Laptop Hard Drive Problem? Clone It!

sata-ide-laptop-hard-driveComing to Korea is a wearing experience, even for computers, especially if they aren’t handled well on the journey over (thanks airport security for cracking my friend’s screen). If you’ve been having trouble with your computer -> slow down, freezing, crashing, over-heating, or only turning on sporadically,  it would probably be a good idea to either (A) upgrade the whole computer or (B) switch out the hard drive. Most people would probably prefer to not shuck out the bucks for a new computer, so with this post I’ll deal with cloning and switching out an old hard drive.

With technology becoming cheaper (and capacity increasing greatly) these days, it is becoming more common to just upgrade a computer part by part rather than buying a whole new computer. Additionally, most people have multiple files, photos, videos, music, and programs on their original hard drive that they’d prefer to keep intact. Therefore, it is effective and cost efficient to buy a new hard drive, clone the old one, and replace it with the new one. This will allow you to keep everything exactly as it was on the new hard drive as it was on the old one -> and it will also allow for an upgrade of hard drive capacity (no one wants to replace an old hard drive with one the same size -> go big or go home!).

Non-Standard Parts

In Jeonju, it’s pretty easy to buy an external USB hard drive from E-mart or HomePlus or Lotte Mart, so long as the connection bus is standard. One of my friends recently had their HP laptop crash. I bought an external, but when I opened up their computer, I found that HP had customized the connection bus of their hard drives so the one I bought wouldn’t fit in there. I’ve also had similar problems with Dell and Gateway. It seems some computer manufacturers like to use non-standard parts in their computers for some reason (so you have to depend solely on them for repairs or upgrades perhaps?). Many of these same manufacturers also use operating system install discs that only work for their computers (i.e. it scans the system to install on and if it isn’t recognized as an HP system that the disc came with, it will refuse to install the operating system).

I’ve always hated PC manufacturers like that. If I want “system specific” hardware or software, I’ll buy a Mac (best computer I ever bought). But PCs should be standard and use standard hardware and software as switching out parts in upgrades or repairs is incredibly common and often undertaken by the PC owner. But that’s another soap box. The picture below (from shows different laptop hard drive connections. Most that I’ve seen are SATA, but you might want to open up your laptop (in the back – standard Philips screws) and just double-check.


Buy the Hard Drive

In Korea, I know there is a huge electronics market up in Yong-San in Seoul. You could either head up there, or check out your local Emart or HomePlus. When looking to purchase a new drive, I know that prices in Korea are much cheaper on the Internet if you can find the right person to help you look.

You could probably find a list of compatible models online on -> but then you would need a Korean to help order that model from the Internet. I don’t know what size HDD you’re looking to purchase -> 160GB is pretty standard, but a bit small in this day and age, I’d say 250GB or 320GB is better.

Don’t be fooled by any old hard drive though. As you know, there are two “main types” of computer hard drives: There is the 3.5 inch (width) HDD (around 90mm wide) for internal use in desktop computers, and there is the 2.5 inch HDD (around 63.5mm wide) for internal use in laptop computers. You can find more information at this site (

Definitely the most important thing to be concerned about (besides the connection) is the size of the hard drive, the dimensions. Laptop drives are 2.5 inch drives, so they should have dimensions around 69.85 mm × 9.5–15 mm × 100 mm -> or similar.

Something along the lines of this ought to do the trick:

Or this:

Be sure that whatever drive you do end up purchasing has an external case and a USB connection. This is imperative for the cloning process (as one drive needs to remain IN the computer while one drive must be connected EXTERNALLY and cloned to).

Buy the Cloning Software

After acquiring the new hard drive, you’ll need an appropriate software to facilitate the cloning process.

Here are just a few links that I found quickly with a Google search: (Free software) (Blog with free tools and hints) (Software reviews with features)

It seems that Acronis True Image is the best, and Norton Ghost is also pretty good (it’s on our computers at school).

Just Do It

Here’s a quick procedure of what you need to do to clone your old drive onto the new one:

  1. First connect the USB external drive to the computer and turn on your computer as is.
  2. Install the disc cloning software (if you haven’t already)
  3. Run the software, and select the external USB connected drive as the drive to clone to.
  4. Let the software run and clone the whole drive.
  5. My friend said: “Acronis turned out to be an excellent program with a ‘clone disk’ function, which made it super easy to copy my old hard disk sector for sector. It only took about 1.5 hours for my 120 GB internal Samsung drive to be cloned and Acronis automatically adjusted the partitions to fit the new, larger disk. It couldn’t have been easier!”
  6. Turn off the computer, unplug everything.
  7. Remove your laptop’s hard drive, and remove the external hard drive from it’s enclosure.
  8. Put the external (cloned) hard drive into your laptop.
  9. Put your laptop’s hard drive into the external enclosure.
  10. Close it all up and start it up to check and be sure that the cloned drive is exactly the same as the original.
  11. In case of trouble, trouble-shoot
  12. My friend said this: “To finish things off I also downloaded Norton Partition Magic to fine-tune the size of my new system and data partitions. Acronis didn’t allow me to adjust the size of my system partition because there wasn’t enough space (usually this can be done with Acronis except in my specific case), so I had to use Partition Magic.

    My computer is now running very smoothly with the new drive installed. There don’t seem to be any errors, alhtough I did have to run chkdsk before Norton Partition Magic allowed me to resize my partitions (apparently there were some cross-linked file errors).”

Finish Up

Basically, the whole process is like doing a “switcheroo” on the two drives, so they need to be nearly identical in dimensions.

You’d probably like to keep your old laptop hard drive for storage (you can erase it once the process is successful) in the external enclosure. It should work like a large USB disc that way and it shouldn’t get as much wear and tear by being an external drive, so it should (hopefully) last a while longer -> if you want.

So, if you’re having laptop hard drive problems, why not go do some online shopping (a great US site is, but please check for the dimensions of the hard drive: 69.85 mm × 9.5–15 mm × 100 mm and connection SATA or IDE.

What do you think?

Was this helpful? Did I miss anything?


2 Responses to “Laptop Hard Drive Problem? Clone It!”

  1. Sherman Unkefer Says:

    I have a Toshiba Satellite laptop. It crashed and the problem was found to be the Hard drive. i don’t want to have to get a new hard drive, because I have a big external one. I’ve tried to get the laptop to boot from the ext. HD, but it won’t do it. Is there any way to get the laptop to read the HD???

    • jekkilekki Says:

      The problem is that the laptop can’t read an Operating System. Your internal drive crashed, so it can’t read that OS, and the external drive is probably used for storage only and so doesn’t have an OS installed on it. Even if the external drive did have an OS installed on it, you’d have a hard time getting any computer to read from the USB connection (instead of internal HDD, or CD) from the initial boot (there are ways around it, but they are complicated).

      You can always try to boot from a Live CD of Linux. The Live CD is basically an operating system that runs from CD, rather than from a hard drive. This is good for trying out a new OS without installing it, or trying to rescue data from crashed discs (sometimes, if the crashed disc still reads – sometimes it’s completely toasted).

      So, if you want to do that, you would need to download an .ISO of a Linux install (like Knoppix), burn it to a CD, pop it into the crashed computer’s drive, and boot the crashed computer from the CD. Then, you might be able to save some of your files. But, if the Live CD’s OS still can’t read the internal HDD, then that means it’s toasted and you’ll need a new one. There are still ways to get data off those toasted drives, but you’d need an expert for that, and the service can run up to $50 or $100 dollars (possibly more, depending).

      My advice would be to take it to a computer tech and see what he can do with it (and hopefully he knows about the Live CD rescue attempt).

      Good luck.

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