Install New Hard Drive Guide

Complete Guide to Installing a New IDE or SATA Hard Drive in your PC


Install New Hard Drive – Introduction

Firstly, if you want to install new hard drive but haven’t yet chosen one you should visit our hard drive selection page for a comprehensive guide to selecting a replacement drive.

This guide covers the installation of both IDE and SATA interface hard drives although most new hard drives will now be SATA interface types.

These drives are simpler and neater to install with none of the ‘Master’ / ‘Slave’ selection nonsense required with the older IDE drive types.

Besides this you will find that SATA drives are much faster than their IDE counterparts and are now extremely cheap to buy.

Whether you are replacing a hard drive or simply installing a new drive for backup or storage, if your motherboard supports SATA then it’s a no brainer!

Picture of new hard drive



Install New Hard Drive – Lets Begin!

Ok, first things first – as always we strongly recommend the use of an anti-static wrist strap. These are not very expensive to buy and will come in handy for future upgrades or work on your PC.

Power down your PC and remove the AC inlet power cord.

Never work on your PC internally with the AC power cord connected – firstly you will still have standby power applied to the PC motherboard and secondly the power supply will be live and have extremely high voltage at high levels of energy present internally!

Remove the PC case sides – both of them – by removing the screws at the rear of the case and sliding off the case side covers.

If you are replacing a hard drive then you will already have an available drive bay slot and it’s simply a matter of removing the power and interface cables (IDE or SATA) and unscrewing the drive from the drive bay (cage) sides.

You will note that there are two screws for each side of the drive.

Hard drive cage showing screws

Some newer PC cases will have quick fit screw-less brackets and screws will not be required - these brackets locate simply by sliding or snapping into place with lugs that lock into the drive screw holes.

Bracket type clamp

Ok, now you can carefully slide the drive backwards out of the slot – you may need to temporarily remove any motherboard expansion cards or cabling that may be in the way.

Your new drive, if it is a replacement, can simply be fitted back into the same slot and secured with the four screws or quick fit brackets (if using screws then use the ones supplied with your drive as they will be designed to fit without protruding too far inside the drive case which may otherwise cause damage to your new drive).

To install a new hard drive you will need to select a spare 3.5 inch slot in the hard drive caddy and install the screws or brackets as above.

Make sure that you choose a drive bay that has adequate airflow top and bottom of the drive – simply because a cooler environment will give your drive longer life.

Cooling space for hard drive


Install New Hard Drive – IDE Interface Type

If you are installing a drive with an IDE interface then you will need to set the drive to ‘Master’ or ‘Slave’ by using the jumper (small plastic clip connector at the rear of your drive) to select whether it is a ‘Master’ or ‘Slave’.

IDE drive connectors

A Master drive will generally be used for your operating system and main program storage and a Slave drive can be used for file storage, storage expansion or maybe as a backup drive etc.

IDE cable fitment requires a little more thought than the SATA variety.

An 80 wire IDE interface cable will have three connectors fitted to it. The two connectors that are fitted closer together on the cable are for fitment to your drive / drives; the other connector goes to a spare IDE interface slot on your motherboard.

IDE cable

If your drive is to be the only one connected then the small plastic jumper at the back of your drive should be set to select it as a ‘Master’ drive. You should then fit the drive to the end connector of the closely fitted pair on the IDE interface cable.

If you are installing an extra drive to this cable then you need to determine if it will be the ‘Master’ or ‘Slave’ drive and configure this drive accordingly. Slave drives will need to be fitted to the innermost of the two closely positioned IDE cable connectors and the drive jumper set to ‘Slave’.

Install New Hard Drive – SATA Interface Type

Most new drives will use the SATA interface and if possible you should choose this type of drive as they are faster, easier to install and the cables are smaller providing a neater installation and allowing far better airflow.

SATA Cable

SATA connection is simply a matter of plugging a SATA interface cable into the rear of your drive and the other end of the cable to a spare SATA socket on your motherboard.

SATA drive connection

Your Master drive (the one containing the operating system) should typically plug in to the SATA 1 socket or the first available SATA socket on your motherboard (Check your motherboard manual carefully as some boards offer two types of SATA connection, a high speed and a low speed. You need the high speed 300MBits/s SATA interface for the latest drives. Check the spec for your drive to make sure).

SATA Motherboard connection


Install New Hard Drive – Power Supply

You will also need to provide your new drive with power.Locate a spare power connector on your PC power supply cable loom and connect up to the power connector at the rear of your new hard drive.

Hard drive power connector

Your power supply, if it is a recent model, should come with SATA and Molex type power cables fitted or provide a Molex to SATA cable adapter for SATA type drives.

If not, a Molex to SATA cable adapter can be bought quite cheaply to convert a Molex power connector to SATA type.

A Molex power connector will be required for IDE drives.

Install New Hard Drive – Tidy and Test

Make an effort now to tidy up the cabling ensuring that the cables are kept away from any case, processor or graphics card fans etc and that they do not impede the case airflow around your case.

Cable tidying

To ensure this it is usually advisable to tie wrap the cables to the drive bay cage side. Now pop your case sides back in place and refit the side panel screws.

Power up your PC and during the POST (Power on Self Test) screen that appears when first booting up you should see your new drive listed.

Install New Hard Drive – Format

You will need to format your new hard drive in order to use it.

If you are installing Windows then your drive will be formatted during the Windows installation procedure.

To format your drive for use manually you will need to right click on the drive in ‘My Computer’ and select format.

Unless you have a need to use the FAT 32 file system you should format your drive in the NTFS format and create a Primary Partition.

Install New Hard Drive – Mixed Drives

As a final note here, if you have installed a new SATA type drive and are using this as your primary drive having installed Windows upon it and plan on using your previous drive ‘as is’ as a backup or whatever then if it is an IDE type you should configure this drive as a Slave and fit to the slave connector on the IDE cable. This will prevent confusion during boot.

Remember to go into your BIOS during reboot and make you new SATA drive the first boot priority. Look for the ‘Boot Priority’ setting on the ‘Advanced Page’.

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