Upgrading your Storage Space (Solid State Drive) and Physical Memory (Random Access Memory)

Tutorial Video


The two easiest upgrades to your computer involve upgrading your computers Physical Memory and Storage Memory. There are a number of factors to think about when selecting these parts. For Storage Memory you need to consider both the storage capacity and the speed and not just the storage capacity. Having a large capacity but low speed drive will cripple your Windows 10 performance and likely give you 100 % Disc Usage.

Obtaining your System Manual

Before considering replacing the Solid State Drive on your system, you should look for your systems hardware manual and assess how easy it is to open up your system to get to your Drives and Memory. Normally it is far easier to do with a Desktop than a Laptop or Tablet.

Dell and Lenovo particular with their business range generally make it much easier to get to these components. The Business Range usually come with a superior build quality which also makes them easier to assemble and disassemble. The Home Ranges on the other hand tend to be made of cheaper materials and may have fragile plastic parts which snap together and these plastic clips may easily break when pried apart.

In my limited experience with HP Products, they have been in the past notorious for bad hardware design, requiring an entire disassembly of a Laptop to get to the Drive or Memory.

To get your system manual from Dell go to www.dell.com. Go to support and select your Model or input your Service Tag. Select Manuals and Documents and then assess how hard it is to get to your Drives and Memory:

Scanning your System Using the Crucial System Scanner and Purchasing Parts

The best place to get a Solid State Drive and/or a Memory Upgrade is from Crucial. I have joined their affiliate program so please click on the link below to get to their website.

Using the affiliate link gives me a small amount of commission for the sale and helps me keep up with the costs for running the website and having enough test hardware to write up to date guides. So far I have only got UK affiliate links but am querying other regions.

Once you click the affiliate link, you can run the Crucial System Scanner. This will scan your system hardware and tell you what memory modules you currently have installed and what drives you have present. It will then present upgrades to you.

I will give some more information on the types of upgrades below.

Different Form Factors of Solid State Drives

The following image shows the types of Solid State Drives most commonly used. We have:

M.2, mSATA, PCI-e Mini, 2.5" and 3.5"
  • 2.5" SATA Solid State Drive
    • For a laptop with a 9 mm Drive you need a 7 mm to 9 mm spacer as the thinner drive won't seat in your laptop correctly (Crucial SSDs come with this spacer).
    • The 3.5" Drive found in older Desktops uses the same SATA connectors as a 2.5" SSD however you may want to purchase a Mounting Bracket to seat it correctly.
    • Newer Desktops use 2.5" Drive Bays opposed to 3.5" Drive Bays.
    • These are relatively rare existing as an intermediate between SATA and M.2 and few SSD vendors continue to manufacture these.
      • During their time of sale, mSATA drives were very expensive per GB. As a consequence, very low capacity 32-128 GB mSATA SSD drives were installed alongside 500 GB Hard Drives.
      • In this setup, because the SSD was so tiny, the mSATA SSD was setup as a Cache Drive opposed to having the OS installed directly on the MSATA SSD.
      • This had to be setup correctly in the UEFI BIOS by change of the SATA Operation. Having these as two separate drives often caused boot issues.
      • The mSATA Solid State Cache Drive and 2.5" >500 GB Hard Drive have been placed by a single 2.5" >500 GB Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) and as such the mSATA port should be thought of as obsolete when it comes to Caching.
      • In addition a 2.5" >250 GB Solid State Drives is now affordable.
      • Note: A 2.5" Solid State Drive will perform much better than a 2.5 " Solid State Hybrid Drive. Those who market/sell Hybrid Drives abbreviate them SSHDs so the name looks similar to SSDs.
    • Note also that the mSATA interface looks like the PCI-e mini used for many Wireless Cards. Be sure to check that it is a mSATA port before buying a mSATA SSD.
    • In addition M.2 to mSATA adaptors are not usually not suitable because the M.2 SSD is longer than the mSATA SSD meaning it won't physically fit into the space of most mSATA connectors.
  • M.2 (NVMe) SSD
    • These are the newer SSDs.
      • Lightweight systems such as tablets are being sold exclusively with these drives.
      • Newer micro Desktops typically have both a M.2 and a 2.5" SATA connectors. In these configurations the >250 GB M.2 Solid State Drive is used for installation of Windows 10 and the 2.5" SATA Bay is typically used for a >1 TB, large capacity Solid State Hybrid Drive.
    • There are also M.2 Wireless Cards. These cards and their ports are usually smaller in length.

