Breathe New Life Into Your Old Laptop with a Solidstate (SSD) Drive

Greetings! I am usually posting stuff fairly in the weeds server side, but I thought I’d pause for a few and write up an article for all my average user friends out there. I often get asked for my recommendations when friends and family are looking to buy new computers. I frequently recommend getting a used (but not used up) enterprise grade Dell laptop because the damn things are bullet proof and easy to repair, and parts are cheap. Rarely it seems does anyone actually take me up on my advice, except my good buddy Josh who is still loving the crap out of his Dell. In any case the biggest reason friends and family are after new laptops is that their laptop feels slow. Usually at this point the computer is about 2-4 years old and the speed just isn’t what it used to be.

While there are multiple factors that contribute to slow (usually too many background process, spyware/malware/greyware/bloatware, etc) if you find your computer still running like crap even after a fresh install of Windows it may not be time to toss it aside just yet. If your machine has at least an i3, i5, or i7 (if you have no idea what I’m talking about look at the Intel sticker or right click “My Computer” and click properties) or the AMD equivalent you can do a few things to speed things up. If you do not have at least 4gb or RAM in your machine look into upgrading your RAM. This can be done easily, and the right RAM can be acquired off of http://newegg.com using their memory finder tool, or by going to Crucial’s site and using their scan tool.

Aside from RAM the biggest bottleneck in your computer is your slow magnetic drive. Most cheap laptops (under $1000) come with a 5400 RPM drive which is an absolute joke for performance. You can have the world’s most badass processor and if you have a 5400RPM drive you might as well have a crappy Celeron. As magetic drives grow older they start to perform poorly and often die around the 4 year mark. Before they get to this point they can get unusable (the beachball on Mac or the spinning wheel of non-deterministic time on Windows). If you’re in the market for a new computer you know what I’m talking about…where launching Google Chrome takes so long you go make a sandwich while you’re waiting. In any case a SolidState harddrive will solve all of these woes and breathe new life into your machine. I recently replaced my mother-in-law’s old magnetic disk with an SSD and the results were off the charts. With the old spinning disk drive it would literally take 3-4 minutes to boot and be usable. With the SSD the same load of Windows (I cloned the contents of the old drive) clocks in at about 7 seconds for boot time. The use case for this laptop is word processing, web browsing, and watching Netflix. Why spend $500 on a computer that’s moderately faster at best that you’ll be replacing in 2 more years for the same reason when a $120 drive will give you better results than a new sub $1000 laptop.

The major obstacle here I think is that taking apart a computer to replace a hard drive sounds daunting. It generally speaking isn’t (unless you have an all in one touchscreen computer or an Apple iMac). For the most part it’s as simple as removing a few screws, pulling out the drive, unscrewing the old drive from the mounting bracket (usually 4 screws), putting the new drive in the bracket, re-inserting the drive and closing it up. When it comes to getting all of your stuff back there’s a few options, the first is to backup all your files, music, pictures, etc to an external drive before replacing your hard drive, then booting the Windows installer disk and away you go. The second option is to go on Amazon and find a SATA to USB converter for about $10 and order this with your new drive. Then following my CloneZilla instructions (http://richsitblog.com/index.php/2015/05/01/drive-cloning-with-clonezilla/) you can clone the contents of your old drive to your new SSD before replacing the drive and you’re all set.

By the way as someone who owns multiple computers my go to computer is a 4 year old Dell E6220 with an i5, 8gb RAM, and an SSD runnign Fedora Linux. I would pit this up against any new $300-$500 computer and it would win. I literally paid $250 for this laptop, and picked up a docking station for $8 at a computer recycling store. When I was dual booting Windows and Linux on this prior to loading Fedora it kept up with my Surface Pro 3 just fine. Anyways enough of my rambling, I hope this inspires some of you to look into saving some cash, saving some waste, and getting the most out of what you have with less money. Stay tuned for more fun stuff!

 

Network Location Cannot Be Found (Joining AD Domain)

 

Problem: Network Location Cannot Be Found

When attempting to join the domain the following message appears:

network_domain_join_error1

When this occurs you cannot browse to the UNC path of the domain controller and cannot reach SYSVOL

Solution: Add Client For Microsoft Networks

Browse to control panel and click network and sharing center (or run ncpa.cpl)

Right click your network adapter and go to properties

Ensure that the Client for Microsoft Network is enabled and installed, if it is unchecked tick the checkbox, if it is not present choose install then select client and choose client for Microsoft networks.

