Laptop Hard Disk Replacement

Hard Disk

A laptop hard disk also called a hard drive is a mass storage device for digital data. It is often necessary to replace a crashed or failed drive.

This article shows how to change the drive for one laptop; however, the principle is the same for most laptops. You will still need to refer to the service manual and follow that for your specific brand of laptop.

Drive Not Detected

Hard Drive View

One day you might find the drive is not working with a message, "Primary hard disk drive 0 not found. Press F1 to retry reboot or F2 for set-up utility".

With laptops a loose ribbon cable is often the culprit therefore, for an undetectable drive, the cheapest option might be to re-seat the connector. If the drive remains undetected then chances are that the electronics has failed and the drive will require replacing.


I have seen machines where the drive just clicks. Sometimes it makes a noise and sometimes the clicking is quiet. The clicking noise indicates that the head is trying to read the master boot record but is unable to. This is normally an indication of a serious mechanical fault and repair software seldom helps in this situation.


I have also seen overheating drives, which will work fine when the laptop is cool, but start producing read errors and the blue screen of death as the drive heats. This is often due to internal cooling issues, however sometimes it is also because of a faulty drive.

Bad Sectors

Bad sectors typically indicate physical damage on the surface of the disk. It may be possible to repair such damage with software, however if the number of bad sectors is growing, then that indicates a failing disk that requires replacement. You should backup all your important data as soon as the system allows you to. Diagnostic software and SMART parameters also provide a clue if the disk is failing.

Replacing the Drive

Replacing a laptop hard drive.

In the laptop industry, there are normally a handful of hard drive manufacturers, which many laptop manufacturers use. Therefore, you could have a Toshiba Satellite, Sony Vaio, Lenovo, or Dell, branded machines exhibiting the same drive faults.

With modern laptops, hard drive compatibility issues seldom occur. Generally, the interface standard remains the same amongst the different brands, and this makes hard drive replacement easier for the engineers.

Many laptops will have a hatch on the side held in place by one or two screws. The hard drive is normally located behind the hatch.

Hard disk caddy frame.

A hard drive normally fits into a caddy frame, which houses the drive. There are just four screws to secure it to the caddy.

Hard disk PCB electronics.

This is the PCB side of the laptop hard drive. You should never touch any part of the PCB with your bare hands and must take electrostatic discharge precautions.

Caddy Connector

This view shows the connector that the hard disk interface plugs into. The whole idea of a caddy is to change the pin configuration of the hard drive, from the established IDE standard to the modified standard that the laptop manufacturer may use. This way a standard drive can fit any design of laptop of any manufacturer.

Laptop IDE Interface

This is the IDE interface connector. These connectors are a standard that most manufacturers of hard drives follow. If you have bought a replacement kit, then you will need to make sure that the drive is the exact same type. Make sure the jumper settings on both drives are the same, and pay close attention to the jumper pins.

For a new drive, you simply use your system restore CD that will contain the Operating System (OS). Just follow the instructions provided by the setup instructions to re-install it.


The cost of a replacement drive can vary quite significantly depending upon where you purchase it. The cost tends to be much higher if bought directly from the laptop manufacturer, however the cost of compatible generic drives is significantly less in comparison.

Sometimes a laptop manufacturer may quote a price that is three times higher than normal for a replacement drive. However, if you look online on eBay you might find a compatible generic drive for a fraction of the cost. If it is an old laptop, then a cheaper compatible drive is often a more economical replacement.

Buying Online

When buying online you need to make sure that the drive is a standard 2.5-inch laptop drive that will fit in place of the one you are replacing. You also need to make sure, if the interface is a PATA (Parallel ATA), or SATA (Serial ATA).

There are many manufacturers of hard drives such as Western Digital, Fujitsu, IBM, and Hitachi. Providing the interface is compatible, generally one can change from one manufacturer to another.

Hard drives are available in a number of different speeds; hence, you need to be aware of this when selecting the drive. Typical speeds can be 7200 rpm, 5400 rpm, and 4200 rpm. Generally, a higher speed provides better data seek rates and therefore a laptop will appear noticeably faster. A 7200-rpm drive will typically perform 40 % faster than a 4200-rpm one.