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Suddenly Slowed HDD

So, of my friends I am considered to be the tech-y person because I built a computer, but that's about it. I don't know everything (not even close) and sometimes stuff happens that I just don't know how to deal with. My friend's laptop (an HP ProBook 4540s, I'll put specs below) just started running slower than usual one day. I mean, the hard drive usually takes a few minutes to get everything started, but it started taking up to twelve hours (she said) for her startup applications to load. She called me and I went over earlier today with a bunch of spare laptop hard drives that I'd salvaged from some old laptops in my room (nothing special, nothing close to recent). I opened her laptop up and replaced her hard drive with a Toshiba hard drive, just to see if the problem lay in the sata connection, the battery, the ram, or some other obscure part of the computer. The drive loaded at a normal speed (a few minutes, but again that's normal), so we concluded that it must be the original drive's fault. Now she wants to know if she should buy a new hard drive or just try and find a new laptop. If we go with the former of the options, what type of hard drive specifically would allow for the same or better performance than that which she already has.

To be clear, she didn't say that there was any error message and when I tested her drive it also didn't show any signs of problems aside from the fact that it took a few hours to load the desktop and longer to load the startup applications.

Specs of her HP ProBook 4540s:
-Intel Core i3-3110M at 2.4 GHz
-Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
-12GB of RAM (We upgraded what was already in there with a G-Skill 8GB stick and kept the 4GB stick of stock RAM. It may seem janky but the system says there's 12GB so we think it's fine)
-A 500GB 7200RPM Hitachi HDD (Model #: 7K750-500 HTS727550A9E364) SATA 3.0Gb/s
-Whatever internet connection thing that the 4540s comes with.
-One loose screw that we can't figure out where it goes

UPDATE: Thank you all for your help. I recently attempted to load a hard drive from an Acer laptop (An Acer Aspire ES1-511-C59V) running Windows 8 on it, but was told that there was no bootable drive found. This has me concerned that the laptop will not take certain drives, maybe something to do with its original drive being SATA 3.0Gb/s, whereas maybe the drive on the other laptop has SATA 6.0Gb/s or something. I don't have the drive on me, so I can't check, but would that difference in SATA render the drive unable to boot?
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More about suddenly slowed hdd
  1. First thing backup the files on the original drive, if necessary. Next do a clean install of Win 7. This might fix it if there's no actual disk problems. Second choice if you want a new drive is to install an SSD. I'd recommend a PNY CS1311. This will also significantly speed up the laptop.
  2. Best answer
    ArmyBox1 said:
    the hard drive usually takes a few minutes to get everything started, but it started taking up to twelve hours (she said) for her startup applications to load.

    This is usually a sign that the HDD is starting to fail. It's having difficulty reading files needed to boot or start a program, and goes into a really slow read, CRC error, retry loop.

    You can get something similar if the HDD is trying to process multiple read/write requests simultaneously (e.g. run virus scan at same time as Windows Update). But usually that just causes something which normally takes a few seconds to take a few minutes instead. Not hours.

    As Scottray says, don't bother trying to fix the drive right now. First thing you want to do is backup any important data in the drive. Then you can start to mess with it to see if this is something which can be fixed.

    Quote:
    Now she wants to know if she should buy a new hard drive or just try and find a new laptop.

    Assuming she doesn't do anything processor-heavy, the specs on the laptop are just fine. The only reason to upgrade would be if she wants smaller size / better battery life, or USB-C, or a different screen.

    I too would recommend replacing the HDD with a SSD. They're a little pricey compared to a HDD, but the difference after adding a $85 256 GB SSD is night and day compared to a laptop hard drive. While it's tempting to save some money and go with a 128 GB SSD, I would strongly recommend paying the extra for a 256 GB SSD. They're faster, and 128 GB will be very tight with Win 7 after a couple years (Win 7 tends to balloon out to over 25 GB).

    Quote:
    -One loose screw that we can't figure out where it goes

    Congrats. That is a rite of passage. You're a real techie now. :)
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