262098

 

Drive Cloning With CloneZilla

We’ve all had that moment in time when we realized we were out of space and needed a bigger drive. I don’ think this has ever been more true than the past 2-3 years as SSD performance has caused many of us to switch to smaller high performance drives. With the price of storage rapidly decreasing and larger SSDs becoming more affordable it’s become rather attractive to move to a larger driver, but not many of us want to go through the pain of reinstalling our OS from scratch. Older tools like Ghost and commercial solutions can have annoying licensing terms, funky quirks, or just aren’t really an accessible option. I’ve personally found great success in using clonezilla to clone hard drives and figured I would create a quick tutorial to illustrate just how easy it is to clone a driver with clonezilla.

 

Step 1: Gather The Prerequisites

To successfully clone your drive with Clonezilla you will need the following:

  • The clonezilla ISO from  http://clonezilla.org/downloads/download.php?branch=stable
    • choose the appropriate architecture (this will be AMD64 for most of you) and ISO as the file type
  • A USB drive 4GB should be sufficient
  • Pendrive Linux Universal Installer from http://pendrivelinux.com
  • A USB to SATA converter (something along these lines: http://www.amazon.com/Patuoxun-Converter-Adapter-Cable-Drive/dp/B008ASF5MC/ref=sr_1_4?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1430442966&sr=1-4&keywords=usb+to+sata)
    • Some newer devices use mSATA drives not regular SATA drives. Please double check this so that you can buy the appropriate drive and drive adapter for your device.

A larger hard drive than what is currently in your machine

Step 2: Create a Bootable USB

  • Insert your USB stick you will choose to use for clonezilla (please be aware that installing this will format the USB drive and will clear any information currently on it.
  • Open the Universal USB Installer you downloaded from pendrivelinux.com
  • Choose clonzilla in step one of the USB creator, browse to the ISO you downloaded for step 2, and select your flash drive for step 3, then press create

create usb

 

Once the live USB creation process has completed, you can unplug the USB drive from your computer and plug it into the machine you are going to be cloning.

Step 3: Boot Your PC From USB

Once the USB is plugged into the machine we will be cloning, you will want to also plug in your USB to SATA converter with your new hard drive attached. After this you can power on the machine (if the computer is currently running shut it down). Upon boot choose the boot menu, this will vary by manufacturer but is typically F11 or F12 on most devices. If this fails you can alternatively try ESC or DEL to boot into the BIOS and change the boot order to start from USB. If your machine boots properly from the live USB, you should see the following screen, if so, proceed to the next step.

czmain

Step 4: Proceed Through Clonezilla Menus & Start Clone

  • From the menu screen shown above, choose the Clonezilla Live options (this should be the first option).
  • After a black and white window of scrolling text goes by, you will be placed on a blue screen with a language selection box, choose your language
  • Next you will be prompted about keymap, choose the default option to not touch keymap

keymap

  • On the next screen choose start clonezilla

startcz

 

  • Choose device to device for cloning options

d2d

 

  • Choose beginner mode
  • Choose disk to local disk in the next option

d to ld

 

  • Choose your old hard drive as the source (this will typically be the smaller drive that’s larger than the flash drive you’re using)

source

 

  • Choose the destination (this should be the largest drive in the list)
  • Choose the skip checking/repairing option
  • Press Enter
  • When the warning message pops up, make sure it shows the larger drive you’re cloning to, press y followed by enter

warn

 

  • When you receive the second warning prompt press y and hit enter again
  • Next you’ll be asked if you want to clone the bootloader, press y and hit enter

clone bl

 

  • At this point partclone will run a few assessments and then begin cloning your drive. This will take some time depending on the speed of the drives and whether your using USB 2.0 or 3.0 with your USB to SATA adapter.

partclone

 

  • Once the drive cloning process is complete a few checks will be run and you will see the screen below. Press enter

done

 

  • Choose Poweroff and wait for your machine to turn off

poweroff

Step 5: Remove The Old Drive, Install the New Drive

  • Now that drive cloning has completed, you can safely remove the Clonezilla USB and the USB to SATA converter
  • Remove your old hard drive and replace it with the newly cloned drive
  • Power on and proceed to the next step

Step 6: Expand the Partition in Windows

Once your machine is powered on there is one final step we must take, which is to expand the partition. This will be done through the built in disk management tool in windows.

  • Press the windows key  and R to bring up the run box. Type diskmgmt.msc into the run box and press enter.
    • Alternatively you can type this into the search box on Windows 7 or on the start screen search in Windows 8/8.1
  • You should see your C drive followed by unallocated space

unallocated

  • Right click the C drive (portion in blue above) and choose extend volume, then click through the wizard with the defaults. Now you should see the C drive has been extended

finished

  • With that ladies and gents we are done!

 

Thank you for checking out this blog post, I will likely create a video to demonstrate this process in the near future. In the meantime please feel free to leave any questions or comments.