Installing a Serial ATA Hard Drive

How to properly connect it to your computer's motherboard, and more

serial ata cable pluged in a high tech hard disk
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This guide will assist users with installing a Serial ATA hard drive into a desktop computer system. It includes step-by-step instructions for the physical installation of the drive into the computer case and properly connecting it to the computer motherboard.

Please refer to the documentation included with your hard drive for some of the items referenced in this guide.

  1. Before working on the inside of any computer system, it's important to power down the computer. Shut it down from the operating system. Once the computer has safely shut down, turn off the power to the internal component by flipping the switch on the back of the computer and removing the AC power cord.

    Remove the Power Plug
    Remove the Power Plug. Lifewire

    Once everything's off, grab your Philips screwdriver to get started.

  2. Open the computer case. How you open the computer case varies depending upon how it was manufactured. Most new ones use either a side panel or door, while older models require the whole cover be removed. Remove any screws used to fasten the cover to the case and set them aside in a safe place.

    Open up the Computer Case
    Open up the Computer Case. Lifewire
  3. Install the hard drive to the drive cage. Most computer systems use a standard drive cage to install a hard drive, but some newer ones use a form of tray or rails. Here are instructions for the two most common methods:

    • Drive Cage: Simply slide the drive into the cage so the mounting holes on the drive line up with the holes in the drive cage. Fasten the drive to the cage with screws.
    • Tray or Rails: Remove the tray or rails from the system and align the tray or rails to match the mounting holes on the drive. Fasten the drive to the tray or rails using screws. Once the drive is affixed, slide the tray or drive into the appropriate slot until it's secure.​
    Fasten the Drive to the Cage or Tray
    Fasten the Drive to the Cage or Tray. Lifewire
  4. Connect the Serial ATA cable to the primary or secondary Serial ATA connector on the motherboard or PCI card. The drive can be plugged into either, but if the drive will be used as a boot drive select the primary channel, as this is the first drive to boot between the Serial ATA connectors.

    Plug the Serial ATA Cable to the Motherboard
    Plug the Serial ATA Cable to the Motherboard. Lifewire
  5. Attach the other end of the Serial ATA cable to the hard drive. Note that the serial ATA cable is keyed so it can only be plugged in one way to the drive.

    Plug the SATA Cable to the Drive
    Plug the SATA Cable to the Drive. Lifewire
  6. (Optional) Plug in the Serial ATA power adapter.

    Depending on the drive's power connectors and the power supply it may be necessary to use a 4-pin to SATA power adapter. If one is required, plug the adapter into the 4-pin Molex power connector from the power supply. Most new power supplies come with a couple Serial ATA power connectors directly off the power supply.

    Plug in the SATA Power Adapter
    Plug in the SATA Power Adapter. Lifewire
  7. Attach the Serial ATA power connector to the connector on the hard drive. Note that the Serial ATA power connector is larger than the data cable connector.

    Plug the SATA Power to the Drive
    Plug the SATA Power to the Drive. Lifewire
  8. At this point, all of the interior work for the hard drive is completed. Replace the computer panel or cover to the case and fasten it with the screws that were previously removed when opening the computer case.

    Fasten the Cover to the Case
    Fasten the Cover to the Case. Lifewire
  9. All that's left to do now is power up the computer. Plug the AC power cord back into the computer system and flip the switch on the back to the ON position. Once these steps are taken, the hard drive should be physically installed into the computer for proper operation. The drive must be formatted for use with the operating system before it can be used. Please consult the documentation that came with your motherboard or computer for additional information.