Installing SATA hard drives - PCWiki
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Installing SATA hard drives

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Instructions on how to install SATA hard drives.

How to tell if you have an SATA drive

IDE is the old interface standard for hard drives and optical drives. It is easily recognized by a wide row of pins on the back of the drive, a second set of pins for jumper settings, and a molex plug for power. A SATA drive has much smaller connectors with no visible pins, for both data and power. Some SATA drives come with a molex plug as well. Here are some examples:





SATA drives use a SATA cable. They a skinny, flat cable that are traditionally colored red, and have two black connectors.  


Either end of the SATA cable can be connected to either the hard drive, or the motherboard. Some SATA cables come with one angled connector, which can be useful for connections that must go into tight places. In order to power your drive, you'll need a power connection from your PSU. A SATA power cable connector looks something like this:


Alternatively, your drive may also have a port for molex power. Either one works the same, but never use both at once! Your PSU will more often than not have a spare molex connector, as opposed to a SATA power connector. If you do not have a spare SATA power connector, your hard drive does not have a molex port, and your hard drive did not come with a molex to SATA adapter, then you'll need to obtain an adapter. They are very cheap, but I don't suggest buying one. If you know someone who is into computers, then ask them if they have a spare. Most of them should have several spares laying around. Here is an example of a molex connector:


The last thing you need before installing a drive is the space to put it in. Inside your case, note where your current hard drive is located. It should be screwed into a cage assembly, or slid in with drive rails. Is there another space just like it nearby? Are the screwholes in the same positioning? Some cages put lettering beside the holes, telling you what they are meant for. HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive (your hard drive), ODD stands for Optical Disk Drive (your CD/DVD drive), and FDD stands for Floppy Disk Drive. Here is an example of what a drive cage looks like:


If you have the correct space for another hard drive, then you're set. On a side note, sometimes the FDD space has holes for the hard drive as well. So if you don't have an internal floppy drive, you can put a hard drive in there instead. Now you need to make sure you have a spare SATA connection on your motherboard. There are normally a few of them grouped together, so they shouldn't be too hard to find.


Connecting your drive: You'll need a screwdriver if your case does not use drive rails. Ensure that you have the proper jumper settings. If your hard drive cage is removable, it is easier to install when you remove it from the case. Insert the hard drive into the slot carefully. Push it in until the holes in the cage are lined up with the holes on the drive. Use the screws provided with your hard drive or case to install the drive. If you don't have any, then make sure you use short screws. If the screws are too long, they can end up contacting the hardware of the hard drive, and cause serious damage. Most hard drives install with 4 screws. If you removed your cage, and it normally faces the back of the case, you can keep it out for installing the cables. Insert the SATA data cable into both the motherboard and hard drive. Make sure it is plugged in completely, since failure to do so can cause problems. Connect either the SATA power connector or the molex connector. If you're using molex, make sure that the notched ends of the plug match the notched ends of the connector. Reinstall the cage if necessary. If everything is connected properly, then you're set!

If this is a brand new drive, you may need to create a partition on it. Once you boot up your computer, go to the Control Panel. Double-click on Administrative Tools, then on Computer Management. A new window will appear, listing many options. In the tree on the left hand side, click on Disk Management. this will list all of your drives. You should see your main drive (usually C), and your new drive you just installed should appear. The letter it is depends on what other devices you have installed on your computer.


Look at what comes after it (Healthy, in the example above). Each block is a partition on your hard drive, which is basically just dividing it into separate sections for organization of data. If your new drive says "Unallocated space," then you need to create a partition. Right click on the space, and select "Create partition." A window will appear, guiding you through the process. Select Primary Partition. If this drive is just for extra storage, then select the maximum amount of data for the partition size. Select the NTFS option for formatting. When you're done, the window will close, and the Disk Management window will reappear. On your new drive, it will say "Formatting," and list the percentage completed. This can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes, so feel free to leave, or just surf the internet for a while until it is done. When it is complete (the drive says Healthy instead of Formatting) the drive is ready for use. Sometimes, the computer must be restarted after formatting a drive. It will tell you if it needs it.

I hope this helps anyone who's curious about installing SATA drives. Thanks for reading!

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