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Home >> Hard Drives >> Hard Drive Upgrades >> 

How to Upgrade Your Hard Drive

How to Upgrade Your Hard Drive

by Jeff Greenman

You are encouraged to make links to this article from your website and tell your friends

The following article is based on years of experience. It is provided as a free service to our customers and visitors. However, Directron.com is not responsible for any damage as a result of following any of this advice.

Copying the contents for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without Directron.com's written consent. However, you are welcome to distribute these computer support tips free to your friends and associates as long as it's not for commercial purposes and you acknowledge the source. You are permitted and encouraged to create links to this page from your own web site.

Computers are evolving faster than ever before. New technologies such as digital video editing and the increasing size of games make it very important to have a large hard drive. For some people, even a system purchased a year ago may not have a hard drive with enough space. This guide will explain the step-by-step process of installing a new hard drive in your PC system. I have included instructions on many different ways of installing your new hard drive and I hope it suits most people's needs!

  1. Selecting a new drive
  2. Pre-install Tasks
  3. Installing as a second drive
  4. Installing as brand new main drive
  5. Cloning with your old drive
  6. Conclusion

Selecting a New Drive:

This is obviously one of the most important steps. It can sometimes be frustrating to decide between two similar models and prices. You want to keep in mind which brand is the best for you. Are you going to need it for video editing or gaming? Do you want a fast one or a cheap one? If you are going to use it for saving and editing lots of digital videos and audio, you are going to need a large hard drive (30+ GB). If you are just going to need a drive for standard tasks, you may want to save some money and get a drive in the 20 GB range. Check around at many different stores locally and on the Internet. Also check out review sites and see what they think of the various models and price ranges. If you don't quite know what all of the details mean, I will give you some pointers for finding a good drive for your needs. Rotations per minute or RPM's signify how many times the disk platter (part where the data is stored) spins around in a minute. The faster it spins, the quicker the read head can receive data. A 7200RPM drive will load programs and files faster, but they cost more than a 5400RPM drive. It may be worth the extra money if you want speed, but you could save some money if you opt for a 5400RPM variety. The drives cache is a chip of fast memory where data from the hard drive is stored for the rest of the computer to read. The more cache you have the less time the drive has to spend writing new data to it. Much like the RPM's, more cache (4mb and up) can lead to slightly faster performance but a higher cost. You just need to sort out if those slight speed increases are worth the extra money they cost. One final thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the expansion capabilities of your computer. Most computers purchased from the year 1996 and beyond should not have any problems. All you need to check is for an open IDE cable, 4-pin power plug, and 3.5-inch internal drive bay. If it is a computer older than 1996, you should refer to your owners manual on the maximum hard drive capacity in addition to the previous tasks. If the manual says you can only have up to an 8GB hard drive for example, your computer may need a BIOS flash. If you are unfamiliar with that, refer to your manual in the "BIOS" section, or contact your PC manufacturer with your hard drive size problem (they will most likely instruct you with the BIOS). If you have everything all set, then it is time to start installing the hard drive by preparing your existing system.

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Related Items: | IDE cables | 4-pin Y cable (if you are out of 4-pin connectors) | IDE Controllers (if you are out of IDE connectors) | Hard Drives |

Pre-Install Tasks:

This step actually requires some thought and preparations. You need to decide now how you are going to have this hard drive installed. Are you just going to add it on after the existing drive? Or are you going to do an exact copy of the files from your existing drive to the new one and get rid of the old drive altogether? Or are you going to start fresh with the new drive with just your personal files saved from the old one? This is the time to decide what exactly is going to happen in the upgrade phase. Putting your new drive in as a "Slave", meaning a second separate hard drive, is the easiest and requires no necessary file copying. Doing a mirror image, known as "Cloning", can be simple but may require the purchase of a program to do that task and some extra messing around inside your case. Starting fresh with your new drive is probably the hardest way of upgrading, but it is easy for more advanced users. It involves backing up files you want to save off of your old drive and then putting them on the new drive after an operating system has been installed. That requires a large backup medium such as CR-RW/CD-R discs, ZIP disks, or another networked computer that holds lots of data.

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Related Items: | Tape/Zip Drives | CD-RW drives | Blank Media | Networking |

Installing as a second drive:

This is probably the easiest way to go when upgrading your drive and is the most practical. It is recommended that you follow this section if you are not quite as confident messing with your files and your system hardware. First you need to get all of the necessary tools and equipment out. You will need a Philips head screwdriver, a pair of needle nose pliers or tweezers, all of the materials with your new hard drive and any manuals from your existing system. Also it makes it much easier if you have a good working area with a large surface and all the necessary equipment nearby.

