How to Upgrade Your Laptop Hard Drive

April 21, 2009

in computer hardware,computer memory,Windows

by Tina Gasperson

Q: I’d like to upgrade my older laptop’s hard drive from 30GB to 160GB or 250GB. Several companies claim 100 percent compatibility but the specs don’t seem to be compatible. How can I make sure I’m buying the right hard drive? — Mary

The safest route to finding a compatible hard drive to upgrade your laptop is to go to the manufacturer. Turn your laptop upside down and look for the manufacturer name and the model number and write them down. Now, go directly to the official Web site and search for replacement parts for your laptop model. By purchasing your new hard drive from the manufacturer, you can be sure that your upgrade will go as smoothly as possible.

If you’re determined to go your own way, you can usually find better deals. You just have to know what you’re looking for. The vast majority of laptops have 2.5″ drives that are either ATA (IDE) or SATA compatible. Most ATA drives are from laptops that were made before 2007. If you’re not sure which kind of drive you have, contact the manufacturer. Then, you can go shopping either online or at your local computer shop.

Once you’ve found the hard drive you want, make sure you have the original installation CDs from your applications, and your Windows installation disk along with a license key. Back up all user created files using an online backup service, or just copy them onto CDs or DVDs.

To install the new hard drive, go back to your laptop manufacturer’s Web site and download the manual. It will have a section that explains how to replace the hard drive. Shut down the laptop, unplug it, and take the battery out to avoid electric shock. Find a clean, dry, cool, uncarpeted area in which to exchange the laptop, since computer equipment can be damaged by static electricity. In most cases the drive is encased in a bracket and the entire assembly slides out after you remove a couple of screws.

Your laptop may use a proprietary connector to attach the hard drive to the motherboard, but this will always come with an adaptor that fits over the original connector on the hard drive. If this is the case, make sure you take the adaptor off the old hard drive and fit it onto your new hard drive. When you’ve installed the new hard drive, replace the battery, plug in the laptop, and boot it. It will recognize the new hardware and assign it a drive letter. Unlike other hardware installation, you won’t need drivers, and as long as you’ve matched ATA to ATA or SATA to SATA, your drive will be compatible. Reinstall the operating system by booting up the system with your Windows installation CD, then reinstall your applications. Enjoy the new space on your laptop!

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.


Gwen Dumas 04.29.09 at 11:06 am

Long story: My spouse received this Dell laptop Inspiron 1150 from his family when he was depoloyed to Iraq in 2005. It is our only computer as our PC “died” about a year ago. I want to do a home based bookkeeping business and this laptop is so slow and unpredicitable that I feel until it is “fixed” or replaced I cannot trust it to serve me well and not loose my clientell information. I love the Dell and think it needs replacing. Is it your expertise to suggest another Dell possibly a PC that would best serve my business purposes and lessen the frustration that I now face with this one?

Deepak 10.07.15 at 9:42 am

Generally there isn’t a difference, hoevwer, dell sells a brand of netbooks that are significantly smaller than regular laptops.I just posted on another question I’m buying a new laptop from Dell (which is why I know that random fact about netbooks) and the price starts at 500. I don’t know if I’d go for a used computer .the last two laptops I’ve had problems with weren’t with the actual technology, but the physical wear of it. The hinge broke on two and the first one had stopped being made and there were no parts to replace it with. Go with new

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