Replacing Your Hard Drive

Replacing Your Hard Drive

Replacing Your Hard Drive, A “How To” – For use with Desktop Computer


Tech Level: 1 – No experience needed, only basic tool knowledge

Installing a Desktop Hard Drive

When replacing your hard drive, a few things must be assumed that you, the reader, already know or are aware of:

• You have previous experiences with computers, meaning you are not afraid to open the case. (Comfortable with wires/electricity – Don’t lick the capacitors)

• You, or a friend, have already selected the proper drive for your machine (Form/type) — SATA vs IDE


After reading this guide one should be able to successfully add a new computer hard drive to their system. This will save money and possibly time for the user intending to add more storage or replace an old hard drive in their computer system.


It is important to take your time as to not damage any of the computer components or to shock yourself. Hard drive install is fairly fast and does not take much time at all to physically install the drive. Estimated install time can range from 10 minutes to 30 minutes depending on the design of the computer case.

Table of Contents:

  1. Opening the computer case
  2. Removing the hard drive
  3. Installing the new hard drive
  4. Closing the computer case
  5. Powering on the computer


HDD: Hard Disk Drive

MOBO: Motherboard

PSU: Power Supply Unit

Chassis: Computer Case, metal frame surrounding all the other parts

Grounding: Making sure the reader has physically connected themselves with the case/ground to earth in some manner. Usually with a static strap

Static Wrist Strap
Static Wrist Strap


warning      Risk of electrical shock

stop      Could damage parts or even yourself!

questionA hint or tip for the reader


List of Materials:

  • Anti-Static wrist strap (optional)
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Your new hard drive

Opening the computer case


unplug power






1. Locate which side of the case does not have the motherboard on it (Look at the back of the case, the side where everything plugs in —- left vs right — See photo below)

2. Unscrew the two Philips or flathead screws holding the side panel on

open the case

3. Slide the side panel back or pull a lever to release the panel

slide open





4. Keep track of the two case screws, I tend to section the screws off in small cups number with each step they were taken out on more complex projects. This mat is useful if you’re looking to blow some cash.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 on the opposite side of the case (If additional screws on the drive)

Removing the hard drive

1. Determine where the hard drive is in the front of the case

2. Remove the front panel to gain better access to the drive

Be careful not to break the plastic tabs that hold the front panel on

3. Unplug both the SATA power and SATA data cable from the HDD

sata cables






4. Tuck the cables away so they do not get stuck in a fan

5. Hold the drive while you unscrew two screws on each side using a Philips


Careful to only hold the HDD by its sides to prevent shorting anything out

6. Pull the drive out of the computer

Installing the new hard drive

1. Remove your new hard drive from the packaging it came in

2. Check to see if the SATA power and SATA data ports are identical to the old drive (Part of selecting the proper drive)

questionOlder drives use a Molex power cable, if your power supply is older you will need an adapter (See Below)

3. Insert the hard drive into the same place the old drive was located

4. Fasten the drive into the computer case using the four screws you took out of the previous hard drive

questionIf the old drive’s screws do not fit, then it is possible the new drive had some screws of its own ready for use that fit the drive

5. Plug in the SATA power and SATA data cables that were previously connected to the old hard drive

6. Give the hard drive a slight push to ensure there is very little movement on it


Plugging the SATA cables in requires very little effort, do NOT force them

Closing the computer case

1. Ensure the hard drive is properly seated in the computer case using all four of the screws

2. Check once more that the SATA data and power cables are properly connected

3. Observe the other cables in the computer case to see if they have fallen into a fan, if so, remove them

4. Replace the panels  of each side by screwing the screws previously removed during the “Opening the Computer Case” portion of this guide

Powering on the computer

1. Plug the power cable back into the computer

2. Press the power on button usually located on the front of the desktop

3. Ensure the computer recognizes the new drive


Replace your hard drive is easy with a bit of confidence! From here a new operating system will need to be installed unless the drive is going to be used as extra storage. Run a few extra checks on the outside of the computer to make sure the case is closed completely and the system is not making any noises (Usually a cable gets caught in a fan). Take in this moment of accomplishment as you just installed your first and probably not the last hard drive in your computer! It is a very rewarding process and the results can be seen almost instantly when compared to your old drive. Something to mention, your old hard drive can be recycled at almost any PC store and for a price they can even wipe it for you to make sure your data cannot be recovered. Although Best Buy just promises they will recycle it without taking a peek.


Bonus – Solid State Drive

Are you wanting to install a solid state drive instead of a hard drive? The steps are almost identical with the exception of a solid state drive having a smaller form factor. Regular desktop hard disks are usually around 3.5″. Solid state drives and laptop hard drives are usually around 2.5″ (Height isn’t as important when it comes to desktops)


Bonus – Cloning Your OS

If you don’t have a copy of windows lying around, or if you don’t want to go through the task of having to completely reinstall your operating system and all the software you had acquired. You might consider using a cloning software, EaseUS Todo Backup is a favorite of mine.

The software copies all of my partitions (even the boot record) from one drive (Hard disk or solid state) to another. The software supports hard disk to solid state clones with options to select so the clone will be optimized. Visit the EaseUS site to learn more.

Spring 2014 – Charlie

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