Notes About Hardware Upgrades

Random Access Memory (RAM)

  • The Physical Memory or Random Access Memory (RAM) essentially equates to how much your computer can do at once e.g. how many programs and files etc you can have open at a single time. There are different generations of RAM with the newer generations being much faster than the old ones. Motherboards will only take a certain generation of RAM with a compatible pin size:
    • DDR4>DDR3>DDR2>DDR.
  • Any system with DDR RAM is over 15 years old and not compatible with Windows 10. Systems manufactured in 2008 or later with DDR2 RAM should be Windows 10 compatible.


  • The amount of RAM goes hand in hand with the processor and the clock speed of a processor equates to how fast you can execute a process or operation. The number of cores or threads equates to how many processes or operations you can run in parallel. In most cases however it is not usually that feasible or worthwhile upgrading your processor as newer models of processors only work with motherboards that contain newer sockets and as a consequence require a full system upgrade.
  • Thus you are limited in the selection of processors you can install in your model and if you have a mid-performance (i3-gxxx, i5-gxxx) or high-performance processor (i7-gxxx) at the time you purchase your system there will be little gained out of a processor upgrade. g stands for the generation of system.
  • Systems with a 1st generation Intel Processor (2010) or Later will be Windows 10 Capable. Most Processors Manufactured in 2008 or Later will also be Windows 10 Capable. You can find your processor model in System Properties and Google Search "Intel Ark Your Processor Model" to find out the year and quarter your processor was released.

Storage Memory

  • The second type of memory is your Storage Memory which is the amount of space you have to store data. Storage Memory is in general much slower than RAM and the lag that some systems display when opening up large files or resource intensive programs is due to the time it takes to copy something from the slow Storage Memory to RAM.
  • In General Storage Memory by Speed in comparison:
    • Any system with an IDE HDD is not Windows 10 Compatible and over 15 years old. IDE HDDs will not be mentioned in this guide.

Checking your System Information (Drives and Memory) within your UEFI BIOS Setup

Sometimes it is useful to look up your system information via the UEFI BIOS setup, particularly if your OS doesn't boot or a hardware components such as a mechanical HDD or Memory Module has failed.

Link to diagnostics.

Write this guide – use the OptiPlex 7050 to get screenshots.

Windows 10 – 100 % Disc Usage

A Common Issue with Windows 10 is the "100 % Disc Usage" issue. This is because Windows 10 doesn't play well with old mechanical Hard Drives. Although there are an assortment of "software workarounds" such as Disabling Windows Search, Windows Superfetch, Disabling Prefetch in Google Chrome and Allowing Skype Write Access. Most of these fixes do not work in all cases and in cases where they do work are only temporary. The best solution is just to replace your Mechanical Hard Drive with a Solid State Drive and Clean Install Windows 10.

For Windows 10 64 Bit to run well you require a 250 GB SSD and at least 4 GB of RAM. Storage wise anything smaller may cause issues when Windows 10 Updates due to lack of storage space. Insufficient Memory may cause a bottle neck when it comes to running multiple programs and working with multiple files.

Old Guide

Slow Performance? – Upgrade your System Drive to a Solid State Drive

If you've came to these guides if you are running an Older Dell System and your Hard Drive (HDD) has failed or if your system has sluggish performance (100 % Disk Usage) then you should consider upgrading to a Solid State Drive (SSD).

The image shows a large clunky 3.5" mechanical HDD, a 2.5" SSD and a M.2 SSD side by side.

