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How do I Choose the Best Laptop Hard Drive?

A SATA cable, which can be used to connect to a hard drive.
A couple using a laptop.
A laptop.
Article Details
  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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As applications have become more powerful and video and music libraries have become commonplace on the average computer, you might find yourself looking for a bigger or faster drive. How do you find the best laptop hard drive for your computer?

First determine what kind of drive the laptop will support. This information is available in the computer’s manual. If you no longer have the manual, you can likely find one online by entering the model into a search engine, along with “+manual,” as in “Model +manual” minus the quotes.

The BIOS chipset on the computer will only support drives up to a certain capacity, so you’ll want to make a note of just how many gigabytes (GB) your computer will support. If you find the machine only supports a small laptop hard drive, check the manufacturer’s website to see if there is a BIOS or firmware upgrade that will allow the machine to support larger-capacity drives. Flashing the BIOS — the term used for upgrading it — is a simple but critical process that must be done exactly as directed or the machine could become unbootable, so take special care when performing this action.

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In the manual you can also check for the type of interface your laptop hard drive will require. Does the computer support the older IDE interface or the newer SATA interface? If SATA, is it first generation SATA or SATA II? These are sometimes listed as SATA/150 and SATA/300 respectively. If the laptop supports first generation SATA it might still take a SATA II drive, but it will only operate at original SATA speeds.

Once you have the specifications you can begin shopping. Enter the type of laptop hard drive desired in a search engine or your favorite bargain shopper website. For example, you might enter “laptop IDE drive 120GB” or “laptop SATA II 250GB.” When looking through results note that drives with more on-board cache are faster than drives with less, all else being equal.

Another factor to watch for is the spin or RPM (revolutions per minute) specification. For example, among SATA drives you can find the same model in a 5400 or 7200 flavor. The 7200 will have faster read times and will be slightly more expensive than its 5400 counterpart. Whether the difference in money is worth the increase in speed is a matter of personal opinion.

The fastest drives available might produce more heat and noise than their slightly slower counterparts, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule because technology is always changing. If a completely silent laptop hard drive is important to you, however, read customer reviews before deciding on a model.

Backup your current drive using imaging or cloning software to make the transition to the new drive easier. If you plan to sell your old drive or give it away, be sure to securely wipe it. Simply deleting the partitions is no longer considered safe, as freely available tools can restore deleted partitions and make the data retrievable.

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