Doug Behl and Ken Getz: Repurpose an existing laptop hard drive
Question: Following your suggestions, I replaced my laptop’s hard drive with a solid-state drive, and as you said, the computer now runs so much faster. It bothers me to have this old hard drive lying around, however. Is there something I can do to use it for some purposes, so it’s not just wasted?
Answer: Congratulations on speeding up your laptop! Installing a solid-state drive (SSD) can make a huge difference in the performance of the computer. The other step you can take to improve a laptop’s performance is to increase the amount of random access memory, or RAM, in the computer. There is a reasonable limit to how much you need: 8 gigabytes, or 8GB is enough for most people, we think, but 16GB is even better. More than that, for most users, is overkill.
Not all computers allow you to replace the RAM. (Check with your manufacturer’s website before upgrading.) If you are able to replace the hard drive in your computer with a faster SSD, you’re left with the old hard drive just sitting around, doing nothing for you. Assuming that your laptop was built within the last 10 years or so, you can usually buy an inexpensive enclosure for the hard drive, insert your hard drive into the enclosure, connect it to your computer using a USB port, and use it as a backup drive. The enclosure should come with a USB cable, but if you have a USB cable that matches the standard port connector you’ll find on the enclosure, you can use that as well.
Note that the USB specification took a major upgrade a few years back: USB 3 is a much faster connection than USB 2, in terms of data throughout. If your computer provides any USB 3 ports, you’ll definitely want to make sure that the drive enclosure you find supports USB 3 — the connection speed between the drive and your computer will be around 10 times as fast than it would be with USB 2. Using a USB 3 drive enclosure and port, you’ll find that you can even boot your computer from the external drive with reasonable success, as long as your computer supports this (and most do).
We’ve had good luck with USB 3 drive enclosures from Orico (search on Amazon.com for more information). Don’t let that replaced hard drive languish in the dead hardware drawer — give it some new life by plopping it into an external drive enclosure and back up, store audio/video media, and more using the spare drive.
Question: I create documents for work, using Microsoft Word on my Windows PC. Sometimes, I need to paste Web addresses into my documents, and every time I do, Word underlines the links and makes them appear in a blue font. Sometimes that’s OK, but most of the time, I want URLs to appear as standard text. How can I remove the special formatting?
Answer: Microsoft Word tries to be helpful as you create documents, and it assumes that anything that looks like a Web URL should be formatted as such, so that you know that you can click on the text to navigate to a webpage. The problem occurs when you don’t want to accept the help that Word so graciously supplies. If you’d like to avoid the formatting as you paste in the text, don’t just press Ctrl+V or select Edit|Paste; instead, select Edit|Paste Special, and choose the option to insert unformatted text. It takes an extra step, but this does bypass the automatic formatting. If you want to remove hyperlink formatting that already appears in your document, right-click on the link, select the Hyperlink menu option, and then select Remove Hyperlink.
If you’re tired of having Microsoft Word convert URLs into hyperlinks with formatting, you can modify Word’s AutoCorrect settings. Go to the Settings/Preferences, find the AutoCorrect settings, find the AutoFormat as You Type settings, and turn off the option to replace Internet and network paths with hyperlinks. From now on, when you paste in a Web address, Word won’t automatically format the text as a hyperlink. Note that these techniques work both on Windows and Mac versions of Microsoft Word.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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