Upgrading a hard drive and keeping all the data and configuration intact is still not a trivial process, but Kingston has done a good job of making it as straightforward as possible. It's a good choice for those looking for a hefty performance and reliability boost, and who have the budget.
Performance boost; no reinstall required.
Expensive; complicated; improvements depend on individual configuration.
Solid state drives (SSDs) are finally reaching a point where capacities are high enough, and prices low enough, for some to consider upgrading their desktop PC, laptop or netbook.
However, many PC users are wary about digging around inside their PC to upgrade any component, and hard drives are particularly tricky because you have to transfer all the data from one drive to the other. This process is made even more complicated by the fact that most of today's operating systems cannot successfully manage a straightforward copy between drives.
To this end, storage maker Kingston Technology has released a series of upgrade kits to make it easier for people to transition from a traditional hard drive to an SSD.
The kit comprises a tiny 2.5in SSD drive (in this case an 80GB version), a pair of mounting brackets so that the drive can be installed in a 3.5in drive bay, a Sata data cable, a power converter and a 2.5in Sata external drive bay. Also in the pack is a DVD containing the cloning software, supplied by Acronis, and step-by-step instructions for desktops and notebooks.
First and foremost, the Kingston SSD drives are based on the Sata interface so, if you're upgrading any PC or notebook older than about a year, it's worth checking that you're replacing a Sata hard drive, or at least that the motherboard can support Sata drives if you're upgrading a desktop PC.
In our case we were upgrading a desktop PC from a Western Digital 74GB Raptor hard drive running Windows Vista, to a Kingston M series 80GB SSD.
The instructions are provided only on the DVD, so make sure you read through them completely before starting the procedure. Printing them out is a good idea so that you don't miss anything, as most of the process is done without access to the files on the disc.
The instructions provide a pretty thorough guide on how to prepare the older drive for the transfer, in particular what to do if the old drive is holding more data than the new SSD. The cloning process moves everything from one drive to another, so you cannot choose what files and folders to move, and the amount of used space on the old hard drive has to be less than about 85 per cent of the new SSD drive space.
This means that you may need to move large non-system or application files, most probably content like documents, pictures, music and movies, to another drive or partition before you undergo the cloning process.
Once you've prepared the old drive you need to shut down and disconnect the PC in order to install the new drive and transfer the data. In the case of a notebook, the cloning is done before changing drives by installing the SSD in the removable drive bay.
The next step is to boot from the Acronis DVD which, depending on your setup, may require a quick trip to the Bios to make sure the computer tries to boot from the DVD drive before booting from the hard drive and straight back into Windows.
Once the PC boots from the DVD, a few clicks through the menu will get you to a simple automated process to copy the data between the two drives. There is a manual mode for advanced users who have particular partition requirements, but most people will be able to let the automated software handle the details.
To clone about 50GB worth of data took around 15 minutes on our test rig, after which the software provides information about changing the boot priority of the two drives. This is for users who wish to keep the old drive as spare storage space, or to format and dispose of information.
At this stage, notebook users performing the upgrade will need to open the chassis and swap out the drives. Once all this has been done, the computer should boot from the SSD straight into the operating system.
Depending on the operating system in question, and the particular setup, there may be some detection of new hardware and automatic configuration, but no further intervention should be required.