It’s not news to anyone: SSDs are faster than hard drives and therefore can improve a computer’s performance. But, what if the laptop came with an HD? It’s ok: it is possible to make the exchange. If your machine already has an SSD, you might be able to add a second drive to it. Find out how in the next few lines.
How to Install an SSD in a Laptop
1. See if the Laptop supports SATA or M.2 SSD
The first thing you need to know is whether your laptop supports SATA or M.2 SSDs. If your intention is to change an HD for an SSD, you already have the answer: current HDs are based on SATA, so you need to buy an SSD with this interface to put in the machine.
Also, pay attention to the dimensions of the unit. Laptops typically support 2.5-inch SATA HDDs or SSDs, but there may be variations.
The same caution exists with regard to M.2 units. Most type SSDs are category 2280 (22 x 80 mm), but some laptops may require smaller models, type 2230 or 2242 for example.
At this point, it is worth clarifying that, when referring to SATA and M.2 in this text, we are talking about physical formats.
It is worth clarifying this point because a drive in M.2 format (thin and rectangular) can be based on SATA technology or the NVMe protocol.
However, on the market, it is easy to find SSDs with a physical “box” format (like the one in the photo above), often in the aforementioned 2.5-inch size. Typically, these SSDs are SATA-based. For this reason, we often call drives in this standard “SATA SSDs”.
Even if it comes with an HD (ie with a SATA connector), your laptop may also support M.2, as shown in the following image. If that’s the case and if your budget allows, prefer an SSD of the type that supports NVMe. They are often faster than SATA SSDs.
To be sure which type of SSD your laptop supports, consult the product manual or the help area on the manufacturer’s website. If you are unable to obtain the information in these ways, it is worth contacting the company’s support. Take the opportunity to check if installing an SSD will invalidate the warranty.
See more on how to know which SSD is compatible with your laptop.
2. Before proceeding, back up
Are you sure which SSD to install? Excellent! But before proceeding, back up (copy) the data stored on the drive to be replaced. You can use a flash drive, an external hard drive or a service like Google Drive for this.
This guidance is worthwhile even if you are installing an additional SSD in the laptop, keeping the previous one. The backup will ensure that you don’t lose your data if something goes wrong during the procedure.
3. Open the laptop or remove the HD/SSD cover
Make sure the laptop is turned off and unplugged. It is? Okay, let’s start the procedure.
Some laptops, especially large models, have covers on the bottom that allow you to replace or add a storage drive.
Here, the procedure is usually easy. Some covers can be removed with the release of a latch. Others need to be unscrewed. Use an appropriate key for this.
Most laptops don’t have a slot for swapping or installing SSDs. Under these circumstances, you need to remove the laptop’s bottom cover. Again, use a wrench appropriate for the type of screw holding the component.
When unscrewing, be careful not to strip the screws. Do the procedure calmly and, preferably, in a well-lit place. It is a good idea to place the laptop on a towel or rubber surface to avoid scratching or damage to the laptop case during the procedure.
4. Go to previous unit
If the laptop has a bottom cover that gives direct access to the HD/SSD compartment, the drive that came from the factory will be immediately visible, as shown in the image above. It is quite likely that she is screwed. Carefully remove these screws and keep them.
If you are accessing a vacant HD/SSD slot, obviously there will be no drive there. But you may find a cover protecting the connector. If so, remove it, always slowly. Only go to the next step when you are sure that nothing is blocking the space.
Now, if you had to remove the entire bottom cover of the laptop, double care. On some models, the SATA or M.2 slots are easily accessible once the cover is removed. In others, the HD/SSD is housed behind other components or protections.
So, take a close look inside the laptop. Check where the HD/SSD slots are and remove only the items that block access to them. Do this slowly, being careful not to break cables or damage components.
So you don’t get lost when putting everything in place, a tip is to take a photo that shows where the removed components were.
5. Remove previous drive or slot protection
Unscrewing the previously installed hard drive is the first step of two. Now, you must remove the drive. This usually requires moving the device forward to undock it and then lift it up.
Take care to do this slowly and without pushing too hard. Otherwise, the connector may be damaged. If you notice that the unit does not move, check that there is not a remaining screw or any lock that prevents it from being removed.
If the bay is empty—indicating that you’re adding a second SSD to the laptop—just remove the space or connector protection, if that item exists.
6. Insert the SSD into the bay
Now comes the long-awaited moment of installing the SSD on the laptop. Before performing this step, make sure there are no stickers or guards affixed to the unit.
Slowly place the SSD into the bay and, before attaching it, make sure the connectors are positioned correctly (ie, that they fit together). In some laptops, it may be necessary to fit the unit in a kind of adapter, as is the case in the example in the photo.
Everything properly fitted? Now, screw the SSD to the laptop. Do not skip this step. Fastening reduces the risk of movement damage.
7. With SSD M.2 it’s easier
M.2 SSDs are much more compact than SATA models. The connector is also simpler. Therefore, installing such a template tends to be easier.
As a reminder, pay attention to the size of M.2 SSD supported by the laptop. The following image shows a laptop with SSD M.2 2230, a very small version. But the device also supports larger M.2 SSDs (2242 and 2280).
8. Check if the SSD is recognized
The SSD has been installed, but still do not close the laptop or place the covers on it. First, turn it over carefully, if possible. Now, turn on the machine and enter the BIOS setup to verify that the drive is recognized.
To do this, you may have to press F1, F2, F3, F10, Esc or another key as soon as you turn on the laptop (varies by laptop brand and model).
If everything is ok, the SSD will be listed in the storage drives area of the setup. The image below shows that the SSD has been recognized (although the type field indicates that it is an HD, it is really the newly installed SSD).
Finally, just close the laptop and install the operating system. Learn how to do a clean install of Windows 11, if that’s your intention. If you prefer Linux, a suggestion is to install Ubuntu.
Now, if you have added an SSD to the laptop to complement the previous drive, in Windows (assuming you use that system), you may have to right-click on it and choose the “Format” option. With this procedure, the unit will be able to store data.