Storage & SSD's What are my options, should I upgrade?
A little information about storage
When we talk about storage, we are talking about the place all your files are stored. (not to be confused with RAM)
These come in 3 primary forms.
SATA Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
SATA Solid State Disk (SSD)
M.2 type Solid State Drive (SSD)
The SATA or M.2 refers to the connection type.
SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is by far the most common.
If you currently have a PC from 2007 or newer, chances are this is what you have.
The M.2 standard is by far the fastest of the three and is also a lot more compact. Many MacBooks and ultra-light laptops have this standard as well as some of the newer desktop PC's.
Today we are mainly concerned with the HDD/SATA-SSD comparison.
A Hard Disk Drive (HDD, the top picture above) works a lot like a record player:
When your computer requests a file (document, video photo etc.) the instruction is sent to the hard drive.
Your hard drive requests enough power to make the platters (The big CD looking disks in the picture) start spinning.
Once the platters are up to speed, the arm (like the one on a record player) sweeps back and forth to find the file and read the information.
An SSD has no moving parts and is akin to the memory cards put in a camera.
So how much faster are they? I'm not going to get into precise figures because HDD's & SSD's all vary in speed. However, someone upgrading from an HDD to SSD can expect a 5-10x speed increase!
You will see this speed increase instantly and across the board, from turning on, to general operation.
How to I know what type of storage I have?
To find out what type of storage you have, for Windows, do the following.:
Hold down the windows/start key + the "R" key (as pictured)
A "Run" dialogue box will pop up
Type "DFRGUI" and click okay, this will list all your disks.
In the column titles "Media type" you will see if you have a "Solid-state drive" or "Hard disk drive."
Now we can see what you've got. The one that's key here is the C: drive. This is usually the disk drive for your operating system.
If any others are "Hard disk drive's", only the files on that drive will run slower. So you don't necessarily have to upgrade those drives unless they are impacting performance.
Okay, so the next thing we need to do is check your C: drives capacity and usage: drive. This is an important step we need to get right. Most users with a 1TB (1000GB) drive and are only using a small fraction of that.
Follow these steps to check your drive capacity.
At the bottom of your screen, click on the file browser icon that looks like this:
In your file browser in the left-hand panel, click "This PC."
You should now be able to see your drives under "Devices and drives."
You looking for something like this:
In this example, we can see this drive is 930GB and 647GB is being used.
If we were swapping out this drive, we would want one of the same capacity.
SSD's generally come in the following sizes:
The drive pictures is a 1TB drive. 930GB is what remains after formatting.
If this user had the same 1TB HDD but was only using 240GB, I would recommend upgrading to 500GB SSD.
A little note to point out here; any drive with less than 10% space remaining is likely to grind your computer to a screeching halt! So don't cut yourself short.
The issue of capacity is also dependent on your individual requirements. To implement your new SSD, you have one on two options:
Clone your original drive - Everything moves over to the SSD, including any junk.
Put the blank SSD in your computer, load a fresh copy of windows then transfer any files you may have.
This discussion should be based on the user's individual needs:
To clone the drive means minimal disruption and nothing to set up.
It also means all apps setting and files are carried across in the cloning process.
The downside is if you have any junk bad settings or viruses, they are carried across too.
Please note that to clone your drive, the SSD must be the same size or larger.
Starting with a blank SSD means you can choose any size SSD that's appropriate, including a smaller size drive if only a fraction of the existing capacity is in use.
Another significant advantage is that you're starting with a blank slate: no junk, no unwanted apps, files, settings.
The potential disadvantages are, the time it takes to set-up from scratch and
transfer your files, and that you will need to install all your apps.
This can be an issue if licenses or install files are unavailable.
In either case, you may need some additional equipment:
If you're cloning you'll want to get a dual-bay HDD-dock like this:
If you need to transfer your files, then you either
need a USB stick or external USB drive, or if you
have lots of data and/or none of the formerly mentioned licences, you
will need a single bay version of the dock or one
of these to connect to your old drive.
If you're going with the blank SSD, you'll need to create a bootable USB stick.
I mention this now because if this is the only computer you have, you'll want to do this before
shutting down your computer and removing your disk drive. Click here for the
To access your old drive for removal (and replacee with your new one) will depend or your
Laptop/Desktop. Please make sure your unit is turned off and unplugged.
Most desktop or tower PC's have easy to remove side panels. Once removed, you should be able to access your old drive for removal (and replace with your new one). You will need to remove the SATA data and SATA power connectors below. (pictured below)
The SATA connector may have a retaining clip
that needs to be pushed in to release. (pictured below)
Laptops vary wildly, and some have nice convenient access panels on the
bottom of the Laptop. Some, however, make it more complicated to
access the disk drive.
My suggestion is to go to youtube and search "[Your_make_and_model] SSD upgrade]" then judge for yourself if this is something you are comfortable with doing.
Once you have gained access to the drive-in question, remove the larger power cable and the smaller SATA (data) cable, looking for the retaining clip pictured above. Although not on all cables, you can cause damage if the retaining clip pushed in when removing.
Depending on your choice earlier (clone or copy), you will either have an SSD you have cloned with your HDD dock or have a blank SSD.
If you cloned your disk drive, you're done, just put everything back together and start using your machine!
If you have a blank SSD, we need to create a bootable Windows 10 USB and install windows. Tutorial coming soon.