Hard Drive or SSD?


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Mass Storage, Installing A Hard Drive In A Desktop

Mass Storage for your desktop can be both a mechanical hard drive and a SSD!

Installing Mass Storage, a hard drive or Solid State Drive, it isn't that complicated, is it?

Judging from the questions I get on the www.diy-computer-repair.net web site I would assume that it is complicated or there isn't any instructions anywhere on the web to do the deed.

For a desktop these are the different configurations for mechanical and Sold State Drive installations:

  • Hard drive as boot and Operating System, SSD for data storage.
  • SSD for boot and OS, hard drive for data storage.
  • SSD for boot, Multiple OS installed, SSD for data storage.
  • SSD for boot and OS, SSD and hard drive for storage.

Note: Some hard drive and Solid State Drive manufactures are now making a add on card that has a SSD and hard drive combination that installs in a slot, these are PCIe (express slot) only. As well as a Solid State Drive on an add on card also for the PCIe slot, these two newer add on cards will free up one or two SATA interface connections if you have ran out of SATA interface connections, nice (and expensive) option for more mass storage.

In another article I talked about buying hard drives in bulk or from a online store that deals in bulk quantities. The draw back with these types of purchases is that the manufacture will box up large shipments in 25, 50, 100, or even a 1000 items. These bulk shipments to on line stores do not have any installation instructions, interface and/or power adapter cables .

This leads many new or inexperienced buyers to seek out instructions when they get in to the DIY game unprepared. Cool, gives me something to do.IDE interface cable, A = notch, B=Tab, C=Jumper select

But it is getting old, I mean I have a page on this web site giving instructions in plain everyday English (translated from tech jargon) with all the steps to install a hard drive, IDE or SATA.

So for those that missed that day in tech class here is a short synopsis about installing mass storage; be it a hard, SSD, or optical drive in your Desktop computer --

Before you jump on the internet or go to your local electronics store to buy that new super duper mass storage device you need to ask yourself some questions:

What type of controller interface does my computer have?SATA cables, A=Power cable, B=interface cable

  • Is it IDE?
    • If it is IDE how many IDE devices do I have installed already?
  • Is it SATA?
    • If it is SATA how many open connectors do I have?

How many IDE controller interfaces does the motherboard support (interface controllers are the male connectors mounted on the motherboard) [Did you know that with IDE you can have two and only two devices on a cable?]

If it is SATA how many interface connectors on the motherboard? [With SATA you can only have one device on a cable.]

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Some desktop cases have empty bays (where the hard or cd/dvd rom drive or Solid State Drive is mounted is called a bay) that accommodate a 5.25 or 3.5 inch drive. Most hard drives and SSD's are 3.5 or 2.5 inches in width. This means that you will need a drive mounting kit for those larger bays. The case will also have bays to accommodate a 3.5 inch drive, however the 2.5 drives are for laptops there are kits for these size drives for a desktop also.

By mounting I am saying securing the drive in the case with screws and/or spacers.

Hard, CD/DVD drives, and Solid State Drive have either IDE or SATA interface connections.

SATA Mass Storage

If you are installing a SATA drive your only consideration is what the BIOS will allow you to do for selecting the Boot Drive, some BIOS publishers do not have an option to change the boot hard drive or SSD from one SATA drive to another SATA drive. [This is mainly the case for Laptops, you should have the option to boot from the optical drive, usb, or the hard drive/Solid State Drive].SATA connectors on the motherboard...

If your BIOS does not have the option of changing the boot drive from one drive to another then look at the motherboard and connect your new drive to the # 1 or 'A' drive connector if this is to be a boot drive. [Some motherboard manufactures use numbers or alphabetical letters for the first connector, this will be the drive that the BIOS will choose to boot from]

Another consideration if you are installing a SATA cd/dvd/blue ray drive is to use the last SATA connector if you plan on installing more SATA hard drives. [The reason for this is if your BIOS has an Array option you want all the SATA hard drives in sequence to build the Array, having the optical drive connected in the middle of the hard drive connectors may throw the Array settings off and the Array may experience problems at a  later time].

IDE Mass Storage

If you are installing an IDE drive in your desktop you will need to consider if it is a boot drive or a secondary drive for storage. A boot drive has to be the first drive on the cable and the cable has to be in the # 1 IDE connector slot.

In addition if the drive is to be your boot drive it has to be the Master drive.IDE "Jumpers" for selecting drive mode.

If it is a secondary drive and being installed on the same cable as your current hard drive you have to make some jumper selections on both drives.

You have to set the first drive to Master [for booting] and the second drive to Slave. Failure to set these jumpers will result in an error that the computer could not find the boot drive.

If you already have a hard drive and an optical drive installed in the computer and are adding another drive for storage then you will need to have another IDE cable for that drive and a second connector on the motherboard.

If this is the only drive on the cable you can leave the drive jumper at the default setting which should be Cable Select or CS, if at a later date you add another drive and use the same cable you don't have to change the drive jumper if you leave both drives jumpers as CS.

However if you decide to install an optical drive on that cable you have to use the Master and Slave jumper selections. This is especially true if the new optical drive has a write capability.

What if you have an older motherboard with only IDE connectors and you are using all of them with existing drives and want to add more drives? [My computer case is a tower case, it has 12 bays, it has five hard/SSD drives and two optical drives, a mix of IDE and SATA interface connectors].

If all your connectors IDE, SATA, or both are in use then you can install an add on card to add more connectors/drives however read this page for Mass Storage about an add on card I bought.

Last thing: If this drive is the boot drive you will have to install the Operating System on the drive.

  • If you use an installation cd/dvd the process will make it the boot drive and set it as 'Active'. This tells the BIOS that the drive is the bootable drive and for the Operating System to look on that drive for the startup files.
  • However if you are using an image you have to make the drive bootable (Active) by using DOS and the FDISK /MBR command, or the Windows installation cd/dvd and use the Repair Console, then select the 'Startup Repair' and follow the prompts.

This is a fun class isn't it?

I did do an article on laptop mass storage...Smile

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A free guide to help you get a new hard drive or SSD installed...

Update 02/17/20 - The IDE section of this article is still here for historical purposes, I personally still have a couple of older computers that have IDE only drives, so if I still have them then a few others will have them also.

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