How-To Geek

Hardware Upgrade: How To Install A New Hard Drive, Pt 2, Troubleshooting

Last week we took a look at some of the basics to installing and upgrading a hard disk in your PC. This week, we’re going to look at the many problems that pop up when install a new drive.

Installing a disk is one of the easier upgrades you can perform, but it’s not without its headaches. In this edition of Hardware Upgrade, we’ll try and quickly squash as many common problems that we can. If you’re currently having trouble with a hard drive installation, or have solved problems in the past, tell us about them in the comments, so that other readers can share your experience as well. And if you missed the first part of this two part article, you might want to check it out before reading this one.


Check And Prepare The New Drive


As we discussed in part one, your drive will likely be one of two basic types: a IDE (also known as PATA) drive, or a SATA drive. If you’re upgrading a particularly old system, your machine might have issues with SATA drives—issues that can’t be resolved. In almost any scenario when you can use SATA, you’ll want to. But if you can’t, you’ll have to muck through some master and slave settings to get your IDE drive to work properly before installing it. If you’re planning to use SATA, you can jump to the next step where we install the new drive. If you’re using IDE drives, you’re going to want to look this over carefully.


Jumper settings are often critical. In first pic in this section, you can see an illustration of the hard drive jumpers and their various settings. On the pic directly above, you can see the part on the power/cable end of the IDE drive that shows the pins where you make your jumper settings. Jumpers complete critical parts of the circuit that tell the drive how to operate. The important thing to recognize here is that IDE drives have an illustration of how to set up the drive properly before installation, and you have to read that before installing.


If you can install drives on separate IDE cables, it’s always easier to do so. You might be in a situation where you have to connect two drives on one IDE cable because you have too many devices and not enough IDE connectors on your motherboard. For instance, maybe you’re installing two new hard drives for storage, you already have an IDE drive, and you also have an optical drive you need to keep. If you only have two IDE connectors on your motherboard, you’ll be forced to deal with jumper settings to get your drive to work.

master slave

Set system disks to master, and other disks to slave or cable select settings. Master/Slave settings tell the computer which drives respond to which commands, and are therefore critical. If you can install your system disk on its own IDE cable, set it to single disk master mode (sometimes achieved by removing the jumper) and install other disks and devices on other cables. If not, you’ll have to install your system disk to the master dual-drive setting, choosing to set the other drive on the IDE ribbon as either Slave (dual-drive) or Cable Select, which will automatically determine if the drive should be the master or the slave. (Only use cable select as slave setting drives.) Some disks may require an additional “slave present jumper” for a master with slave present setting—again, check your drive to see the settings you need to use.


Install The New Drive

DSC_0099 copy

Gently slide the drive into the HDD cage, usually under the Optical disk cage. Pay attention to the holes in the cage, and make sure that they line up with the holes in the drive.

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Hopefully you have the hardware from when you removed the drive. If not, you’ll have to find or buy some hard drive screws. With the drive seated, insert and tighten two screws for each of the broad sides of the drive cage. The power and cables should be facing outward.

Connect your data cables to your motherboard. The left cable is a SATA cable, and the right is an IDE cable. You’ll need to connect one to the drive, and another to the appropriate connector on the motherboard.

These are usually how the motherboard connectors are going to look. Find them and connect your drives, making sure that the cables are properly seated and installed correctly.

SATA_power_cable 800px-Molex

Once your data is connected, you can connect power to your drives. The connector on the left is SATA power, which not all computer power supplies have. It is not necessary to use SATA power unless your drive doesn’t support the ordinary Molex power connectors, which many do. The molex connector on the right is not exclusively “IDE Power.” Either power connector will carry the juice to your drive.


Set Up The Drive In Your BIOS

bios cmos

If you’re installing a new boot disk, you may need to fiddle around with the boot order. Most modern PCs still use a BIOS utility to set boot disk order, and manage an array of other low-level utilities that run the PC.

Right after you hear the POST beep when you turn your computer on, you’ll need to press one of the common keys to get into BIOS. These are usually one of these: Delete, F1, F2, F3, F5, F10, Esc, or Insert. The first screen you see after POST will usually say something like “press Del to enter BIOS.”

100504275_e1b4aa7c6e_z (1)

You may have to look around in some of the other menus, depending on how your BIOS works, but you’re looking for “Boot Sequence.” You usually want your optical drives or other removable media listed first. This is including USB or even Floppy, if you’re old school. You should be able to see the drive in this list of boot devices. If you don’t, you’ll have to look at this next section on troubleshooting disks.

Troubleshooting An Unrecognized Drive


It’s not a perfect world, and sometimes, when you install a new drive, sometimes your PC doesn’t recognize it. Here’s a few common reasons that new drive isn’t working.

The easy stuff first:

Check to see that your cables are well connected, and properly seated. Obviously If power and data aren’t connected properly, your drive won’t be recognized.

Your cables could have shorts in them, or be damaged. It’s not the most common problem, but it is possible your cable could look okay but not carry data.

The pins/connectors on the motherboard have been damaged. This can be frustrating. If a connector has been irrevocably damaged, you might not be able to use it for your drive. You can bend pins back into place safely, although there’s always the chance that they can break off if you use too much force.

