That’s the bad news. The good news is that learning how to install a new hard drive isn’t difficult, so there is no need to be concerned about a hard drive that is nearly full. Read on to find out how to install a new drive to replace an old one.
Identifying The Proper Replacement
Before you can upgrade a hard drive with a new replacement you’ll need to determine the type of drive you need to buy. Today, most hard drives use a data connection known as SATA. However, computers that are several years old might instead support a data connection called IDE. You can easily tell the difference between the two because an IDE connection uses numerous pins, while SATA uses a pin-less L-shaped connector. The picture below provides a comparison – the SATA drive is on the left and the IDE drive is on the right. Laptop drives will obviously be smaller, but have the connections have the same appearance.
Speaking of size, you’ll also need to make sure you buy a drive with the correct physical dimensions. There are two popular hard drive sizes – 3.5″ and 2.5″. The larger is built for desktop systems, while the smaller is generally for laptops and compact desktops. However, solid state hard drives often come in the 2.5″ size regardless of the type of machine they’re meant to be installed in. This rule isn’t absolute, however, because some all-in-one computers use 2.5″ drives.
Transferring Data From The Old To New Drive
The process of installing a new hard drive is one of the least difficult hardware installation procedures around in terms of the physical effort required. However, the hard drive is one of the most critical components in your system because it stores all of your information. Everything from your operating system to your emails to your favorite songs are stored on your hard drive. Obviously, a straight replacement will leave you without that information.
If you’re using a computer that has more than one hard drive bay you’ll find the process of transferring data from one drive to another to be easy. All you need to do is install the second hard drive in your system and then clone an image of your existing drive using one of the many freeware tools available for this task. Once the old drive’s image has been cloned and placed on the new drive, you can simply remove the old drive or reformat it and use it as a second drive (make sure the clone was successful before taking this step, however!)
Computers that have only a single drive bay are more difficult to work with because you can’t have the new and old drive installed at the same time.You can, however, still clone your old drive to your new one. This is possible by connecting your new drive to your PC with a USB-to-SATA cable or an external hard drive dock. Cloning a drive may take some time because of the bandwidth limitations of USB 2.0, but it will complete eventually.
Replacing The Old Drive
Desktop computer hard drives are usually placed in the lower front half of a mid-tower enclosure and are attached using between two and six screws. The process isn’t overly difficult, but is detailed enough to warrant its own post. Please refer to James’s coverage of how to install a replacement or second desktop drive for instructions.
Laptops are different, but easier. Most laptops will offer a plastic hard drive bay cover on the bottom of the laptop that is held in with one or two screws. Removing the cover will reveal the drive, which is itself typically attached with a few screws. Installing a replacement drive is simply a matter of taking the existing drive out and putting the new drive in its place. The power and data connections are built into the mount itself, so you don’t have to worry about tracking down the cables. Please note that not all laptops are intended to be user serviceable in this way, so please read your laptop’s manual for information about hard drive replacement before proceeding.
Booting & Partitioning
Once you’ve replaced your old drive you will, of course, want to boot up your PC to make sure everything is functioning well. Assuming you did clone your data from your old drive to your new once, this process should be painless. Your PC will barely realize that anything has changed. You should probably visit the Disk Management utility, which can be found by visiting the Administrative Tools –> Computer Management section of the Windows Control Panel, to ensure that Windows is recognizing and using all of your new hard drive’s capacity. If it isn’t, you can extend the current partition to cover the free space or create a new drive partition.
If you didn’t end up cloning your drive, this step will be irrelevant, as you’ll have to format and partition the new drive during the installation process of your operating system.
Hopefully this brief post has given you the information you need to learn how to install a new hard drive. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment.
Image Credit : TigerDirectTV
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