Installing A New Hard Disk excursion – A Beginners Guide

Installing A New Hard Disk excursion – A Beginners Guide

Random Access Memory (RAM) in our computers only holds information while the computer is turned on. Your information processor sits in RAM – as does that five page document you spent two hours typing in.

Turn your computer off, or (heaven forbid) you have a strength cut, the contents of RAM is emptied and the information processor along with all that work simply disappears in a flash. You clearly need a way to save your work and that’s where the hard disk excursion (hdd) comes in.

Essentially magnetic media, the disc (or platter) inside the hdd works in a similar way to a cassette tape in as much as the information on it doesn’t disappear when the strength is turned off.

But, after we have had our computers for a while, the hdd can either fill up or already start to fail, causing slow loading times and error messages. In this article, we’ll look at the former – adding another hdd when your current hdd is complete.

How long your hard disk takes to fill up depends on how big it is and what you use your computer for.

For a normal computer user, this can take a very long time. In fact, some users will never fill the hdd in their computer.

But, if you’ve taken up amateur photography for example, and take hundreds of photos a week, you can fill up the hdd in a few months. If you’ve bought a new video camera and want to create, edit and store movies, filling a hdd can happen much quicker.

So if you get a message on your screen telling you that you are getting low on disk space, it’s time to start deleting stuff… or sort out a new hdd.

Yes, you can always plug in an external USB hard disk, but if you are on a budget, you can fit an internal hdd for a lot less – or use the same and get a much bigger hdd!

The actual course of action is fairly straight forward and if you know how to use a screwdriver you should find it quite easy.


The first thing I do is check the computer’s BIOS to see the current hdd configuration. The chances are that the BIOS screen is something you’ve never seen before and I strongly suggest that after doing what I’m going to talk you by now, you don’t go into it again.

We are only going to look at existing settings now, but there are things in the BIOS that you can change to the wrong values and although your computer won’t blow up or anything drastic like that, you could stop Windows loading or already stop your computer from switching on.

To get to the BIOS, turn on (or restart) your computer and watch the bottom of the screen for a message which tells you what to press to go into the Setup screen.

On most computers it’s the Del meaningful (the Supr meaningful on Spanish keyboards where I live), but on some computers it’s the F2 or F10 meaningful. I’ve already seen the Ctrl+S combination used.

Once you’ve seen what meaningful(s) you have to press on the screen, hit the Reset button on the front of your computer and start tapping the required meaningful(s) when you hear your computer ‘beep’.

If all goes well, you should see a plain text screen (either blue or black) and the words BIOS or Setup at the top of the screen along with the name of the company who made the BIOS. Depending on the motherboard in your computer this could be Award (Phoenix), AMI (American Megatrends Inc) or some other company.

Award’s Phoenix bios is probably the most shared and consists of a number of ‘pages’ – displayed in two columns. Using the up, down, left and right cursor keys, you highlight the page you want and press the go into meaningful to go into the page. Pressing the Esc meaningful backs out and returns to the past screen.

Each page contains a number of options which you can change. Right now, we only want to look at the hdd configuration and NOT change anything, so that’s all I’m going to say about the BIOS for now.

Other manufacturers BIOS screens work in exactly the same way, but instead of two columns there may be a single column or already a menu running horizontally across the top of the screen.

To see the hdd configuration in a Phoenix Award BIOS, you need to highlight the Standard CMOS Features page and press go into.

My own computer has the AMI BIOS with the menu running across the top and the equivalent of Award’s Standard CMOS Features page is the first page you see and is entitled ‘Main’ – you don’t need to select anything else.

On this page, it shows all the obtainable hdd ports (IDE and SATA) and the form name of the hdd which is attached to it. Models starting with ST are Seagate drives and those starting with WDC are Western Digital drives. Samsung and Toshiba truly say Samsung and Toshiba in the form name.

If no hdd is connected to a port it may characterize ‘Not Detected’. My Asus motherboard only has a single IDE port (supporting two IDE drives, master and slave), along with four SATA ports. Your BIOS will probably be different. It may only characterize ports that drives are truly connected to.

If your BIOS isn’t like those mentioned, you’ll simply have to open each page in turn, looking for mention of dominant IDE Master, Slave, or SATA 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. Remember, highlight a page, press go into to go in and press the Esc meaningful to back out if it doesn’t contain the info you are looking for.

