How to Install a Second Hard Drive

by Jeff Grundy Google

    If you use your computer to create, edit or download a lot of music, videos or graphic images, you might find your hard drive filling up much faster than you imagine. When your hard drive is nearly full, performance is diminished and you run the risk of physical drive failure. One way to increase both storage and performance is to install a second hard drive for your system.

    Connecting an External USB Hard Drive

    Step 1

    Connect the external hard drive's AC adapter if it has one, and then plug the other end into an available electrical outlet. Note that many external hard drives do not require AC adapters because they draw their power from the computer.

    Step 2

    Plug the smaller mini-plug connector on the USB data cable into corresponding port on the side or rear of the external hard drive. Connect the larger connector on the data cable to an empty USB port on the computer. Wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the connection and configure the drive for use automatically. You don't need to install additional drivers when connecting a USB drive as the required software already built into Windows. After a few seconds, the AutoPlay popup window appears.

    Step 3

    Click the "X" in the top-right corner of the AutoPlay window to close it.

    Step 4

    Click the Windows Start button, then “Computer" to open a new Windows Explorer window. Right-click the Windows drive letter assigned to the newly attached external hard drive, and then choose “Format” on the popup option menu. After the Format window opens, click “NTFS” in the "File System" drop-down list.

    Step 5

    Type a descriptive name for the drive volume in the "Volume Label" field. Use a name like "External Backup Drive" that helps you differentiate the drive from the one installed inside your computer.

    Step 6

    Enable the "Quick Format" option, then click "Start." Wait a few seconds for Windows to format the new hard drive and prepare it for use.

    Step 7

    Use the external USB hard drive to save files and folder just as you do the "C:" drive in your computer. Just ensure that you select the correct drive letter for the external drive when you want to save files to it.

    Installing a Second Internal Hard Drive

    Step 1

    Shut down your computer, then unplug all cables and connected peripheral devices. Move the system to flat, sturdy workspace such as a table or desk and lay the computer on its side so that the left-side access or cover panel faces upward, if the computer is a tower configuration.

    Step 2

    Loosen and remove the case cover-panel retaining screws on the rear of the computer with a Phillips screwdriver. Alternatively, use your fingers to remove them if they are thumbscrews. Slide the cover panel off the case to remove it, then set it aside.

    Step 3

    Locate the hard drive connectors on the system motherboard and determine their type. Motherboard generally use two types of hard drive connectors: IDE and SATA. IDE connectors are older and provide slower transfer rates than do their SATA counterparts. Differentiating between the two type of connectors is relatively simple. IDE connectors are about 2 inches wide, while SATA connectors are only about 1/2 inch in width. If your motherboard supports both types of connectors, install a SATA hard drive. It will be faster than an IDE drive and remain compatible with more motherboards should you upgrade in the future.

    Step 4

    Slide the antistatic wrist strap onto your arm. Clip the other end of the strap to a drive bay or other metal surface inside the computer case.

    Step 5

    Slide the new hard drive into one of the 3.5-inch mounting bays near the bottom of the case. When you slide the hard drive into the bay, ensure that the data pins and power connector face toward the back wall of the case. Slide the drive into the bay until the screw holes in the side of the hard drive align with those in the mounting bay.

    Step 6

    Insert the mounting screws that shipped with the hard drive into the screw holes in the mounting bay and ensure they go into the holes on the side of the hard drive. Use the Phillips screwdriver to secure the hard drive inside the mounting bay.

    Step 7

    Select and unused 1.5-inch Molex power adapter running from the computer’s power supply and plug it into the power port connector on the rear of the new hard drive.

    Step 8

    Plug the data ribbon cable (IDE or SATA, depending on the type of drive you install in your computer) into the data port next to the power connector on the hard drive. Plug the other end of the data ribbon cable into the matching port labeled "Secondary IDE" or "SATA 2," depending on which type of drive you install in your computer. The data ribbon cables only insert into the motherboard port receptacles one way, so you need not worry about connecting them the wrong way. When you align the end of the ribbon cable with the port receptacle, it should insert into the slot on the motherboard with only minimal force.

    Step 9

    Align the cover panel and slide it back onto the case. Secure the cover panel to the case with the retaining screws. Return the system back to your computer desk or workstation area. Reconnect all the cables and peripherals you disconnected earlier.

    Step 10

    Turn on your computer and press the appropriate keys to access the system BIOS as soon as you see the initial boot screen. The actual key sequence you need to press to access the BIOS varies depending on the model computer you own. Common keys for accessing the BIOS include the "Delete," "F1" and "F2" keys. If the boot screen does not display the keys needed to access BIOS, refer to the motherboard or system user manual to determine which keys you must press to access the system setup menu.

    Step 11

    Enter the BIOS password if the setup menu utility prompts you to do so. After you enter the BIOS password and log in to the system setup menu, your computer should detect the new hard drive automatically. Press the "F10" key or select the "Exit and Save Changes" menu option to save the new drive configuration in the BIOS and reboot the computer.

    Step 12

    Log in to Windows after the computer restarts. Click the Start button, then "Computer." If the BIOS detected the hard drive successfully, Windows displays a drive letter for it automatically.

    Step 13

    Right-click the drive letter for the new hard drive in the Windows Explorer window and select "Format" on the context menu. In the Format dialog box, select "NTFS" in the format type drop-down list and click "Start." Wait a few minutes for Windows to format the new drive, and then use it to store files as you normally would.


    • Shopping for the largest hard drive that fits your budget. When comparing prices for various capacity ranges in drives, you will probably find that drives that offer considerably more storage space often cost only a little more than those with much smaller capacity sizes.

    Required Items

    • External USB hard drive
    • USB data cable
    • Internal 3.5" hard drive
    • Phillips #2 screwdriver
    • SATA or IDE cable
    • Antistatic wrist strap

    About the Author

    Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

    Photo Credits

    • Images