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  1. #1
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    New laptop versus new hard drive: thoughts?

    I'm woefully ignorant regarding the inner workings of a computer, so please forgive a remedial question!

    When a laptop with an old-fashioned spinning hard drive finally dies, what other components—besides the hard drive—are susceptible to wear? Are there huge advantages to purchasing a new laptop versus simply replacing the hard drive?

    On the face of it, it seems wasteful to discard an otherwise solid machine if replacing a single component could give the machine a new lease on life. While I understand the appeal of the "latest and greatest," my laptop does everything I need it to do.

    If anyone has thoughts about this, I'd love to hear them. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Well, I recently replaced a HDD by a SSD on a laptop, for a family member, and the laptop just behaves like a new one. This was done on a 8 year old laptop, running a celeron processor.
    So, if you are happy with the laptop, performance wise, other than the HDD, yes, getting a SSD (you can get a 256GB SSD for less than $100) is a very viable option and that would be my choice, if I were in your shoes.
    Rui
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    Hi I agree with Rui 100% !

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Well, you didn't mention the make, model or even age of your laptop so my thoughts are... it's very hard to advise without more info.

    For all we know it could be a week old and you've just been unfortunate with the hard disk. However, you haven't mentioned 'warranty' so I'm going to guess that it's at least a year old.

    You haven't mentioned what you use it for, only that it does everything you need it to do. So it could be a top-of-the-range gaming laptop where a replacement could be a couple of thousand dollars versus a new SSD or spinning hard drive at a fraction of the cost... or it could be a $200 bottom-of-the-range laptop you only use to play Solitaire, in which case a new hard disk of either type could represent a fairly high percentage of the cost of a similar replacement.

    I doubt this helps... but hopefully will show that the more info you provide, the better advice you are likely to get back in return.

    To answer your specific question, i.e. what other components—besides the hard drive—are susceptible to wear? For a laptop it's usually the battery. Depending on the make and model, it could also be internal fan(s) because some (many?) laptops have poor airflow so their cooling fan(s) can get quite stressed by overworking.
    Last edited by Rick Corbett; 2016-01-17 at 15:17.

  5. #5
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    Since you say the laptop does everything you say you want, a new hard drive could well be a practical repair. However you should also be wary of the following:

    1). The batteries die as well, and the average lifetime is about 5 years for that;
    2). The fans are mechanical components. Some laptops have no fans at all but if yours does, be aware that fans are a common trouble spot over the long run;
    3). New standards. Your laptop will not have upgradable hardware for new standards. Screens keep growing in size and pixel density. SATA-2 was replaced with SATA-3, a hard drive interconnect standard. USB 2 was replaced with USB 3, and now there's a USB 3.1 Type 2 (I think? The branding is getting hard to remember). Wi-Fi 802.11 G was replaced with N, then AC, and there's a new AH standard on the horizon (the latter not yet available).

    Having said all that. CPUs aren't getting faster at the rate they used to. New operating systems like Windows 10 don't require more RAM than Windows 8 or 7. From that perspective, replacing the hard drive could be an appealing option. Though I would seriously consider getting an SSD, if possible, since that would be a significant speed upgrade for the system.

    So what to do? Overall, I'd still use the age of the system as a guideline on whether to fix it or not. The only thing needed is to adjust the threshold age where you rule out system repairs. My gut says, if the system is less than 5 years old, I'd take a shot at repairing the HD. Just be aware that you are going to have to replace that battery soon. If the system is more than 5 years old, get a new one. If it's right at the 5 year mark, use your best judgment. That's where the difficult choices come in.
    Last edited by BHarder; 2016-01-17 at 16:09. Reason: Grammar

  6. #6
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    An SSD would breath new life into a formally mechanical drive laptop, but it will be contingent on you doing your own diligent homework;

    SSds are cheap enough that you won't break the bank upgrading, especially if
    you are content with the laptop you currently have. If you weren't I'd just advise you to save for a new machine.

    Make certain you know the specs of your current laptop and weather you actually can replace the current drive with an SSD.
    (new drive size, power & SATA connections- all fit appropriately).
    Make a planned effort to install or restore your OS of choice to the new drive.
    (OEM vs Retail OS, you should know before hand what you can and can't do).
    Last edited by CLiNT; 2016-01-21 at 15:28.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Build your own system; get everything you want and nothing you don't.
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    This handy guide to real life SSD performance may help you choose a new drive. You can sort by price as that's likely to be your most important factor.
    http://ssd.userbenchmark.com/Explore/Best-Value/10

    cheers, Paul

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    Lugh (2016-01-24)

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    You didn't say which operating system your laptop has. If it has Windows 7 (and you want to keep Windows 7), and if there is no damage other than the hard drive, then I would advise keeping the laptop.

    You'll need to consider how easy or difficult it is to replace the hard drive. Most laptops have a door on the bottom which can easily be removed to access the hard drive. But sometimes, replacing the hard drive involves a lot of disassembly. And when you disassemble a laptop, you can easily damage the fragile parts inside of it.

    If you do end up disassembling the laptop in order to replace the hard drive, you should do some other things while the laptop is disassembled:
    * Blow out all of the dust.
    * Replace the CMOS battery.
    * Reattach the heat sink to the CPU with high-quality thermal compound.

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    I wouldn't touch the heatsink unless you are having heat problems - some things are best left alone.

    cheers, Paul

  12. #10
    Silver Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    If you do go that route:

    If you have a really old laptop the drive may not be a SATA and require a old PATA IDE type. You would likely be out of luck.

    Try like heck to get the 'Service Manual' for your model, there are a myriad of configurations and if you make the wrong assumption about dis-assembly you could do damage especially if you want to change the cmos battery. I am not saying it will be hard just prepare and be careful. HDDs are usually easy, a common pit fall is a small adapter that (sometimes) goes between the drive and the M/B.

    If yo do any dis-assembly besides the HDD 'door' take a picture after each step, segregate the hardware, all those little screws look alike the next day.

    If you do not already do regular imaging now would be an excellent time to get an external drive and get familiar with an imaging program. The most commonly recommended ones here are Acronis and Macrium Reflect, both have free versions.

    David

    Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.

  13. #11
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    If you are running Windows XP you can forget about using an SSD. Windows 7 or later only need apply.

    cheers, Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul T View Post
    If you are running Windows XP you can forget about using an SSD. Windows 7 or later only need apply.

    cheers, Paul
    Many people use SSDs with XP and firmware, these days, deals better with the lack of TRIM. That said, I would recommend an update to 7, if nothing else, for security reasons and it will help with the SSD, as well.
    Rui
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    Silver Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul T View Post
    If you are running Windows XP you can forget about using an SSD. Windows 7 or later only need apply.

    cheers, Paul
    Yet some manufacturers have utilities that allow manual execution of the TRIM command. Maybe not as well implemented as would be natively on an OS but it should still be faster then a HDD.

    David

    Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.

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  17. #14
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    I greatly appreciate the time you guys put into sharing your thoughts with me.

    I should have mentioned that my hard drive is still chugging along, and that my laptop is only two and a half years old. So this is not a matter of urgency. But over the weekend, while hauling YET ANOTHER BOXLOAD OF DEAD ELECTRONICS to my neighborhood recycling center, I felt tired—tired in my bones—of replacing gizmos that either break down or become obsolete in a scant few years. Endlessly, endlessly.

    This is my forth laptop. It's a desktop replacement—heavy, not at all pretty, but built like a Brink's truck. Am running Win 7 Pro x64 on it, and so far (knock wood) it's been trouble-free. The specs, while not a wow, are more than adequate for the things I need a computer to do. Don't know if Windows 10 would require more resources than I have, but I'm perfectly content to stick with Win 7 until I absolutely need to buy a new computer.

    Which is all by way of saying that I'd like to spackle and buttress this thing for as long as possible. I rarely use the batteries, but understand that they might need replacing eventually. Ditto the fan (thanks Rick). If spinning hard drives become obsolete (will they?), I'll have to hope that someone makes an SSD that fits the laptop.

    And to facilitate that, I'll likely need the help of a pro because.....

    Quote Originally Posted by CLiNT View Post
    Make certain you know the specs of your current laptop and weather you actually can replace the current drive with an SSD. (new drive size, power & SATA connections fit appropriately). Make a planned effort to install or restore your OS of choice to the new drive. (OEM vs Retail OS, you should know before hand what you can and can't do).
    Thanks, CLiNT! You've no idea how out of your league I am! But I appreciate your expert advice, and am taking careful notes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Corbett View Post
    You haven't mentioned what you use it for.....So it could be a top-of-the-range gaming laptop where a replacement could be a couple of thousand dollars versus a new SSD or spinning hard drive at a fraction of the cost.
    Thanks, Rick. I use it for word processing, web browsing, storing music, infrequent scanning, light photo editing.....and that's all, Rexall. The machine, when new, cost about $1800.

    Don't quite know what I'm lookin' at here, but since you asked:

    Dell Precision M4700 Workstation (discontinued)
    CPU: Third generation Intel Core i7 2.80 GHz, Ivy Bridge
    Drive: 320 GB Seagate SCSI Disk Device (SATA-II)
    RAM: 8 GB
    Intel Mobile Express Chipset SATA RAID Controller
    DVD-ROM drive
    2 USB 3.0 ports
    1 USB 2.0 port
    15" screen, 1920 x 1080

    (I chose Dell's smallest hard drive because, after 20 years of computing, I'm only using 31% of the drive's capacity.)

    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    You'll need to consider how easy or difficult it is to replace the hard drive. Most laptops have a door on the bottom which can easily be removed to access the hard drive....If you do end up disassembling the laptop in order to replace the hard drive, you should do some other things while the laptop is disassembled:

    * Blow out all of the dust.
    * Replace the CMOS battery.
    * Reattach the heat sink to the CPU with high-quality thermal compound.
    Thanks, Jim. As far as I can tell, the hard drive snaps in and snaps out. Thanks for the additional tips.

    Paul T, I wouldn't know a heat sink if it punched me in the schnozz, so I won't be messin' with it!

    Quote Originally Posted by wavy View Post
    If you have a really old laptop the drive may not be a SATA and require a old PATA IDE type. You would likely be out of luck.
    Thanks, Wavy. All to be determined by someone with more tech savvy than I.

    Guys, thank you so much. I really appreciate your input.
    Last edited by BrooksNYC; 2016-01-18 at 16:17.

  18. #15
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    "If Apple’s MacBook Pro is the Lamborghini of laptops, then Dell’s Precision M4700 is a monster truck. It’s big, brash, heavy and not going to win any design awards for its aesthetics – but in every other way our review model of this 15-inch laptop excels over the equivalent MacBook Pro. And that can even include outdoing the Retina Display." One of many favourable reviews.

    Given the very good specs and what you use it for, IMHO, you're best served by keeping it and, when the time is due, replacing the current hard disk with something like a 256 GB SSD (as you don't use the hard disk for a lot of storage).

    "Dell have gone to great lengths to make it easy to swap the hard disk and memory on this machine" Replacement of the hard disk with an SSD looks particularly uncomplicated.

    This type of upgrade would be relatively cheap and painless.

    Hope this helps...
    Last edited by Rick Corbett; 2016-01-18 at 16:36.

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