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How to install a new hard drive in your desktop PC

Marco Chiappetta | Aug. 13, 2014
Installing an internal hard drive is one of the more straightforward upgrades out there--and is often a better option than using external drives that are slower and may be dropped or misplaced.

Installing an internal hard drive is one of the more straightforward upgrades out there — and is often a better option than using external drives that are slower and may be dropped or misplaced. 

The process usually requires no more than mounting it, connecting a couple of cables, and formatting the drive for use. Still, there are a few things you should know to make installation as smooth as possible. 

Drive cages, bays and mounting options

Internal 3.5-inch hard disk drives are typically mounted in a drive cage or in an available drive bay. Placement and orientation of the cages or bays will vary from case to case. The most common location is at the lower front, near the intake fans and away from other components. Drive cages/bays will most often be mounted perpendicular to the bottom of the chassis, while drives mounted in the cages usually sit parallel to the bottom of the case.

In mainstream cases, drive connectors will typically point to the rear. In enthusiast-class cases, it's becoming more common to see the drive's connectors facing the right side, making it easier to route and hide cables behind the motherboard tray. Some enthusiast-class also cases give users the ability to remove drive cages or to mount them in different positions to optimize air flow and simplify cable management.

Mounting your hard drive

Physically mounting the hard drive in a PC is probably the most difficult part of the installation process.

Securing the drive to a cage usually requires four screws on the sides or bottom of the drive. Many cases — especially enthusiast cases — use tool-less trays that hold the drives with simple pins and clips.

Using screws is the more robust mounting method, but tool-less trays are fine for systems that won't be moved around much.

Drives last longer when they stay nice and cool. When mounting drives in a system, try to leave as much space between them as possible to maximize airflow over the tops and bottoms. Positioning the drives directly in front of an intake fan also helps.

Connect the hard drives with SATA

Once the drive is mounted, connecting it to your system is quick and easy.

Virtually all new desktop hard drives sold today use the SATA interface (unless you're dealing with servers).  SATA uses simple cables that are keyed to fit on the drive and motherboard connector one way.

Connect one end of the SATA cable to the drive, and the other end to an available SATA port on your motherboard, and you're halfway there.

You may find the SATA cables included with your new drive or motherboard feature different connectors: straight ends or right-angle (L-shaped). Some may have metal retention clips, while others do not. The shape of the connector makes no difference in performance.

 

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