How to install a hard drive | IDE and SATA drives

install hard drive
This guide will take you through the process of installing a hard drive into your PC step by step with the aid of photos.

It covers both IDE and SATA devices, starting with removing an existing drive and then covering the installation of your new hard drive.

To install your hard drive you will need:

  • Compatible IDE or SATA hard drive.
  • 4 securing screws (supplied with hard drive or case).
  • Cross-point screwdriver suitable for your PC case.
  • IDE cable (if required).
  • SATA cable (if required).
  • Anti-static wrist-strap (if available).
note: Disconnect the power and remove your PC's cover, see our guide.

Removing an old IDE hard drive

fig 1.1
fig 1.2
If you are replacing your current IDE hard drive either with a bigger drive of the same type or a new SATA device then the first step is to remove the old drive.

It is sometimes easier to remove the IDE data cable and the power cable (labeled A and B in fig 1.1) before you remove the fixing screws (see fig 1.1), as sometimes the cables can be stubborn.

If replacing it with another IDE drive then note where the cables go.

All IDE hard drives have the same standard socket types and the IDE cable should have an alignment notch to ensure it is inserted the right way (see fig 1.2), likewise, the power cable will only plug in one way.

After removing the fixing screws (there are four, two on each side of the drive bay) gently take the drive out of the chassis and put it to one side.

Removing an old SATA hard drive

The data cable of a SATA hard drive is slightly easier to remove than their IDE counterpart, however it is better to unplug both cables before you remove the fixing screws. Unless for some reason you want to replace the SATA data cable then you can leave the other end of it attached to the motherboard.

Remove the screws (see the diagram on the right) and gently slide the device back out of the drive bay, taking care not to disturb any nearby cables.

Installing an IDE hard drive

fig 1.3
The first thing to do is to locate the drive bay where the device will go. If you are replacing a drive then it can be installed in the same drive bay as the old one.

If you are adding a second drive then try and leave a gap between the two drives for ventilation, although this might not always be possible.

For an example of a drive bay see fig 1.3 on the left.

Setting the jumpers

What are jumpers?
Jumpers are small black plastic sleeves that slide over the top of metal pins. When the sleeves are placed over the pins they create an electrical connection. Jumpers are used to configure certain devices including optical drives and IDE hard drives.

For the location of the jumper selector see the diagram on the left. There will be a plastic sleeve covering two of the pins, if not then check the hard drive packaging to locate it. This black sleeve is what you will use to configure your device as one of the options below.

Which setting should you select?
A diagram of the pins you need to place the jumper over to select a certain configuration should be displayed on the hard drive label or in the manufacturer's documentation.

There are 3 options, master, slave and cable select.

Your choice will depend on how you intend to use the new hard drive.

Single Drive - If this is your only hard drive then set the jumper selector to master

Two Drives - If the new drive will be the main drive set the jumper to master. If you want it as a secondary drive then set it to slave. Alternatively, you could use a separate IDE cable on the motherboard's secondary IDE interface (see motherboard manual).

Once you have set the jumper gently slide the drive into the drive bay. Line up the holes (2 on each side of the drive bay) and insert the 4 fixing screws (supplied with your case).

Attaching the IDE and power cables

fig 1.4

fig 1.5
In fig 1.4 on the left you can see a standard IDE cable. There are 3 connectors, notice the difference in distance between the connectors.
Connection A plugs into the motherboard and then the slave and master connections are used for IDE devices. If you are only installing one drive or the new drive is to be the master then use the master connector. If the drive is to be the slave then use the slave connector.

The IDE cable will be marked down one side with a red or black strip, this denotes Pin 1, match this with the pin 1 indicator on the back of the hard drive (see fig 1.5).

The power cable can be found attached to your computer case's power supply.

Carefully but firmly plug the IDE and power cables in and then move onto finishing the installation below.

Installing a SATA hard drive

SATA hard drives are much more straightforward to install than their older IDE counterparts, the main reason being that they do not have to be set as master or slave.

The first step is to insert the drive into a free drive bay (if you are unsure what a drive bay looks like then see fig 1.3 further up this page). When choosing a drive bay keep in mind ventilation, for example, if you already have one hard drive present then if possible leave a space between the new and existing drives.

When inserting the hard drive ensure that the holes line-up correctly so you can insert the fixing screws to hold it in place.

Once you are happy with the position insert the fixing screws (2 on each side of the drive). When inserting the fixing screws you will find it easier if you do not tighten them completely until you have all 4 in place, this will aid alignment.

Attaching the SATA cables

SATA data cables, labelled A in our diagram are standard and will only insert one-way.

The cable labelled B in fig 1.6 is the SATA power cable, this is the standard power cable available on most modern PSUs (power supply units).

However, if you have an older computer you may find this cable is not available. In this case you will use the Molex connector for power, see fig 1.5 above for an example of this connector.
Unless you are replacing an old SATA drive and you followed our guide further up this page then you will have to attach the other end of the SATA data cable to the motherboard.

In fig 1.7 you can see some example SATA connections on a motherboard and also a SATA data cable correctly inserted.

Finishing the installation

Double-check all connections and also ensure you haven't loosened any connections while you have been installing.

You may wish to make sure the hard drive is correctly installed before replacing the covers, but it is advisable to replace the covers before reconnecting the mains.

When you reboot your machine the BIOS should automatically detect the new hard drive. After your operating system has loaded go to My Computer (or similar) and you should see your new drive there. The letter assigned to the hard drive will depend on your machine's configuration.

If the drive you have just installed is the only drive then you will need to install an operating system (if none present).

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