Replacing/Installing SSD and mSATA SSD on Alienware 14

DSCF2530There are 2 methods of moving your operating system to a new drive:

1. A clean install of Windows on the new hard drive

2. Cloning your old hard drive to a new one, there are lots of free ones out there that works great. If you use a Samsung SSD, it comes with its own migration software.

Most (if not all) people recommends the first one, but I chose the 2nd option as it was an easier option for someone who hasn’t used a windows computer for 5-6 years and has zero experience on  DIY hard drive replacement.

A few things to note before you tinker with a computer’s hardware:

1. Work on a clean and flat surface

2. Ground yourself, here’s a good forum thread on this topic

So here’s how I did the upgrading process 🙂

1. Install the migration software

1. Install the migration software

Connect your SSD to the computer using a mSATA to USB cable (3.0 or 2.0, both works). I'm using an old school 2.0 cable, it needs a separate usb for power :3

2. Connect your SSD to the computer using a mSATA to USB cable (3.0 or 2.0, both works). I’m using an old school 2.0 cable, it needs a separate usb for power :3

3. Start the migration process and ensure that the new hard drive is the target disk

3. Start the migration process and ensure that the new hard drive is the target disk

From this point onwards, I used my iPhone to capture the process. Sorry if the resolution is lacking 🙂


4. Once the migration is complete, turn off your computer. It's upgrading time!

4. Once the migration is complete, turn off your computer. It’s upgrading time!

4. Remove the 2 screws. Slide the bottom panel to your side and lift it up.

5. Remove the 2 screws. Slide the bottom panel to your side and lift it up.

6. Disconnect the battery from the motherboard

6. Disconnect the battery from the motherboard

7. Carefully plug it off to prevent cable breakage. A wooden ear pick is useful for this.  If you choose to lift your battery up and put it somewhere else safe, remove the 3 screws that holds the battery. If not, it is actually pretty safe to leave it there.

7. Carefully plug it off to prevent cable breakage. A wooden ear pick is useful for this.
If you choose to remove battery and put it somewhere else safe, remove the 3 screws that keep it secure. If not, it is actually pretty safe to leave it there.

8. First stop, the mSATA slot

8. First stop, the empty mSATA slot

9.

9.

10. Insert at a 45-degree angle then push it downwards

10. Insert at a 45-degree angle then push it downwards

11. Secure it with a screw, usually bundled with the mSATA when purchased

11. Secure it with a screw, usually bundled with the purchased mSATA

12. Next, remove the CD drive.

12. Next, remove the CD drive if your hard drive is located underneath it.

13. Carefully lift up the white plastic bit that secures the CD-drive to the motherboard

13. Carefully lift up the white plastic bit that secures the CD-drive to the motherboard

14. Remove the screw that holds the CD-drive, lift it up and put it somewhere safe.  Next, we'll disconnect the hard drive from the motherboard

14. Remove the screw that holds the CD-drive, lift it up and put it somewhere safe.
Next, we’ll disconnect the hard drive from the motherboard

14. Careful :)

14. Careful 🙂

15. Remove the screws, lift it up and disconnect the msata cable from the old hard drive

15. Remove the 3 screws, lift it up and disconnect the mSata connector from the old hard drive

16. Remove the 3 screws that secure your old drive to the metal casing. Replace the old drive with your new SSD and put the screws back in.

16. Remove 3 screws that secure your old drive to the metal casing.
Replace the old drive with your new SSD and put the screws back in.

17. Now, redo everything else that you did, in reverse

17. Now, redo everything else that you did, in reverse. Make sure nothing is missing 😀

18.

18.

19. This is the hardest bit to reinsert back to the motherboard. Be very patient and don't break the innocent RAM sticks sitting nearby.

19. This is the hardest bit to reinsert. Be very patient and don’t break the innocent RAM sticks sitting nearby.

20. Everything is put back together [kinda, I actually forgot to reconnect the battery to the motherboard. Had a mini heart attack when i tried turning on the laptop :D]

20. Everything is put back together [kinda, I actually forgot to reconnect the battery to the motherboard. Had a mini heart attack when i tried turning on the laptop :D]

21. When you turn on the computer, Go to the BIOS setting (by pressing F2 as soon as you see the boot-up logo).  Go to the UEFI boot setting and rearrange the order. Press F5 to bring your new drive to the top of the list of the boot order If this is not done, you'll see a black screen with "checking media(fail)" for a few seconds before it boots  to your drive.

21. When you turn on the computer, Go to the BIOS setting (by pressing F2 as soon as you see the boot-up logo).
Go to the UEFI boot setting and rearrange the order. Press F5 to bring your new drive to the top of the list of the boot order.
If this is not done, you’ll see a black screen with “checking media(fail)” for a few seconds before the computer attempts to boot from your drive.

22. You're done. But what if your mSATA is not appearing as an available disk drive? (it happened to me)

22. You’re done. But what if your mSATA is not appearing as an available disk drive? (it happened to me)

23. Go to Disk Management. If you see the "unallocated" drive, you've installed the mSATA correctly :) Now you only need to initialise it as a usable drive.

23. Go to Disk Management. If you see the “unallocated” drive, you’ve installed the mSATA correctly 🙂 Now you only need to initialise it as a usable drive.

24. Right click on the disk icon and choose initiate and you're done! In this picture, I had to right click on the "Disk 1 unknown" box and initiate it as a new drive.

24. Right click on the disk icon and choose initiate and you’re done! In this picture, I had to right click on the “Disk 1 unknown” box and initiate it as a new drive.

 


I hope this post is helpful for Alienware 14 users who are seeking to upgrade their own hard drives at home 🙂 Other laptops should be quite similar to this when it comes to the steps taken (the CD drive need not be removed if it doesn’t block your hard drive though).

William

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7 thoughts on “Replacing/Installing SSD and mSATA SSD on Alienware 14

  1. Hello – Great how to! I will definitely use this over the weekend, my HDD has decided to die after only 2 years use! 😦
    Quick question though regarding your mSATA drive. Why did you get one if you installed your OS on the SSD? My knowledge of them suggests they are best used for your OS and most common software due to the speed benefits associated with them, but i am by no means an expert!
    Thanks again!

    • Hi Hayden, I’m not an expert too and as a normal user I don’t think I’ll perceive much difference in speed for both of them. Both sound pretty fast to me. Also, my SSD is 512Gb and I’m keeping most of my games there. Just using the 256Gb mSATA as a spare disk xD Hahaha.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this tutorial. Without it I would not have had the confidence to try to attempt the same project on my Alienware 14. I followed your instructions and it’s like I have a new computer! Boot time is incredibly quick, and with the mSATA acting as a cache, the overall performance has greatly improved. MANY THANKS!

  3. Well, I have a similar setup. Alienware 14, 2.5Ghz i7 CPU 4710MQ, with currently a 500GB Hybrid HDD it came with and added an mSATA 256GB. Now, I just upgraded to a 500GB Samsung 850EVO mSATA and a 2TB internal HDD. All Windows 10 OS features and quick load will go on the mSATA, the rest on the 2TB HDD. I also have 16GB RAM, thinking about putting 32GB, but not sure on that. At this point, the laptop is about as maxxed as it’s possibly going to get. Great performance (except the battery of course) and I do Software Development and use large IDE’s for Dev work as well as some gaming, so this system is a keeper. Think I’ll retire it in a few years and move to the next architecture, but it’s about as good as it gets for a while at this point.

Food For Thought :D

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