Upgrading Hard Drives

Upgrading Hard Drives: How and Why?

There are many reasons to upgrade your computers hard drive, for instance, you may experience long waits when turning on your computer, or simply not have enough free disk space for your computer to run effectively. How do you know which hard drive will be faster than your old hard drive? There are many different hard drives on the market today making it more and more difficult to determine which one will actually make your computer faster. Knowing a little more about hard drive types and speeds will make choosing an upgrade more easy.

A Power Supply's 4pin Molex is used to power IDE Hard Drives
A Power Supply's 4pin Molex is used to power IDE Hard Drives

IDE Hard Drives

One type of hard drives is an IDE Drive. This term refers to the way in which the hard drive connects to the motherboard and power supply. You can easily verify which type of hard rive you are currently using and which ones you are able to upgrade to by removing the computer case door and locating your hard drive. An IDE hard drive connects to the power supply via a 4pin molar connection. (Shown Right) For older model motherboards where no SATA interface is available you can purchase an adapter.  The adapter plugs into the motherboard's IDE interface to allow the use of faster SATA drives.


SATA Hard Drives

Another newer type hard drive connects to the motherboard via a serial ATA connection and to the power supply via a special SATA power connector.(Shown Right) This newer way of connecting hard drives typically makes a hard drive faster and thus is more desirable. If your computer isnt currently using a SATA connection, you could inspect your motherboard to see if this type of serial ATA connection is available. (Shown Below) If your motherboard will allow a SATA hard drive next you should inspect your power supply for SATA power connectors.  If no SATA cable is available on the power supply you may purchase an adapter that will connect your 4pin molex to your SATA drive.

thanks to http://pc-level.com/2009/05/ho-to-install-a-hard-drive/  for the photo
thanks to http://pc-level.com/2009/05/ho-to-install-a-hard-drive/ for the photo

Windows Experience Rating and Your Hard Drive

Windows Vista and Windows7 both come with the Windows Experience Index feature. This rating tells a little more about your computers hardware speeds and capabilities. In the case of hard drives the Windows Experience Index measures a computers primary disk data transfer rate. The key term in this is primary hard disk. Your primary hard drive is the drive that contains your Windows Operating system. You want the primary hard drive to be the fastest hard drive on your computer.

Hard Drives by the Gigabyte

One major factor in the decision to purchase an upgraded hard drive is the amount of storage space the drive offers. Frequent crashes, slow boot speeds, and unavailable space are all signs that you need a hard drive with more gigabytes. If you save image, video, or backups to your primary hard disk you should make sure that it has plenty of space. Another good idea is to keep a secondary disk with more space where you can save these items.  While hard drives with larger storage can speed up system performance this type of upgrade does not always win higher ratings in the Windows Experience Index.  For example,  a 300gb 7200RPM hard drive  upgraded to a 1TB 7200RPM offers no increased Windows Experience Rating.

Hard Drives by the RPMs

Rpm or revolutions per minute is one way of finding a hard drives speed. The faster the disk spins the quicker information on it can be accessed. Typical rpm rates are 5400, 7200, 10,000, although some older disks may be slower. The label on the side of the hard drive should list the drives speed. Finding a hard drive that has a faster RPM is a great way to increase your Windows Experience Rating.

Hard Drive by Cache Size

Hard drives often contain what is referred to as a cache. This is a small area on the hard drive where information that is used regularly may be written for faster access. The size of the cache on the hard drive depends on the amount of regularly used data stored and the size of the disk. For larger disks a larger cache is more typical although some power users may have a small hard drive with a larger cache. The larger cache could hold temporary copies of large files being used by software programs where the original copy is stored on a larger storage facility such as a network drive. Some examples, 16mb cache on 150-500gb hard drive would be typical while a 32mb cache would be more likely found on a HDD that is 1-2 TB. 

Is a Solid State Hard Drive Better?

Solid State Drives are really the way of the future. Solid State drives possess faster spin-up times, Random access times than standard magnetic drives. Plus an SSD is quieter, more mechanically reliable, they require less power and never need defragmenting. However, the newer technologies are always more expensive and risky. As these disks are not standard yet, they are rendered useless with anything but the Windows7 and Windows 8 OS. These Solid State Drives are great for computers with slow boot times. Even a small SSD drive that contains all Operating system files can speed up PC boot time. Just insert the SSD install your OS and then install programs pictures and all other media to your HDD.

Moving Windows to a New Hard Drive

There are a few programs on the market that make moving your Windows Operating System and user information easy. A program like Acronis True Image can take a "snapshot" of your hard drive and save it to a new hard drive, or clone your hard drive.  Acronis can also help you to change your boot sequence if not you will need to set up your new drive as the primary drive in your BIOS.

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Comments 3 comments

Stigma31 profile image

Stigma31 5 years ago from Kingston, ON

You forgot about 15,000 rpm hard drives. Solid state is still the way to go for your OS though. Voting up!


pearlgearl profile image

pearlgearl 5 years ago Author

Yeah but typical is 7200, so I listed it and a few other typical RPM rates. There are also slower drives, but who would want nowadays? As far as keeping SSD for your operating system no doubt the best!


pearlgearl profile image

pearlgearl 4 years ago Author

I bought my husband an ssd to speed up his boot times. He loves it. Got the OCZ, might invest in them more if it works out well.

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