System Manual

You should check your System Manual to determine what drive types are compatible – usually 2.5" or M.2. Also check how easy, the system is to open to get to the drives it's usually very easy with Desktops, where you slide off the cover and get right to the drives. It can be slightly more difficult with Laptops, where you need to be careful how you take off the cover and may need to disconnect the battery first. Some systems such as Tablets have the drive soldered onto the motherboard and are non-upgradable. Dell offer great Service Manuals especially for their business range of products (but usually the home models also).

You can run Windows 10 comfortably with a 250 GB SSD however if you need to store more files on it the 500 GB-1000 GB is recommended. I personally would avoid 120 GB SSDs or less.

2.5" SSDs

These are now affordable and I recommend the Crucial MX500 (click see more below for Amazon affiliate links, please use these as it will help fund the website costs and test hardware needed to keep my Windows Reinstallation Guides up to date).

Older systems with a clunky 2.5" mechanical HDDs are slightly thicker however the Crucial SSD comes with the spacer (if required)


3.5" Drives

These use the same connectors as the 2.5 " Drives, you just need a spacer

M.2 Drives

Your system will already have a SSD installed if you only have a M.2 slot.

Getting Windows on your New SSD

Although I recommend A Clean Install of Windows 10 see Windows OEM Downloads and FAQs. You can use Macrium Reflect to create a image of your Windows Boot Drive onto an External Hard Drive and with Bootable Media you can restore this onto your new SSD. See my guide Backing Up Your Windows Installation Using Macrium Reflect.

25 thoughts on “Upgrading your Storage Space (Solid State Drive) and Physical Memory (Random Access Memory)

  1. Philip Can you please help. I am trying to install a Crucial M500 240Gb SSD on my XPS430. I am wanting to add as a second disk so I can migrate to a clean Win7 64bit build and maintain the 32Bit. (the original disk is also 95% full and I have off load a lot to external disk). The SSD is recognized by the BIOS and visible in Windows Disk manager when in SATA port 1 but not SATA2-4. When I connect the DVD drive that was in SATA1 in SATA2-4 it is also not recognized even if I force to SATA Port to ON in the BIOS. I am running the latest BIOS A01 from Feb 2009. (even though there appears to be a A01 from March 2009.

    You advice would be appreciated. regards Richard

    1. What SATA Operation do you have?

      Seems someone here had a similar problem which the BIOS update resolved for them (but you ar eon the latest BIOS):

      Resetting BIOS defaults by removing the power and CMOS batter for a couple of minutes may help.

      1. Your article says: "I purchased an IDE optical drive caddy to add an addition 2.5″ SATA HDD to a Latitude D820 which had its main drive upgraded to a SSD."
        May I inquire which SSD you used in the D820 main drive? I have a D820.
        Was the performance and experience as expected and is the one you used 'still' the one you recommend? Thank you. -MJ

      2. The system performs significantly better with the SSD but may overheat a little, I used a USB cooling pad. Anyway I personally felt the need to get a new system for increased performance.

  2. Philip.

    Thanks for the prompt feedback.

    The "SATA Operation" is set to "RAID ON". The other option when selected (RAID Autodetect/ATA) fails to boot into windows and reboots the machine. When you return the machine to "RAID ON" the Start-up Repair runs automatically, and then boots OK.

    I have reviewed the techguy article but can see nothing that can further help me.

    I have removed the backup battery and left for around 5 minutes

    I am now in the situation where:
    SATA0 = 750GB HDD (Bootable Win7 OS)
    SATA1 = 240GB SDD (Visible in the Windows Disk manager with the option for format, make MBR etc)
    SATA2 = existing SATA DVD drive, not visible in BIOS even when forced "ON" in BIOS and generating warning on boot that SATA2 disk is not present.

    I have swapped around power connectors and SATA leads, everything works as expected.

    Other thoughts/ options? I have little need for a bootable DVD, I should be able to install Win7 64Bit from a USB thumb drive. But I do not want to loose the use of the DVD to rip audio CD and as writer. I could see if I can connect the DVD via the eSATA connector?


    1. Richard usually a system won't boot if the SATA operation is changed, that is normal. In the configuration where it is at RAID Detect/ATA do you see both drives and the Optical Drive recognised in the BIOS setup, if so then you need to reinstall Windows onto the SSD and format the HDD during installation.

