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Chapter 3. Troubleshooting Storage Devices > Upgrading a Portable Hard Disk

Upgrading a Portable Hard Disk

If you use a laptop or notebook computer, the method used for upgrading to a larger hard disk is quite a bit different from the one used for upgrading a desktop computer. Here's why:

  • Most portable computers have only one internal connector for a hard disk.

  • Portable computers use 2.5-inch ATA/IDE hard disks with integrated 44-pin power/data connectors rather than 3.5-inch ATA/IDE hard disks with separate data and power connectors.

  • To transfer data from your existing hard disk to a new hard disk, you must use the USB port or PC Card slot to connect your new hard disk, unless you want to connect both old and new hard disks to a desktop computer with desktop ATA/IDE to laptop ATA/IDE adapters.

  • You also will need a hard disk preparation and copy utility designed for portable hard disk upgrades.

No matter how large the hard disk in your portable computer, sooner or later you might want to replace it. When you do so, consider the following issues:

  • Size— You should purchase a hard disk that's at least three times larger than your current drive if possible. For example, if your system has a 20GB hard disk, upgrade to a 60GB or larger drive. If your system has a 30GB hard disk, upgrade to a 100GB or larger drive.

  • Speed— Until recently, most laptop hard disks had relatively low 4200RPM spin rates. Newer drives spin at 5400RPM or 7200RPM, enabling faster data access and transfer rates.

  • Onboard cache— Most portable hard disks have 2MB cache, but some high-performance models feature 8MB cache, helping to improve data transfer rates.

  • BIOS compatibility— As long as the new hard disk is under 130GB, your system should be able to use it without needing a system BIOS upgrade. However, to make sure you buy a hard disk that is not too large for your portable computer, you can check the buying guides listed in the sidebar “Checking Portable Hard Disk Compatibility.”

You can purchase a replacement hard disk as a bare drive or as part of an installation kit. Installation kits are available from various vendors, including Apricorn, CMS Products, and SimpleTech among others.

Checking Portable Hard Disk Compatibility

Before you plunk down good money for a bigger laptop hard disk, make sure your system can handle a bigger hard disk. Here are some websites where you can check compatibility and get help with your upgrade:

Using EZ Upgrade Universal and EZ Gig II

Figure 3.25 shows the contents of Apricorn's EZ Upgrade Universal hard disk upgrade kit and a Toshiba 80GB hard disk (purchased separately). Although some vendors offer data transfer kits that plug into the PC Card or CardBus slot on a laptop computer or connect to a bare drive, we prefer this type of upgrade kit because it can convert the drive you replace into an external hard disk after the upgrade process is complete.

Figure 3.25. The Apricorn EZ Upgrade Universal hard disk upgrade kit and typical 2.5-inch portable hard disk.

The EZ Gig II program shown in Figure 3.25 is used to do the following:

  • Partition the new hard disk.

  • Prepare the partition(s) on the new hard disk.

  • Copy the contents of the old hard disk partition(s) to the new hard disk partition(s).

Before these processes can take place, you need to follow these steps:

Back up important information on your existing system (use your CD-RW or rewritable DVD drive or a network connection to copy each user's My Documents folder).

Install the EZ Gig II software.

Connect the new drive to your system using the upgrade kit.

Connecting the New Hard Disk to Your Portable Computer

The enclosure shown in Figure 3.25 contains a mounting tray for the hard disk. The mounting tray (see Figure 3.26) features a 44-pin power/data connector. Slide the new hard disk into place until the 44-pin hard disk interface (refer to Figure 3.1) plugs into the connector.

Figure 3.26. Installing the new hard disk into the hard disk enclosure's mounting tray for preparation and copying.

It is not necessary to use the screws provided in the mounting kit (refer to Figure 3.25) to secure the new hard disk. This is only a temporary installation.

After the new hard disk is inserted into the mounting tray (refer to Figure 3.26), connect it to the computer using the USB cable supplied. Connect the AC adapter to the power connector on the rear of the tray, and select DC as the power source (see Figure 3.27).

Figure 3.27. Connecting the new hard disk to power and USB cables.

If you use a USB-based data transfer solution, the hard disk should be detected by Windows as soon as it is connected; you can verify this by using Device Manager. Note that if you use a PC Card or CardBus-based data transfer kit, the card must be detected and have its drivers installed before the hard disk can be detected. After the hard disk is detected and drivers have been installed for the hard disk and the data transfer device (if necessary), you can prepare the new hard disk using the software supplied with your data transfer program.