When you get to the screen which shows the drives in your computer, observe down what they are connected to. This includes any CD/DVD-ROM drives.

This info tells you what ports are free to connect the new excursion to, but it’s also a quick indication of how successful the job was when you’ve finished. If you got everything right, the new excursion will appear on the list. If not, it won’t appear and if you got the settings wrong on an IDE excursion, the excursion that was there before you started could also disappear off the list!

Having got the info we need, as we have not made any changes in the BIOS, we can keep up down the on/off button for 5 seconds to turn off the computer.

Before we truly start, you need to work out what you are going to need for the job – except a Phillips cross-head screwdriver. For example, as a computer engineer, I have a large stock of cables I can select from, but the chances are that you do not. The cable you buy (if you truly need one) depends on the hdd you buy.

As there are different types of hdd, when you pop down to the local computer store, your shopping list needs to have the correct items on it. In a nutshell, you need to take a look inside your computer to see what’s in there already and what you can add.

So, turn off the strength switch at the back of the computer (if there is one) and unplug all the cables.

If you aren’t sure where all the cables go, use a few minutes drawing a picture for later on when everything is plugged back in. To be honest, except USB devices, most of the cables will only plug into one hole.

All USB devices should work in spite of of which USB socket they are plugged into, but you can save yourself possible future hassles by plugging them all back in exactly the same place you unplugged them from. So if nothing else, observe where each USB plug goes.

If you have a standard case desktop PC, you just need to remove the panel on the left hand side (while looking at it from the front).

The side panel will have a 90º lip at the back edge and there will be two Phillips screws securing it in place. Remove these two screws and slide the side panel towards the back of the computer and lift it away.

observe: If you have a branded computer like a Dell, HP etc. opening it up may be different so you will need to refer to the documentation which came with it.

Also, if it is nevertheless in warranty, (hopefully by now it won’t be), then opening the case may void the warranty, so be aware of this. It has to be noted however that if you took it to your local computer shop, they too would have to open it up, so the consequence would be the same…

In a standard computer case, the CD-ROM/DVD excursion(s) and hard disks will be mounted in bays at the front of the case. Optical drives like CD and DVD’s go in the larger bays at the top and the hdd’s in the smaller, 3.5″ bays below.

Locate your hdd and look at the back end which protrudes out of the rear of the bay. There are essentially three main types of hdd – IDE/ATA, SATA and SCSI.

IDE is nevertheless the most commonly found kind of hdd out in the wild, but is slowly being replaced by the faster SATA standard. All new computers bought today have SATA drives. SCSI is rarely used in relation to IDE and SATA, but is nevertheless obtainable and tends to be found only in more specialist computers.

What excursion Do I Have Already?

All three types of drives are pretty much identical in physical size, but differ in the cables used to attach them to the system. As we need to look inside your computer to find out what free connectors are obtainable, while we do that we can also easily check what kind of excursion(s) you have already.

How To Detect If You Have An IDE/ATA excursion:

IDE (Integrated excursion Electronics) is the original Western Digital name for the interface standard which ultimately evolved into the ATA (AT Attachment) interface standard currently in use today.

Older motherboards had 2 IDE connectors (dominant and secondary) and with each one being able to sustain a master and slave device, up to four drives (any combination hard disks or CD-ROMs) could be connected.

ATA excursion data cables are flat ribbon cables, usually grey, approximately 5cm wide and having 3 x 40 pin connectors attached – one at each end and another part of the way along it.

If you currently have a single IDE/ATA excursion, the ribbon cable will be connected to the motherboard at one end, to the excursion probably using the ‘master’ connector at the opposite end and have a spare unused ‘slave’ connector around 15-20cm from the end.

observe: If you also have an IDE CD-ROM or DVD excursion, it could be attached to the slave connector on the same dominant IDE cable as the hdd, or attached on it’s own using the secondary IDE cable.

Looking at the back of an IDE hdd, the 4 pin Molex 8981 strength connector is located on the far right and the connector plug is female with 1 red, 1 yellow and 2 black wires.

How To Detect If You Have A SATA excursion:

Serial ATA (SATA) drives first appeared in 2003 and were faster versions of the past ATA (IDE) drives. ATA was afterward renamed to similar ATA (PATA).

Today, almost all new computers, laptops and netbooks are supplied with SATA drives as standard. Although most new motherboards nevertheless have a single old IDE connector on them for backwards compatibility, they usually have four or more of the newer SATA connectors.