      P.S. I would suggest posting a new thread in the Disk Drives forum where some of the other Community Rockstars may also have some suggestions: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/disk-drives/


  3. Hi Philip, please see if you can help me with this one.
    i have an old dell inspiron 640m laptop running windows 7 ultimate premium, i have recently purchased a Sumsung 840 Evo SSD to which i have cloned my HDD to it using Paragon software. I am running Samsung Magician and was told to boot system in AHCI mode however after searching and reading various articles, i did change the values (changing Start value from default value from 3 to zero following this guide http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/61869-ahci-enable-windows-7-vista.html) in registry etc but i can not find the AHCI Mode in Bios when i press f2 to enter bios on startup, do i need a clean install to get AHCI mode or my hardware is not compatible?
    Also i have noticed with the SSD my system startup though slightly faster but slower in opening my computer and files, net browsing (using Firefox) as constantly receiving Firefox not responding then after awhile its running again, definitely slower than i was using toshiba 250HD in my laptop. again is it just my laptop prob or is it the SSD itself? Many thanks in advance

    1. Hi Dat
      I am banned from SevenForums/EightForums for referring to my own guides. I would have recommended this opposed to that workaround: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/922976 however would recommend clean installation for optimum results.

      Regarding AHCI in the BIOS setup, it should be under Onboard Devices > SATA Operation. This model should have it as its essentially just a smaller Inspirion 6400 and this was taken from a Latitude D820 which has the same chipset and hence a similar setup:

      Likely a clean install would sort out your issues using the system drivers here:
      And following the installation instructions here:
      I just upgraded a Latitude D820 to a Crucial M500 and the system performance for everything is far superior, I upgraded an Inspiron 6400 to a Crucial M4 in the past. The Samsung 840 Evo is meant to be superior and I was considering using this opposed to a M500 however the price difference for a system with only a SATA 2 interface wasn't worth it in my opinion. The clean install won't take long on the SSD.


  4. Philip, Thanks for the quick reply
    i have tried this "I would have recommended this opposed to that workaround:" and "Regarding AHCI in the BIOS setup, it should be under Onboard Devices > SATA Operation."
    when i go into bios, sata operation is not listed under onboard devices

    i am in the process of backup all data i would like to keep, backup my itunes library, one i have done that then i shall looking into doing a clean install. by the way, do you happen to know a quicker/more efficient way/software of backup files and restore them after i have clean install windows 7?

    1. What BIOS revision is your system? A10? The screenshot was taken from the Latitude Dx20. It seems that the SATA operation might not be there for the Home model equivalents, E1405/640M/E1505/6400/E1705/9400. I don't have my 6400 to test.

      I don't use Itunes, I preferred Amazon mp3 downloader due to ease of coping files. I usually manually copy over the files to an external hard drive and back across after a clean installation:

  5. bios version A10, the controller that i have in my 640m is the Intel (R) ICH7-M Family Serial ATA Storage controller 27C4.
    "It seems that the SATA operation might not be there for the Home model equivalents, E1405/640M/E1505/6400/E1705/9400" does that mean my laptop doesn't support AHCI? if so i won't need to go ahead with clean installation then?

    1. I would still advise clean installing, as you have something up with your installation making the system run slowly…

  6. Hi Philip, Hope you are well. Have only just now come across your rather interesting webpage and wondered if you are able to advise on my query. Am wanting to install a bootable SSD via PCIe interface on Dell XPS 720 in order to take advantage of the higher speed. Have run the Crucial system scanner and come up with a number of options but require something a little bit different. Wish to avoid getting this upgrade wrong, so am looking for advice on whether or not the Dell XPS 720 motherboard will permit a SSD to operate as a bootable drive via the PCI-express interface. Not sure if this will be blocked by the Dell BIOS or something else.