Preparing the New Hard Disk with EZ Gig II

Portable hard disk data transfer kits usually include drive installation software that can prepare the new hard disk for use and copy the contents of the old hard disk to it. Apricorn's EZ Upgrade Universal kit includes EZ Gig II software, which can also be used as an image backup and disaster recovery program. If you want to use it exclusively for drive preparation and data transfer, you can boot from the CD. However, if you have problems using it as a bootable CD or want to use its image backup features, you can install it and run it from within Windows. From the main menu (see Figure 3.28), select Disk Clone to start the disk preparation and copying process.

Figure 3.28. Starting Apricorn EZ Gig II's Disk Clone Wizard.

The Disk Clone Wizard analyzes the partitions on your existing hard disk and copies them to the new hard disk connected via USB or PC Card interfaces. Because the new hard disk is usually larger than the original drive it is replacing, you have the option to run the program in Automatic mode, which partitions the new hard disk in the same proportions as the original drive, or Expert mode, which enables you to adjust the size(s) of partition(s) on the new drive.

If your existing hard disk has only one drive letter (C:) and you want to use only one drive letter on the new hard disk, choose Automatic. However, if you want to create an additional drive letter on the new hard disk for your data files, or have two or more drive letters on your existing hard disk, you should choose Expert.

Moving My Documents to a New Drive Letter the Microsoft Way

By default, Windows XP uses the alias “My Documents” to refer to a folder called \Documents and Settings\user name\My Documents on the system drive (usually C:). You can move this folder to a different folder or a different drive after you create a new drive letter on your new hard disk. After your new hard disk is up and running, go to http://support.microsoft.com/?id=310147 to read “How to Change the Default Location of the My Documents Folder.”

In the example shown in Figure 3.29, the original notebook hard disk had a drive letter used by Windows XP Home Edition (C:), a drive letter used for data (D:), and a drive letter used for Windows XP Professional (F:). We wanted to increase the data storage drive (D:) to occupy more than half of the new hard disk while also increasing the sizes of the C: and F: drives. The Disk Clone Wizard's manual re-layout option enabled us to fine-tune the sizes of the new hard disk's drive letters until we were satisfied (see Figure 3.29).

Figure 3.29. Using Disk Clone Wizard to customize the layout of the new hard disk.

At the end of the layout process, some drive partition and copying programs list the operations they will perform. You can confirm the operations or go back and make changes. In the example shown in Figure 3.30, click Proceed to make the changes to the new hard disk (the original hard disk will not be changed). Click Reboot when prompted to start or continue the process.

Figure 3.30. Preparing to confirm disk copy/partition creation operations on the new hard disk.

After the disk partitioning and copying program has finished, disconnect the USB cable connected to the new hard disk from the USB port on your computer.

Installing the New Hard Disk in Your Portable Computer

To replace the existing hard disk with the new hard disk, follow this procedure:

Shut down your portable computer and unplug it.

Remove the existing hard disk from the computer. Depending on the computer, the hard disk might be accessible from the bottom of the computer, the side of the computer, or might require you to remove the keyboard. See the specific installation instructions provided by the hard disk or data transfer vendor for your computer.

Remove the existing hard disk from its mounting frame (see Figure 3.31).

Figure 3.31. Removing the new hard disk from the external drive tray (top) and fastening it to the internal mounting frame (bottom).

Place the existing hard disk on antistatic material.

Disconnect the AC power adapter from the new hard disk.

Remove the new hard disk from the drive tray you used for data transfer.

Place the new hard disk into the mounting frame used by the original hard disk.

Use the screws removed from the original hard disk to attach the new hard disk to the mounting frame used by your portable computer.

After the new hard disk is fastened securely to the mounting frame, install the mounting frame back into your portable computer.

Plug in your portable computer and restart it. Your new hard disk should start your computer and be recognized by Windows. In some cases, you might need to restart your computer once.

Using Your Existing Hard Disk as an External Hard Disk

After you are satisfied the new hard disk is working properly, you can use the original hard disk as an external hard disk drive. If your data transfer kit can be used as an external drive enclosure (the EZ Upgrade Universal kit can be), install the original drive into the enclosure and fasten it into place with the mounting screws provided. Connect the enclosure to a working USB port, use Windows XP's Disk Management to erase existing partitions on the original hard disk, and create one or more new partitions. There's no need to hurry: We suggest waiting a day or two to make sure you can browse the Web, read email, and so forth with your new hard disk before you clear out your original drive for reuse.

See “Preparing an Additional Hard Disk with Windows XP,” this chapter, p. 195, for details of Disk Management's operations.

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