How to Replace a Laptop Hard Drive and Reinstall the Operating System

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How to Replace Laptop Hard Drive and Reinstall Operating System

You may need to replace your hard drive if you find that your laptop runs slow. You’ve used up all the available space in your current drive. Or if your laptop is experiencing any other signs of hard drive failure. In which case, it’s best to replace the hard drive before you lose all your information, including your operating system. Don’t forget that last part. It can be an involved repair. But doing it yourself can save a lot of money. Otherwise, your laptop won’t work. In this post, we’ll show you the basic steps for how to replace a laptop hard drive and reinstall the operating system.

Steps for Replacing Your Laptop Hard Drive

1.     Backup Your Data

The most important thing to do before replacing the hard drive in your laptop is to back up everything you want to keep, including:

  • Programs
  • Documents
  • Photo and video files
  • Music files and playlists
  • Games and downloadable content (DLC)

You can back up your laptop either by using a good free backup software or by using the cloud. Take the time to review the programs and files you want to keep. Then organize data files for reinstallation on your new drive.

Now that everything you want to keep is all backed up, let’s move onto replacing the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system.

2.     Create a Recovery Disk or USB Drive

To reinstall your operating system on your new hard drive, you’ll need to create a recovery disk or recovery USB flash drive. You’ll be able to use it to boot up the new, blank drive after it’s installed.

You can create one by going to the Windows website to download the ISO file based on your version of Windows. Then download it to your USB drive to create a bootable drive from the ISO.

NOTE: Be sure there’s enough free space on your USB before starting this process. And be sure that it’s properly formatted according to Windows directions.

3.     Remove the Old Hard Drive

Now that all the prep work is complete, it’s time to get our hands dirty by removing the old disk and replacing it with the new one.

WARNING: Before you start, make sure your laptop is turned off. In fact, go ahead and unplug it from the power outlet if it’s not already. You’ll want to use an anti-static mat and wristband before touching any of the internals of your laptop. This tool grounds both the laptop and you, this way you don’t transfer any built-up static electricity to the laptop’s delicate internals and possibly short them out. And it keeps you from getting a nasty electric shock, too.

First, open the bottom of your laptop. This process will vary by manufacturer. For instance, some laptops will have a latch that makes accessing internal parts easy. If not, most can be accessed with the turn of a few screws.

Second, once you and the laptop are safely grounded, locate the hard drive and remove the power cables and data connectors from the drive.

To accomplish this, refer to the documentation for installing the new hard drive and work backward to disconnect the old drive from the power and data connectors. You can also do this by looking for how to get to the specific brand of your laptop’s internals online.

Third, look for a small set of screws securing the drive onto the laptop. Unscrew them and the hard drive should easily slide out from the laptop’s bay.

NOTE: Once again, these operations may be different depending on the manufacturer. But you can easily find the manual or a detailed guide for your laptop to walk you through this online.

4.     Install the New Hard Drive

Now it’s time to install the new drive. All you need to do is reverse the steps for removing the old drive. plug in the power connectors according to the new drive’s instructions. Then follow up with the data connection cords and power cables. Screw in the new drive and close the case.

Depending on how short the connectors are, you may have to slide the drive into the bay first and then connect them. Then, replace the screws to hold the drive into place. Cover the bottom of the laptop or re-latch the access panel. And now it’s time to reinstall the operating system on your new drive.

5.     Reinstalling Your Operating System

Phew. Well, that’s it for the physical side of the hard drive installation. Now what? Before you can use your new hard drive for the first time, it may need to be properly format and partitioned. Your operating system will determine the exact steps you need to follow.

After replacing the hard drive, now it’s time to install the Windows operating system by following the steps below:

First, power on your laptop. Then plug in the USB drive or CD/DVD disk you created into your laptop and press the key that helps you enter into the BIOS menu. Here’s a common way to enter into BIOS.

Second, change the boot order so that you can run the laptop from the USB recovery disk you created.

Third, follow the prompts for selecting the language, time, currency format and keyboard.

Fourth, click Install Now in the new window.

Fifth, the Windows Setup tool may ask you to enter Windows 10’s product key. Just click I don’t have a product key and Windows will be automatically activated later.

Sixth, Setup will now prompt you to choose an edition of Window for which you have a license. Next, accept the license terms.  

Seventh, click Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) to continue.

Eighth, choose the unallocated space (if your new hard drive is not partitioned and shows unallocated space) and click NEXT.

Finally, the Setup Tool will start installing the Windows operating system – this may take a few minutes. Once the installation is complete, follow the on-screen wizards to configure Windows.

6.     Restore Your Backed Up Data

And now that your new hard drive and operating system are up and running. It’s time to reinstall all your old documents and files.

To do this, connect the target disk with all your backed up data to your laptop. All there’s left to do in this step is choose the files you want restored on your new hard drive and your good to go. Don’t forget to update your version of Windows, install the latest drivers, adjust privacy settings, etc.

Cloning Your Hard Drive

A fresh install of Windows avoids any problems of data corruption or other software related issues that might have been hidden within your old hard drive.

But another option for transferring your data to a new drive without reinstalling Windows is to “clone” your old drive. You can transfer all your data, including Windows files, system settings, applications, registry, documents and more from the old drive to the new one.

For this to work, you’ll have to ensure that the drive issues you’re experiencing aren’t the result of a software glitch or corrupted files. You can easily connect the old drive to the new drive and use cloning software to transfer an exact copy of your data, operating system and files onto the new drive.

The only problem with this method is that it will also duplicate unnecessary files that accumulate on a drive over time. You’ll want to research cloning software to find the best reputable option for your situation. But if the reason for your hard drive failure is the result of bad files, go ahead and get a brand-new drive.

What to Be Aware of When Installing a New Hard Drive

  • If you can follow directions and aren’t intimidated by basic mechanical tasks, upgrading your hard drive isn’t that difficult. And the amount of money you could save can be astronomical.
  • That said, researching your specific hard drive and laptop can take time, especially if you’ve never worked on your device like this before. Be patient. The research is necessary to ensure a smooth installation process.
  • We can’t over-emphasize this: Before you start working on any laptop internals, make sure that there is no power going to the machine. And that you and the laptop are grounded to prevent data loss and electrical injury to your or the system.
  • If you don’t know, don’t wing it. Incorrect installation of hardware parts including the hard drive can result in damage to stored data as well as laptop components.

Alternatives to Replacing the Hard Drive

If you suspect that your hard drive is failing (or has already failed). Then replacing it with a new one makes sense. But if your hard drive just ran out of space, there are better alternative to replacing it you can try first.

Take out the garbage

If Windows reports Low Disk Space, you can use a free disk space analyzer tool to find out where all the biggest files are located so you can delete or remove the ones that make sense to eliminate.

Add a drive

Another option to take care of a pesky low disk space problems is to add a hard drive to your laptop. This is increasingly challenging given the limited room in the latest laptops. In this case, consider using an external hard drive.

You can also store your large and rarely used files onto a cloud storage service. It’s like using a second hard drive. Except when physical space is a real issue, remote storage keeps things safe from physical damage.