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How to Install an IDE Hard Drive

Illustrated guide to help install a hard drive

The main reason for adding or replacing a hard drive is to increase storage capacity and then to increase system performance. PATA drives are slower than the newer SATA drives.

However some people still prefer to stick to the standard they know best and with prices so low at the moment for storage they either don't have a Serial ATA motherboard or card or don't want to buy one just for a hard drive upgrade. They will upgrade when or if they decide to upgrade there whole system.

Switch your PC off at the wall, leaving it plugged in, then locate and remove the screws holding the side panels of your case on and slide each one off in turn.

Next, earth yourself either using an anti-static wristband or by keeping one hand on a metal part of the case. Static electricity can easily damage sensitive PC components, so taking precautions like using an anti-static wristband or working away from carpeted areas wherever possible are essential.

If you are replacing a drive, you will first need to remove the old one. Start by unplugging the ATA ribbon cable and power cables, then remove the four screws holding it into the drive cage. Carefully slide the drive out of the cage - you may need to remove additional cables or expansion cards if space is tight inside your case.

Next, remove your new drive from its packaging and set the jumper on the back of the drive. If this is your primary drive, you will need to set it as master, though if it is an additional drive you will probably want to set it to slave. Check the sticker on the drive itself, or the accompanying manual to see which pins to connect with the jumper in order to set the device as master or slave.

Slide the new drive into the cage, leaving room above and below it if possible. This will aid airflow, reduce temperatures and ultimately extend the lifetime of your drive. Secure the drive to the cage using four screws.

Next, attach the power and ATA ribbon cable. If you have set your drive to master, you need to attach the connector at the very end of the cable to your drive. If it is the slave, you will need to use the connector in the middle of the cable. If you do not have a cable two connectors, or require a second cable altogether, you can purchase one at very little cost from any PC shop.

Check the connections to your drive, then plug your PC in and boot it up. It is often worth leaving the case off until you know the drive is functioning, as it is easy to set the wrong jumper settings or leave a cable improperly connected.

You should see your new drive appear during the POST, as well as hear it spin up. All being well, Windows will recognise your drive in My Computer. In order to use it, you must first format it, by right clicking and selecting format. If you currently use NTFS, you should set this drive to NTFS, otherwise use the FAT32 file system.

Alternatively, if this is a replacement for your primary drive, you will either need to mirror your old drives contents onto your new drive, or install a new instance of the operating system from the appropriate CD.

If you are having any problems, always check connections and jumper settings. ATA cables often get damaged too, so check the cable along its length for severe kinks or visible signs of damage and replace if necessary. If the drive fails to spin up, then you should consult the retailer which you purchased the drive from.