Easier done than said
The HP X2 G3 tablet computer I bought came with just a 128GB SSD (solid state drive), as described in I'm Addicted to HP's X2. The benefit of buying a used computer with a small drive is that it is cheaper to acquire, and upgrading it is cheaper than buying a higher capacity model from the vendor. Apple is especially insidious about this.
My plan all along was to swap out the small-capacity drive with a 1TB drive. But the job involves using a giant suction cup. Read on.
The stages of this job are:
- Buy the correct SSD
- Put it into an external drive enclosure
- Run software that clones the old drive onto the new one
- Remove the old drive, and install the new one.
- Recycle the old SSD
Stage 1: Selecting a New SSD
1. Buy the correct SSD drive by checking the specs provided by the laptop manufacturer. In the figure below, we see that this particular X2 G3 model requires an SATA-3 M.2 drive. SATA is the data interface; M.2 is the physical shape.
SATA-3 is the same as SATA III and often is written as SATA as shorthand
All laptops today use the M.2 style of SSD, but older ones still use the larger format that desktop computers employ.
Left: M.2 hardware used by today’s laptops; right: larger size of drive used by older laptops and all desktop computers
TIP I advocate putting solid disk drives in all your laptop and desktop computers. Laptops benefit from the shock immunity of SSDs, and both benefit from faster overall speed
The SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) interface is the older, somewhat slower one that came out in 2001; NVMe (non-volatile memory express) is the latest, fastest interface. You cannot put a NVMe drive into a computer with an SATA slot, but you can put a SATA in an NVMe slot. So, look for the number of notches in the drive's end.
The other spec to watch for is the size. Standard M.2 SSDs are sized as 2280, meaning 22mm wide and 80mm long. But shorter lengths are available, and your laptop might be using a shorter one, as my Dell laptop does. The figure below shows a drive enclosure and the various sizes of M.2 drive.
Decide on the capacity. I suggest 1TB, as they are cheap now (under $100), and because I have found that the 2TB SSD I put in my Dell laptop generates a lot of heat. Remember than SSDs smaller than 500GB are -- by design -- slower, due to them having fewer controllers with which to process data.
Decide on the vendor. Go with a known brand name, like Samsung, Crucial, SanDisk, or Western Digital (Western Digital owns SanDisk). Brands with odd names sell more cheaply, because they buy the cast-offs (SSDs that turned out with lower specs after testing) from memory manufacturers.
Look at the specs; if you have a choice, spend extra for faster speed. You should expect a spec like “read speeds of up to 560MB/sec” -- that's 560 megabytes per second. Don't be fooled by a spec like 1Gb/sec: the lowercase 'b' means bits, and there are 8 bits to the byte, so this works out as 8x slower than you might expect: 125MB/sec.
I went with a Western Digital 1TB Blue SSD drive, because the X2 tablet needed a SATA drive, and my usual pick (Samsung) seems to no longer make them, just NVMes.
TIP SSD makers have different models of the same drive targetting specific markets. For Western Digital, the colors have the follow meaning:
Green - low-end
Blue - high-end
Black - gaming
Red - data centers
Purple - video
Gold - enterprise
Stage 2: Placing the SSD in an External Enclosure
1. If necessary, buy an external SSD drive enclosure ($18). Nearly all enclosures can take the longest (2280) M.2 drives in both SATA (two slot) and NVMe (1 slot) styles. But check the enclosure's spec to make sure it'll fit, physcially. Also, opt for one with a USB-C connector, if you computer has the matching port.
2. Insert the SSD into the enclosure. This may require a jeweler's screwdriver (Phillips style), some prodding, and some pushing, depending on the design. You don’t need to put the case back on the enclosure, as you’ll soon be taking the drive back out.
3. Plug the cable between the enclosure and the laptop. Windows Explorer probably won’t recognize the drive, as it has not been prepared yet, but the cloning software will.
Stage 3: Running the Cloning Software
It was not until after I installed the new drive into the computer that I learned that Western Digital offers free disc cloning software, as the box in which the drive arrived makes no mention of it -- just of a useless 3-month free Dropbox Pro offer. You can download the Acronis cloning software from https://downloads.wdc.com/acronis/AcronisTrueImageWD_WIN.zip.
So, I used the free version of Macrium Reflect (from Paramount Software UK), although a pop-up in the software tells me Macrium won’t support Free Reflect as of 2024.
