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How to Install a New Hard Drive

How to Install a New Hard Drive

Tulie Finley-Moise
Reading time: 8 minutes
You no longer need to be a certified computer technician or even experienced with computers to understand the inner-workings of your favorite digital devices. Thanks to video tutorials and comprehensive step-by-step walkthroughs, building, deconstructing, and modifying your computer has never been easier.
When it comes to computer modifications, hard drive upgrades and replacements are among the most popular projects DIY-ers take into their own hands. While your computer’s hard drive is an essential working piece to the larger machine, it’s also one of the easiest to install or upgrade yourself.
Using this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about hard drives, how to install one into your desktop or laptop PC, and much more. Let’s get started.

What is a hard drive?

A hard disk drive, more commonly referred to as a hard drive or HDD, is the non-volatile memory hardware responsible for the storage and retrieval of data on a computer. Every desktop and laptop computer houses a hard disk drive, though more modern computers are adopting newer solid-state drive technologies that perform the same function.
While there are a number of key hardware pieces that allow your computer to boot up and perform as usual, the hard drive is one of the most integral components you depend on with every power-on.
Hard disk drives are composed of five integral components:
  • A head actuator
  • A read/write actuator arm
  • A read/write head
  • A spindle
  • A platter
Internal hard disk drives are connected to the computer’s mainframe by two essential cables: a data cable (SATA, SCI, or IDE) connected to the motherboard and a power cable connected to the power supply unit.
The hard drive functions as home to all of your necessary data, ranging from your library of photos and documents to your operating system and input drivers. Your computer simply cannot function without your hard drive correctly installed and working up to par.

How to install a hard drive

Learning how to install a hard drive will take a bit of patience and a fair amount of careful plugging and unplugging. Following our user-friendly guide, you’ll be well on your way toward a brand new hard disk drive, ready for action.

How to install a hard drive for a desktop PC

Step 1: Turn off the computer and unplug the tower from its power source. You’ll want to place the tower on a sturdy, well-lit surface before opening up the case.
Step 2: Unscrew any nuts and bolts holding the chassis together and remove the sides of your computer tower’s case. Make sure you have unrestricted access to the motherboard and SATA ports as you’ll want to handle every PC component with care.
Step 3: Most computer towers feature a set of small screws responsible for holding the drive in place. Carefully remove them and then pull the hard drive out from the computer chassis. If you’re replacing a current HDD, remove the old drive. If you’re simply installing an additional HDD, it’s not necessary to remove the old drive, but it may be helpful to have the extra space to tinker around.
Step 4: To remove the old drive, you’ll need to disconnect all of the connected cables from both the motherboard and the power supply.
Step 5: Position your new hard drive and slide it into an open bay until you hear a secure clicking sound that ensures your hard drive is locked in. Make sure the holes on either side of the drive are perfectly aligned with the screw positioning on the tower’s chassis. Tighten any screws firmly to keep your new HDD safely secured in place.
Pro-tip: If you are able, place the new hard drive into a bay with space above and below. This will allow for cooler, more efficient airflow throughout your system.
Step 6: Attach the newly installed drive to the motherboard using the same SATA power cable that connected your old HDD. If you plan to use your new HDD as your primary storage media, make sure the SATA cable is plugged into the first SATA channel. If you’re unsure of where to look or which input port is the correct one, refer to your motherboard information documentation.
Step 7: Now that your new hard drive is installed, the final step is closing up your computer and powering back on. Replace the sides of your tower chassis and tightly screw each panel back into place. Reconnect your PC into its power sources and turn your computer on.
If you hear any strange beeping or unusual noises, immediately power your computer off and conduct a quick troubleshoot. You may have missed a step or something may have gone wrong with your hard drives connections.