Now that you have everything prepared, make sure your computer is turned off, and move it to your workspace. Unplug all cables from the back of the system except for the black power plug that goes into a standard 3 prong wall outlet. Unscrew the cover for the computer or slide it off, however it comes off. Touch a part of the metal frame of the case to discharge any static electricity that you may have. Flip the rocker switch next to the power plug on the back of the computer to turn off the electricity to the case. If you do not see a rocker switch, just unplug the power cable. To give you a bit of information about that, leaving the power plugged in and then touching a metal part of the case sends all the static electricity that you have to the ground through the power cable. Switching the rocker switch will turn off the power to the components, but leaves the ground wire open for static discharge. This step is commonly overlooked, but could potentially lead to frying a part of the system without following those steps. Look on the label or manual of your new hard drive; you should see a part on the "Jumper Settings". Look for a setting for the "Primary Slave" or just "Slave" position. Have the jumpers on the back of the drive match up to the diagram. It is advisable to use needle nose pliers or tweezers to avoid frustration working with such small things! Now you need to scope out where it will be screwed into your case. Look for the existing hard drive, it should look nearly the same, usually it is located in the bottom right corner. Find an open expansion slot that is under your existing drive. If there aren't any open spots below it, unscrew the existing drive and move it up so it creates a vacant spot below it.

Image 1 shows a Hard Drive that needs to be moved up because there are no open spaces below it to install the new drive (even though it looks like it is open, there is a CD-ROM drive in that spot). Brackets are used to allow it to fit, the brackets sometimes come with a retail boxed kit but can be purchased separately if you need some. Also on the drive in the picture shown, the CD-ROM is on the same cable as the main hard drive, which leaves no space for the new drive to be connected. The easiest way to get around this is use a separate IDE cable (the flat gray cable). Plug it into the "Secondary IDE" channel on the motherboard; look in the computer manual for the location of that plug. If you are doing that, then the new hard drive needs to be switched so the jumpers on the back of the drive are in the "Master" setting.

If you need to move it up as stated before, unscrew the screws on each side and with all the cables still attached, slide it up a spot or two. Then reattach the screws once it is in place. Check that no cables have come loose in the transfer. Now slide in the new hard drive and put it in place just like your existing one is. Screw the 4 screws in on both sides, you may need to use some of your own if the drive didn't come with any. Locate a 4-pin power connecter hanging in your case. It will have yellow, red, and black wires with a white connector. Plug it into the appropriate socket on the back of the drive, it may need some force to set it in place, but be gentle so you don't damage any of the parts! Now locate the flat gray cable that is plugged into your old drive. Follow the cable down a few inches and locate the grayish/black connector and plug it into the back of the new drive. It is keyed so it can only fit in one way, and be gentle so you don't bend any of the delicate pins on the drive!

Image 2 shows a drive with all the cables properly plugged into the back. Yours should look somewhat like that, the exact locations of the connectors may vary depending on the drive that you have.

Image 3 shows the 2 drives properly installed, I have noted which ones are the Master and Slave. When you are done your drives should have the same basic configuration as the picture has, but as always things vary from computer to computer. I would like to apologize that the pictures are somewhat low quality images, but you can get a basic idea of what everything looks like!

Double check that all the plugs in your case are plugged in and then replace the case cover on the chassis. Plug in all of the cables that go into the back of the computer and get it all set to go. Insert the installation floppy disk that came with your hard drive and start up the computer. It should initiate a hard drive installation program that will guide you through the setup process. Follow the on screen instructions to format the disk for your operating system. Everything should be working properly and your new hard drive should register as drive D:\. If the software did not load on startup, then enter the systems BIOS by pressing either the Delete key or F1. Look for a section in the BIOS within the submenus on the boot order. Switch the boot order to list the A:\ drive before the hard drive, save the changes and then exit. If your drive did not come with any installation software, they can usually be downloaded from the companies website.

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Installing as brand new main drive:

This section and the next one are probably best suited for the more advanced user. If you are not confident in dealing with DOS commands, installing operating systems, or even have enough time, the previous section is for you. You have now been warned! This section will instruct you on how to make your new drive be the main drive in your system with only personal files that you want saved carried over. This will make your system perform faster by having a fresh installation of everything. The first act of duty, like all other times, is to get everything organized. You will need a full version operating system such as Windows 98 or Windows XP. Also you will need a CD with the drivers for the individual hardware components inside your computer. Some computer manufacturers do not include these disks so you are unfortunately out of luck for this section. To backup your files, a large storage medium such as CD-R/RW or ZIP disks are required as stated earlier. And you will need the standard array of materials to physically install the drive (they can be found listed in the section before). Now that you have your arsenal of tools, it is time to start backing up!

