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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.

  • evongugg
    If you clone for the first time, it 's a good idea to have an extra backup somewhere in case you goof up and end up with two blank drives.
    Acronis True Image is a great program for cloning drives and backing up to an image.

  • captaincharisma
    people should just suck it up and get a TB hard drive if there worried or complaining about space. the green edition of the Western digital 1TB hard drive can be had for 100 bucks or less
  • rooket
    Can't go wrong with ghosting it. However most times I just log into administrator account and copy the entire user folder onto an external drive then reformat. Keeping previously installed software such as games and applications doesn't serve much purpose but sometimes there can be save games there. Most often people won't be saving their word documents within the microsoft office folder under program files. But I can understand people wanting to save their quicken databases and such from there too so ghosting can be a good route to go and you can restore it later.

    Normally at home I just put a new drive in and do a fresh install and then whatever I need from the previous installation I can just retrieve by plugging the drive into an external bay. The thing that takes me the most time is reconfiguring steam because rather than re-downloading everything I like to set steam set up then copy all my data files back over from the previous drive to the new location. Seems to work for the most part, last time I just had trouble getting TF2 up but eventually I recopied it and it worked fine.
  • teeth_03
    Isn't one of the key selling points of W7 is low HDD usage?

    Article Fail
  • Tomsguiderachel
    teeth_03Isn't one of the key selling points of W7 is low HDD usage?Article FailYes, but it still takes up *some* space--space which many people may not have. Why would upgrading to Windows 7 be a bad time to upgrade your hard drive?
  • socrates047
    Pretty great article.. almost forgot that tom's is a place for beginners AS MUCH as it is a place for enthusiasts.
  • tessalynd
    I kinda wish the "Get The Right Drive" section had spent a little more time exploring the benefits of a 10000rpm drive or any time on ssd drives. I'm considering getting a new drive for my upgrade and that's the first thing I started to consider, so even if the recommendation is to forego raptors or ssds, it wouldn't have left a hole in the article that had me wondering.
    Otherwise a great article! Just my 2 cents.
  • simplyderp
    If you don't run millions of I/O's per second with extremely hard drive intensive programs, then 2x 640GB WD Caviar Black Raid 0 is enough, ssd/raptor is overkill.
  • To clone a hd, you can check this also...
  • irj
    I have an older PC with HD memory poroblems and I do indeed need to upgrade the HD. Problem is the O/S I am running is Win XP and it's so old I have lost the master CD. As it's a PC I built myself, years ago, I have no place to go to get another copy.
    Any thoughts on the best way I should proceed? Is it possible to buy a "new" copy of W XP for the new HD, or should I SPEND MONEY to get a whole new copy of W 7? Wwhich I supect would be very expensive and defeat the whole project?