When you’ve cleaned out useless files on your hard drive, but you’re still running out of space, it’s time to up your storage capacity.
Here’s how to pick the best solution for your desktop or laptop system and how to move or distribute your files to a new drive.
That new drive could be either a traditional, platter-based hard drive or a solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs are considerably faster than typical hard drives, but higher-capacity SSDs are exceedingly expensive. For example, while most 1TB hard drives sell for about $80 (a few bucks more will get you a 2TB drive), a 1TB SSD will currently set you back $400 to $500. A 2TB SSD is typically north of $3,000.
There are ways to get hard drive–storage space with near-SSD speeds, though you’ll have to make some compromises. Below, I’ll review the best options for desktops and laptops, and I’ll provide the instructions for replacing your old drive with a new one. I’ll also discuss how to prepare Windows for new storage configurations.
Of course, if you’re not interested in significantly faster drive access, you can simply buy a larger hard drive and clone the contents of your old drive to your new one. For instructions, see my PCWorld article, “How to upgrade to a larger hard drive,” for details.
Whether you install an SSD or platter-based hard drive, the method you use to upgrade your storage comes down to one simple question: Does your PC have a spare drive bay? If you have a desktop, the answer is probably yes. If you have a laptop, it’s probably no. With that in mind, I’ll discuss separate desktop and laptop solutions. (If your desktop doesn’t have a spare drive bay, you can always use one of the laptop techniques.)
Desktop solution: Add a second hard drive
Sure they’re bulky, use more electricity, and can’t fit into your carry-on luggage, but many of us still use desktop PCs because they’re usually easy to upgrade and expand. With an empty drive bay, expanding your system’s storage is as simple as installing another internal drive. (The advice in this section also applies to those rare laptops with two drive bays.)