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How to Install a Hard Drive in a Computer (SATA Drive in Antec Case Example)

It's my belief that simple, clear text coupled with before assembly, during assembly and after assembly photographs make it possible for just about anyone to assemble a PC successfully. Once you understand the basic computer components and build your first computer, you will have learned a skill that will last a lifetime! You will be able to upgrade your computer or change the configuration easily when your computing needs demand it, and this knowledge can save you thousands of dollars over time.

Whether you are upgrading a harddrive in an existing system, or simply in the process of assembling your own PC kit, I hope that these assembly instructions prove useful.

The process of installing a hard drive in a desktop computer varies slightly depending on the type of case you have. While capcities and access speeds do certainly vary, the physical installation is nearly identicle for all harddrives because of component standardization. I'll use a fairly common configuration in this example, but please note that your situation may not be exactly as shown or described here.

Most new hard drives are SATA 3.0Gb/s drives, while older ones are more commonly IDE Ultra ATA100 drives. The easiest way to identify the older IDE drive types is that they are connected to the motherboard with a wide ribon cable. The newer SATA drives are connected to the motherboard with a much smaller wire, as shown in this example. This tutorial focuses on how to install a SATA hard drive.

The following points illustrate the selection of hardrives you will have to choose from, again please make sure you purchase a hard drive than is compantible with your motherboard:

  • Types: IDE Ultra ATA100, IDE Ultra ATA133, SATA 3.0Gb/s, Serial ATA150, SCSI Ultra320 (68 pin or 80 pin), SAS
  • Common Manufacturers: Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Samsung, Excelstor, Maxtor
  • RPM Speeds: 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM, 10000 RPM, 15000 RPM

Step 1 (5-10 minutes): Prepare Your Workspace

Solid preparation leads to the best results. Even for simple projects like upgrading a harddrive, it's wise to prepare thoughtfully.

Step 1a: Collect Your Tools

I wasn't kidding when I said that anyone can assemble a PC, and it's even easier if all you are interested in is installing RAM modules. The only "tool" you will need for your project is a screwdriver. In addition to the screw driver, there are a few items from around the house that could be helpful.

Please collect the following items:

  • Small or Medium Sized Phillips Head Screwdriver if you do not have one available at home, most grocery stores and all hardware stores sell them
  • Flashlight if you have great lighting, you may not need a flash light. Flashlights can come in handy when working within the computer case because shadows can make it hard to see
  • Scissors or Utility Knife many of the components come in sealed boxes or plastic clamshells. Having something to open the packaging saves time and ensures you don't damage the parts contained within


Step 1b: Setup Your Workspace

Establishing a solid workspace will ensure your project is easy and you are comfortable. A poor workspace can lead to frustration, lost parts and longer than necessary assembly times.

Please consider the following guidelines for your workspace as you prepare to upgrade RAM:

  • Large Flat Work Surface dining room tables work well as do coffee tables. You can even get away with working on a tile or wood floor. You may optionally spread out a sheet or large towel to protect the surface you are working on from the case which will be heavy and have sharp corners. We DO NOT recommend working directly on a carpet because of static electricity, and carpets can make it too easy to lose small parts.
  • Clean Working Environment since your computer will be open and exposed during most of the assembly process, it is important to keep the area you are working in free of potential contaminants. We DO NOT recommend eating, drinking or smoking anywhere close to your workspace.
  • Sufficient light it is important for you to be able to see well as you assemble your kit. Make sure to work in an area with good overhead lighting. It is also helpful to have a flash light handy if your overhead light is not bright enough to see well inside the case.
  • Limited Interruptions even though the assembly process is straight forward, concentration will be required. We recommend that you find time to devote to the assembly process when you will not be distracted by other priorities.


