Installing a new hard drive

In real estate, they say you can never have too many closets. On your PC, you can never have too much hard drive space. Whether your current drive is topping out or you want the security of a RAID array with automatic data backup, there are always good reasons to install a new hard drive.

What kind of hard drive should I buy?

Bigger is always better -- but shop around for the best values. Sometimes two drives can deliver more storage per dollar than a single larger drive.

Whenever possible, buy a hard drive that uses the Serial ATA interface; SATA's thin cables and one-port-per-drive design are a vast improvement over older Parallel ATA drives and do away with PATA's master-and-slave configuration nightmare. If your PC lacks SATA ports, spend the extra $US30 to $US40 for a SATA host controller card; that way you can use your new hard drive on future computers.

To date, we haven't seen much of a performance difference between SATA 150 and the newer SATA 300 hard drives, so don't feel compelled to pay more for the newer technology.

If you're adding an additional drive to your PC, make sure you have an open drive bay inside your case. If you don't, consider getting an external hard drive that connects via a USB port or an external SATA port. If you have an extra internal drive and no room in your case, you can create your own external drive: Several companies like Addonics make housings for this purpose.

What Do I Need to Install a SATA Hard Drive?

Parts: You'll need one SATA cable per hard drive and screws to attach the drive to the PC's chassis. The wide, flat IDE cables used by PATA drives won't work.

You'll also need a free power lead fitted with a SATA power connector. Most systems that come with SATA ports have at least one SATA power connector. If yours does not, or if you're adding a SATA controller card to an older system with no SATA support, you can buy a SATA connector adapter online or at a local computer store for less than $10. Boxed hard drives usually come with both a data cable and a power connector adapter.

Tools: You'll need an antistatic wrist strap for grounding yourself and a small, nonmagnetic Phillips screwdriver.

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Kirk Steers

PC World
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