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Get Ready for Win7: Hard Drive Upgrade

Getting Started

Hard drives tend to fill up faster than you can say, “how big is that download?” With images, digital video, and music on tap, it’s no wonder that the 80 GB drive in my desktop PC is just about filled up after three years with only 1.6 GB of space left. I don’t have the money to buy a new computer, but there’s an easy fix—I can put in a new drive that’s big enough for at least a few more years of use.

In other words, I can do a hard drive transplant, and so can you. There’s never been a better time to do this because internal drives that can hold roughly 320 GB of data are available online for less than $50. There are also drives on the market that can hold up to two terabytes of data.

This is also the perfect time to do this project because  the upcoming Windows 7 release requires more disk space than I have room for, while the same issue likely affects many other users. The new operating system requires between 16 GB and 20 GB of disk space, which is several gigabytes more than what Windows Vista requires and 10-times more than XP's capacity requirements. Unless I do something drastic (like cull my media files), it won’t fit. But, if I do my job correctly, I shouldn’t have to delete any files.

In this article I’ll show you how to upgrade a desktop PC’s hard drive in three different ways: starting from scratch with a fresh installation of the operating system, restoring the system from a back-up, and finally, cloning the disk’s image onto a new drive. While I will be using a three-year-old Dell Optiplex 745 desktop machine, nearly all of what I’ll show you is applicable to other desktops and notebooks.

Expect the job to take between two and eight hours, depending on which method you use, and to cost between $50 and $150. The good news is that when you’re done, not only will you have much more storage space with which to work, but the PC will probably run faster, quieter, and more efficiently because new drives are that much better.