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How To Install a Serial ATA (SATA) Hard Drive

written by: Steve Mallard•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/24/2011

Want to replace your hard drive with a SATA hard drive? Installing a new SATA hard drive during a new installation? This tutorial guides you through installing and configuring a new drive in a computer. A new large hard drive provides you with the space and speed you need.

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    Serial ATA (SATA) Hard Drive

    SATA hard drives are very easy to install. Unlike IDE drives, SATA drives lack jumpers that indicate the slave or master relationship. The only jumpers on some SATA drives are next to the interface that connects the power and data cables. This jumper is used to force SATA drives into 150 MB/s mode.

    By default these drives are 300 MB/s, but SATA interfaces on older motherboards may require you to set the drive to 150 MB/s.

    Each SATA drive will have its own cable. This cable will connect to the motherboard. The SATA interfaces on the motherboard will have a numbering sequence starting 0 or 1.

    An example is SATA 0 which is the first drive (normally the boot drive for the computer). If the lowest number SATA interface on your motherboard is 1, this will be your boot drive.

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    Tools / Items You Will Need

    The installation of any hard drive requires a minimal set of tools.

    • Generally a crosstip “Phillips" screwdriver and four 6-32 screws.
    • A power supply that offers SATA power connectors or an adapter that will adapt from Molex to SATA
    • A SATA interface cable.
    • Older motherboards without SATA interfaces built onboard will need a SATA PCI adapter

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    Mounting the Hard Drive

    Remember hard drives are fragile. Do not drop or bump the hard drive. Handle the drive only by its edges and make sure you are static free. Wear a wrist strap if possible and always have the power off and unplugged.

    The drive will fit in the cases 3.5" cage inside of your computer case. Use the four screws and tighten the drive where the screws are just snug. The drive should be mounted label up with the connectors pointing to the rear of your case. See this article for pictures and details of drive intsallation.

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    How to Attach the Cables

    First connect the SATA interface cable. The SATA interface cable can only plug in one way on the hard drive and onto the motherboard. The cable will have a “L" shaped female end and the drive and motherboard will have a “L" shaped male end. This keyed shape will fit only one way.

    Next connect the power connector which is also keyed and much wider than the interface adapter. See this article for pictures and details of SATA device connection.

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    Configuration

    In order to configure your hard drive, make sure the cables are snug, plug in and turn on the computer.

    You must enter the BIOS to complete the installation. This can be done by hitting DEL, ESC, F1 or another combination. This key or combination of keys will be defined by the manufacturer of the motherboard, and appear on screen during boot up.

    The system BIOS will have a hard drive setup generally under advanced setup. Because of the multitude of BIOS that are in production, this can vary. Under the advanced setup, you will have options to detect the drive. Use these options to detect the hard drive. If this is the initial setup of the drive, you will need to change your boot sequence in order to boot to the CD/DVD. Save the settings (your BIOS will give indication on how to do this). Reboot the computer and place your CD/DVD for your operating system in the CD/DVD drive in order to start your operating system installation.

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    Troubleshooting and Slipstreaming

    With Windows XP, you must have SP 2 slipstreamed into the OS CD/DVD. If you have an older version of Windows XP, your hard drive may be seen as only 127 GB even if it is is a larger drive. SP 2 or higher is required in order to see the full amount.

    If your drive is not detected at all, recheck the drives and check your BIOS for AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) or IDE Native mode. This mode will depend on your computer, the hard drive size and the motherboard. As a rule, you can generally leave the SATA settings on their default setting.

    Have an older Windows XP CD? Use nLite to slipstream the service pack into your CD/DVD.

    Also, you can learn more by reading this comprehensive how to Build a PC guide.






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