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Guide to Hard Drive Installation



This guide is intended to explain how to install optical disk drives (ODD) and hard disk drives (HDD) using either the IDE (also known as PATA) or SATA connection standards. The current standard for drives is SATA, but older drives are still commonly used, so both installation proceedures shall be explained.

Closer look:

Two hard drives and one optical drive are shown in this guide. One of the hard drives is a 3.5" and the other is a 2.5", the size used for laptops and solid state drives (SSD). The 3.5" HDD and ODD are both IDE while the 2.5" HDD is SATA. Despite the fact that only a single SATA device will be shown here, knowing how to connect it is no different than connecting any other SATA drive, whether they are 2.5" or 3.5" HDD or 5.25" ODD.

There are some exceptions for IDE devices. Parts intended for laptops that use IDE require an adapter for the cables to work in a desktop, as laptop IDE has four more pins used for the power connection. Laptop optical drives that are connected by SATA also require adapters to be connected in a desktop.

Both SATA and IDE devices will require two connections; one for power the other for data. The connectors are on the rear of the drives. Drives using IDE utilize a 4-pin power connector, while SATA drives use their own connector called SATA power. The power cables will come directly out of the computer’s power supply. In the event that the power supply does not have a SATA power plug on it there are adapters available to convert a 4-pin Molex power connection to SATA power.






The placement of the connectors on the motherboard can vary slightly but are always on the front side, if the rear connectors are taken to be the rear of the motherboard. The variations are normally just the vertical placement along the board, and occasionally the connectors do not come vertically out of the board and are called 90° SATA or IDE ports. The connectors on both sides of the cables are identical, so the connectors on the motherboard perfectly match the connectors on the drives.

SATA drives can simply be attached before heading to the BIOS while IDE drives must be installed slightly different. From within the BIOS different SATA drives can be identified and a specific one selected to boot from in the Boot Device Priority menu. IDE drives are identified as either the Master or Slave drive depending on the location on the IDE cable and/or jumper selection at the back of the drive. The actual connector of IDE can allow for more than one device so there are some cables with more than one device end on them, while SATA is one-to-one.

To distinguish between them, there are pins on the back of an IDE drive and a jumper. The placement of the jumper is one way to distinguish the devices on a cable although the cable itself can distinguish between them. Cable Select is an option for the drive Jumper Pins meaning that the IDE cable location identifies the drive as master or slave not the drive itself. This is just a method to identify the separate drives, not an indication that the boot drive should necessarily be on Master as the jumper can be left on cable select. If the jumper configuration does need to be changed there will usually be a diagram of what the pins set the drive to written nearby, often abbreviated MA (Master Select), CS (Cable Select), or SL (Slave), with a fourth set of pins for legacy capacity compatibility which users don't need to worry about anymore.

For the best performance with IDE drives it is suggested to not have both an ODD and HDD connected by the same IDE cable. The ODD is generally slower than the HDD and will cause the connection to be slower since the motherboard will only recognize one speed from the IDE devices, defaulting to the slower speed for stability. Mismatching the Jumper Pins to the IDE cable location can cause problems such as failure to boot or detect the drive.



To physically install the drive into a computer depends largely on the computer case. Some cases utilize tool-less systems where the drives are simply slid into place and they either lock when at the proper depth or another mechanism is used to lock them into place. Other cases require the drives to be attached with common screws. The best way to know what to do is to consult the computer’s or computer case’s manual. If screws are needed then consult the drive manual for the proper size as there are coarse and fine threaded screws if none were included.

All ODD’s and 3.5in HDD’s have the proper screw holes in them for mounting, however 2.5in drives require an adapter to fit in a 3.5in slot. On the bottom of 2.5in drives are four screw holes. This is where the adapter will most likely be attached. If not there, then along either side, where again there are screw holes (two on each). The screws required by the adapter will come with it.

If after installing the drive(s) the system does not boot properly into the operating system (if one is already installed), go into the BIOS and check the Boot Device Priority. Make sure the drive with the operating system is listed there with perhaps an optical drive or floppy drive before it. By specifying a drive that uses removable media before the drive with the OS installed you will be able to boot from them as needed, otherwise a function key can generally be pressed to access the boot menu such as the F8 key. For instance, new operating systems are often installed from a CD or DVD and you will need to boot from those disks, not the HDD, to install the OS to the HDD. Also, some motherboards allow BIOS updates to be applied from removable media.


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