Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

With less than 4 GB of storage remaining on my Windows 8 tablet – and the majority of useful applications, cloud storage and games installed on my external USB 3.0 drive – I decided that it was time to upgrade the tiny 64 GB mSATA SSD.

The mSATA SSD is essentially a tiny card, upon which several storage modules are mounted, was now too small for my purposes. Without the advantage of an SD card slot on my Acer Iconia W7 series tablet Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Slimline, sleek, sexy and silver - but you can’t have everything. The Acer Iconia W7 is a Windows 8 tablet priced between $799 and $999 (depending on the chosen model) that looks as though it... Read More , opening the device and replacing the mSATA SSD card with a high capacity replacement was really the only option, short of buying a new computer.

However doing this would present me with several problems, some of which I could predict (such as how to install Windows 8 when I was done) to a minor issue that resulted in some drastic action.

Why Would You Upgrade?

Many Windows 8 tablets ship with 64 GB configurations. While the wisdom of this isn’t quite clear, it is probably an attempt to enable an introductory price for the hardware for interested customers who don’t want to pay full whack.

acer-iconia-w700-tablet-pc-review-4

With Windows 8 installed, a cloud drive and some sync software (perhaps iTunes) sharing images to your tablet, you will probably find that onboard storage decreases pretty quickly. Although using external drives (I employ an external USB 3.0 Why You Should Upgrade To USB 3.0 Why You Should Upgrade To USB 3.0 It’s been quite a while since USB 3.0 has been included in motherboards, but now we've come to the point where most devices and computers come with the new and improved ports. We all know... Read More HDD and a USB 3.0 docking station) is a good workaround, if there is no SD card slot then upgrading the native storage is the only way to use the tablet when you’re away from your office.

Ads by Google

When looking for a replacement SSD for your Windows 8 tablet (or laptop) ensure that you are buying the correct type. There are two forms of SSD – one has the standard SATA connectors, while the other has the compact mSATA alternative, which enables tablet SSDs to be so small.

Equipment You Will Need

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-tools

With your mSATA SSD purchased, you’ll be ready to start. In order to successfully complete this operation, you will need some tools:

  • Box cutter blade or guitar plectrum
  • Suitable screwdriver
  • Suction cup (optional)
  • A soft towel, folded over once and placed on a secure, flat surface.

There are also some precautions you should take. Once the SSD is replaced, without installing Windows 8 on it you won’t be able to use your tablet. To work around this, you might prepare a copy of Windows 8 to boot from USB, or setup an external DVD drive to install the operating system from your recovery discs.

Alternatively, purchase an adaptor that will enable you to connect your replacement mSATA SSD card to your tablet externally and create a backup image (using software such as EaseUS Todo Backup Backup Your PC With Ease For Free Using Easeus Todo Backup [Windows] Backup Your PC With Ease For Free Using Easeus Todo Backup [Windows] Read More ) of your existing SSD. If you choose this option, then you don’t lose any data.

One final step – mSATA SSDs and tablet innards are delicate. You should take all necessary anti-static precautions Your Sneakers Can Kill Your Computer: How Static Electricity Works [MakeUseOf Explains] Your Sneakers Can Kill Your Computer: How Static Electricity Works [MakeUseOf Explains] Static electricity is the number one computer hardware killer, and its everywhere! Panic aside, if you do any work with computer components - even as simple as upgrading your memory - you need to know... Read More to ensure you don’t accidentally break your tablet computer.

Opening the Case

To get access to the mSATA SSD in your tablet computer, you will need to open it. Depending upon your Windows 8 tablet, the method for doing this will differ. Pictured is the method of opening the Acer Iconia W7 series, but you should search the web (and especially YouTube) for help in opening your own Windows 8 tablet.

Note that doing this will void your device warranty.

However you proceed, note that opening your tablet computer should be done with absolute care. Do not use force as the device should come apart when pressure is applied in the correct manner.

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-whitestrip

For the Acer Iconia W7, you will need to begin by removing the white strip on the back. Place the tablet display side down on the towel and lever this strip away with your box cutter blade. You’ll find there are three catches that need prising open. Once the strip is separated, remove the two screws (one at either end) and place the three components together for replacement later.

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-blade

You should then stand the tablet on its longest edge, holding with one hand while you begin to pull the chassis and the display apart using the boxcutter blade, as pictured above. A small suction cup may help in removing the display here.

Accessing the Motherboard

As the display is separated from the case, you will notice several small cables that will require disconnecting. Make a note of these (perhaps take pictures as you proceed) as you go, taking care to remove them carefully.

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-cables

With the tablet opened up, and the display lying face down, you will need to remove a few more cables before you can remove the motherboard, which is necessary for accessing the mSATA SSD.

Once all cables have been disconnected from the motherboard, you will need to remove the case fan before unscrewing the board from the case (some tablets have the SSD on show without removing the motherboard – in this case skip to the next section).

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-mobo

Keep the screws safe and gently prise the motherboard away from the case. On the Acer Iconia W7 tablets, this means manipulating the motherboard in order to pull the audio jack and USB connectors away from the case.

Once you’re done, gently flip the motherboard over, where you will find the SSD!

Replacing the mSATA SSD

You will find the tiny mSATA SSD attached to the motherboard with one or two screws. Once both are removed, the small storage device will spring up as part of the removal procedure. All you will need to do is gently pull the card out, insert the larger/faster upgrade, and replace the screws, securing it in place.

