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Like any major PC overhaul, planning and preparation is required
This is the first big question: Do you want to clone your existing OS installation to your new SSD (if you are even able to do so), or start fresh with a clean installation? There's no "right" answer here, and we'll walk you through both choices on the next pages, but here are some things to keep in mind. First, if your existing OS installation is larger than the SSD you have acquired, that’s a problem for obvious reasons. Second, cloning an existing installation typically requires the use of third-party software (not a huge deal, but still something to consider), and if you have an OEM-built partition from Dell, HP, Toshiba, or other PC manufacturer, there are many steps to cloning the partition.
Due to the somewhat complex nature of cloning an OS to a new volume and having it be bootable, we recommend simply starting fresh and reinstalling your OS. Besides, since the ultimate goal of this whole operation is a performance boost, nothing is faster than a fresh install of Windows, and on a brand-new SSD it'll be astonishingly fast.
Since SSDs have no moving parts and don't emit any heat or noise, you can pretty much stick them anywhere inside your PC case and they'll be fine. We're not proud of it, but we have let a few dangle on the floor of our PC case in the past and nothing bad happened. To mount it properly though, you'll want to attach the drive to a 3.5-inch hard drive bay—in most newer cases there will be holes for 2.5-inch drives. In an older case, you are likely to need an adapter. Some SSDs even include 3.5-inch drive bay adapters, though it's not terribly common. Cooling is not a concern, as SSDs rarely get more than slightly warm to the touch, even after prolonged use.
Cloning your existing OS to a new SSD is the fastest way to get up and running, but it may not be easy, or possible.
You might not have paid attention to which drives were connected to which ports on your motherboard previously, but you will definitely need to do so if you want to extract maximum performance from your SSD. On modern Intel chipsets only specific ports are able to perform at SATA 6Gb/s speeds; typically they are a different color than the slower SATA 3Gb/s ports. There might also be two Marvell-based SATA 6Gb/s ports. We recommend you consult your manual to figure out which ones are the native Intel ports, and use those for best results. All the ports are SATA 6Gb/s on AMD's FX boards, so you can plug away without hesitation.
SATA 6Gb/s ports are distinctly colored on your mobo.
We’ve been upgrading PCs since just after the Proterozoic era, and in all that time we have only witnessed two truly quantum leaps in PC performance. The first was the leap from software to hardware rendering for 3D games, and the second was when we went from dial-up modems to broadband. Both of those “upgrades” made us say to ourselves, “Holy sh*t,” while we stood there with our mouths agape. We got the same feeling the first time we booted a PC with an SSD. Granted, the first wave of 3.5-inch SSDs weren't the fastest, and they were outrageously priced, but the experience of seeing the Windows log-in screen within just a few seconds, and then seeing programs load almost instantly, brought tears of joy to our eyes. To give you some numbers, a typical 7,200rpm drive takes 10ms to find a file; an SSD takes .01ms. An SSD boots Windows in 10 seconds versus 60 seconds on a hard drive. You can install Windows 7 to an SSD in 10 minutes. Yes, it's ridiculously fast, and the first time you see an SSD in action, you will never, ever go back to a spinning hard drive for your OS.
Click the next page to see how to perform a fresh install of your OS on to the SSD.