SATA Drives:

Your computer does not support your SATA drive out of the box. You may require an updated BIOS to use your drive, and you’ll have to check the manufacturer of your motherboard to find out where you can update it.

Your computer doesn’t support SATA and you can’t get PCI-based SATA connectors to recognize the drive. This is normal, and there’s no way around it. You’ll have to install drivers for the PCI card either in or when you install the operating system.

Your computer supports SATA, but the drive is not listed in BIOS. You may have to install drivers for the disk before using them. Older versions of Windows allow installation of 3rd party drivers by pressing F6 during setup. This will allow installation of SATA drivers for the disk, or for the PCI cards you need to use the hard drive.

IDE Drives:

Device and jumper settings are critical! As we discussed in the earlier section, if you’re having a problem with an IDE drive, you can almost always be sure it’s jumpered improperly. Take a look at how you’ve got the drives installed, and check your jumper settings. Use a single cable for each device, when possible if you’re having a lot of issues.

Other Issues:

Obviously we’ve tried to list as many issues as possible. In the comments, tell us about any of your hard drive installation issues not listed here, and we’ll add them (and hopefully solutions) to this list. Of course, if you’ve had crazy hard drive problems, and have solved them yourself, tell us about those too for some serious geek cred!


Extra Storage: Managing New Disks


If you’re not installing a new system disk, you’re likely just wanting to use your new drive for storage. With your new drives connected and humming happily, you’ll need to get your OS to recognize the disk.


In Windows 7, click your start menu and type “Computer Management” to get to the disk management tool.


Use this tool to initialize disks, add partitions, and format drives that Windows doesn’t automatically mount.


In Windows XP, you can get to the XP version of this tool by clicking “Run” on your start menu and typing compmgmt.msc. Disk management works the same way on both operating systems, as well as on Windows Vista.

Install A New Operating System

Most Windows installations require an optical drive, and some kind of DVD or CD. If you’re looking for a fresh start, you’ll likely need to have your DVD-ROM or CD-ROM in proper working order. Of course, you could always create a perfect clone of your existing system drive, as we discussed in part 1 of this Hardware Upgrade. We’ve also covered how to install the developer preview of Windows 8 alongside Windows 7—or you could simply install the dev preview only on your new system disk.

If you’ve not already, check out the first part of this two part series of upgrading your hard disk.

Image Credits: My Poor Computer 3 by Andy Ciordia, available under Creative Commons. Jumperblock shunts by Bloodshedder, available under Creative Commons.  Nappe.svg by Wereon, available under Creative Commons. SATA power cable by ed g2s, available under GNU license. Molex Connector by Chowells, available under GNU license. Main BIOS w/Genie BIOS selected by OCN NameUnknown, assumed fair use. Dell Bios Boot Sequence by Clive Darr, available under Creative Commons. Three Hard Drives by Christopher Fritz, available under Creative Commons. All other images by the author, borrowed from fellow HTG authors, credited in previous articles, or assumed fair use.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Stetson-wearing wild man. During the day, he manages IT and product development for screenprinted apparel manufacturing; by night he creates geek art posters, writes JavaScript, and records weekly podcasts about comics.

  • Published 09/20/11

Comments (12)

  1. maxmeazle

    I’ve usually put all my IDE HDDs as cable select, the motherboard selects it as master or slave depending on the IDE cable plug you’re using, e.g. if I want to put the drive as master I plug it in the farthest connection of the IDE cable… do you think I’m doing it wrong? Will the drives work faster if I put the master-slave jumper manually?

    Off-topic P.S. This web is one of my favourites, congratulations!

  2. Paul DeLeeuw

    Installing a new boot (C:) drive has special issues. Commonly you want a larger drive that acts like the old one, but more free space. Having tried image software with trouble, I settled on this:
    1. Partition the new drive so that the first partition is the same as the size of the old C: drive
    2. Clone the old C: to the new first partition
    3. Using Ghost 15 or Windows Repair disk run chkdsk /f on the new C: partition
    4. Disconnect the old C:, attach the new C:
    5. On booting, press the button to select boot drive, select the new drive, say short prayer
    6. After it boots OK, use Windows Management (right click on Manage from My Computer pop-up) to resize the new C: to include the remaining disk space
    I am sure smarter folks will have better ways, so best read on.

  3. SteveK

    Paul DL — Ref image software, I’ve just discovered Macrium Reflect and so far can’t find anything bad to say about it.

    On the article itself, two comments:
    1. Would be surprised if anyone’s still using PATA drives in 2011.
    2. In the boot sequence, why put the boot drive last? I always put it first, both for faster bootup and to keep the computer from being booted with an infected floppy (though again, who’s got floppies in 2011) or CD.

    I guess the second reason (booting off floppy or CD) isn’t much of a reason — too easy to get around — so will stand on just the first, faster boot time.

