How to install an SSD
Give your PC or laptop a performance kick
When installed on a solid-state drive, Windows not only boots and shuts down quicker but applications load faster and the computer feels more responsive. Plus, since prices have fallen considerably in recent years, an SSD is much more affordable.
If you’re still not convinced it’s worth the hassle, we took an Alienware X51 PC that’s a few years old and well used and ran various tests before and after installing a 128GB Integral V Series SSD, which costs just £39.99 from Amazon. As you can see in our table, you can expect your PC to boot up significantly quicker, in our case more than twice as fast. You’ll also programs and games load quick (look at the difference starting Overwatch), files move faster and generally more responsive performance.
Before you begin
Almost every PC case has internal bays for adding extra hard disks, which are 3.5in wide. SSDs tend to be 2.5in wide though, so you may need a mounting bracket to fit one in your computer. SSDs have Serial ATA (SATA) data connectors, of which there are three versions (1, 2 or 3), that can transfer data at 1.5-, 3- or 6Gb/s, respectively.
It doesn’t matter if your computer doesn’t support SATA 3. SSDs are backwards compatible, and sequential transfer speed isn’t the only reason for their improved performance. More important is their much-reduced latency over conventional hard disks, as it takes far less time to access data from an SSD’s NAND flash memory than for a hard disk’s mechanical arm to move into position. There are a few disadvantages to be aware of, though. SSDs cost more per GB of storage than conventional hard disks. Plus, their capacities top out at around 512GB, which is well short of the current 4TB maximum for hard disks. It makes sense to keep Windows and your apps on the SSD, which will benefit from the improved loading times, and large media collections on a separate hard disk. We’ll also explain how to configure the BIOS and Windows.
For the rest of this tutorial, we’re using a desktop PC with an Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard and a Fractal Design Define R3 case, which has internal space for SSDs, but our advice applies to any desktop computer. You can install a fresh copy of Windows or transfer your current operating system. There are plenty of programs for doing this job, such as Acronis True Image HD.
How to install an SSD in your PC START
Unscrew and remove the sides of your computer’s case. Some have latches holding the sides in place, which must be pushed open. Make sure you have clear access to the motherboard’s SATA ports and hard disk bays.
Place the SSD into its mounting bracket or a removable bay, line it up with the holes underneath, then screw it in. You can buy a 3.5- to 2.5in adaptor bracket for a few pounds or simply use a single hole in a 3.5in bay in your PC.
Connect the L-shaped end of a SATA cable to the SSD, and the other end to a spare SATA port (SATA 6Gb/s ports are blue). Connect a SATA power cable to the SSD. For a fresh Windows installation, disconnect any other hard disks inside your PC.
Insert a USB drive or DVD with Windows 10 and turn on the PC. Press F12 to see the boot menu and select the USB or DVD. Follow the instructions to install the operating system on the SSD. Once the installation is complete, you can put other hard drives back in the PC.
Obviously, all your old files and Windows installation will still be on your old disk. You can copy your documents, videos, music and pictures across to their respective folders on the SSD, but it’s best to leave most of your files on the hard disk to avoid using up the limited space on your SSD.
There are numerous ways to tell your new Windows installation that your documents and other files are on a different hard disk. With Microsoft’s OS, the most elegant method is to use its libraries feature. Create a folder on your hard disk: for example, e:/docs. Right-click the folder in Explorer, scroll down to the Include in library option, then choose the Documents library from the list. Next, copy any documents from the My Documents folder to the new one. You can do the same for movies, music and pictures, keeping your files close at hand without them residing on the SSD.
When it comes to software, it makes sense to install those programs you use most often on the SSD, so that they benefit from its speed. When space becomes too tight, or you don’t need the extra speed, install new applications on your old hard disk by specifying where to store the files during the installation process. If you leave the settings at their defaults, programs will always be installed to the same drive as Windows.