Upgrading to SSD: Caveats
Now that we've shared the benefits of SSD upgrades, you need to know about the caveats as well.
- Limited Capacity: First and foremost, and as we mentioned earlier, SSDs give you only a small fraction of the storage of a conventional hard drive. While hard drive capacity measures in terabytes (TB), you'll find SSDs mainly available in gigabyte (GB) capacities. Here's a good rule of thumb: for a given cost you can expect an SSD will give you between 1/8th and 1/12th the capacity of a hard drive. So for example, $80 will typically buy a 2 TB conventional hard drive but only about a 250 GB SSD.
If that sounds like a huge difference in capacity, it is. But it's probably not a meaningful one in a business environment where you most likely store the majority of your data on a server or even in the cloud. Indeed, there's a good chance most of your PC hard drives contain so much empty and unneeded space that replacing them with smaller SSDs will not be a problem.
- Not Always a Performance Panacea: While an SSD upgrade will provide a meaningful speed boost for most day-to-day work in general business applications, it won't be a big help for specialized, processor-intensive applications such as video encoding, 3D rendering, or financial/scientific modeling. Those tasks will benefit much more from a new PC (and hence a more modern CPU) than an SSD upgrade on an existing PC.
- Potentially Tricky Internal Access to PC: Many, if not most, business-class laptop and desktop PCs make access to the internal hard drive easy enough that even a layperson should be able to upgrade to an SSD in just a few minutes (and an IT person will be able to do it in her sleep). On many desktops you can get at the hard disk without tools, and on laptops it's often accessible behind a few screws and an underside panel.
But some PCs make physical access to the hard disk a pain in the butt, and in these cases the extra time needed may make an SSD upgrade impractical or not cost-effective. Case in point: many thin-and-light laptops require partial disassembly to reach the hard disk.
How to Upgrade to SSD
Nearly a dozen vendors sell SSDs, and although we'd like to tell you that all SSDs are created equal, you'll find differences between models and manufacturers, just like with hard drives. Some SSDs are faster than others due to the type of memory chips they use or other technical characteristics, but you can rest assured that any SSD you buy will be considerably faster than the hard drive it replaces.
The easiest way to upgrade to SSD is to purchase the drive as part of an SSD upgrade kit, which includes disk imaging software to copy the contents of your existing hard drive to the SSD, as well as a USB dongle or enclosure to externally connect the SSD for imaging prior to opening up the PC for the physical swap.
Another option is to buy a stand-alone SSD and use free, open source Clonezilla software to do the imaging. This method takes longer because you have to first use Clonezilla to image the existing hard drive, then install the SSD in the PC, and then re-run Clonezilla to copy the image to the SSD. Using Clonezilla can be intimidating if you're not technically inclined, but this tutorial does a good job of outlining the process step-by-step.
Be aware, however that Clonezilla expects your target disk (the SSD) to be of equal or larger size than the source disk, so won't work to image, say, a 1 TB hard disk to a 500 GB SSD (at least not without diverging from the default settings), even if the actual amount of data on the 1 TB hard disk is less than 500 GB.
Whether or not you use an upgrade kit, if you're doing the SSD upgrade on a desktop, be sure you get a 2.5-inch-to-3.5-inch bracket adapter—the adapter lets you mount the 2.5-inch SSD in the hard drive's larger 3.5-inch bay. Some SSD upgrade kits include this adapter, but you can buy them separately for less than $10.
If the hard disk-to-SSD imaging process goes smoothly, and you connect the SSD properly (remember to connect both the SATA power and data cables—the large and small connectors, respectively), Windows should start up normally when you turn on the PC. It will identify a new storage device and prompt you to restart (you won't need to provide any drivers).
After you restart the PC, you're done. Your SSD-equipped PC will look and work exactly like it did pre-upgrade—only faster.
Joseph Moran is a technology writer and IT consultant specializing in services for consumers and small businesses. He's written extensively for numerous print and online publications, and is the author of File Management Made Simple, Windows Edition from Apress.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|