    This Dell XPS 720 computer has these specs:
    Motherboard: P611C
    Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 680 SLI MCP
    Processor: LGA775 Socket Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Q6600 2.4GHz
    Memory: DDR2 4GB
    Graphics: GeForce 8800 GTX
    Storage: 1TB/5400
    Audio: Integrated HDA 7.1 channel
    Video: GTX8800 via PCI Express
    OS: Win 7 [shortly upgrading to Win8.1]
    System BIOS: A06
    Expansion options
    IDE Connector
    SATA II Connectors 3Gb/s
    PCI Slot
    PCI Express x1 Slot
    PCI Express x16 Slots

    For the upgrade, I am considering purchasing a PCI-e to mSATA SSD [SATA III] Adapter and a Crucial 256GB mSATA [SATA III] Solid State Drive. SATA III [6Gb/s] via PCI-e should hopefully provide a significant boost to the startup & current disk I/O speed.
    If the above configuration does not work , should I be considering other upgrades instead, for example, SSHD or SSD via the SATA II interfaces ?

    Appreciate any advice you may be able to offer.
    Thank you.
    regards, krish

    1. To be honest I've not attempted an upgrade to a SSD using the PCIe interface, its best to post on the Dell Community Desktop Forums to see if anyone else has.

      A 2.5" SSD will work fine with the SATA II interface.

  7. Dear Phillip,
    Your guide is clear and helpfull, but I don't succeed.
    for 2 weeks I'm trying to upgrade my lenovo Y500 with a MSATA 250GB . I want to use that for boot and win8.1 (and later win10) and programs. The data stay on the HDD. But I don't suceed 'with the installation. 1 Drive-clooning is not possible from a 1T HDD (with a D=Data partition) to 250 GB SSD. 2 if clooning the partitions (boot + system) I can't get the partition lettering good and it does not boot from the ssd-bootmanager.
    So I thought : I do a clean install and then substitute the content of C by restoring an image of the C on the HDD to it. But trial nr. 3. My old Oem-win8.0 DVD wont install on GPT ? 4. cleaninstal from usb from mediacreationtool.exe does not work the usb won't boot (anyway there are only 2,8 GB "sources" on it, even if the tool requires a usb bigger than 4 GB (Something missing??)). What do I wrong ?

    1. I try trial nr 4 again with a new usb-medium, now 3,9 GB big. looks better.

      1. Yess, I got the msata ssd booting after a clean install Thanks your guide ;-). but to my disappointment, I can't clone the Hdd-system-partition to the SSD-systempartition. It evokes the restore screen: "the boot-device is not accessible". ( "restoring" an image of the HDD-system-partition has the same non result). I don't understand why the partition becomes not accessible, so I have no idea how to solve it. Do I really have to go back to the clean-install and install all other programs anew ???

      2. The time and wasted performance you'll put into attempting to clone the HDD to SSD is better spent on reinstalling everything you want on the SSD with a Clean Reinstall in my opinion.

        Now that your system is a Windows 10 Device, I would advise Clean Reinstallation of Windows 10 directly. As you've noticed the Clean Reinstallation is far more reliable. See here, at the start of Step 4:

  8. Thanks for the clear advice. following your guide, I upgrade the HDD to win 10 and than I create the win10 install medium. Work to do ahead ;-).

  9. Phillip,

    I have an original Latitude D630 running XP that I have cleaned up and stripped of most software other than Office. It works quite well. I also have a new Windows 7 Upgrade disc and thinking of doing a clean install of same. I don't need a lot of storage, so I'm also thinking of getting an SSD on which to do the clean install of Win 7.

    It seems there are a lot of folks who have done a similar upgrade with good success. Is it as simple as pulling out the HDD, dropping in the SSD and booting the Win 7 install disc, with the XP product key handy? I know there will be a lot of Windows updates to install later.

    I've read through a lot of your guides (very nice work), but are there any potential pitfalls or details I should be aware of in doing the above?


  10. Thanks, Philip – I think I will give it a go. My D630 has the nVidia Quadro NVS 135M video adapter. I seem to remember seeing someone having an issue with an nVidia adapter and Windows 10 on this or a similar system. Your thoughts?

  11. Hi,
    I just got a Dell Optiplex 7070 micro PC. Unfortunately, it won’t come with Wlan/BT card. Can you please provide me the part no/model no so I can order online.
    Many thanks,

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