At one time, my main computer was a Dell laptop. When I finally decided it was upgrade time, Dell had decided to join everyone else and stop offering Operating System DVD’s, choosing to supply only pre-built Recovery DVD’s. They tried to get too cute in the order process, so I cancelled my order for a very expensive Dell top-of-the-line desktop-replacement notebook and plans for a smaller Alienware for portable use.
Instead, I saved a fortune by building my own desktop and buying a cheap notebook. I’ve written before about my notebook computer — and how it was a pleasure to be able to find one that was small, light, fast and cheap. All four! (The old adage was that you could pick three of the four.)
I decided it was time for a cost-effective upgrade. With most notebooks, there is little available for the user to upgrade — just the memory and the hard drive. So, I decided to do both…
I decided to upgrade from a 5400 RPM hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD). While I was at it, I learned how cheap memory was now, so I upgraded it, too. I bought everything from my usual memory source Crucial.com. Get 5% off at Crucial.com.
The upgrade process for memory was easy. I used their Crucial Memory Advisor™ tool to identify which memory I needed and how much memory my notebook could use. I upgraded from the basic 4 GB of RAM (2 modules of 2 GB each) to 8 GB (2 modules of 4 GB each) for only $45.99.
The installation process was simple — and the Crucial site has good instructions.
Note that 32-bit Windows can only use 3 GB of RAM, but most computers today are sold with 64-bit processors and 32-bit versions of Windows installed, which can use much larger amounts of RAM.
The upgrade to the SSD has been a little more of a problem.
I had planned to back up my existing hard drive onto an external hard drive, using Acronis True Image Home 2012. First, I couldn’t find either of my external hard drives. I still haven’t found them. But, I remembered that I bad a better solution.
I have an external docking station for full size (3.5-inch) and 2.5-inch internal SATA hard drives. You stick the hard drive into the top of the unit and the data and power connectors mate with their corresponding connectors in the unit. Then, plug the unit into the power mains and press the power-on button. Once the drive spins up, you plug its USB2 cable into a USB2 port on the computer.
I backed up the notebook’s internal drive to the full size "external drive". When I attempted to restore it to the SSD, that’s when I found another problem. The recovery failed.
As I did some more research, I began to see why, and also to see that I really didn’t want to do that anyway.
One of the problems was that Acer sets up a recovery partition on the hard drive. That was consuming 12.7 GB of space. I really didn’t want the partition installed onto the SSD. But, as I researched about this PQSERVICE partition, I found that deleting it wasn’t quite that simple. The Windows Boot.ini file was tied to the PQSERVICE partition — and specifically to in which partition it was installed on the drive. Deleting the file was going to cause booting problems. Plus, the recovery was likely to reorder the partitions, since the main partition was going to be resized to be smaller than the original
The other, and main issue, explained why the instructions from Crucial specified installing Windows from the DVD. Windows needs to be installed starting at a particular point in the SSD in order to perform at its best. The Windows installation is going to handle that (tomorrow). It may also have been handled by the Crucial "SSD with Data Transfer Kit," which I didn’t buy.
Which brings up the strange product codes at Crucial — they apparently use their web site product codes to track the ultimate uses of their memory and SSD’s. They appear to have unique codes for combination of their product with a destination computer model or motherboard model.
I referred to "the Windows installation is going to handle that (tomorrow)." Since you can’t install Windows from recovery media, I ordered a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium for the notebook. I thought about getting the Professional version, but decided that I wanted to have one copy of Windows 7 Home Premium.
Now, I’ll have the old hard drive with the original Windows 7 Home Premium on it (for whenever I sell the notebook), and the new SSD with a new Windows 7 Home Premium retail edition on it that I can move to another computer.