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I have an Acer Aspire 3500WLMi laptop. It currently has a 40gb hard drive which I would like to upgrade. Could someone talk me through the process? I've listed my concerns/queries:

  1. Can I buy and install any 2.5" SATA or IDE hard drive into this machine?
  2. Should I buy some sort of USB caddy and clone my existing drive onto the new one via USB then physically swap the drives over?
  3. My current disk is partitioned to include a small amount of space for a Ubuntu install. Will a clone keep the current partition sizes or is it best for me to repartition once I've cloned?
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A clone does keep the existing partition sizes AFAIK. If you want to fill up your hard drive, go ahead and resize your partitions. Just make sure to back up your stuff first. Usually partition resizes are fine (at least in my experience), but it doesn't hurt to be careful. – Nathaniel May 24 '10 at 21:34
If you do go ahead and upgrade the drive in your laptop please let us know what you do and how it works out for you. I'm always interested in hearing the rest of the story. :-) – irrational John May 31 '10 at 18:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'm not sure it is an exact match to your system but here is a link to a PDF of the manual for Aspire 3500. Here is more general support page for the Aspire 3500. Unfortunately I did not find a hard drive replacement guide.

It's not that hard to do if you're willing to chance it. Here are what I think are the main things to remember.

  1. Be CAREFUL! A 2.5" hard drive is more delicate than a 3.5". Always try to handle the drive by the edges. Avoid placing any pressure on the flat areas of the drive. The cover may flex enough to allow you damage the heads, the platters, or both.
  2. Plan ahead. Figure out what size tools (screw drivers most likely) you will need ahead of time and have them handy. Explore the replacement process enough so that you will know to remove and replace the drive.
  3. Set aside enough time to complete the process so you won't rush through it and make a mistake.

While the manual for your laptop doesn't have instructions for replacing the drive, I see that the drive bay seems to be easily accessible. I suggest you try opening the bay and just removing the drive to get a feel for what is involved.

The drive will most likely be enclosed in a little metal frame ... an EFI shield ... which you would have to remove from the old drive and attach to the new drive if you actually replaced it. Get an idea for how "doable" this is. The most typical problem is you won't have the right tool to take out the screws used to attach the EFI shield to the drive. But you should be able to buy the size tool you will need.

You'll probably pay a premium for a 2.5" PATA (aka IDE) drive since all laptops now use SATA. Here is a link to a list of PATA drives at newegg just to give you a ballpark estimate on what a new one might cost.

The Aspire 3500 appears to have been produced circa 2005 so I don't think you'll have to worry about capacity limits with a new drive. I would urge you to not go "too small". Something around 120 or 160GB might be appropriate unless you are sure you will need more space than that.

The way I have done the copy/clone of your current drive to the new one is to access both drives at the same time. Two typical ways to do this are:

  1. Buy an inexpensive 2.5 PATA/IDE enclosure like this.
  2. Buy a USB adapter which will work with any of a 2.5" or 3.5" PATA drive or a SATA drive. (SATA drives use the same connectors for both the 2.5" and 3.5" form factors). Here's an example.

There really are a lot of options available now for attaching a drive externally so take your time and look around before you buy something. The ones I linked to weren't recommendations, just examples to illustrate what I was referring to.

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To answer your first question:

You need to check the following when buying a replacement harddrive:

  1. Will it physically fit in to the machine? Particularly important with a laptop
  2. Does it have the right connector SATA or IDE? You generally only get one sort of connection, make sure its the right one.
  3. Does the motherboard/BIOS support the new drive size? There might be a limit on the size of drive your system can take.

I don't know the answer to your second two questions for certain, but it might be easier to do a fresh install of the OS onto the new drive and just copy your data from the the old one. This makes sure you have all the right drivers installed etc.

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Thanks for the advice. I've been able to discover that I can only use an IDE connection, and I know that the current drive is 2.5". However, I can't find out anywhere (service manual or google!) whether there is a size limit. Any ideas where I might find this? – musoNic80 May 24 '10 at 20:46

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