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Hard drive

How To Install a Hard Drive  

Add a Hard Drive

Every computer system is unique, so your installation may differ slightly from ours. The type of computer you have (desktop vs. tower model), the type of hardware you have installed in the PC, and the computer’s software configuration all affect the installation process. Use our guide to assist you in the upgrade, but refer to the drive’s installation manual if you encounter a contradiction between the two.

1.      It is very important that you back up your data before replacing your current hard drive. Otherwise, you will lose access to all the data stored on it. 

If the new drive has been stored in extremely hot or cold temperatures, let it reach room temperature before you install it. Also, leave the drive in its protective packaging until you’re ready to install it. You don’t want dust, static electricity, or an accidental bump to damage the drive before you have a chance to use it.

2.      Locate your current hard drive inside your PC. It is a thin metal box, approximately 1 inch thick, 3.5 or 5.25 inches wide, and 6 inches long. It may be mounted near the other drive bays, near the power source, or anywhere on the computer’s frame. Your computer’s users manual may include a system diagram detailing its exact location.

Check how the hard drive is positioned in the computer; you must install the new drive in the exact same position. For example, if your current hard drive is positioned horizontally with the label facing up and the cables extending from the back, you must install the new drive in a horizontal position with the label facing up and the cable connectors facing the back.

You may have to remove expansion cards and disconnect cables attached to other devices in order to remove your old drive and fit the new drive into your PC. Take note of anything you remove or disconnect so you can get your system put together correctly when you’ve finished installing the hard drive.

Hard Drive Installation


3.      If the hard drive you are replacing is the only drive in your system or if it is the primary drive in the system, it is referred to as the master drive. If the hard drive you are replacing is the secondary drive in your computer, it is referred to as the slave drive. You must know whether the drive is the master or slave drive in order to complete the installation.

For this installation, we assume you are replacing your system’s master hard drive. 

4.      Your current hard drive should have a flat, gray ribbon cable and a multicolored power cable extending from the back of it. The ribbon cable, which is called the data cable, carries data to and from the hard drive. The data cable may have multiple connectors attached to it, and the connectors may be attached to other devices as well as the hard drive.

Disconnect the ribbon cable and the power cable from the back of your current hard drive. Grip the connectors between your fingers or use the needle-nose pliers to remove them. You should be able to remove the connectors without exerting much effort. If a connector seems stuck in the drive, you can rock it back and forth to remove it from the drive.

Keep track of which cables you removed from the drive because you’ll plug those cables into the new drive. Use a piece of tape to mark the cables as you remove them. Don’t disconnect the cables from the computer or from any other devices to which they are connected unless you have to do so in order to remove the drive.

5.      Remove the screws that hold the drive in place. You may need to hold the drive with one hand as you remove the last two screws to keep it from crashing onto the motherboard. Keep track of the screws as you remove them. You may need them when you install the new drive.

6.      After you’ve removed the screws (there should be between four and eight screws), gently slide the drive out of the bay. If it does not slide out easily, there must be a cable or screw holding it in place. Carefully extricate anything that is hampering the drive’s removal, then try to remove it again.

Once you have removed the old drive from your PC, treat it with care. It contains all your old data, and it’s much easier and less expensive to retrieve data from your old drive if it’s in good shape than if it has been damaged. The drive also may come in handy if you encounter any difficulties with your new hard drive. If you have to remove the new drive and send it back to the manufacturer, you can put the old drive back into your PC until a replacement arrives.

7a.      Ground yourself by touching the computer’s frame, then remove the new drive from its protective packaging. Handle the drive by its edges, and be careful not to touch the fragile circuitry on top of the drive. Write down the information listed on the drive’s label. The information you should record includes the drive’s model number and the number of cylinders, heads, and sectors on the drive.

7b.      See how the drive will fit inside the computer. If it’s too small, you’ll need to attach mounting brackets to the drive before you can install it. To obtain mounting brackets for your new drive, contact the drive’s manufacturer.

Also, save the drive’s packaging. You can pack your old drive in it when you’re done.

8.      Position the drive for installation. Remember, it must be installed in the same position as the old drive. Use the screws that held the old drive in place to attach the new drive to the computer frame. Make sure the drive is held securely in place but don’t attach the screws too tightly. Overtightening the screws can bend the frame of the hard drive.

9.      Reconnect the data cable and power cable. Make sure you’re using the same cables you removed from the old hard drive (unless you replaced the old cables with new ones). The power cable connector has notched corners and fits into its socket in only one way. The data cable also connects to the drive in only one way, but the proper fit may not be as obvious.

Connecting the data cable should be easy if the cable connector has an upraised tab in the middle of it. Just match the tab to the notch in the drive’s receptor, then insert the connector.

If the connector doesn’t have an upraised tab, however, you’ll have to align the colored strip, which runs along one edge of the data cable, with Pin 1 on the drive’s receptor. Pin 1, which is the bottom-right pin (or upper-left pin, depending on how you look at it) on the receptor, usually is designated by a tiny “1” printed next to it. If you’re not sure how the data cable attaches to the receptor, check the installation manual for details.

Don’t force either cable connection, but make sure they are snug and secure. A loose connection is all it takes for a drive to malfunction.

10.      Make sure the cables aren’t pressing awkwardly on any other components inside the PC and check that you didn’t accidentally disconnect any cables while installing the hard drive. When you’re sure everything is in its proper order, replace the computer’s cover. Connect the external peripherals to the computer and plug the computer into the wall.

11.      Insert the system diskette in the diskette drive. If you received a bootable diskette with your new hard drive, insert it in the diskette drive instead. Our drive came with a bootable diskette, so we inserted it in the diskette drive. Don’t turn on the PC until you’ve read the instructions for the rest of the installation.

The install is nearly complete. Please follow the next step:

To prepare the drive for use (click here