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Before Installation

Installing a hard drive is a medium level job. If you are confident in yourself and would like to save the money a computer guy would charge to do it, go ahead and do it yourself. It won’t be that bad. The physical installation is actually pretty easy. Getting it ready for use takes a little longer.

The worst part about installing hard drives is setting the jumpers on the drive so that it works correctly with your current hardware. You only need to worry about jumpers if you are using an IDE hard drive. IDE hard drives have settings for master, slave and cable select. This is because, for an IDE drive, it matters. For Serial ATA drives (SATA), you don’t need to worry about jumpers at all. Now that SATA is becoming much more prevalent than IDE, it is becoming a lot less likely that you will need to worry about jumpers during this process.

Before installation, inspect the inside of the computer’s case and determine where you want the drive to go. If you are using an IDE hard drive, you want to optimally connect the drive on a different IDE channel than your DVD/CD drives. Most motherboards have two IDE channel connectors. So you would put your disc drives on IDE2 and your hard drives on IDE1. For SATA drives, your life, again, got easier. SATA gets it’s own channel and, as of this date, SATA DVD drives are very uncommon.

Materials Required

  • Hard drive
  • Copy of the hard drive manual (if you need to set jumpers; this can be downloaded if your drive didn’t come with one)
  • Controller card (optional; use this if you don’t have a spare connector on the motherboard or space on an existing ribbon cable to connect your drive to. Make sure you get one that matches your drive – Serial ATA for an SATA drive; ATA/100 or ATA/133 for an IDE drive; SCSI for a SCSI drive.)
  • Data cable for the drive (if you aren’t installing the drive as a slave on an existing cable)
  • Power cable Y-splitter (if you don’t have a spare power connector)
  • Ultimate Boot CD (if you want to clone your old hard drive to your new one)

How will you be using your new drive?

If you are replacing your primary hard drive, make sure you back up any data you want to save before you start. If you don’t want to reinstall Windows, you can clone the contents of your old hard drive to your new one using the setup utilities that hard drive manufacturers provide, or you can use a specific cloning program like HDClone or PC Inspector Clone Maxx. All of the above-mentioned utilities are available on the Ultimate Boot CD, so you can download and burn that and then choose the utility that is easiest for you to understand. (If you don’t have access to a high-speed internet connection, you can order a CD for a small fee.)

If you are willing to reinstall Windows, make sure you have discs for Windows and all your programs. This will prevent frustrations about losing programs after you have already formatted your computer.

If you are simply installing a secondary hard drive for storage, you don’t have to make any changes to the configuration of your current hard drive. If, however, you are installing a second IDE drive, it is possible that you will need to alter the jumper configuration of your primary hard drive. If your current hard drive is set as “Cable Select” (meaning it is the only drive on the channel), then you may need to change it to “Master” which will allow you to add the second hard drive as a slave (see below).

Setting Jumpers: IDE Drives

IDE can accommodate two drives per channel, with most computers having two channels built in. The primary drive on a channel is called the Master, and the secondary one is called the Slave. The IDE channels are also labeled as Primary (or IDE1) and Secondary (or IDE2). The hard drive that the system boots from is usually the primary master. Generally, if you’re adding a second hard drive you would set it up as the primary slave. (The secondary master and slave are usually used for optical drives, although they can accommodate hard drives if needed.)

Most drives come set to be used as masters, so if you want to use one as a slave, you’ll have to change the jumpers, which are located between the power connector and the IDE connector. Each manufacturer has different jumper settings, so I can’t give you exact instructions here. However, there is often a diagram on the top of the drive telling you how to set the jumpers, and if not there will certainly be instructions in your hard drive’s manual (which you can download from the manufacturer’s website if your hard drive didn’t come with one).

Another jumper setting, which you can use if you have an 80-conductor ribbon cable, is Cable Select. 80-conductor cables can be identified by their much finer wires compared to 40-conductor cables and by their connector colors (the motherboard end will be blue, red, or green, and the drive connectors will be black for the one on the end and gray for the one on the middle). With both drives set to Cable Select, the computer will recognize the drive hooked up to the black end connector as the master and the one hooked up to the middle gray connector as the slave.

Setting Jumpers: SATA Drives

Good news! There are no jumpers to worry about on SATA drives. Some SATA drives do have a jumper which controls the speed of the SATA drive itself, but you do not need to worry about anything related to master, slave or cable select.

