Installing a new SATA hard drive in your PC

So you’re still running Windows XP on an older PC but you’ve decided that you should move to Windows 7 soon. You’ve run Windows Upgrade Advisor to ensure your PC will run Windows 7 and your PC’s fine but your old hard drive of 3 or 4 years is only 80GB and you’re running short of disk space. Time for a fresh start with a new hard drive. High capacity (1TB) hard drives are cheap these days and they really aren’t that hard to fit. I’ll walk you through how I installed a new SATA hard drive in my PC.

The hard drive in my primary PC is a 4 year old Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 80GB ATA/133 hard drive and for quite some time I’ve been running with less than 10GB of free disk space. So I was never really able to test the Windows 7 beta or RC candidate. However I’ve blogged about the very favourable pre-release pricing of the full version of Windows 7 in the UK, so I preordered Windows 7 Home Premium from Amazon for £63.

I made a decision that I would do a clean install of Windows 7 on a new 1TB SATA hard drive and hold onto my old Maxtor drive with XP for a while – just in case. Then when I’m totally happy with Windows 7, I’ll reformat that old drive and use it for storage. Having said that, although that drive has performed faultlessly for about 4 years, I realise it is probably nearing the end of its life so I won’t rely on it for critical backups. I’ll make sure everything on it is backed up elsewhere as well.

Anyway, back to the hardware upgrade. Here’s how I went about it. Bearing in mind that I’ve never build a PC before and the most I’ve done in the past has been to add additional sticks of RAM, I found that installing a new hard drive wasn’t difficult at all and I’ve detailed the procedure here so you can follow the steps. I wanted a new SATA hard drive so I had to check first if the motherboard would support it. Luckily I had kept the manual for the motherboard (Biostar NF4-A9A) and it showed that 4 SATA connectors were present. As you can see, the L-shaped mounts ensure you can’t connect the SATA signal cable the wrong way round. Here’s a photo of what the 4 SATA connectors look like on the motherboard

SATA connectors

Remember that a hard drive needs two cables: a data or signal cable and a power cable. The old IDE ATA (or PATA) Maxtor hard drive has a 4-pin IDE or Molex power lead and a ribbon data lead. Here’s a photo of the two leads at the back of the hard drive – in the foreground the IDE power cable and on the far side the IDE data ribbon or cable.

Maxtor hard drive

So I ordered a new 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard drive and two cables. A SATA signal cable would run from the SATA connector on the motherboard to the new hard drive, replacing the ribbon data cable which the old ATA hard drive used. I would also need a new lead to connect the old 4-pin Molex power cable to the SATA drive. Here’s a photo of the SATA signal cable and below it, the IDE to SATA power cable connector. I chose one which splits to 2 SATA leads so that if need be in the future, I can power a second SATA device

SATA cables

Before fitting the new drive and installing Windows 7 on it, you will have to ensure that the PC will boot from the DVD drive. If you know it doesn’t, you will have to change the boot order in the BIOS. Here’s a helpful guide to changing the boot order.

I disconnected all the external cabling from the PC (making sure I knew how to reconnect all cables – this is where a digital camera comes in handy). I removed both sides of the PC case as I would have to undo the four screws securing the old hard drive in its bay. There are usually two screws on each side holding the drive in place. I earthed myself by touching the metal chassis of the PC case to prevent any static discharge to electronic components (you can also use an anti-static wrist band) then I disconnected both leads from the back of the old hard drive making a careful note how they were connected if I had to reinstall the old drive. Again, a quick photo with a digital camera really helps here. I unscrewed the four screws and slid out the old drive. Then I connected the SATA signal cable to the motherboard and to the back of the new drive and connected the IDE to SATA power cable to the old Molex plug and then to the power socket on the back of the new hard drive. I then slid the drive into place and remounted with the four screws. Here’s two photos of the new drive in place with the two new SATA cables labelled

Seagate drive 2 Seagate drive 1

Then I replaced the sides of the PC, reconnected the external cables and that’s it. Put your old hard drive away for safe keeping – you may need it again if there’s any problem, but hopefully after a few weeks with Windows 7 you’ll be confident enough to fit it in an external drive housing, reformat it and use it for storage.

So we’re ready to power up and install Windows 7 now. I’ll go through my Windows 7 installation on the new drive in the next post.

6 Responses

  1. patrick Says:

    Nice article….!!

  2. Richard Says:

    Great! Thanks a lot!

  3. Bass Drum Mallets Says:

    Very impressive web page pal, I’ll bookmark and return when We’ve a minor exceptionally time.

  4. Nithin Says:

    What bout the partitioning?

  5. techandlife Says:

    My old Windows XP install didn’t have partitioning and I installed Windows 7 on the new SATA drive without partitioning. I don’t really need it although I know there are arguments in favour of having your OS on one partition and data in another. I just like to have everything in C:\.

  6. billy red Says:

    that was me exactly every thing but i tried to install windows 7 from cd every thing was fine then it started all over again then i lost all hope.

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