Install an Internal Hard Drive in Your Mac Pro

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What You Need to Install a Hard Drive

2009, 2010, and older G% Mac Pro models
Upgrade the drive in a "cheese grater" Mac Pro. Image courtesy of Laura Johnston

Installing up to four internal hard drives in a Mac Pro is an easy do-it-yourself project that almost anyone can feel comfortable tackling.

Even an easy project goes better with a little advance planning, though. You can make the installation go quickly and smoothly by preparing your work area ahead of time.

What You Need

  • One or more hard drives. The drive(s) should conform to either SATA 1, SATA 2 or SATA 3 specifications. SATA is a very common type of hard drive, so it should be easy to locate and purchase one, either locally or online.
  • A screwdriver, preferably a Phillips #1, although in a pinch, a #2 will also work.
  • A clean work area. You will be working with a number of small screws; don't risk losing any of them in a mish-mash of clutter.

Let's Get Started

Good lighting and comfortable access make almost any task go more smoothly. If you're like many Mac Pro owners, your Mac Pro is probably under a desk or table. The first step is to move the Mac Pro to a clean table or desk in a well-lit area.

Discharge Static Electricity

  1. If the Mac Pro is running, shut it down before proceeding.
  2. Disconnect any cables that are connected to the Mac Pro, except the power cord. The power cord must be connected, so you can discharge any static buildup through the power cord and into its grounded outlet.
  3. Discharge any static electricity that has built up on your body by touching the PCI expansion slot cover plates. You'll find these metal plates on the back of the Mac Pro, next to the DVI video connectors for the display. You may feel a slight static shock when you touch the metal cover plates. This is normal; there's no need to be concerned for yourself or the Mac Pro.
  4. Remove the power cord from the Mac Pro.
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Open the Mac Pro Case and Remove the Hard Drive Sled

Mac Pro drive sled partially removed.
Gently pull a sled from your Mac Pro.

The easiest way to access the Mac Pro's inner workings is to position it so that the side of the case that has an Apple logo on it is facing you.

If you have an adjustable lamp or light fixture, position it so that its light shines on the inside of the Mac Pro.

Open the Case

  1. Lift the access latch on the back of the Mac Pro.
  2. Tilt the access panel down. Sometimes the panel will stay in an upright position, even with the access latch open. If this happens, grab the sides of the access panel and gently tilt it down.
  3. Once the access panel is open, put it on a towel or other soft surface, to prevent its metal finish from getting scratched.

According to Apple, it's safe to lay the Mac Pro on its side, so that the case's opening is facing straight up, but I've never found a good reason (or need) to do this. I recommend leaving the Mac Pro standing upright. This puts the hard drive area of the case more or less at eye level. The only disadvantage is that you'll need to hold onto the case when you remove or insert the hard drive sleds, to ensure that the Mac Pro doesn't fall over.

You can use whichever method feels most comfortable for you. All images in this guide will show the Mac Pro standing up.

Remove the Hard Drive Sled

  1. Ensure that the access latch on the back of the Mac Pro is in the up position. The access latch not only locks the access panel, it also locks the hard drive sleds in place. If the latch isn't up, you won't be able to insert or remove a hard drive sled.
  2. Pick the hard drive sled you want to use. The sleds are numbered one through four, with the number one sled near the front of the Mac Pro, and the number four sled at the rear. There is no significance to the positions or numbers, except that Apple uses the number one sled as the default location for a hard drive installation.
  3. Pull the hard drive sled out of the drive bay. This might seem tricky the first time you do it. Just let your fingers curl around the bottom of the sled, and then pull it towards you.
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Attach the Sled to the Hard Drive

Mac Pro hard drive sled
Hard drive with sled attached. Image courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you're replacing an existing hard drive, remove the old hard drive from the sled you removed in the previous step before proceeding.

Attach the Hard Drive

  1. Remove the four screws attached to the hard drive sled and set them aside.
  2. Place the new hard drive on a flat surface, such as your nice, clean table, with the printed circuit board facing up.
  3. Put the hard drive sled on top of the new hard drive, aligning the sled's screw holes with the threaded mounting points on the drive.
  4. Use the Phillips screwdriver to install and tighten the mounting screws you set aside earlier. Be careful not to over-tighten the screws.

Reinstalling the Sled

Putting the sled back where it came from is a simple process. First, as you did when you removed the sled, make sure the access latch on the back of the Mac Pro is in the up position.

Slide the Sled Home

  1. Now that the new hard drive is attached to the sled, align the sled with the drive bay opening and gently push the sled into place, so that it's flush with the other sleds.
  2. To reinstall the access panel, put the bottom of the panel into the Mac Pro, so that the set of tabs on the bottom of the panel catch the lip at the bottom of the Mac Pro. Once everything is aligned, tilt the panel up and into position.
  3. Close the access latch on the back of the Mac Pro. This will lock the hard drive sleds in place, as well as lock the access panel.

That's all there is to it, other than to reconnect the power cord and all the cables you disconnected back at the beginning of this project. Once everything is connected, you can turn your Mac Pro on.

You will probably need to format the new hard drive before you can use it. You can do this with the Disk Utilities application, which is located in the Applications/Utilities folder. If you need help with the formatting process, check out our Disk Utilities guide.

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