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-oldssd

It’s probably fair to point out that in my own experience of upgrading the mSATA SSD of my Acer Iconia W7 that despite no problems with any of the screws up to this point, the single screw holding the drive in place was substandard, the screw head deteriorating as I attempted to remove it.

As a result, I had to take a Dremel-style tool to it, cutting a line through the screw with considerable care so that I might eventually remove it with a flat-edged screwdriver. Nail-biting stuff, but I got there in the end!

At this stage, you should be able to begin reversing the process for opening your tablet in order to put it back together, making sure that you have inserted all of the cables and replaced all screws as you go. When you’re done, you can then boot up your computer and begin the Windows 8 installation process if you’re booting a bare drive. If the new SSD has already been imaged, Windows should boot without any problems – faster and with more storage!

Conclusion: Upgrading Can Be Tricky, But Worth It!

muo-w8tablet-ssdupgrade-ssd

It’s a bit of a puzzle why Windows 8 tablets ship with a 64 GB SSD option when such storage really isn’t enough to deal with any reasonable use. Once the page file and email inboxes are considered – plus perhaps Office 2013 or 2010 Have Office 2010? Don't Buy Office 2013 - Here's Why Have Office 2010? Don't Buy Office 2013 - Here's Why I’m coming to the end of my trial period with Microsoft Office 2013. Over the weeks it has been a reasonably solid experience with one or two quirks causing me no end of frustration. But... Read More you’re lucky if you’re left with 10 GB, and that’s without thinking about cloud storage and syncing media with your phone.

Upgrading is worth the effort, and while it might be potentially intimidating if you’re new to opening and tinkering with sealed hardware like tablets and phones, if approached with a clear head and the right tools you should find that it is achievable and extremely satisfying once the upgrade is complete!

Have you attempted such an upgrade? Would you prefer to leave it to the manufacturer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

This review contains affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

  1. Martin
    February 18, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Wish manufacturers fitted a slot and could just slot in an ssd drive....

  2. Damian
    December 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Followed process outlined on youtube with no commentary and managed to replace the sdd in about an hour no special tools just the necessary screwdrivers and a knife to start the process of, saw the ram but not sure how replacable this is anyone tried this, also cpu is accesible when you get this far is it possible to change the i3 for the i5 will the motherboard support this. I am assuming it will as the boards are probably generic for all variations anyone know for sure, and how would you get the cpu out. Damian

    • Christian C
      December 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Damian I believe the CPUs are mounted as BGA making upgrading very unlikely. RAM looked integrated on my board, so that seems a far cry too.

      Happy to be corrected on either point :D

  3. Jerry
    December 2, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Actually, repartitioning the 64GB SSD (there are some recovery partitions on the drive, those are really worthless) and disabling the hybersys file (for those who never use hibernation) plus disabling system restore (I never use it, it takes space and slows down the pc a bit) would save a good amount of space...
    also regular cleaning of folders like C:WindowsSoftwareDistributionDownload
    would help... and using usb3 external hdd for videos and pictures
    helps me stay with 64GB saving money for now...

  4. Acul
    August 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

    When I put a 256gb mSATA in my tablet would I also be able to stick a 8gb ram card, to replace the 4gb one, in too?

  5. Kannon Yamada
    August 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    This is a super hard core article Christian! Love it!

    It's a shame they didn't make that hard drive more accessible.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Thanks Kannon! Edge of the teeth stuff ;)

  6. Guy M
    August 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Nice job documenting everything. Even if people aren't willing to do this themselves, they can see what is involved. This will help them when unethical tech's want to charge ridiculous amounts for the job.

  7. Anthony
    August 23, 2013 at 4:38 am

    I wish my laptop had an mSATA slot. I don't have a tablet...

  8. jasray
    August 22, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    It's really a good idea to check the Service Manual first and find out where the hard drive is located. Some drives are easy to reach; others are located in areas that require removing nearly every screw and ribbon. Great way to destroy a good laptop. Maybe better to pay a pro with the right tools (more than what is shown) and experience. What's $25.00?

    • Esaure
      August 23, 2013 at 3:35 am

      Service manual are not always available somewhere on the net, even worst for latest products. I wouldnt pay "a pro" for something i can do, not a penny.

    • Esaure
      August 23, 2013 at 3:47 am

      Hi Chris, for the next time you should use the right tools, there are flat hard plastic tools or stuff you can use as tools for keeping scratch free the edges. As i can see, you used only one srew driver, the screws sometimes are diferent and you should use the right screwdriver, not too thin or not too thick, depending on the screw, sometimes you should press down and turn because it is "sticky" and if you don't press down before turn-to-loose, the srew gets damaged.

      • Christian C
        August 23, 2013 at 7:48 am

        Hi Esaure

        I certainly used the right tools for this job (all my edges remain scratch free!), but I think the problem with the screw on the SSD drive is as you describe. That's a delicate moment and I was lucky to get away with it - hopefully demonstrating this will save someone else from getting it wrong.

    • Christian C
      August 23, 2013 at 7:45 am

      $25 sounds like a bargain - a price I wouldn't be prepared to pay for fear that the engineer had downloaded a service manual and was performing the upgrade for the first time.

      It stands to reason that if you have no confidence performing such an upgrade that you shouldn't do it yourself, however - your comment is spurious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *