Is it worth it to replace hard drive on laptop?

Quick Answer

It may be worth replacing a laptop hard drive if the current drive is very old, damaged, or not large enough for your storage needs. Replacing with an SSD can provide a big speed boost. However, replacing a hard drive can be tedious and there are risks of data loss. Consider costs vs. benefits.

When to Consider Replacing a Laptop Hard Drive

There are several situations when replacing a laptop hard drive may be worth considering:

  • The existing hard drive is very old and slow. Hard drives slow down with age as the mechanical parts wear out.
  • The hard drive is damaged or failing. This may lead to crashed, lost or corrupted data.
  • You need more storage space than the current drive offers. Games, photos, videos and programs require more and more storage.
  • You want to upgrade to a solid state drive (SSD) for faster performance.

If your laptop’s hard drive is still working well and has sufficient storage, there’s little reason to replace it. But if you’re experiencing serious issues or limitations, an upgrade may be justified.

Benefits of Replacing a Laptop Hard Drive

Upgrading your laptop’s hard drive can provide several benefits:

  • Faster performance – Newer hard drives have faster RPM speeds and better caching. SSDs provide dramatic speed improvements.
  • More storage space – New drives offer much larger capacities for all your programs, files and media.
  • Increased reliability – A new drive will be less prone to crashes and errors than an older, worn out drive.
  • Better technology – Newer drives support updated interfaces like SATA III for additional speed.
  • Longer lifespan – Rather than waiting for an old drive to fail, a new drive can extend the useful life of a laptop.

For an old laptop that’s still functioning otherwise, a new hard drive can provide a real boost in speed, storage, reliability and lifespan.

Factors to Consider Before Replacing a Hard Drive

While there are benefits to upgrading a laptop hard drive, there are also some important factors to keep in mind:

  • Cost – SSDs in particular can be expensive, though regular hard drives are affordable.
  • Data transfer – You’ll need to copy all your data and OS to the new drive.
  • Compatibility – Physical size, interface and model must be compatible.
  • Labor – Installation can be tricky, especially for SSDs in some laptops.
  • Risks – Any drive swap risks data loss or damage if not done properly.
  • Expected lifespan – How much longer do you plan to use the laptop?

You’ll want to weigh the benefits against the time, costs and risks involved. In some cases, a replacement may not make sense.

Costs of Replacing a Laptop Hard Drive

Two main costs are involved when replacing a laptop hard drive:

  • Hard drive cost – New laptop-size SATA hard drives range from $40 to $100 for higher capacities. SSDs range from $80 up to $200+ depending on capacity.
  • Labor costs – At a computer repair shop, expect to pay $40 to $100+ for drive installation and data transfer.

Additional costs may include:

  • External enclosures if copying over old drive.
  • Operating system installation media.
  • Backup drives and software.
  • Anti-static mats.

All told, expect to pay $150 to $300+ to replace a laptop hard drive if done professionally. Doing it yourself saves on labor but has higher risks.

Is an SSD Worth the Higher Cost?

Solid state drives (SSDs) offer big performance benefits over traditional hard drives but cost significantly more. Here are some considerations on whether the additional expense of an SSD is justified:

  • SSDs can read/write data much faster than hard drives – up to 10x for some tasks.
  • Faster boot, app launch and file access times – often seconds faster.
  • Better durability since no moving parts – can withstand more shocks/drops.
  • Lower power usage gives better laptop battery life.
  • But average cost per gigabyte remains around 6x higher than hard drives.
  • Replacing a 256GB SSD can cost over $200 vs. $60 for a 1TB hard drive.

For older laptops, even a modest 120GB SSD for under $100 can provide a very noticeable speed boost. But higher capacities remain expensive. Overall SSDs are recommended for those valuing speed and reliability over storage capacity.

Choosing a Replacement Laptop Hard Drive

Key factors to consider when selecting a replacement laptop hard drive:

  • Physical size – Most laptop drives are 2.5 inches. Make sure to get this form factor.
  • Interface – SATA is standard. Some very old laptops use IDE.
  • RPM speed – Faster RPMs equal better performance – go for 7200 RPM or an SSD.
  • Cache size – Bigger cache improves read/write speeds – 32MB or 64MB is ideal.
  • Capacity – Choose sufficient storage so you don’t run out. 500GB to 1TB is common.
  • Brand – Stick with major brands like WD, Seagate, Samsung, etc for reliability.

Matching the physical size is most critical. From there, choose the best combination of performance, capacity and price for your needs and budget.

How to Replace a Laptop Hard Drive

Here are the basic steps to replace a laptop hard drive:

  1. Use backup software to copy all necessary data and files to an external drive.
  2. Check for any manufacturer HDD removal instructions.
  3. Open the housing and locate the hard drive bay.
  4. Remove any screws securing the existing hard drive in place.
  5. Gently slide the drive out from the bay.
  6. Place the new hard drive into the bay and secure it.
  7. Reassemble the laptop housing and reconnect components.
  8. Boot into a recovery drive or media to install the OS on the new hard drive.
  9. Restore data from backups to the new drive.

For an SSD, extra steps are required like enabling TRIM and AHCI mode in the BIOS. Overall, replacing a hard drive is a delicate process – go slowly and follow a tutorial closely.

Risks and Potential Problems When Replacing a Hard Drive

While replacing a laptop hard drive is usually straightforward, some risks and complications include:

  • Not properly backing up data, leading to permanent data loss.
  • Physical damage if not handled carefully, including drive connectors.
  • Incompatibility with the laptop if size, interface or other specs don’t match.
  • Failed OS installation leaving the drive unusable.
  • Malware or driver problems carrying over from the old drive.
  • Voiding the laptop warranty if it discourages drive replacement.
  • Data privacy concerns if the old drive falls into the wrong hands.

Anti-static precautions should be used along with following proper drive installation procedures. Overall, drive swaps have a learning curve – experience helps minimize problems.

Alternatives to Replacing a Hard Drive

For those wanting more laptop storage or speed, some alternatives to replacing the hard drive include:

  • Using an external USB hard drive for additional storage.
  • Adding an external SSD via USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt for faster speeds.
  • Upgrading to hybrid hard drives with SSD caching built-in.
  • Cloning, rather than replacing, the hard drive if data backup is difficult.
  • Doing a clean OS and software reinstall to regain speed vs. drive swap.
  • Buying a new laptop may be cheaper than replacing an expensive SSD.

These options avoid the hassle and risks of a drive swap. But they can have disadvantages like slower USB speeds or extra costs associated with them.


Replacing a laptop hard drive can provide benefits like faster speeds, more storage and improved reliability. But it also involves costs for drives and labor as well as data backup challenges. Overall, it’s worth considering when the current drive is giving problems or limiting performance. Just be sure to weigh the pros and cons first. With proper precautions, a drive upgrade can extend the useful lifespan of an aging laptop.