How to install an SSD / HDD

How to install SSD HDD

All right, our How to build a PC guide is so very nearly over. Just a couple more steps and you’ll be home free. In this article, we’ll be installing some storage for all those lovely games you’ve got waiting to play. I’ll mainly be covering traditional 2.5in SATA SSDs and 3.5in HDDs here, but fret not if you’ve gone down the fancy NVMe route – I’ll show you how to do that as well. Of course, if you need some help picking your SSD, then head over to our best gaming SSD article for more info.

Step 1: Where you end up installing your storage devices can vary a lot depending on what type of case you have. A lot of cases tend to have a stack of drive bays on the right hand side that have little slide-out trays in them, while others let you mount them directly onto the back of the panel behind your motherboard (as above).

I’ll be showing you how to do both in this article, but in the meantime, it’s time to open up the other side of your case if you haven’t done so already. Turn your PC back up into an upright position, untwist the screws holding the remaining side panel in place, and slide it away.

Some cases let you mount your SSDs and HDDs directly onto the back of the motherboard tray. Others have dedicated drive bays.

Some cases let you mount your SSDs and HDDs directly onto the back of the motherboard tray. Others have dedicated drive bays.

Step 2: You’ll now be looking at the back of your PC case, and it should be pretty obvious what type of mounting points you’ll be using. If you’ve got a stack of drive bays, stick with me. If you’re looking at mounting points, skip ahead to Step 3.

So, the classic drive bay. Sometimes these will be accessible from the back of your case, other times the front – so position yourself accordingly. A lot of drive bays these days are still designed to take traditional 3.5in HDDs, but most will probably have additional mounting points for 2.5in SSDs as well. The easiest thing to do is slide one out by gripping the two little arms on either side and pulling it towards you.

Place the HDD inside it – it should be a pretty snug fit – and if you need to screw it in place, do so with the appropriate screws and rubber pads that came with your case. The rubber pads (which help cut down on the amount of vibrations) may well already be on the drive bay itself, so you may just need to pop it into place instead.

SSDs should be able to sit in the middle of a drive bay. Just line them up with the four screw holes on the bottom.

SSDs should be able to sit in the middle of a drive bay. Just line them up with the four screw holes on the bottom.

For SSDs, you should see additional screw points on the tray that match up with the holes on the underside of your SSD. Line these up and screw them down tight. Once that’s done, pop it back into the drive tower and rinse and repeat for any additional storage devices you want to connect. Then skip ahead to Step 4.

Step 3: For those who’d prefer to mount their storage directly onto the back of the motherboard tray, this step is for you. Here, you’ll have specific mounts for 3.5in HDDs and your 2.5in SSDs. Detach them from the back of the motherboard tray – on the Corsair Carbide 270R, for instance, all you need is to untwist the thumb screw.

On the Corsair Carbide 270R case, the SSD mounts simply hook in and use a single thumbscrew to remain in place.

On the Corsair Carbide 270R case, the SSD mounts simply hook in and use a single thumbscrew to remain in place.

Then, all you need to do to mount an SSD is line up the mount’s four holes with the corresponding gaps in your SSD and use the appropriate screws from your case accessory box to fasten them together. Just make sure the connector points are facing the appropriate direction (probably downwards, towards the cable openings in your case) before you start using the old screwdriver.

The same thing applies to your HDDs. Line up the rubber-encased holes with the screw points on the back of your HDD, plop the appropriate screws into the gaps and start twisting that screwdriver until it’s nice and firm.

Place the HDD mount on top of your drive and then screw it down. Depending on where your HDD's screw mounts are, you may have to move the rubber pads to a more appropriate hole.

Place the HDD mount on top of your drive and then screw it down. Depending on where your HDD’s screw mounts are, you may have to move the rubber pads to a more appropriate hole.

Step 4: Now that you’ve secured your SSD / HDDs to their respective mounts and trays, it’s time to connect them up to your motherboard. You’ll need two cables per storage device: a SATA cable (which should come with your motherboard) and a SATA power connector (which will be in your power supply box).

Attach the appropriate end of the SATA power cable to your PSU if it’s not in there already, and then stick that through to the back of your case. You’ll probably find there are multiple power connector points on a single cable here, which is handy if you’ve got multiple storage devices and don’t want excess cabling to deal with. It does mean, however, that they’ll have to be positioned relatively close to each other. This is fine if you’ve got all your storage bits stacked in a nice row inside your drive bays, but less handy if your mounts are spaced out all over the place.

You'll probably find your SATA power cables have lots of headers like this, which is great for connecting multiple storage drives on a single cable.

You’ll probably find your SATA power cables have lots of headers like this, which is great for connecting multiple storage drives on a single cable.

Either way, connect up the power cables in the most efficient way possible. Remember, your PSU should have multiple SATA cable points if you end up needing more than one cable.

Step 5: Now it’s time to grab your SATA cables. Your SATA ports should all be clustered together on your motherboard, looking something a bit like this below.

Asus ROG Crosshair VII Hero SATA ports

You can theoretically bung them in any old slot, but it’s probably worth consulting your motherboard manual briefly to check what order they’re in, as you’ll probably want to put the drive you’re planning to install Windows on in a higher position than your giant HDD you’ll mainly be using for storage. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of the PC attempting to boot from the wrong drive when you first turn it on, and then having to fiddle around in the BIOS to put them in the right order.

Once your SATA cables are hooked up to your motherboard, it’s time to get the other end over to your storage drives using the gaps in your case. Then all you need to do is pop the SATA cable in the last remaining connector on your SSD / HDD and you’re done!

How to install SSD SATA

Right-angled SATA cables are particularly handy for keeping things nice and neat.

Step 6: You’ll only need to follow this step if you have an NVMe SSD to install. First, identify where your M.2 slots are on your motherboard (as seen below). Then, just line up the connectors on your SSD, pop it in and voila. Easy peasy! Then you just need to screw it done using the correct mounting screw from your motherboard box, and you’ve just installed your NVMe SSD.

NVMe SSDs require an M.2 slot (above) on your motherboard

NVMe SSDs require an M.2 slot (above) on your motherboard

We’re so close I can practically taste that giant mug of tea waiting for me at the end of all this. In fact, go and get that cup of tea now (or coffee, if you prefer), because the next part is arguably the worst bit of any PC build. It’s time to learn how to connect your system panel connector and case cables and spruce up the rest of your motherboard.

Deep breath.

Contents:

How to build a PC guide
How to install a power supply

How to install a motherboard
How to install a case fan
How to install a CPU
How to install RAM
How to install a graphics card
How to install an SSD / HDD
How to connect your system panel connector and case cables
How to put your case back together again and connect your peripherals
How to install Windows 10

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