Physical Installation

Now’s when you actually take off the case and get your hands dirty. Let’s get started:

  1. Turn the computer off, unplug it, and take the case off. At this point, you may want to make some quick sketches of just how everything is in there: Which direction is everything facing? Where and how are the cables connected? For some people, such sketches help to put everything back when you are done.
  2. If you are replacing your old hard drive, remove the cables from the old drive. You will see both a ribbon cable and a small power plug. Do not force them out. The ribbon cable is usually quite easy to remove. Sometimes, though, the power connector can become stuck. Just rock it back and forth (lengthwise along the narrow side of the drive), taking care not to rip the connector off the drive. Then remove the mounting screws that hold the drive to the case frame. Sometimes, you may need to tip the case or get into some strange positions to reach all the screws; other times, the hard drive is mounted in a cage that you’ll be able to take out to get to the other side of the drives. Finally, remove the old drive from the case. Be sure not to bump anything too hard on the way out.
  3. If you are replacing the old drive, slide the new drive in right where the other one came out. If you are adding a second drive, just pick any empty drive bay – one a bit below the current drive might work best, because it will make it easier to route cables. If you are installing a 3.5″ drive into a 5.25″ drive bay, you may need to add rails or a mounting bracket to make it fit. Screw the drive into place, making sure the screws aren’t going in crooked. Don’t force them.
  4. If you need a separate controller card, install it now into any unused motherboard slot. Chances are that you don’t need to worry about this. It is usually only necessary if you want to add more IDE drives than your computer will support with it’s two built-in channels. If you are using SATA, your motherboard likely comes with enough SATA ports. If not, you can extend it using a controller card just the same way as with IDE.
  5. Attach the cables to the hard drive and to the motherboard or controller card if necessary. There are two cables: the ribbon cable (or SATA cable) and the power cable. The ribbon cable goes from the controller to the drive. Most cables are keyed to the connector so they only go in one way; if the cable isn’t going in, try flipping it over. Don’t force it. If you are adding a second drive, simply choose a connector on the same ribbon cable that is not used. Most IDE ribbon cables come with three connectors: one on the end (usually black) and one mid-way (usually gray), then one further away on the other end which connects to the motherboard (usually blue, green, or red). In general, the master drive should use the black connector on the end and the slave should use the gray connector in the middle, but if each drive is set either as master or slave, the position is not as important. On a SATA hard drive, position of the drives on the cable does not matter at all because a SATA cable only accomodates one drive.
  6. Plug the system in and turn it on. It is best to leave the case cover off for now in case you need to fiddle with something or troubleshoot the installation.
  7. If you did not use a controller card, enter the BIOS (usually by pressing the F1, F2, F10, F12, or Delete key when you see the Power-On Self-Test or the manufacturer logo). Check the BIOS to make sure that the drives are all being recognized. If you installed a drive on a connector that was not in use, you may have to set the corresponding drive to “Auto.” If your BIOS has an auto-detect feature, you can use that as well. If you did use a controller card, it will pop up a screen showing the name of the card and any drives it has detected.
  8. If the drives are not being recognized, check that both power and data cables are in tightly (including the motherboard end for the data cables), and that the jumpers are set correctly. If they are all recognized correctly, let’s move to the next section.

Software Installation/Cloning

Now that your new drive is installed, we can move on and get it set up with Windows. If you are replacing your current drive and cloning it to your new drive, you will need to connect both drives. Change any necessary jumpers (see “Setting Jumpers” above) so that both drives as well as a CD drive are recognized. At this stage it is not important to screw in your old drive; you can just rest it somewhere convenient, but don’t leave it hanging in midair. Boot from the Ultimate Boot CD, and select the utility you want to use to clone the drive. Go through the appropriate prompts, making sure to select your older drive as the source and your newer one as the destination (pay careful attention to the hard drive sizes indicated by the cloning program). You don’t want to clone your new drive with nothing on it to your old drive with all your data!

If you are replacing your current drive but not cloning its contents to the new drive, put your Windows CD in the drive and boot from it. You will be prompted during the first part of setup to partition and format your drive; if you are using Windows 2000, XP or Vista, make sure to use the NTFS file system.

If you are simply installing a secondary drive, boot into Windows. In Windows 2000/XP/Vista, your new drive will not appear at all in My Computer until you format it. In Windows 9x/ME, it will appear, but you will need to right-click on the new drive and choose “Format” from the menu. To format the drive in Windows 2000 or XP, right-click on My Computer and go to “Manage”. In the window that comes up, click Disk Management in the left pane. Once it loads, you should see an “Initialize Disk” wizard pop up. Partition and format the disk to your liking, but make sure not to convert it to a dynamic disk, as doing so will provide plenty of annoyances down the road.


Congratulations, your new drive is installed!  Now that you have installing your hard drive under your belt, you might be interested in partitioning your hard drive (that means dividing your space so you can separate data).

Next Step?

You’ll need to backup and restore your data to your new hard drive. This is VERY time-consuming usually. PCMech has long been a fan of Acronis True Image. This full-featured backup/restore utility from a trusted company will help you clone your PC and restore it to your new hard drive.