The Laptop Repair Workbook
Copyright 2012 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
Replacing a laptop hard drive pretty easy for beginners unless the hard drive
is located under the keyboard. The basic steps are otherwise the same, whether
the hard drive is SATA (Serial ATA) or the older PATA (Parallel ATA, also
called IDE) technology. The first step whenever you work on a laptop is to
remove the battery. You don't want the power to accidentally turn on in the
middle of the procedure, and unplugging the cord isn't enough when there's
a battery installed.
There are two basic designs for laptop hard drive bays, the easy access type
through the bottom or side, and the less friendly under-the-keyboard drive
bay. This Toshiba laptop is the easy access scenario, at least as far as
exposing the drive goes. The hard drive is concealed behind a removable panel
on the bottom of the laptop, which is held in place with one long screw.
For an example of the more difficult internal hard drive replacement, see
my example with a Sony laptop hard drive.
Laptop hard drives are always secured in a cage (carrier), usually by 4 screws.
This laptop drive bay cover features a long plastic tube that doubles as
a screw guide and as a structural support. The cage comes out in one piece
with the hard drive still secured but you have to remove the whole cage and
drive assembly from the connector. This model uses a standard ATA connector
with the laptop interface fixed in place. Many newer laptops with SATA hard
drives have a flexible cable with a connector that can be easily separated
before the drive is removed.
The cage in this particular model is held in place by the power and ATX connector
on one end, and a steel tab on the other end, with the drive bay cover pressing
down on the cage when it's closed up. The whole cage with the hard drive
slide back towards the connector to get the tab free of the plastic stub
that secured it.
I'm going to break into the procedure for this particular laptop to show
the type of SATA hard drive interface you're likely to encounter in newer
laptops. Note that the connector is attached to a multi-color multi-lead
cable, which includes SATA data and SATA power in one. Also note the plastic
pull tab to the right of the picture which allows you to remove this SATA
drive from the bay. The pull tab is part of the drive cage, which is held
into the bay by rubber shock mounts and bay cover, with no extra latches
Back to our generic hard drive replacement, once the locking tab clears the
plastic stub it has to be gently levered up around a half inch to clear the
bay. After that, the whole drive cage assembly slides back at a low angle
until it's clear of the fixed connector. You can see why a flexible SATA
cable and connector is a superior arrangement.
The next step is to remove the 2.5" laptop hard drive from the cage. Practically
all manufacturers use four screws to secure the hard drive, but the drive
may fit into the cage two different ways, of which only one will be right.
So pay attention to how the drive you are removing is oriented. And the most
important thing is to take the time to find or to purchase a Phillips screwdriver
with the right size bit for the screw. If you strip the head on a small low
profile screw it becomes a real challenge just to remove the hard drive from
As soon as you have the replacement hard drive mounted in the cage, reinstall
the assembly into the laptop. It goes in the same way it came out, and if
it required a particular insertion angle to make it work, it's better to
get it done while your memory is fresh.The final step is to replace the screw
in the drive lid, which on some models it the only thing other than friction
which holds the hard drive cage in place. That and the close tolerances.
The most important thing you can do before replacing your hard drive is
troubleshooting the problem so you aren't throwing away money. If the system
boots, see WIndows > Accessories and try running DEFRAG, which will improve
performance and report gross errors. If it's clearly a hardware problem,
think about downloading The Laptop Repair Workbook,
which includes an introductory chapter about drive troubleshooting and includes
a detailed flowchart for diagnosing possible hard drive errors.
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