PC Buyer Beware!

How I upgraded a seven-year-old laptop’s hard disk drive

I have an MSI M662 laptop that is 7 years old and still going strong running a dual-boot Windows XP/Windows 7 system. It came with a 100GB hard drive that was split evenly between XP and Win 7. Both versions of Windows were becoming a bit cramped and the hard drive was getting old, so I decided that I would upgrade it to an SSD or another hard drive.

I used the SSD upgrade adviser on crucial.com to find out if the laptop could take an SSD, but it said no, which probably means that the BIOS wasn’t up to the upgrade and there isn’t an update for the BIOS that would make it SSD-compatible. That meant that I had to ugrade to another SATA hard drive.

Fortunately, the laptop didn’t have an old-technology PATA IDE hard drive, which would have required an IDE upgrade, which are still available very cheaply new but under a capacity of 100GB.

I chose a 2.5-inch SATA Hitachi 500GB drive that cost only £32 that had plenty of good purchaser reviews on amazon.co.uk.

Taking the old drive out was just a matter of opening a panel on the bottom of the laptop, removing a long piece of padding at the back of the drive that made the space available to slip the drive away from its connection and out. Installing the new drive was that process in reverse. This process differs from laptop to laptop and can be more involved, but you should be able to discover how to do it by looking at the machine’s user or service manual that its manufacturer makes available from its website. Always remember never to force anything. There are many YouTube videos on upgrading laptop drives, so try looking for one that applies to your make and model of laptop.

Next, I booted the laptop with a boot disc created with the free version of Macrium Reflect, a very good backup and system imaging tool. This allowed the restoration of a full system image that I had saved to an external hard drive. Note that the laptop’s BIOS has to have the CD/DVD drive set as the first boot device in order to be able to boot from a disc, otherwise it just boots from the first boot device, which is usually the hard drive or SSD.

When a system image is restored, it recreates the partition sizes that were on the old drive, so you need to use a partition manager to resize the partitions. Disk Management in Windows Vista and Win7 and Win8.1 cannot do this properly. I expanded the WinXP C: drive to 200GB and the Win7 F: drive to 200GB and left the rest unallocated space that could be reallocated at any time. I used the excellent free EaseUS Partition Master, which allows the user to reallocate space to any partition, including the C: drive just by using mouse-driven sliders. The process took a minute or so and then about 15 minutes to apply. A reboot wasn’t even required. You have to click the Apply button to start the disk-space reallocations. The following YouTube video shows you how to use the free EaseUS Partition Master to expand the restored system image on to the new drive:

When I had everything running to my satisfaction, I created a new complete system image using the free version of Macrium Reflect, saving it to my external hard disk drive.

I always keep my external drive disconnected from my home network’s computers so that nothing that would destroy them, such as a lightening strike or electricity spike, would do likewise to it.