Computer Hard Drive Replacement

Introduction: Computer Hard Drive Replacement

If you’d like to learn how to install a new hard drive in a desktop computer, you’ve come to the right place. This Instructable will cover transferring data between drives, accessing and removing the old drive, choosing and installing the new drive, and any materials or tools you may need. (Any step labeled with an asterisk(*) is an optional step)

Step 1: Choosing a New Drive

There are three factors to consider when choosing a new drive: Speed, Size, and Connector Type.


If you’re looking for speed, the best drive for you is a Solid State Drive, or SSD for short. Rather than a Hard Drive (HDD) with a spinning disk, an SSD is made of non-moving memory chips. Because of this, computers using SSDs are faster at booting up, launching and running applications, and transferring files. They are also less likely to be damaged due to hard impacts or excessive motion. The disadvantage of SSDs is their price--they are typically much more expensive than HDDs. If the price is a major concern, an SSD may not be for you.


Drives come in different storage sizes and physical sizes. Most drives are either 2.5 inches or 3.5 inches. Usually, a desktop computer will have a 3.5-inch drive, while a laptop will have a 2.5-inch drive. If your computer supports a 2.5-inch drive, then you will have to get a 2.5-inch drive, but if it supports a 3.5-inch drive, you can use either size. Drives come in a wide range of storage sizes. The storage size you need will depend on what you typically use your computer for. If you store a lot of pictures and videos, you will likely want at least one terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of storage. If your main use is browsing the web, going through email, or watching videos, you can likely get by with 500 gigabytes of storage or lower. Many people are able to use a cloud service to supplement lower storage space on their physical drives.

Connector Type

Most modern computers use a connector type called SATA. There are 3 versions of SATA, simply called SATA 1, SATA 2, and SATA 3. Each version has a slightly different shape, so choosing the right one is important for compatibility purposes. Each type can support the previous version(s). For example, SATA 3 can be converted to a SATA 2 or a SATA 1 connection. SATA 2 can be converted to a SATA 1 connection. A proper adapter would be needed in these cases. However, a SATA 1 connection cannot be converted to a SATA 2 or SATA 3 connection, and a SATA 2 connection cannot be converted to a SATA 3 connection. The information for finding which type of drive is typically found on the front of the hard drive that you are replacing.

Step 2: Tools and Materials

New Drive of Your Choice

Refer to Step 1 for help choosing a new drive.


You will likely need a Flat-head screwdriver, Phillips-head screwdriver, or both. It will depend on what type of screw computer manufacturer chose to use, so having both types of screwdrivers is recommended.

Data Transfer Wires

Your replacement drive will determine what connector wires that will be required. For example, SATA 3 drive can use any SATA connector, but a SATA 2 can only use a SATA 2 and SATA 1 data transfer wire. If you are using the same type of drive that your PC came with, you will already have these wires.

Power Wires

These wires are what brings power from your computer to your hard drive. Again, if you use the same type of drive that you originally had, these wires will be provided. Some desktops allow for multiple drives to be used at once. If this is the case and you are adding a drive, a secondary set of power wires should be connected to your power supply.

Step 3: Accessing and Removing the Old Drive

Remove the PC Side Cover

Most PCs allow access to their internals through a removable side cover. There is usually a small handle to indicate where you should pull on the side cover. Sometimes there is a screw that secures the side cover. Remove the screw, if present, and pull the cover off using the handle.

Locate the Data Transfer and Power Supply Wires (SATA 1, 2, or 3)

The data transfer wire typically runs from the front of the PC to the drive currently installed. Find where the wire connects to the hard drive. There will be another set of wires connected there, which are the power supply wires. Remember these two locations! Note: Some desktops allow for the drive case to be removed from the unit for easy drive replacement. If this is possible, there will likely be a lever on the side of the drive case that can be pulled, allowing the drive case to be removed.

*Remove the Old Drive from the Drive Case

If you still need to transfer data between drives or you plan on using the old drive and new drive simultaneously, you may skip this step. However, if the old drive is non-functional, there is no need for it to remain installed. Removing it can also help you locate the type of drive you need to purchase if you haven’t decided yet. To complete this step, simply disconnect the data transfer and power supply wires from the drive and their other connecting points in the PC internals. Set the wires and old drive aside.

Step 4: Installation of the New Drive

Connect the Data Transfer and Power Supply Wires to the New Drive

The data transfer and power supply wires should connect in the same way as the old drive.

Install the New Drive Into a Free Hard Drive Slot

There are typically two locations for hard drives in all desktop computers. If you only have one, you will need to return to step three and remove the old drive.

Connect the Data Transfer and Power Supply Wires to the PC Internals

Refer back to step three for assistance in locating the data transfer and power supply connector locations.

Step 5: Reassembly

If the hard drive case was removed, return it to its original location. Make sure the data transfer and power supply wires are correctly connected. Return the side cover to its original location. The computer is ready for use.

Step 6: *Transferring Data

Set Up the New Drive

If you have replaced the old hard drive completely you will need to install an Operating System (OS) and this will set the drive up for you. Otherwise, if you are using this drive in addition to the old drive, you will need to create a new partition. Microsoft’s support page can help you do this.

Transfer Data

If you are transferring folders/files, you can just drag and drop to the new location using Windows File Explorer. If you are transferring full applications, you will need to reinstall them so that they are installed on the new drive. You may also find a software to transfer applications between hard drives. If your previous drive crashed, you may be able to find data recovery software or have data recovered from a local repair shop. If migrating the entire Operating System, the EaseUS website has instructions that can help you do this.

Step 7: Enjoy Your New Hard Drive!

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    2 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Wonderful information on changing out a hard drive. I've built and rebuilt many computers in my life and this is quite helpful!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you!