software is designed to improve PC performance, but what if that speed boost leaves you hungry for more? A speed boost can be gained with the installation of a solid-state drive (SSD).

A speed boost can be gained with the installation of a solid-state drive (SSD). These drives run faster than traditional hard drives and, with no spinning drive platters, there’s less risk of data loss and less noise to boot.

But replacing your hard drive with an SSD isn’t as simple as opening up the case and slotting one in. If you’re still running Windows XP, you’ll need to upgrade to Vista or, even better, Windows 7 to get maximum performance from the drive.

You also need to check that your Bios is compatible with SSD; type your Bios version and ‘SSD-compatible’ into a search engine to find out whether other users have experienced upgrade issues.

Should you buy an SSD?

Upgrading your laptop’s hard drive with an SSD will give it a noticeable boost, but it’s a costly way to gain more performance.

SSDs are far more expensive per gigabyte than hard-disk drives, which have come down dramatically in price in the past several years.

There are two types of SSD: single-level cell (SLC) and multilevel cell (MLC). An SLC SSD stores data as one bit per flash memory cell; an MLC drive stores two or more bits per cell. MLCs are less expensive than SLCs at the same capacity point, since you need fewer physical flash memory components for greater capacity. However, MLC drives are also slower than SLC units, albeit still much faster than traditional hard drives.

MLC drives are also expensive, particularly those with capacities stretching beyond 200GB. Lesser-capacity MLC drives are more affordable, with an 80GB version costing around £150 and a 120GB model around £300.

SSDs come with much smaller storage capacities than traditional hard drives – some are as low as 30GB – but 120GB and 128GB versions (depending on the flash supplier) deliver the best blend of price, performance and capacity.

Install a solid-state drive

Step 1. We replaced the 250GB Toshiba hard drive in our Acer Ferrari One Windows 7 laptop with a £245 120GB OCZ Apex SSD. Back up your data before even attempting the upgrade. If you’re substituting a smaller-capacity SSD then you may also need to move some files to an external drive.

Install an SSD step 1

Step 2. Next, transfer your data to the SSD. Using a USB drive enclosure is the simplest option, letting you insert the SSD and clone the old drive. We copied the contents to an Iomega external drive and then transferred them to the SSD. If you plan to reinstall Windows on the SSD, see step 3; otherwise, skip to step 4.

Install an SSD step 2

Also see:
How to supplement system RAM with ReadyBoost
How to run older programs in Windows XP Mode
Upgrade Advisor
Windows 7 Advisor

Plenty of software is designed to improve PC performance, but what if that speed boost leaves you hungry for more? A speed boost can be gained with the installation of a solid-state drive (SSD).

Step 3. If you opt for a clean installation of Windows on the SSD, you’ll need to copy across your backed-up data after this process is complete. This approach makes sense if you’re thinking about upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, for example. You may also need to update some of your hardware drivers (see tinyurl.com/2wskbr8).

Install an SSD step 3

Step 4. If you’re happy with your current OS, a drive-cloning tool will make an exact copy of your old hard drive. Follow the software’s instructions to save this copy either to your SSD mounted in a drive enclosure or to an external hard drive from which you can restore the contents later. See tinyurl.com/2vobae4 for further advice.

Install an SSD step 4

Step 5. Now you’re ready to get your hands dirty. Ground yourself, then disconnect the laptop from its charger and remove the battery. Most hard drives are stored under a removable panel, accessible once you’ve removed a few retaining screws. Once you’ve located it, carefully slide out the drive.

Install an SSD step 5

Step 6. Slot in the SSD, ensuring that the SATA edge connector is firmly seated in place. Our Acer laptop used a pair of rails to align the drive inside the laptop shell. Carefully reattach the data and power connectors. Replace the panel and secure all screws. You can now reinsert the battery and turn on the laptop.

Install an SSD step 6

Also see:
How to supplement system RAM with ReadyBoost
How to run older programs in Windows XP Mode
Upgrade Advisor
Windows 7 Advisor