Removing your laptop’s hard drive is a procedure which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes if you’re familiar with a few basic things.
The hard drive in your laptop mostly likely operates on a SATA III 6Gbps interface, and is a 2.5” drive housed in a caddy/ mount underneath the motherboard.
Many laptops will have easy access panels so you can remove the hard drive without having to open up the whole laptop.
However, some laptops (especially ultrabooks and super slim notebooks) require you to take off the keyboard deck before you can access the hard drive.
If you want to upgrade the existing hard drive in your laptop to a higher capacity/ faster unit, you’ll need to remove the existing one (unless there is a free M.2 slot or 2.5” bay).
You might also want to remove a really old hard drive with corrupted sectors or damaged parts and replace it with a new one.
Or maybe you’re selling off your old student laptop and don’t want to bother with wiping the drive and backing up all the data, so you just remove the hard drive and slightly lower the selling price.
Computers store data in digital format, with 0’s and 1’s (binary code). A spinning disk drive or hard disk drive is a type of hard drive that stores these 0’s and 1’s on a set of spinning disks that each have a thin magnetic coating on them.
A “head” attached to a mechanical arm moves over these spinning disks, storing data in little areas as magnetic north and south poles.
To read the data back, the same head goes to the designated area or sector and deduces the north and south poles which are then decoded into 0’s and 1’s.
Each individual zero or one is called a “bit” and 8 of these bits make up one “byte” of data. One KB or kilobyte is 1000 bytes, and one MB or megabyte is 1 million bytes. One gigabyte or GB is 1000MB.
Modern hard disk drives can store a few terabytes of data, on several spinning platters. Thinner platters and smaller magnetic “dots” allow modern drives to store 1000s of times more data than hard drives from the late 90s.
The disk in a modern hard drive usually spins at 7200 to 10,000 rpm, and there is an entire stack of these magnetic disks rotating on a spindle that is powered by a motor.
They are installed within a vacuum sealed case, which is what you see on the outside when you look at a hard disk drive.
Each spinning disk has a thin layer of magnetic grains coated onto it. The head on the read/ write arm has a tiny electromagnet built into it which polarizes the magnetic grains on the spinning disks.
Next to this write head is a read head with a magnetic reader which can turn these magnetic north and south poles back into readable data (0’s and 1’s).
IBM built the world’s first commercialized hard disk drive back in 1956. This unit was similar in size to a couple refrigerators stacked next to each other, and weighed a literal ton. It had to be moved around with forklifts and only stored 3.75MB of data.
For reference, the average file size of a photo you click on your smartphone is around 8MB. So you would need 3 of these 1-ton behemoths to store just one photo! We’ve come a long way since then, and modern hard disk drives are not only much faster but can store terabytes of data.
Each laptop model is unique, but we’re going to assume yours has a 2.5” spinning disk drive. This is usually mounted underneath the motherboard, and most laptops will let you access it from an access panel underneath the chassis.
Prior to removing your hard disk drive from the laptop, you need to shut down the laptop and remove the battery. Then, hold the power button down for at least 15 to 20 seconds so all the residual current is drained from the laptop’s circuits.
Next, you’ll need to reference your owner’s manual or look up videos in the official website/ YouTube for your specific laptop model. A standard Philips #1 and/ pr #0 screwdriver should be adequate.
On laptops that have access panels on the bottom for storage and RAM, this is very easy- you just remove a couple of screws and the hard drive caddy will be exposed. You can unscrew the caddy and slide out the SATA HDD from within to replace it.
Once you’ve replaced it, slide the caddy back in and slot it into the SATA port on your laptop. Then screw it in, and reattach the access panel.
Some laptops make this process much more tedious, requiring you to remove the keyboard deck in order to access the hard drive/ RAM. You’ll have to remove all screws from the back of your laptop to do this, which can take a bit of time.
Either way, make sure to look up the specific screw layout and design for your laptop model on the internet before you open it because every laptop is different. A Dell XPS is designed very differently from an ASUS ROG laptop.
Most gaming laptops are designed so you can easily upgrade their storage and memory, look for access panels underneath the chassis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are SSDs also hard drives?
A. No, SSDs are non-volatile storage drives like hard drives but they function in a completely different way. SSDs use flash or solid state storage instead of spinning mechanical disks to store data. This allows them to read and write data at much faster rates, since there are no mechanical moving parts.
Q. What hard drive capacity is ideal?
A. As of now, if you’re purchasing a hard drive, get one that’s at least 1TB. We recommend 2TB hard drives and higher. A 2TB hard drive will give you plenty of room to store all your movies, games, photos, etc.
Q. What does the “RPM” mean on a hard drive?
A. RPM is short for revolutions per minute. As we explained earlier, a hard drive is basically a vacuum sealed metal case with a bunch of magnetic disks spinning inside. These disks store data as magnetic north and south poles. All these disks are mounted to a spindle, connected to a brushless DC motor that turns them around.
The read/ write head can read and write data faster if the disks themselves are capable of spinning faster. The most typical HDD speeds are 5400rpm, 7200rpm, and 10,000 rpm. Higher RPMs result in more mechanical wear and heat generation, as well as higher power consumption.
We hope this article helped you understand how to remove the hard drive from your laptop. All laptops these days come with either an SSD or SSD + hard drive combo. You can remove the hard drive and replace it with a SATA SSD if you want, because both are the same form factor.
If your laptop has a M.2 slot for SSDs, installing a new SSD is as simple as slotting in the SSD stick and screwing it in. We recommend a SSD + HDD combo to get the ideal balance of speed and capacity, especially on gaming laptops.