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[ The PC Guide | Procedure Guide | Physical Installation Procedures ]

Hard Disk Drive Physical Installation Procedure

This procedure provides instructions for installing a hard disk drive into a system case. Performing this installation is not that difficult as long as you follow the directions, of course. :^) It is important to install hard disk drives correctly, because as the warehouse for your data, the hard disk is one of the most important devices in the PC. This procedure deals only with the physical installation of the drive.

Procedure Overview:

  • Difficulty Level: 2 (Low).
  • Risk Factor: 2-4 (Low to High). The actual risk to the drive is quite low. The risk is to any data that may be on the drive. If the drive is empty or at least has been backed up, there isn't really that much risk.
  • Hardware Required: Screwdriver and screws; you may need additional screws if using a mounting kit.
  • Software Required: None.
  • Time to Perform: Usually about 5-10 minutes. Can take slightly longer if there are fit problems or adapters are needed.
  • Preparation / Warnings:
    • If you have not already done so, please read the section on general installation and assembly tips.
    • It is always wise to make sure you have a backup of any drive before moving it to a new PC or reinstalling it. Of course, it's generally too late to do anything about this if the drive is already out of its system. :^)
    • Ensure you have already decided how you want to configure the hard disk drive, and that you have already set the appropriate jumpers. See this procedure if you have not already done this.
    • Make sure that the interface cable will reach the drive in its intended location. Refer to the system layout planning procedure if necessary. Unlike with floppy drives, you cannot just get a longer cable in most cases when you are dealing with IDE/ATA drives. The length of the cable is limited to 18" and in some cases less. See here for more details.
    • Ensure that a power cable from the power supply will reach the drive.
    • Make sure that you don't mount the drive upside-down or backwards. The label of the drive goes up, and the circuit board down. The connectors should face into the middle of the case so the interface cable can reach them.
    • The system case should be open before you begin. For instructions on opening the case, refer to this procedure.
    • Some cheap cases are made from very flimsy sheet metal and may require you to flex them somewhat to get the drive to slide in properly.
    • Internal hard disk drives have an exposed circuit board on the bottom (the drive's integrated logic board). Be especially careful not to damage this board, and ensure during installation that nothing contacts it. Check after installation to ensure that nothing can accidentally contact the board.

Procedure Steps:

  1. Find Pin 1 On Drive: Take a close look at the drive and determine which end of the interface connector is pin 1. There should be some sort of a marking near pin 1 to indicate it, which may be a small number "1", a dot, an arrow, a square around the pin where it connects to the circuit board, or some other indication. You'll need to know where pin 1 is when you connect the drive up, which may be much later on. It's much harder to determine which end is pin 1 after the drive is installed.

Tip: Hard disks usually have pin 1 of the connector next to the drive's power connector.

  1. Install Mounting Kit, If Necessary: Virtually all modern cases have internal 3.5" drive bays meant specifically for hard drives. However, if you are installing into an older case or one that has its internal 3.5" bays full, you will need to use a mounting or adapter kit. To use this kit, place the drive into the middle of the adapter, and then use four screws to mount the drive to the inside of the adapter. Some adapters mount using screwholes on the bottom of the drive and some using screwholes on the side.  Make sure you orient the drive correctly. Then test the mounted drive by sliding it into the drive bay. Ensure that it fits properly.
  2. Mount Drive Into Case: There are three common ways of mounting a hard disk drive into the system case that I have encountered. Determine which of the following matches your case and follow the appropriate instructions:
    • Direct Mount: The simplest and most common mounting method is the direct mount, where the drive slides into the bay and mounts directly to the drive bay walls. Slide the drive into the bay and align the holes on the side of the drive with the holes in the drive bay. There may be more than one place in the bay where the drive will fit into the case. When the drive is lined up correctly, secure the drive to the bay using four screws.
    • Drive Rails: Some cases, especially older ones, use two thin rails that are mounted to the drive, and then used to slide the drive into the drive bay. If your cases uses these, select two matching rails, one for either side of the drive. Place the drive into the bay without the rails first, to allow you to visualize where the rails need to mount onto the drive so that once inserted, the drive will fit properly into the bay. Attach the rails to either side of the drive, using two screws per rail. Then slide the drive into the bay. Verify that the front of the drive lines up correctly. Some drive rail cases have spring-loaded clips on the front that snap into place when the drive is inserted all the way (mostly newer cases). Others require you to screw the drive into the bay anyway, using holes in the front of the drive bay. Either way, make sure the drive is not free to move around when you are done.
    • Mounting Box: Some cases, especially desktops, use a removable metal box into which the drive is mounted. The procedure here is similar to that for direct mount, above, except that you have to remove the box first and insert the drive into it, then remount the box.
  3. Double-Check Installation: Make sure the drive has been fitted properly into the case and that there is no interference with other components. In particular, make sure that the logic board on the bottom of the drive is not touching anything. Ensure that it is not loose in the case.

Next: CD-ROM Drive Physical Installation Procedure


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