SATA data cables are also flattened, but not as flat as IDE ribbon cables and nowhere near as wide. At around 1cm wide and slightly thicker, they come in various colours. I have red, blue, yellow and black SATA data cables.

Unlike IDE cables though, they only have one excursion connector. As such, each SATA excursion needs it’s own data cable.

If you have a SATA excursion, follow the flat data cable back to the motherboard and you should see that it plugs into a SATA socket. There should be four, but it doesn’t matter as long as there is one free.

Looking at the back of the hdd, the SATA strength connector is located on the far left and the strength cable has 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 black and 1 orange wire. The data cable plugs in just to the right of the strength cable with little or no gap between.

Most modern strength supplies have both IDE and SATA strength connectors.

How To Detect If You Have A SCSI excursion:

The third and last hdd kind uses a standard called Small Computer System Interface (SCSI – distinct ‘scuzzy’) and although they are nice and fast, they are also very expensive, so it’s highly doubtful you will already have one of these in your computer without knowing about it already.

Most motherboards do not have a SCSI interface built in, so you can usually identify these drives as the data cable from the back of them typically connects to a SCSI interface card instead of directly onto the motherboard.

The data cable on a SCSI excursion is just like an IDE ribbon cable, but much wider, so if the data cable on your hdd is wider than the one on the CD-ROM excursion then you’ve got a SCSI excursion. The strength connector is also exactly the same as on an IDE excursion.

If you need another one of these drives, your local computer shop may have to order it for you as they aren’t always stock items – or you could probably order one online a lot cheaper.

Decision Time

Your computer right now probably has a single hard disk and a single CD/DVDROM excursion, but to be honest, it doesn’t really matter if the current hdd is the older IDE/ATA interface.

If your motherboard supports SATA drives, I suggest you go for one as they are faster and generally easier to get keep up of – unless cost is an issue and you can get your hands on a decent sized second hand IDE excursion for next to nothing.

Either way, all you need is a free strength connector and a data cable for the excursion you end up getting.

observe: You do not have to stick to the kind of excursion you currently have. If you have an IDE excursion you can nevertheless add a new SATA excursion and vice-versa.

To Sum Up:

* If your computer has an IDE ribbon cable with a free connector, in addition as a free IDE strength connector you can safely buy an IDE disk excursion.

* If your computer only has a single IDE ribbon cable and both master and slave connectors are in use, as long as your motherboard has an unused secondary IDE port you can safely buy an IDE disk excursion, but you will also need to buy another IDE cable for it.

* If your computer has a free SATA port on the motherboard and your strength supply has a free SATA strength connector you can safely buy a SATA disk excursion. If you don’t have one, you will also need to buy a SATA data cable.

* If you have no free IDE or SATA connections and no free IDE or SATA strength connectors, you will probably find it cheaper and easier to get an external USB excursion.

Tip! If you buy your new excursion from your local computer shop, ask them if they sell 6-32 UNC excursion mounting screws. Most of us who work with computers for a living have thousands of them lying around so the chances are they’ll give you a handful for free!

Installing The excursion:

Having got your new excursion and if necessary, the correct data cable for it, all we need to do now is install it.

SATA Drives

If your excursion is a SATA excursion, there’s no configuration involved you can just pop it into an empty bay and screw it in.

There are four screws – two each side, but if I’m honest, I only ever use two screws because you have to take the other case side panel off to put them in. If I go back to a machine at a later date and have to take the excursion out, it’s a time saver only having to remove one side panel to do it.

The excursion bays have sustain rails either side which keep the excursion horizontal and the two screws you do put in prevent it from moving, so the other two screws really aren’t necessary.

Next, you connect the SATA strength cable to the excursion. The strength connector plug has an ‘L’ shaped ridge in it which only matches up with the groove on the excursion connector when it’s the correct way round, so don’t force it.

Finally, you connect one end of the SATA data cable to the motherboard and the other end to the excursion. Like the strength cable plug, the data cable has the ‘L’ shaped ridge so match them up before trying to force them in.

observe: The plugs on the end of a SATA cable are identical, so it doesn’t matter which end plugs into the excursion and which plugs into the motherboard.

And that’s all there is to installing a new SATA excursion.

IDE/ATA Drives

As an IDE cable can have two devices attached – like a hdd attached as a master and a CD_ROM attached as a slave, all IDE devices have to be set as either master or slave and have the correct connector attached.

