How to SPEED up laptops: 3 key points for a great upgrade
Back in 2013, the Sony VAIO SVF series launched, and I picked up this at the end of the year, right before Sony sold the division off. One of the first laptops with a 1080p screen, it’s served me well after we swapped the default 500 gig for a 1 terabyte hard drive, but with current PCs able to hit the desktop in 20 seconds thanks to NVMe drives, it’s sure feeling… sluggish. And a warning, before you attempt any drive swapping, always backup your data.
Today we’ll look at how to speed up laptops, and what you need to watch out for when you do yours, and some easy migration software. You know what works well out of the box without any software? Our sponsor, Noctua.
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After updating all the PCs in the studio to Windows 10 21H1 release, this sucker was the last one to finish, taking almost 3 hours. I mean, that speaks more to Windows Updates’ inefficiency rather than the actual PC, right? By the way, don’t forget to give us a quick follow on social media, and subscribe and bell, all that good stuff, and if you tried your own upgrade or have questions, please let us know in the comments.
So we’re swapping out the current mechanical hard drive for a new Samsung 870 QVO SSD drive, and even if your laptop doesn’t have SATA 3, even with SATA 2, you’ll still notice better response times. Plus, solid state is more reliable than mechanical, and makes less heat, is a bit quieter and you’ll get a bit better battery life. Laptops before about 2011 without SATA 3 won’t get the same massive speed boost we see in this episode, though.
And buyer beware, SSD manufacturers often say “This drive can read and write up to 520 and 480 megabytes a second!” But that speed has often been only the top model in say a 1 terabyte, 500 meg and 250 meg lineup. Recently this has gotten better, but check test reviews on the drive you’re looking at, and be wary if the SSD speeds aren’t listed.
Ok, let’s talk about return on investment, are you just throwing money away? Is the cost of upgrading and old machine worth it versus getting a new one? Well right now, with the silicon and GPU shortage still going on, it’s probably worth it to ride this one out and get something newer, or at a more reasonable price in the future.
Before you do, there’s three key factors to consider on how to speed up laptops: first is the CPU, this one’s an i5-4200U 2 core 4 thread at 1.6 gigahertz to 2.6 turbo. For 2013 it was pretty decent, and it’s still fine doing word and web tasks today, though if you have a Celeron, Core i3 or CPU without double the threads, maybe pass on this upgrade.
Second is your laptop’s battery life, and your use case. Replacing batteries can cost 100 bucks and up even with a mass produced model. After about 5 to 7 years, this battery doesn’t charge anymore, useless to take on the road. But, we’re often using it around the studio, and it’s always plugged in when we need it, so we’re good there.
Since older PCs have no NVMe interface, the third key is the drive interface. We can check this using HWiNFO64 Summary only, and in the bottom left we can see connected drives and the interface with our system. If you have SATA1 you’ll see 1.5G for gigaBITS, which transfers at 150 megaBYTES/second. SATA2 you’ll see SATA 3G which does 300 megs a second, and SATA3 appears as 6Gigabits, transferring at up to 600 megabytes, and we’re in luck here.
So our current interface can do up to 600 megs a second, a quick baseline test with CrystalDiskMark shows the hard drive is capable of read and write speeds just under 100 megabytes a second, the physical limitation of most mechanical laptop hard drives.
And you need to check the drive to see if it’s standard SSD size, mini or some weird custom design. Most laptops have a panel for the hard drive, this hard drive is a standard 2.5″ and SSDs are the same size, sometimes thinner which shouldn’t be a problem. Mini SATA SSDs are costly, so look for a 1.8″ sata to m-sata adapter, and m-sata SSD.
Now we could just slap it in there and go through the hassle of a fresh windows install. But what if there was an easy way to migrate your system over? We did a bit of research and heard that a program called DiskGenius was easy to use, and we saw user reports of success migrating hard drives over to SSDs. And it worked for us also.
We needed to prep the drive though. Past experience with other programs cloning full drives has taken hours with not great success, and we wanted to give DiskGenius a quick try. Since we have files on here double backed up, we dumped those 260 gigs, removed unused programs, and in Disk Cleanup ran “Clean up system files” taking out a 20 gig Windows.old folder from the last update.
Time to migrate the system. On a desktop PC with the power off, connect the sata power and data cables to both the old hard drive and new SSD. Then, powered on and in Windows, we installed DiskGenius and launched it.
Under Tools there’s System Migration, and we chose the old HGST 1 terabyte SSD. Next was the target disk, the Samsung 870 QVO. Our drives are both 1 terabyte, but you can adjust the free space on the drive. We didn’t pick to change the computer boot sequence as it’s not -this- computer, but the laptop. OK to continue, we chose Hot Migration, and it took a hair under 39 minutes to complete, with an average 60 meg a second transfer speed.
Power off, we connected the Samsung SSD in the laptop, and turned on the power, and it worked the first time, everything the same as the other drive. I’m really surprised, my past experience with cloning, it ends up being a huge time sink and I still end up having to do a fresh install of windows. DiskGenius, you just saved me hours, thank you for that, and we’ll throw the link here for their walkthough.
Bad me, I was too eager to see the new SSD in action. After migration, the old drive still worked, then we confirmed the SSD worked, but then the old drive no longer worked. I’m guessing the BIOS got confused with the swapping. We got this lovely screen, and yes, it took over an hour, but it wasn’t done there, it failed!
So we reinstalled windows on the old drive to get that missing boot benchmark, 36 minutes later to the desktop; windows updates finished at 1 hour, 34 minutes but the cpu is still at 100%. The system became usable at the 2 hour 38 mark, no wait, 2 hours 46 minutes, as Antimalware runs directly after all updates. Oh, Windows, you silly goose.
Time for the benchmark, measured from power button press to stats showing in Task Manager. With the old hard drive it took 40.4 seconds, and that’s with a fresh install no programs, from memory it was closer to a minute. With the Samsung 870 QVO 1 terabyte SSD, just 21.4 seconds, and we’ll call that half. With 5.8 times the read/write speeds it cuts boot time in half, and it feels snappier, too. A great result today for how to speed up laptops.
Overall, a great upgrade for 100 bucks, turning a slow laptop into something much more current gen. If you decide to grab an SSD for your upgrade, clicking through our affiliate links below to shop will help us here with no extra cost to you. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at techspinreview, and we have more at techspinreview.com.
We have tech reviews on the channel so be sure to check those out too. This episode on how to speed up laptops wouldn’t have been possible without the Samsung 870 QVO, good job to them for making an excellent performing large budget SSD, and we look forward to new solid state storage from them in the future! Thanks again to Noctua for being our sponsor this episode, their static pressure fans are perfect for cooling your rig, and you can check them at the link in the description.
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