When I turn off My Laptop hard drive for an SSD, how do I transfer data?

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Photo: por_suwat

Replacing an old mechanical drive with a super fast solid-state drive is one of the best upgrades to a desktop or a laptop. Although your 8-year-old HP will not turn into a new M1 Mac, the difference will certainly be felt and appreciated (in particular, if you pair it with some extra RAM, but let’s not get too wild).

Lifehacker reader Len, however, is faced with a dilemma. He wants to know how to get all his data to the new hotness of his solid-state drive from the old mechanical drive of his laptop. He says: He writes:

“I purchased my old Toshiba laptop for a SATA 6Gbps SSD 500GB. How can the data from the old drive be best transmitted??”

A storage upgrade is a good time to begin again
Len, maybe you don’t like my response, but I think it’s the best: Switching your hard drive gives you a great excuse for installing a new version of your operating system—which I will suppose is Windows 10.


Of course, the entire mechanical disks can be easily cloned to your new SSD, but a little more hardware is needed, and you will probably forget it once in a while.

Replacing the hard drive of your laptop usually means removing and introducing a new primary hard drive (as I can’t think of many laptops with second drive space). That’s slightly different from the typical desktop computer where the new SSD can be installed, connected and run both drives at once. You would then clone and delete the old one, and hook up the new one with the original SATA connection, on your new drive. In this instance, Generally, with your new drive, your system should boot fine, and you won’t miss a beat.

It gets a bit more tricky with a laptop. To connect to your SSD, you’ll need a cheap external box or USB-to-SATA adapter, so you can connect your SSD to the USB port of your laptop. Then, as before, you will run a disk clone. This could take some time depending on the amount of data to transfer and the USB speeds you work with.

Instead, I suggest that you take time to check your laptop data. What do you need? What do you need? What could you do later, if and when do you need it, or download it further? You may not need them to eat space on your laptop if you are saving a bunch of iTunes videos on your system, or if you have a ton of music files, which you seldom hear.

Transferring your data to cloud storage where possible so that it is backed up elsewhere and can be accessed only if necessary. Software and Apps? Make a list, save or mentally record any specific configuration you’re interested in and don’t worry about it.

As a simple workstation, I try to use my laptop. I try to edit it in the cloud whenever possible when I work on anything. When I’m done with it, it usually comes back to my cloud, but if needed it will also be the recycling bin.

I’ve got a PC desktop that I’m doing the same. The photos and documents go to the cloud; in general, the PC itself is the intermediary between raw and finished materials. (The Dyson Sphere Program I played lately was too much.) Whenever possible, I will stream my media instead of saving them on my hard drive for years or transfer them to a box on a NAS that is capable of copying them back to my desktop or wherever I want them to be.

Backups are a cinch that works like that. I’m no longer cloning my hard drive. I copy to another hard drive on my whole Windows user folder (to preserve data like my wallpapers and my overflowing Downloads folder). I would just reinstall Windows 10 from scratch if I had a paralyzation issue with Windows, or even a total hard drive meltdown. It takes less than an hour to set up, with the apps that I use every day and my absurdly large Steam Library re-installed.

This is my suggestion: copy your critical cloud data, swap your drives and reinstall Windows. You will have a bloat-free operating system that will then be able to complete the data you need.

Nevertheless, you must take the route that I mentioned above if you have too much data with which you simply cannot part. A spring that supports 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives for the drive shell—perhaps a docking station. Connect an SSD, clone the drive of your laptop to your SSD, and exchange the drives. Keep on the old mechanical hard drive now. You can not only backup all your files up to date, but also put them in the enclosure or docking station, and then use them as a secondary backup source.

You did not mention your exact model to replace your laptop’s hard disk with an SSD. Therefore I can’t give any particular instructions. Generally, to access your hard drive, you must remove a panel or the whole back of your computer. Here is a good first about the implications:

I suggest investing in this sort of thing in a precision screwdriver. But if your regular ol’ screwdriver is good enough, you may not need it. Be sure to ground before you touch the inner laptop, and do your best to prevent dropping or misplacing any of the small screws you’ve been dealing with (so that you do not fry anything on static electricity). It should not otherwise be a very hard upgrade.