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How to Replace a Dell Laptop Hard Drive: Step-by-Step Guide

Summary: Learn how to replace a Dell laptop hard drive. Find step-by-step instructions for installation, operating system setup, and driver installation.

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Article Content


Table of Contents:

  1. Overview
  2. Before you begin
  3. Removing and installing your hard drive
  4. Installing the operating system
  5. Installing the drivers
  6. Installing applications
  7. Additional resources


A hard drive may be replaced to either upgrade the hard drive (for example, capacity or speed) or because the hard drive has failed. This article walks you through the process of replacing the hard drive on your Dell laptop. First, it identifies the steps that must be taken before you begin and the tools you must replace the hard drive. Next, it provides a step-by-step walkthrough on how to remove the current hard drive, and how to install the replacement hard drive you received. The article then details the steps necessary to install the operating system, drivers, and some applications on the replacement hard drive. Next, it may be necessary to return the hard drive to Dell, and there are instructions that are included for the return. Finally, some additional resources are included should you have further questions.

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Before you begin

There are a few things to consider before you install the new hard drive.

Note: Dell is not responsible for data backup and migration and is not liable for the loss of any data, programs, software, confidential, proprietary, or personal information.
  1. Make certain that you have a back-up of any items that you need off the original hard drive. If you want to recover data from the original drive, it is best to do that prior to replacing the hard drive.
  2. Make certain that you have all the software available that you must reinstall. This may include the following items:
    • Dell Operating System Installation Disc or Dell Operating System Installation USB Key
    • Dell Resource CD/DVD or a way to download the drivers onto a CD or USB drive
    • Any software and/or documentation for your Internet service connection
    • Any application installation disks for programs you would like to install.
    • Any installation disks for devices (such as a printer) and internal devices added to your Dell computer after purchase
  3. You need the replacement hard drive and a small Phillips head screwdriver (PH.1 size) in order to complete the Dell laptop hard drive replacement.

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Removing and installing your hard drive

Caution: To avoid electrostatic discharge (ESD), ground yourself by using a wrist grounding strap or by periodically touching an unpainted metal surface, such as a connector on the back of the computer.

Learn how to Avoid ESD Damage

Learn How to Replace the Hard Drive in Your Dell Notebook

Learn How to Return the Hard Drive to Dell

For instructions on your specific computer model, enter the service tag for your computer to pull up the service manual by entering your service tag and selecting the "manuals" option.  

Removing the hard drive

  1. Power the computer off and unplug all devices and power sources including the AC adapter and the battery.
  2. Hold the power button in for 5 seconds to drain any remaining power from the computer.
  3. Remove the screws securing the bottom access panel.
  4. Remove the screws securing the hard drive.
  5. Remove the hard drive from the computer.
  6. If the replacement drive did not come with the hard drive brackets, remove the screws securing the hard drive bracket to the drive.
  7. Remove the brackets from the hard drive.

Installing the hard drive

  1. Attach the brackets to the replacement drive using the hard drive bracket screws.
  2. Insert the replacement drive into the computer.
  3. Insert the hard drive securing screws.
  4. Replace the bottom access panel.
  5. Insert the screws for the bottom access panel to secure it in place.
  6. Install the battery and reconnect the AC adapter.
  7. You can now power the computer on with the replacement drive installed.

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Installing the operating system

How to download Dell operating system Recovery

Reference material is available here.

Note: If the disk does not begin to run, press your computer's Power button, and watch for the Dell logo to appear. When the logo appears, press the F12 key to load the Boot menu. If this menu does not appear, try restarting your computer again and pressing the F12 key several times when the Dell logo appears. Once the Boot menu opens, select CD/DVD drive (listed also as CD-ROM, or CD/DVD/CD-RW) or USB if installing from a USB drive and press the Enter key.
  1. Disconnect nonessential devices from your computer. Except for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, disconnect any nonessential device, including:
    • Scanner
    • Printer
    • Modem or Network cables
    • Mobile phone
    • USB flash drive or other external hard drives
    • Docking station
  2. To run the installation disk, insert the Windows installation disk into the DVD drive or the USB drive into a USB 2.0 port.
  3. Restart your computer.
  4. When the Press any key to boot from the CD or DVD message appears, press any key to continue.
  5. When Windows Setup appears, confirm that the Language, Time, Currency, and Keyboard Method fields display the correct settings.
  6. On the Windows Installation dialog box, click Install Now.
  7. Review the license agreement, and click I accept the license terms.
  8. On the Which type of installation do you want? screen, click Custom (advanced).
  9. On the Where do you want to install Windows screen, select the largest internal disk as the Primary Partition, then click Next. If the Primary Partition shows 0GB free, select Unallocated Space and click Next.
  10. The Windows files will now be installed, this may take some time to complete. When it is finished installing, the computer reboots.
  11. Personalize and customize your Windows operating system by following the instructions on the following screens.
  12. When the desktop or start screen appears, the installation is complete.

