Expanding Laptop Storage Easily

You may not need a new laptop to increase your storage capacity

It might be my imagination, but I think that my computer support clients are keeping their computers longer than they used to. If that’s the case, then one critical factor that could nudge them into the direction of replacing it is that the disc space is running out.

It’s always been possible to replace a hard drive with a larger one, but it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. The main choices are:

  • Buy a new, larger, drive, and fit this in place of your previous drive. This entails physically replacing the drive, re-installing Windows and all your programs, and then copying your data from the older drive. This can get complicated if you don’t have a Windows installation disc or other master discs. I think that most of my own computer support clients would not wish to tackle this. The problem (for me, at least!) is that it probably wouldn’t be worth calling me in to do it as the job would take so long that the money would probably be better spent on a new computer.
  • Clone the old drive to a new, larger, drive and swap them round. “Cloning” is a process that is meant to copy absolutely everything from the old drive and place it on the new drive in such a way that the computer won’t notice the difference (except that you’ll have more space on the larger replacement drive). Great in theory but it requires special software and sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Hard Drive Caddy for Optical Drive Bay
Hard Drive Caddy for Optical Drive Bay
The alternative to replacing the hard drive with a larger one (by whatever means) is to add a second drive. This can probably be done more easily on a “desktop” style of computer than a laptop because there’s more space in the case and the “wiring” might be already present.

But what if you’ve got a laptop? I used to think that adding a second internal drive wasn’t an option on a laptop, but I was wrong…

I have just replaced the hard drive in my main laptop with a solid state drive and then I installed a fresh, clean copy of Windows and my programs. I thought I was going to be faced with the dilemma of what data and/or programs to leave off because you can’t get a quart in a pint pot. My old 1tb drive (1000gb) has twice the capacity of my new, fast-as-greased-lightning solid state drive. I was assuming that I could put some of it on the new drive but then I’d just have to access the rest by attaching the old drive as an external drive. This is a bit clunky. It’s OK if the external drive is just being connected occasionally, but not if it’s going to be a semi-permanent attachment.

Nevertheless I started browsing Amazon (as you do), looking for a nice “enclosure” into which to place my old drive, when I came across a HDD caddy for a laptop drive.

Hard Drive Enclosure for 2.5 inch Hard Drive
Hard Drive Enclosure for 2.5 inch Hard Drive
What you do is remove the CD/DVD drive from your laptop, screw your second drive into this “caddy”, and replace it in the laptop in place of the CD/DVD drive. As long as your laptop is no more than three or four years old then the caddy should connect to it OK. Your drive will also need to fit the caddy. As long as it’s a new drive or not more than about five years old then it will also be a “SATA” drive so there will be no problem.

So, I ordered one of these instead of buying an external drive enclosure. Even taking it very carefully, it took me no more than about 20 minutes to fit my old drive as a second drive. No software to install or configure. Windows immediately recognised the second drive and gave me access to everything on it. No messing. The job’s a good ‘un.

External DVD Enclosure
External DVD Enclosure
Of course, this solution means that you will no longer have a CD/DVD drive, but you could buy an external CD/DVD drive for about £36. This link is to a Samsung external DVD drive offered by Amazon. Alternatively, if you’re enjoying messing around with a screwdriver, you can buy an enclosure into which to place the CD/DVD drive you took out of the laptop. This will then leave you with an external CD/DVD drive. It probably won’t be much of a problem having your DVD drive as an external one as we’re using these drives less and less and many laptops (particularly those described as “ultra” laptops) don’t even start off with a CD/DVD drive.

Just for clarification, in my own case I removed my original hard drive and it became my second drive (in the CD/DVD caddy) when the new solid state drive became my main drive. Unless you wanted (as I did) to start off a “clean” installation of Windows, you can leave your original drive where it is and just place a new hard drive in the CD/DVD caddy. This is a very quick and easy way to increase your internal storage capacity hugely at a stroke.

This solution works for machines that have a DVD drive on which the tray pops out when you press a button. I haven’t looked into whether it would work for the Apple-style of DVD drive where you just slide your DVD or CD into a slot.