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PC911 > How-To > Hardware > Installing IDE Hard Drives

- Grogan/Alex -

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Is your hard drive getting full because of all those MP3's you downloaded and all those programs you installed? Do you need more hard disk space to store all your photos of your grandkids/Pamela Anderson/Ricky Martin? Is your hard drive old, slow and small and you want to swap it for a better one? Did your hard drive just fail and needs to be replaced? Either way, you're looking at buying and installing a new hard drive. You could take your PC to a shop and have them do it for you. But where's the fun in that? You pay a lot more than necessary and you don't learn anything having somebody else do it for you. Buy a new hard drive and get ready to go to work under the hood!

Who, Me?

Installing an IDE hard drive isn't as difficult as you might think. If you are relatively new to installing hardware, it is our hope here at PC911 that as you read tutorials and become more informed, you will overcome your fear of working under the hood. If you can master this, you can save considerable money by buying parts at discount prices and installing them yourself. Plus, you will learn more about your PC, what it looks like inside and realize that it doesn't take a rocket scientist, not even a bachelors in computer science, to work on it. Remember, the motto is: If it ain't broke, take off the cover and make it better!

A Quick Word of Caution

Care and Caution are required prerequisites though, so that components aren't damaged and also to avoid electric shock. Before handling any electronic components it is a good idea to touch something metal that is grounded to discharge any static electricity you might have stored in your body. What I always do is touch one of the metal screws on the light switch face plate on the wall. Try not to work on a carpeted floor if you can help it (I have no choice, so I have to be careful). Don't shuffle your feet when you walk on carpet.

Getting Started

Carefully unpack the new hard drive from the box it came in. Does it have any documentation? Unless it's a retail package it probably won't have a booklet or leaflet. All the documentation you need should be affixed to the label on the drive. What you need to know is, what jumper positions does it use? Does it require a jumper on the Master position when it's the only hard drive? How many Cylinders, Heads or Tracks it has, does it give you a drive type number (e.g. Type 47)? In the case of an older hard drive and an older computer these parameters are important as you may need to enter them in the computer's CMOS setup. If you are unsure of a drive's jumper positions, settings and specifications, it is a good idea to visit the Web site of the hard drive manufacturer. In most cases you can view the settings and parameters for your model, or perhaps download an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file. And yes, even if you're male, you need this information. The attitude "I don't need no stinkin' manual" will not work here.

Now, to work on your computer, shut down the computer and turn off the switch on your surge protector. I recommend that you leave the computer plugged in though, so that it will be grounded (even with the switch off, the ground from the three-prong plug is still connected). If you do end up working on it with the power on (but the computer off!!) be very careful not to touch the power supply or any components on the board that you don't need to touch. Also, beware of capacitors, even when the computer is off they still store a charge and can give you a new hair style if you touch them, or damage something if you somehow divert the charge to a chip. With the computer off but plugged in for the ground, you can touch the metal frame of the computer at any time to discharge static electricity from your body.

You can also do it with the computer unplugged completely, but in that case be very careful to discharge any static electricity from your body prior to each time you touch something, or wear a grounded wrist strap. You can purchase those at PC or hobby shops.

Now, take the cover off your PC and examine the way your current hard drive is connected. Note the power connector and the IDE ribbon cable, but don't disconnect anything just yet until you decide how you are going to proceed. For the next part of the tutorial, we will cover replacing a single hard drive with a new one. After that we will get in to other configurations.

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