Setting the device is done with a tiny jumper which shorts out two pins on the back of the device.

Each hdd manufacturer can have different jumper settings, so on the top of the excursion you will find a sticker showing the various jumper configurations.

For example, on Seagate drives, shorting out the two pins furthest away from the strength socket by placing a jumper on them makes the excursion the master device. Leaving the jumper off the same two pins sets the excursion as a slave device.

On an IDE ribbon cable, there are three connectors. Two are closer together at one end and it is these that plug into the two IDE devices. The one on it’s own at the other end plugs into the port on the motherboard.

Of the two connectors close together, the one on the very end of the cable is plugged into the master device and the other one into the slave device.

So, once you have decided which connector is going to be plugged into your new excursion, you can set the jumper consequently.

A second hdd will work fine set as a slave as long as the slave cable connector is plugged in, but if given the choice I would always add a new hdd as a master on the secondary IDE channel with a new IDE cable – already if the slave connector on the dominant IDE channel was free.

In theory though it shouldn’t make any difference and in any case, the chances are your master and slave on the dominant IDE channel are already taken with your hdd and CD/DVD-ROM excursion. If so, set the new excursion to master and when you connect the new IDE cable, plug the master connector (the one on the very end) into the excursion.

You can now put the excursion into a free bay and screw in the two screws.

Attach either the free connector on the existing IDE ribbon cable to the excursion, or connect one end of your new IDE ribbon cable to the motherboard and the other end to your new hdd.

observe: One edge wire of the IDE ribbon cable will be marked in a different colour to make it stand out. This is to help when plugging it in as the connector will only fit one way round. When the marked wire is closest to the strength connector, the cable will be correctly oriented, to plug in.

Finally, plug the new excursion’s strength connector in. This has chamfered edges at the bottom so it too can only be plugged in one way round. When the strength plug is the correct way round, the yellow wire is nearest to you when looking into the case from the left side.

At this point, you should be done and in a perfect world you would put the side panel back on, connect all the cables and strength on your machine. But it might be wise to leave the side panel off a while longer while you connect the cables and strength up – just in case there’s a problem and you need to go back in and change anything.

As described right at the beginning of this article, strength up, go back into the BIOS and go to the page which lists your drives. If a new hdd form number has appeared next to a port which wasn’t there before and those that were there before are all nevertheless there, then congratulations – you’ve successfully installed your new hard disk!

If the new excursion doesn’t appear (or one disappears), you now have to start the trouble-shooting phase.

At this point, we have no changes to save in the BIOS so we can keep up down the on/off button to turn off the computer.


First check that all cables are present and firmly pushed in.

With the computer turned off, place the metal end of your Phillips screwdriver in one of the screw holes of the new hdd’s case and push the screwdriver manager to your ear. Turn on the PC and if the excursion powers up, you’ll hear the hdd excursion motor whine and clicking noises by the screwdriver. If there’s no sound or vibration, swap the strength connector with a working excursion and check again.

If there’s nevertheless nothing, you have a dead excursion and should return it. If it starts working, try the first strength connector in the other excursion. If that’s now dead, use another strength connector (there’s usually a associate unused).

If the excursion you installed is an IDE excursion and is powering up OK and/or a before working IDE excursion has disappeared of the list in the BIOS then you have set the master/slave configuration jumper incorrectly. On an IDE ribbon cable, only one device can be master – the other must be set to slave. Set them both to the same and neither will be detected by the BIOS.

Also with IDE drives, make sure that the excursion set as master is attached to the connector on the END of the IDE cable and the excursion set as slave is attached to the other connector.

With new SATA drives, you can do the screwdriver test for strength, but there are no jumpers to get wrong, so make sure the strength is off and try connecting the data cable to another SATA port on the motherboard.

Assuming all has gone to plan so far, you should be able to turn on your computer and it will boot into Windows as normal. If you have Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 then your new excursion should be detected automatically as new hardware. Just wait for the ‘your new hardware is ready to use’ message.

New drives will have to have one (or more) partitions produced on them and then formatted before you can use them.

In some versions of Windows some or all of the time of action may be automatic and you may just see a pop-up box asking if you want to format the new excursion. You can just say yes.

I use Windows XP and this course of action has to be done manually, but it’s quite easy to do and covered in my article ‘Preparing A Hard Disk For Use In Windows XP’.

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