How to Install an SSD in Your Computer

Speed up your system by adding in your own super-fast SSD

Samsung SSD

Hongiiv/Flickr

Of all the advancements in computing since the turn of the 21st century, one of the best upgrades has been the move from hard drives to solid state drives (SSD). They’re so much faster than their platter-bound pals that they make the whole computing experience much snappier and enjoyable. They're even easy to add to your system. Here's how to install a new SSD in your desktop.

Why Should you Install an SSD?

SSDs are much, much faster than even the quickest of hard drives, offering faster file transfer speeds and much quicker random access times. This means your PC can boot up faster when it's running your operating system on an SSD and games can load faster, too.

But even if you aren't a gamer and don't mind leaving your system running all the time, an SSD can make it feel snappier and more responsive, with less waiting around for applications to start or files to move around.

Better yet, SSDs are cheaper today than they've ever been.. You'll probably want to use a hard drive for storage purposes, as on a per gigabyte basis, hard drives are still cheaper, but for a boot or game drive, SSDs are a great way to improve your PC experience.

When installing any new drive in a PC, check the BIOS after installation to confirm it has been recognized by the system. If not, you may need to make sure all the connections are correctly in place.

How to Install a SATA SSD for Desktop

Unless you’re opting for the most high-speed of high-end solid state drives, a SATA SSD is more than enough for your everyday needs. They're pretty affordable, too, with a terabyte of SSD space now available for under $100 in some cases. They're also a cinch to install.

  1. Unplug all the cables from your desktop and switch the power supply off. Lay your desktop down on its side on a desk or table of comfortable height. Don't put it on the floor as there is too great a risk from static.

  2. If you have one, attach an anti-static wristband to yourself and the case to avoid any static discharges that could damage your PC's components. If you don't have one, wear rubber-soled shoes, especially on carpet, and make sure to periodically touch a metal portion of your PC's chassis to ground yourself.

  3. Take the side panel off to gain access to your system. 

    SSD
    Arndold Kajcsa/Flickr​
  4. Locate a 2.5-inch drive bay. Their location is very much dependent on your case, but they’re typically found at the front end. If needed, use your SSD as a measuring tool to see where it would fit, and make sure the screw holes line up with those on the side or bottom of the SSD.

  5. Use the screws supplied with the SSD or your case to fit the SSD into its respective spot in the case.

    SSD ports
    Arnold Kajcsa/Flickr​
  6. SATA SSDs have two cables you need to attach to operate them: a power and a data cable. Both are ‘L’ shaped but different sizes. The larger of the two is for power and should be attached to your power supply. Locate it, run the cable to the SSD and plug it in.

  7. Find a SATA cable – one may have come with your new drive or motherboard. Plug one end into the SATA drive and the other into the respective slot on your motherboard. It should be located near the right-hand side, towards the front of your case.

If you want your PC's airflow to remain optical, try to tuck the excess power and data cable portions into a crevice. That not only helps air move through your system to keep components cool, but makes the inside of the system look neater, too.

How to Install an M.2 SSD

M.2 SSDs are typically faster than their SATA counterparts, but most crucially they're a different form factor. They require a dedicated slot on your motherboard, so make sure you have one before buying one of these drives, and confirm it's PCIExpress or SATA, as they also have different sockets. Either way, installation is simple.

Samsung NVME Drive
Samsung/Flickr
  1. Follow the instructions at the start of the SATA SSD guide for protecting your system from static electricity.

  2. Locate the dedicated M.2 slot on your motherboard.

    M.2 Port
    Dsimic/Wikimedia
  3. Remove the mounting screw.

  4. Gently plug the M.2 SSD into the slot. It will stand up at an angle until secured.

  5. Gently press down on the drive and secure it with the mounting screw.

How to Transfer Your Data to an SSD

Once your new drive is installed, you may want to do a new system installation to take advantage of its speed. If you want to bring over any of your old data, though, follow our guide on upgrading drives and migrating data.