Step 1c: Exercise Caution

Before you begin, please consider the following precautions:
  • Static electricity can destroy delicate computer components
    • Do NOT work on or stand on a CARPET while installing or upgrading RAM
    • ALWAYS touch a grounded metal object to DISCHARGE yourself prior to handling RAM modules
  • Liquids or particles can destroy delicate computer components
    • Do NOT eat, drink or smoke near your workspace
    • Do NOT allow pets or small children to play near your workspace or components
    • ALWAYS wash your hands prior to touching parts
    • ALWAYS work on a clean surface
  • Computer components can cause electrical shock
    • NEVER touch any of the internal components while the computer is plugged in
    • NEVER allow children to touch or play with the computer or components
    • ALWAYS close the computer case completely before plugging the cord into an outlet

Step 2 (25-35 minutes): Install Hardrive, and/or Upgrade Hardrive

Now that you have setup your workspace, you are ready to start installing your hard drive.

Step 2a: Collect Required Components

Please collect the following components:
  • Case For example, Antec Case NSK 4480
  • Hard Drive For example, Western Digital Caviar

Step 2b: Remove Top and Sides of Desktop Case

Please follow these steps:

  • Remove top of the case: Remove the two screws in the back of the case, sliding the top of the case aft and lifting the top of the case. We recommend re-inserting the screws back in their designated holes without the top in place (so you do not misplace them). See below:
  • Remove sides of case: Lift up on the side and push outward as shown below (both sides are removable and removed in the same manner). See below:


Step 2c: Mount Hard Drive into Case Bracket

In this step, you will remove the case bracket that stores external 3.5" drives (not part of this assembly) and your internal hard drives. This case supports 2 external 3.5" drives and 3 internal hard drives, but other cases may vary depending on how large the case is.

Please follow these steps:

  • Remove Hard Drive Case Bracket: Remove the 3 screws that secure the bracket to the case. The Hard Drive Case Bracket is highlighted below:
  • Retrieve Hard Drive: Remove drive from protective packaging and note the screw holes on the side of the drive. See below:
  • Remove Bracket: Remove bracket from the case and place on a flat surface.
  • Insert Hard Drive: Insert hard drive into the bracket. We recommend using the bottom slot because it will be easier to make motherboard connections later in these instructions. Also, when selecting a location, keep in mind ways to maximize airflow through your case:
  • Align and Fasten the HardDrive: Line up the screw holes in the drive with holes in bracket. Holes are lined up in the below picture. The screw on the right side of the picture has been installed and the left side screw has not been installed to show proper alignment. Install all four screws (2 on each side).

Step 2d: Install Hard Drive Case Bracket (with Hard Drive) back into the Case

In this step, you will replace the case bracket that stores external 3.5" drives (not part of this assembly) and your internal hard drives.

Please follow these steps:

  • Replace Hard Drive Case Bracket: Insert the bracket back into the Antec Case (basically this opposite process of removing it). Note that the top of the bracket has slots that slide neatly over tabs at the bottom of the drive bracket. These slots and tabs, in addition to the screws ensure a snug fit of the bracket into the caserews that secure the bracket to the case.
  • Connect Hard Drive to Power: There are two choices to connect power to your harddrive. The 4-pin Molex connector is shown below and the receptor is on the left side of the back of the hard drive. The other option is the 4-Pin 5V ATX Connector which is the same connection as are commonly made with optical drives. (obviously, ensure your PC is unplugged before making any power connections)
  • Find a SATA Cable: Locate a SATA cable in the parts bag from the Motherboard.
  • Connect SATA Cable: Connect one end of the SATA cable into the Motherboard in SATA Location 1. Route the other end of the SATA cable to the back of the hard drive and plug it in.


Congratulations! You've just installed a new hard drive! Or, perhaps you are building a computer kit and now you are one step closer to completion. Either way, you have taken some of the mystery out of the box and that is a great feeling. The good news is that you've learned a skill for life and should now have the confidence to build another computer or upgrade your computer with new components. Investing the time to learn to build a computer may save you thousands of dollars in the long run. CONGRATULATIONS!


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