    One last thing that’s maybe worth another article, but when replacing my drive I create two (at least) partitions: one (the C: drive) I call OS and Apps that holds Windows and all applications, and a second (E: drive because the DVD drive is D:) I call Data that holds My Documents, which of course needs to be redirected from the C: drive. Advantages: 1) file backup is easier; just copy the Data drive, and 2) Defrag can be run only on the drive that needs it.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Eric Z Goodnight

    Yes, PATA drives are terrible compared to SATA drives and modern standards. But this and the first part of this series were about upgrading a machine to avoid buying a new computer, and some people may find out they have IDE drives.

    I’m sure, given the choice, anyone would take one look at the parts of this article about IDE drives and quickly buy a new SATA drive. :)

  5. Chappers

    Jumpers are a real pain: I have several old IDE drives lying around that didn’t have any documentation on how to set them. Not sure I ever got around to making them work…

  6. Dan

    I’am a newbie. If only for storage. Better to buy an External HD. If so or not Why, and as many reason as possible Why? Please; Thank You I like learning things.

  7. ryank

    What about old ide for storage I got a sata with win7 on it. I then hook up both ide drives using one cable and computer wont boot anymore. And whats acpi? something in bios in HD section.

  8. criss

    how can i do that send me a vedio of Hardware Upgrade: How To Install A New Hard Drive, Pt 2, Troubleshooting

  9. Jeff C

    When installing an new OS drive, it seems everyone prefers to image their old drive to the new one. If the previous install is more than 1 year old then this is the perfect time for a fresh install. Simply back up the files you want to restore later and reinstall Windows, or whatever. The fresh install will clean up all the broken registry entries, broken links, and probably speed up boot time, shut down, and general responsiveness of the system.

  10. tbourke45

    Jeff C

    Couldn’t agree more. Don’t image or old drive to the new one. Setup a new OS, your software you have installed uninstalled deleted will slow your computer down. Do a fresh install so I don’t need to come and fix 1000+ registry problems, cleaning old cache bla bla bla.

    AHhhhh anger out for this week!!!!!

    Good stuff for a informative tutorial HTG’s

  11. ryank

    i was reading what i wrote yesterday. it makes no sense whatsoever. when i have more time i will resend it with better wording.

  12. Oldtimer88

    Thanks to all that answered my questions in Part 1

    Here are my results, trying to help somebody that follows this process. My PC came with IDE disks only and later I added SCSI on an I/O board. It now turns out that its motherboard has 2 SATA connectors, the BIOS showed additional “Onboard SATA-1 Adapter” entry that I enabled, and lastly the power supply cables also came with two 15-pin SATA power connectors with a 5th light-brown wire that is required by some devices as I read somewhere else.
    1. I bought a WDBAAY5000ENC-NRSN 500GB SATA disk at Best Buy and I ordered a BYTECC 18″ Serial ATA-150/300 Cable w/Locking Latch Model SATA-118C from NewEgg site.
    2. mounted SATA disk in PC slot, connected a power connector and the Data cable between mobo and disk. Then powered up.
    3. Win-7 Pro SP1 booted on my PATA (IDE) ST215A disk and installed a driver for new hardware, done OK. Disk management showed 465+GB of SATA disk unallocated, and said “You have to initialize Drive #6”
    4. Right-click on in and selected “New Simple Volume” wizard, then Specified Volume Size = ~~51GB, a tiny tad more than my Current C: drive. Gave it the drive letter “S”. Did a Quick format too. Done
    5. Using Norton Ghost 11.5 from “Hiren’s BootCD” I imaged my C:drive (`40GB data) into an external USB drive file. (~26GB compressed).
    Note: unlike many other imagers, Ghost copies only the space used AND can reimage that into a SMALLER drive area than the one the image came from. I made my S:partition a tad larger in case I need to use other imagers.
    6. Using Ghost I Reimaged S:partition with the image of C: drive. Went OK. Saw same files in S: drive.

    *** So far, so good. Now is when the contribution here may materialize for some. ***

    1. rebooted PC and in Bios saw and selected to boot from the WDC WD5000AADS device. It did, BUT, upon checking it showed a file on desktop that I put in old C: after imaging it.,,,, how come?
    2. Disk Management showed Disk0 as the SATA and Disk1 as the ST215A. Yet, I was in ST215 drive system. In START menu, I selected an application, Open File Location, and showed to be in ST215A drive!!! Kind of Amazing!!!! (???)
    3. I will not describe here the many permutation at the Bios level that I went thru. Finally, I disconnected the power to the ST215A, booted and voila! “no NTLDR found”. SATA did not have the bootloader made or set.
    4. Booted from Gparted-LiveCD that I created sometime ago.
    5. Examining disks Information, I noticed that the flag in ST215 was set to “boot” and in the SATA none was selected.
    6. Selected the “boot” flag, rebooted to Bios, selected to boot from WDC WD5000AADS device, OK.
    Now I am running Win-7 out of the SATA drive with the image of the ST215A. And the fun will just begin very soon.

    The purpose of this project for me was to acquire a second disk that would give me a backup of a running disk+OS in case my IDE ST215A dies. That happen already two years ago but I had its twin ready to go, now I know it will not last too long.

    I want to thank again the creator of the article (for being my inspiration) and the several contributors that helped me understand several aspects of what I wanted to do using a SATA drive.

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