Add an SSD or hard drive

Add an SSD or hard drive

These days, if you’re installing a new drive the chances are that you’ll be adding your new SSD or hard drive alongside your existing one/s — you can never have too much storage, after all — so that’s the general assumption we’ve made with this guide. We’re also guessing you’ll be installing an SSD with the intent to use it as your OS drive. However, if you’re just installing a new drive for storage, the hardware set up process is much the same — you can simply skip steps 5 through 7 and just boot up your PC, then in Windows, navigate to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management. Click Storage > Disk Management and follow the prompts to initialise the new drive (you can use the defaults) then find your new disk from the list. In the big box to the right of the drive number, it should say ‘XXXGB’ and ‘Unallocated’. Right click this box, click ‘New Simple Volume…’ and again follow the prompts to format the drive and give it a name.

Other considerations

When installing a new SSD, it’s always best to reinstall your OS from scratch. This ensures the SSD gets formatted correctly and that important features, such as TRIM, are enabled by default. While it is possible to migrate your existing OS install to a new drive, it’s quite intricate, so you can find out how to do that in more detail here.

If you’re installing an SSD and it’s the first one in your PC, you may also need to switch your drive controller’s mode from IDE to AHCI in the BIOS. (This setting is usually found under a ‘Hard drives’ or ‘Storage’ area, depending on the brand of motherboard.) AHCI is required to make sure all the features of your SSD are enabled. Note that enabling AHCI can stop existing Windows installations from being able to boot, as they won’t have the necessary Windows storage drivers enabled. So before you change anything in the BIOS, head to this Microsoft Support page and follow the instructions to turn Windows AHCI drivers on for your current set up.

What you’ll need

Apart from the new drive, you’ll also need these items:

* A SATA data cable. Drives don’t typically ship with these, but you should be able to find one in your motherboard box.

* A spare SATA power plug. This shouldn’t be too tricky, as the SATA power cables coming from your PC’s power supply (PSU) often have three or four plugs on a single cable — in other words, check the cable that’s plugged into your existing drive/s to see if there’s a spare. If there are no extras on that cable, check for any others coming from your PSU. If your PC has a modular power supply with removable cables, you may need to dig another SATA power cable out of your PSU box and plug it into the appropriate socket on the PSU.

* An OS install DVD or USB drive, plus activation key. If your new drive is going to house your operating system, we recommending reinstalling your OS from scratch.

As always, use an antistatic wrist strap when installing any new computer hardware to ensure you don’t blow anything up.

Add a new SSD or hard drive to your PC

1. Power off your PC, then unplug the power cord and any peripherals. Lay your case flat on a table and unscrew and remove the side (or top) so you can see its guts. Now, remove a free drive tray from the case — we’d recommend finding one near your current drives, as this should allow any spare SATA power cables to reach your new drive.

Add an SSD or hard drive

Most PC cases have removable trays that make drive installation easy. Just screw your hard drive or SSD in place, then slide the tray back in.

2. Take your new drive and screw it into the tray. Where the screws go will differ depending on if this is a 2.5-inch SSD (usually bottom screws) or a 3.5-inch hard drive (side screws). Once the screws are in, slide the tray back into place in you case and, if appropriate, screw the tray back in too.

3. Take your new SATA data cable and plug it into a spare port on your board — we’d recommend using one that’s next to where an existing drive is plugged in. A quick note that it can sometimes be tricky to get to SATA ports on your motherboard if you have a large graphics card, as the latter can often cover them. You might need to temporarily remove your graphics card, in some cases.

Add an SSD or hard drive

On your motherboard, pick a SATA data port that’s close to ones already in use.

4. Attach a SATA power plug to the drive.

5. A quick aside here: If you’re installing an OS to this new drive from scratch, we’d suggest temporarily unplugging your other hard drives to avoid any confusion during set up. Just unplug the SATA data cable from your other drives, then, once you’ve completed the OS install, switch off your PC, plug them back in and power on again. They should reappear within a short period of time.

Add an SSD or hard drive

Most SATA power cables coming from the PSU have multiple plugs, so check the cable attached to your existing drives for spares.

6. If you’re installing an OS, check our separate story on page XX. Once that’s done (and you’ve re-plugged in any other hard drives you may have) we’ll need to set the boot. Power on your PC and enter BIOS setup — on most motherboards, pressing the Del key will get you there. Now, different brands of motherboard put the boot order setting in different places — often its found under a ‘Hard drives’ menu, but hunt around until you find it. Set the boot sequence so that your new OS drive comes first, followed by any others.

7. Head back to the main BIOS page, save your settings and then exit. Your PC should boot up with your new drive!

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  • you may need to dig another SATA power cable out of your PSU box and plug it into the appropriate socket on the PSU.

  • Neil

    Where can I find your article about installing an OS?