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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.

I like to use SATA cables with right-angle connectors on the drive side, provided there is adequate clearance between any drives in the system. Using right-angle connectors on the motherboard side will result in blocked ports, because the connector may overlap adjacent ports.

Try to find SATA cables with metal retention clips, because they help keep the connectors secured. Newer SATA 3 (6-gigabit)-compliant cables will usually come with the clips, but older SATA 2 (3-gigabit) cables do not.

When you're done connecting the SATA cable, you'll have to connect the drive to your power supply unit (PSU). The  SATA power cable from your PSU, like the SATA data cable, is keyed to fit onto the drive one-way. As long as you don't force it, there's really no way to mess it up.

Prepare the hard drive for use

Once you've mounted and connected the drive, power up your system and enter the BIOS/UEFI. You can usually access the BIOS/UEFI by pressing the DEL or F2 keys right after powering up the system. Usually, your system will display a message along the lines of "Press DEL to enter Setup." Consult your motherboard's manual for the correct key.

In the BIOS, go to the standard System Settings menu or the Integrated Peripherals > SATA menu to see all of the drives installed in the system. If all of your drive controllers are enabled and the drive is properly connected (and functional), it should be listed in the BIOS. 

If the drive isn't listed, shut down your PC. Double-check all of the connections, boot into the BIOS and check again. If the drive still isn't showing up and all the connections are secure, try plugging the SATA data cable into a different port on the motherboard.

To confirm that Windows recognizes the drive, open up Device Manager. In Windows 8, right-click the Windows button on your desktop and select Device Manager. Check for the drive in the Disk Drives section. 

When you boot into Windows after installing the drive, you may see the New Hardware Found wizard pop up if the drive is detected. 

The last thing you need to do is partition and format the drive.

And with that, the drive should be available for use. If you split the drive up into multiple partitions, you should see several drives appear in File Explorer, each with its own drive letter and label.


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