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Installing the drivers

Insert the Dell Resource CD/DVD or go to the Dell Drivers & Downloads page, enter your Service Tag and then select Drivers & Downloads from the left-hand side.

Note: For the best experience, Dell Technologies recommends installing drivers in the order that is listed below.
Driver or application name Category What it Does
1. Dell System Software System Utilities Provides critical updates and patches for the operating system.
2. Chipset driver Chipset Helps Windows control system board components and controllers, such as USB ports and other internal components.
3. PCMCIA and/or Smartcard drivers Security Enables PCMCIA and Smartcard slot capability
4. Intel Matrix Storage Manager Serial ATA The Intel storage driver is only applicable to Intel chipset computers.
Audio driver Audio Enables and enhances the audio controller.
6. Video driver Video Enhances video performance.
7. Network interface card or Ethernet drivers Network Enhances the network controller for Internet or network access.
8. ControlPoint System Manager, ControlPoint Security Manager, and ControlPoint Connection Manager

Note: This driver is only needed for some Latitude and Precision Mobile laptops and depending on your computer configuration, you might not need to install all three parts.
Control Point The Dell ControlPoint (DCP) controls power management for some Dell Latitude laptops. ControlPoint System Manager controls power management and ambient light sensor settings, ControlPoint Security Manager controls security features, and ControlPoint Connection Manager controls wireless connection profiles.
9. Dell Quickset Application Controls power management and ambient light sensors
10. Wireless network drivers Network Enables and enhances the wireless network controller.
11. Bluetooth drivers

Note: If this driver is not available, then your computer does not have Bluetooth capability.  Continue to the next driver on the list.
Network Enables and controls blue tooth connectivity.
12. Mouse, keyboard, touchpad, and input device drivers Mouse, Keyboard, and Input Devices Enhances pointing device features.
Intel vPro or AMT (if available) Chipset Enhances computer manageability
14. Dell wireless mobile broadband card drivers (if available) Network Enables wireless broadband connectivity.
15. Modem drivers (if available) Modem/Communications Allows dial-up capability.
16. Dell Digitech touch screen driver (if available) Mouse, Keyboard, and Input Devices Enables touch screen input on select Dell laptops.

You can also scan your computer for the necessary drivers using the "System Analysis" option on the Dell Drivers & Downloads page or by using the Dell Command | Update.

Note: Dell Command|Update is only available for Dell Latitude, OptiPlex, and Precision computers currently.

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Installing applications

Now that you have the operating system and drivers that are installed, you can install any other programs, devices, or applications that you need back onto the computer.

Note: It is advised that you install windows updates at this point if you did not select the option to allow them to install automatically during the setup phase of the operating system installation.

There are some applications that are commonly preloaded onto computers. If your computer came with one of these applications, the links below can assist you in reinstalling them.

Note: You must have the product key for Microsoft Office available in order to reinstall it. If you are using Microsoft Office 365, you must have the Microsoft username and password that was used to register the product.
  1. Microsoft Office-MicrosoftThis hyperlink is taking you to a website outside of Dell Technologies.
  2. Adobe Acrobat XI - If you purchased a digital copy of Adobe Acrobat XI that came preloaded on your computer, it can be reinstalled through the Dell Digital Delivery tool.

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Additional resources

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Additional Information

Article Properties

Affected Product

Laptops, Chromebook, G Series, Alienware, Inspiron, Latitude, Vostro, XPS, Legacy Laptop Models

Last Published Date

25 Jan 2024



Article Type

How To