How to install a hard drive in a laptop

Step 1: Unplug your laptop from any connected power sources or external cables and unscrew the underside of the body to gain entry inside of your laptop’s inner wiring. Remove the battery and place it to one side.
Step 2: Take a look at your laptop’s instruction manual to locate the hard drive. Remove any screws that may be securing the current drive in place. Set the screws aside in a safe, accessible place.
Step 3: Carefully maneuver the old hard drive free and remove it at the appropriate angle from its bay or compartment.
Step 4: Using the same angled positioning, insert the new HDD and push it firmly into place until it makes successful contact with the interface.
Step 5: Fasten the removed screws back into their correct positions. Re-insert the computer battery, re-fasten the back panel into place, and power on your laptop.

What are the advantages of an HDD?

Since their 1956 inception at the hands of IBM labs, hard drives have existed inside the bodies of computers from all manufacturers across the globe. Though the HDD hardware itself has seen a number of technological upgrades and advances over time, it continues to be the most popular storage media option living inside of desktop towers and laptops.
As manufacturers and consumers lean further toward solid-state drive alternatives, it’s important to first understand where the differences lie and whether or not making the switch is a smart next move for you. Despite the push toward smaller, newer tech, there is a reason why manufacturers and consumers continue to opt for hard disk drives over their slimmer SSD siblings.
Let’s explore the top five advantages of operating your PC system on a traditional hard disk drive.

1. Reliability

With years and years of tech innovation behind hard disk drive hardware, there’s a certain reliability built into the hardware of modern hard disk drives. The state of the hard disk drive that exists in today’s computer is eons faster and more impressive than HDDs of earlier generations.
Solid-state drives physically degrade when erasing and writing data, which means that they deteriorate over time. Hard disk drives, on the other hand, can handle an infinite amount of read and write tasks, meaning you don’t have to worry about your storage media reaching a point of irreparable decay.

2. Market availability

Availability in the modern tech market is another advantage of operating an HDD. Unlike solid-state drives, hard disk drives are far easier to pin down at your local computer hardware shop. Whether you’re on the hunt for internal or external HDDs, you won’t have to worry about scouring the depths of the internet to find the right drive for your computer. The market is flooded with hard disk drive options, many of which are bound to be compatible with your PC.
On the other hand, solid-state drives can be significantly more difficult to source due to their retail prices, limited stock, and storage capacity constraints.

3. Cost efficiency

If you’re working with a tight budget or simply looking to get the biggest bang for your buck, hard disk drives are the way to go. Generally speaking, hard disk drives tend to be the more affordable option next to solid-state drives. In fact, if you narrow it down to dollar pricing per storage gigabit, hard drives are typically the better deal. A solid-state drive with 1TB of storage will likely come at a far higher cost than an HDD with 1TB of storage.

4. Durability

When it comes to durability, the hard disk drive reigns supreme. Solid-state drives are constrained to a finite number of write and erase tasks. This means that you are only able to complete a certain number of data creation and modification operations before the SSD can no longer handle your input requests.
Based on the simple fact that hard disk drives are engineered to accommodate a higher number of read-write cycles than solid-state drives, HDDs are built to last longer and stronger.

5. Large storage capacity

For power users on the hunt for an internal drive that will accommodate large, expansive PC libraries, HDDs will impress. Generally speaking, HDDs begin at higher base capacities than their newer SSD siblings. The vast majority of base-level HDDs start at 500GB whereas SSDs start at a base capacity of 128GB.
It’s also important to note that it’s not uncommon for the price of a smaller base SSD to run a higher final cost than a larger base HDD.
Pro tip: There are also significant advantages to using an SSD. Read more about them by clicking here then make an educated decision about storage that best suits your computing needs. You might even choose to install a combination of the two.

Summing it all up

Whether you’re upgrading your current hard disk drive or you’re tacking on an additional HDD, do so with confidence and careful finesse. For even the most novice PC mechanics, this step-by-step instructional guide is all you’ll need to install a new hard drive.
For all other tech news and tutorials, you can count on HP Tech Takes as your number one resource.

About the Author

Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.

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