You are pretty much on you own for the backing up phase. Once again I am under the assumption that you are a more advanced user and know how do to these things. Just a few things that I want to remind you, remember to back up all of your settings for things such as the Internet, passwords, records, and also for the gamer, saved games. Don't blame me if you accidentally delete all of your data! Once you think you have everything backed up, double check that you do (don't want to forget anything!) and then proceed on. For the next part you will need a bootable startup disk for the operating system you will be installing (usually the OS CD itself will function as a bootable disk), in addition to the CD for the OS and all basic installation tools.

Unplug all cables from the back of your system when it is powered off. But don't unplug the cable that leads to a power outlet. Once the system is at your work area, unscrew the cover and then touch a part of the metal frame to discharge any static electricity. Now you can unplug the power cable to the wall (you can refer to the previous section for more detail on this). Locate the hard drive and then unplug the 4-pin red and yellow power cable, also remove the gray ribbon cable attached to the drive. Save the drive in a secure location in case you have to recover any files later. On your new hard drive, check that the tiny black jumpers on the back are in the setting for the "Master" position. Refer to the manual and the top of the hard drive for the proper position. Screw the drive into the position where the old drive used to be. Now reattach all of the cables to their proper places. The new hard drive should look pretty much like the old hard drive did when it was installed in that spot. Double check that all of the cables are secured in your system and then replace the cover and return the system to it's normal location with all the cables in the back plugged in. To begin the software installation, put in the hard drive installation disk that came with your new drive. It should start automatically and begin a setup program. Follow all the on screen instructions to set up the drive. When it restarts, it should be at the "C:\" prompt. Insert the CD for your operating system and then begin the setup program. Follow the instructions with that and then install all the hardware drivers after it is done.

Now you can begin re-copying all your old files to the new drive. If you accidentally forget to back up something you can install the old hard drive in a slave setting by referring to the instructions earlier in this guide (but skip the setup program because the hard drive is already set up and formatted). Also you may even want to add it as a second drive for a bit more space.

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Cloning with your old drive:

"Cloning with your old drive" means that you take every bit of data and information from your old hard drive and put it on your new one for a "mirror image" or basically "clone" of the old drive. This is a very practical solution for people who do not want to mess with installing the Operating System from scratch and mess with backing up all your files but still want the new drive to function as the main drive. The main downfall of cloning is that it requires a separate purchase of a software program, which does the "Cloning" of the disks. Sometimes a cloning program such as Symantec's Norton Ghost software can be bundled with your system, or if you built your own it sometimes comes with the Motherboard. PowerQuest Drive Image Pro is another program that can also do the cloning. I cannot include as complete instructions for cloning because it is trickier because each program does it a little different than another. This section was just "thrown in" as an option you can consider in upgrading your hard drive.

Once you have your cloning software of choice, you need to once again get your materials ready. You will need a Philips head screwdriver, a pair of needle nose pliers or tweezers, all of the materials with your new hard drive and any manuals from your existing system. Also it makes it much easier if you have a good working area with a large surface and all the necessary equipment nearby (in case you haven't noticed, that was a repost from the first section!). Refer up to the first section on "Installing as a second drive" for the instructions on how to install the drive. You need to essentially install your new drive so it functions as a second drive in windows on the "Slave" setting. There is no sense in retyping all of the information since it is already up in the first section. The pictures and all the information still apply, as properly installing the new drive as a second drive is the first step in cloning it.

Once your drive is installed as a primary slave and it's all set up so it functions as a regular drive in Windows, it is time to start the cloning process. Follow the instructions that came with your cloning software to guide you through the process. After the process is done, the same exact files that are on the main C:\ drive will most likely be on the new D:\ drive or whatever the letters are. To actually utilize the new drive, you have to take out the old one and put the new drive in its place in the "Master" position. It is pretty self explanatory, but just remember to switch the jumper settings on the drive. Refer to the earlier sections for information on installation and everything. When you are all done, the new hard drive should look the same as the old one once did, it should be in the same place and have all the cables still plugging into it. All your previous files should be on it and everything should act the same - but now you have a whole bunch of new storage space put files on!

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I hope that you have found this guide both useful and informative. I have tried to cover many different scenarios and issues that may arise during the process of upgrading. There are literally millions of unique computer setups and ways of assembling them that can change the information in this guide. But at the end and once you have it all set up and working successfully, you can have that feeling of pride that you have saved a ton of money by not paying someone to install it! And I hope that you have learned a few things about computers from the experience. If you have ordered the drive from Directron, you know you saved a bunch of money instead of paying the full retail price. If you are in need of some more assistance or support in installing you hard drive, check out some of the many computer websites on the Internet. A simple search can reveal tons of sites with message boards with many people willing to help you. And if you are feeling confident with your technological abilities, those sites have a bunch of "Tweaking" and enhancement programs to help you get the most out of your computer. Once again, I hope everything went pretty smoothly for you and this guide helped you. Happy computing!

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