Upgrading Laptop Hard Disk

I just had a very pleasant experience upgrading the hard disk in my Thinkpad X200 laptop, and wanted to share how I did it with you. (This article was an inspiration.) I run Linux, but this should work for any OS.

  • Purchase a Seagate Momentum XT with 4GB NAND Flash cache – many of the benefits of SSD, but without the cost – plus a cheap USB 2.5″ hard disk enclosure
  • Place new disk in the enclosure
  • Make a backup (I missed out this step, but recommend it)
  • Download a CD image of Clonezilla and burn it
  • Reboot into Clonezilla; clone your drive with the “proportionately increase partition sizes” option, and the “check source filesystem” option. Make sure not to mix up source and destination!
  • Swap the drives over (screwdriver required)
  • Reboot
  • Find that everything works absolutely fine but df still reports your drive as 100GB.
  • Do a lot of Googling
  • Find a thread on UbuntuForums showing exactly your problem
  • Run resize2fs to resize your ext3 filesystem up to the partition size. This works for ext3 even when the drive is mounted :-)

The process was almost trouble-free. The only difficulties were I had to redo the clone with the “check source filesystem” option, because my filesystem had an error or two, and finding out what the problem was with df and how to resize the filesystem. But all in all, this was really painless. And I now have 5 times as much space, plus a handy external 100GB backup drive (using my old drive and the enclosure).

14 thoughts on “Upgrading Laptop Hard Disk

  1. It is a little faster then a normal HDD, yes. But it doesn’t have any of the adventages of a real SSD, it is a lot slower (4KB), and it’s response time is a lot higher…

  2. What do you mean by “it’s a lot slower (4KB)”? It has 4GB (gigabytes) of Flash, which seems like a fairly large cache to me. I don’t know what the working disk set is for a Firefox compile, but I hope it’s not all that much bigger than that…

    Gerv

  3. an SSD has the following advantages

    – 4KB read speed (for a normal HDD mostly below 1MB/s, for a SSD > 20MB/s, newer SSD’s can be much faster), when accessing a lot of files for compiling, SSD will be much much faster here.
    – no noise (nothing turning)
    – less WATT

    So that seagate, is a good HDD with a big CACHE, but it is nowhere near a real SSD. When using the momentum XT as a RAID it will be a lot better though…

    look at the following: http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/seagate_momentus_xt_500gb/9.htm

    to the left are HDD’s, on the right side are SSD’s. This seagate is a little better than without the cache.

    To see the difference between 4K/s read/write, 512K/s read/write, etc, look at the following link:

    http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/seagate_momentus_xt_500gb/6.htm

    So a SSD is a lot more expensive, but it has its advantages.

    – compiling is faster, faster access to small files, at almost 0ms access.
    – starting outlook for example is like >20secs (for HDD) and

  4. Wow, thanks for the info :-) Still, I’m not too upset. It wasn’t much more than a standard drive, so I haven’t lost out. If there’s some win, I’m happy. And I can’t justify buying a full SSD!

  5. I believe noname was referring to this (or something like it):

    http://www.storagereview.com/seagate_momentus_xt_review

    The “4K” tests (small, random reads and writes) showed the Momentus XT to be a decent performer for its class but being soundly thumped by SSDs (you’ll need to check other reviews).

    Still, that review concludes with:

    “The area the Seagate Momentus XT really shone was during our real-world trace playback tests. Since each test includes normal system activity that has some repeating patterns, this lets the SSD module inside the XT actually do what it was designed to do.”

    Unless you intend you laptop to show off benchmark scores all day, it sounds like you made a good choice.

  6. Just like the link andy send, it explains that the Seagate is a good buy for its money. It is a fast HDD because of its hybrid nature… And as long as SSDs aren’t getting any cheaper….

  7. I have to do this from time to time, either on my own machines or other people’s ;)

    I tend to do a straight clone using Clonezilla, than boot a Ubuntu live CD and run GParted to do the subsequent moving and rearranging of partitions. It probably takes longer that way, but gives you more fine-grained control (for example I usually want to keep the swap partition the same size). I’ve never had any need to manually resize the ext3 filesystem afterwards as it’s done implicitly by GParted.

  8. For those who think software is always suspect (Norton Ghost simply melted down when I tried it), the tried and true, one-line Linux way of duplicating a disk is dd.

    For those who can’t tell the difference between input and output, “dd” is sometimes known as “disk destroyer”, but I suppose you could make the same mistake with any program.

  9. @VanillaMozilla: I used to use dd for this, but although I never got the parameters the wrong way round, I was always paranoid that I would. Clonezilla has the advantage of showing you the disk model and size, which is no use if you’re cloning between identical drives, but provides a degree of reassurance in the (more common) case of cloning from a small drive to a larger drive.

  10. I am a bit wary of using cloning and especially dd. The problem with dd is that the filesystem blocks recording bad sectors are blindly copied over, not what you want. I don’t know Clonezilla, but it seems silly to spend even ten minutes learning a new tool for a very infrequent job. Just pop in any live CD lying or a USB system and use tools like fdisk, parted, ext2fs that we know well. One advantage of copying files over rather than filesystems is that you get a free total defragment. My home partition has filled up over 90% a couple of times before pruning, and if you are replacing because of lack of space a defragment is probably sensible. If not, it will be quicker to copy files because the empty space is not copied.

  11. MarkC: My swap partition expanded from 4GB of a 100GB disk to 20GB of a 500GB disk. I doubt I’m going to need that extra 16GB any time soon :-)

    Nicholas: I’m not actually particularly familiar with fdisk, parted and ext2fs – but even if I was, the risk of accidentally getting something wrong, and the hours of cleaning up the result that would entail, means I’d go for the dedicated, safer tool every time. Time to copy wasn’t an issue – I just went out to a prayer meeting :-)

  12. I recently did something similar to a small server, except both drives were internal, and I just booted any random live CD and used dd instead of messing around with Clonezilla, and then I used gparted to resize. But the principle is similar.

  13. As for solid-state drives, you can buy a whole computer for the price of one of those (assuming you want storage capacity comparable to a regular hard drive), so unless you have more money than you know what to do with, they’re not really a practical choice for most everyday purposes yet, especially for Linux systems, which tend to use more hard drive than Windows systems (a consequence of all the software packages most distributions include). The prices are coming down, and the capacities are going up, but it’s going to be a while before they reach parity with standard hard drives.