1. It can be difficult to find the free version on the Macrium site; here is the official link: https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
2. Install the software, and then run it.
3. Here comes the tricky part: you want to initiate the correct operation with the correct drives. Hate to lose all that data accidentally! You want the clone operation, not image or backup. Cloning copies everything from the existing disk onto the new one, including Windows and the boot sector; the other two options do not.
Amongst all the options being displayed, the clone operation is kind of hidden in Free Reflect user interface; I’ve outlined it in red in the figure below.
Also in the figure above, you see the the name of existing disk inside my computer (Disk 1, 119GB) and that the new one outside my computer is shown in gray, because it is unformatted (Disk 2, 931GB).
4. Click Clone This Disk.
5. In the Clone dialog box, click Select a Disk to Clone.
6. In my case, there is only one disk to clone to, the external Disk 2 drive. I select it.
7. Make sure the Copy selected partition when I click Next is turned on, and that all partitions on the original drive are selected; in my case, that four of them.
8. Click Next.
9. Click Next to skip scheduling.
10. Review the Clone Summary dialog box. The main thing to check is that you are cloning from the old drive (Source Disk)! And -- fingers crossed -- click Finish.
11. In the Start Backup Now dialog box, click OK. (This is not a backup, but never mind.) Notice the Starting Clone dialog box. Wait a few minutes while the software does its work. In my case, it took just under 10 minutes to complete.
12. When done, Reflect displays Windows File Manager showing the new drive and its contents.
Now, it could be that Reflect does not take up the entire space of the new drive. This happened to me, leaving 812GB unused! The steps to correct this problem are a bit of a complex detour. Here are the steps at the Macrium site: https://knowledgebase.macrium.com/display/KNOW80/Cloning+a+disk, and then scroll down to step 5, “To extend the partition to make use of the remaining space on the destination, click Fill Space.”
TIP You cannot boot from the new drive while it is connected to a USB port. This is a limitation of Windows. So, you have to install the new drive inside the computer before finding out if the cloning was a total and complete success.
Stage 4: Removing the Old, Installing the New
Here came the part that I feared, but it turned out to be effortless.
1. Using a T5x40 torx screwdriver, remove the four tiny screws on the back, at the bottom, under the stand.
2. Place a suction cup in the upper right corner on the screen, and then pull. Here is the image from HP's official repair manual, which you can find at http://h10032.www1.hp.com/ctg/Manual/c06077492.pdf.
In anticipation of this job, I had purchased this 5" model ahead of time ($32 for two): https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09FSRQV5G?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details.
3. The screen comes off effortlessly, much to my delight, as it is attached with small clips. (I feared the screen might be glued on, like cell phones are, which would be a much harder task to carry out.)
I was amazed at how thin the screen is, which puts to lie the Apple claim their laptops don't have touch screens because of how thick it would make the lid. I was also amazed the the amount of empty space inside the case; I'd've expected it to be crammed full, given the body is only 1/4" thick (8mm) thick; the latest iPad Pro is 2mm thinner.
Keep the screen at a 45-degree angle, as there are ribbon cable between the screen and body of the tablet. Don’t want to tear them off!
3. Here the official HP instructions and the unofficial iFixIt instructions are wrong. They indicate the next step is to remove the battery and display cables. This is another step I had feared, as connectors are tiny, hard to remove, and even harder to put back.
It turns out you do not remove any connectors! Once the screen is lifted up by 45 degrees, you can see the solid state drive on the side. Unscrew the single screw, pull out the old drive, push in the new one, and put the screw back in -- all the while keep the screen propped up.
TIP While I had the tablet open, I used the opportunity to use a can of compressed air to blow dust out of the ventilation holes (at the top of the tablet) and the two fans. This is, after all, a used computer.
4. Put the screen back, and then snap it into place by running your thumbs around the four edges, pressing on the screen's edges until it is flush with the body.
Put the four torx screws back in.
5. Start up the computer, and marvel at the 11x more free disk space!
TIP I did have a moment of panic when the tablet would not turn back on, and the power LED flashed yellow rapidly. This means the battery is so low that the computer cannot turn on.
But it was a false error message. After pursuing online support forums, I found that I needed to unplug the power cord, and then hold down the power button for at least 15 seconds. This worked: the blinking stopped, and I could start the tablet with its new SSD. Whew!
5. Recycle the Old
You now have a spare SSD. Put in inside the drive enclosure and it becomes a free backup drive.