Wednesday, May 25, 2022

How to add an SSD to your laptop

There is one upgrade that will universally improve a laptop’s performance: adding an SSD. This is a particularly attractive upgrade for budget laptops, which typically come with a hard drive. That’s the case with the extremely popular Acer Aspire E 15. 

This laptop has been the top seller on Amazon for months and months. It’s easy to see why: for $350 (and below $300 during the holidays), you get a 7th-gen Core i3 processor, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a 15-inch 1080p screen. It’s a killer deal for those on a budget—but not exactly fast.

Here’s how we can do something about that. The good news is that just about any budget laptop today should offer a path to an SSD. On the Aspire E 15, there are two paths: via an M.2 slot for a tiny card-style drive or by replacing the hard drive with a SATA SSD. We’ll cover both paths, starting with how to add an M.2 SSD to your laptop. (Or jump ahead to our section on replacing your hard drive with an SSD.)

One caveat: While we’re sure your laptop would benefit from an SSD upgrade, it may not actually be possible with your particular model. We recommend searching YouTube for videos on how to open up and upgrade your laptop before you buy anything.

500gb blue 3d WD

We used the 1TB version of the WD Blue 3D, not the 500GB version shown. Both use the SATA interface.

How to choose an M.2 SSD: SATA vs. PCIe

Before you get all excited and run out to buy an M.2 drive, you should know that not all M.2 SSDs are the same. In fact, they vary so much so that it’s possible the drive you buy might not work at all without making changes to the BIOS. 

Even though they use the same connector, M.2 drives can support either the older SATA interface or newer PCIe interface. PCIe can be far faster and is preferred, while SATA is more compatible with older machines.

For our Aspire E 15, we intentionally picked the WD Blue 1TB SATA SSD for its compatibility. The M.2 slot in the Aspire E 15 does support PCIe drives as well as SATA drives but it will not boot to a PCIe device without changing from UEFI to legacy BIOS support. 

The difference is that UEFI is modern and features Secure Boot, which theoretically guards against malicious attacks by requiring signed drivers and a signed OS.


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