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Hard Drive Installation and Troubleshooting


This guide is for installing an IDE drive. SCSI is quite a bit different and I might just cover that some other day. If you're opening up something an OEM machine you could be voiding your warranty so check first. If you just user your head a lil this can also be used for installing/troubleshooting any other IDE devices.

There's still a lot of people out there that don't know what we call the "basics of PC hardware". Today I'm starting the first of my series along this line. Starting with the hard drive. Not only am I going to show you how to install the hard drive but at the end of this article are some basic troubleshooting tips that I'll add to as I'm asked more questions.

With 200Gb hard drives coming in at around $130 these days most people change hard drive's like they change their underwear. Everybody wants to add more storage space for their DVD rips, music and of course porn.

When you try to install a really big hard drive into a lot of older systems you'll find that the BIOS is only capable of seeing 137Gb. On even older boards you'll find a 32Gb limit. To get around this you'll want to use that install disk that came with the hard drive or if you're a relatively advanced user a BIOS update should be available. The install disk comes on a floppy so if you don't have one then you'd better be able to do a BIOS update ;)

Before you start:

Make sure that you have an 80 pin cable for your hard drive! I use them for my CD Drives also, but the older 40 pin cables are good enough for CD drives.

DO NOT put a CD Drive on the same channel as your hard drive! Most modern CD drives are ATA33 while the modern hard drives are ATA133. A drive can only transfer as fast as the slowest device on the channel.

Lets Begin:

Unpack everything. Drives come defaulted to be ready to be installed in a single drive environment.

First of all Master, Slave? What is this? They had to be called something. I've seen some various organizations promoting some campaigns to rename this due to the slavery reference, but I don't see any harm. The master can also be referred to as the "primary" drive with the slave being the "secondary". A lot of people like to use what is called Cable Select. If you want to do that you'll just have to make sure that it's plugged into the right part of the cable.

Wonder what connects to where on the cable?

If you want to make it a slave or the master with a slave present you will have to look around the drive to find where the instructions are. You'll see some kind of diagram that looks like this:

It's not currently set, but you can fairly easily tell from the diagram what you'll need to set it for.

Before you install the new drive make sure you unplug the power connector from the computer. Anytime you mess with anything inside your computer it is a good idea to unplug it. It's also a good idea to touch the power supply before you go sticking your hands in there! Static discharge can jump and do some bad things. Just touch the power supply for a precaution OK?

Open up your case - Hopefully yours isn't as messy as mine is from the SCSI cable being 10X longer than it needs to be plus all of the power Y splitters going to all of the fans.

Now you should be able to find an open 3.5" slot somewhere. I have enough space to mount 6 in mine. The bottom rack thing is where my 15k SCSI drive is. I have a pair of case fans to the right of that keeping good airflow over my fast hard drive. Above that I have my storage drive which is IDE.

Slide the drive into an available slot and find 2 or 4 case screws. Two if you're lazy like me and only screw things in on the side that I get into. Four if you never touch anything in your system. For that you will have to pull off both side panels to your case. The case screws are bigger than the ones used to screw in your CD drives.

After the drive is secured then go ahead and connect the power and IDE cables. On the edge of one of the cables you will see a line. Normally it's red on the grey cables and white on black cables etc there will be some kind of colored line to indicate pin 1. This pin always goes on the same side as the power connector.

To connect the IDE cable to the motherboard you'll have to find something that looks like this:

Each connector represents 1 IDE channel. Most boards have 2 channels while 4 is becoming more and more common at least on the higher end boards.

Each channel can have 2 devices on it.

When you first start your machine enter into the BIOS and make sure the drive was identified properly. Generally it's the [del] button that gets you into the BIOS but sometimes it's F1 or F2. You should be able to see some kind of message on the screen when it first posts indicating what you need to push.

Once you're in the BIOS you'll want to go into standard CMOS where you should see something like this:

If your drives are showing up properly then you did it right. If they aren't then you've got some troubleshooting to do. First of all look go back to the front page in your BIOS and select integrated peripherals. Make sure that both IDE channels are enabled. Most likely you set your jumper wrong.


Retail packaged hard drives will have an install disk for you. If this new drive is going to be your main drive then use the partition app that is built into Win 2k and XP. If your using win 9x (why?) then you'll want to checkout bootdisk.com and find something that'll cover your needs. You'll need to fdisk this. Since most of people are using 2k or XP I won't bother covering all the steps in fdisk.

If this is being installed as a secondary storage drive for Win2k or XP then you can go into the built in utility called disk management. Go into the control panel -- go under administrative tools -- Computer Management -- Storage -- Disk management

Look on the bottom right and you'll see something that looks like this picture. The disk with all of the unallocated space is what you're after. Right click on it. Select New Partition.

A wizard will pop up and walk you through this process. If this is a secondary drive then you're obviously after pure storage space so just make it a primary partition and allocate 100% of your space to it.

The fifth screen looks like this. I suggest just clicking next until you get here:


What else do you need to know? I think I covered everything... I decided to skip Fdisk since we're pretty much all using an OS that has built in partitioning software. (Win2k/XP + Linux) Next page is troubleshooting


No drives show up:

Do you have two drives on the cable? Make sure both of the drives aren't set for the same setting (master or slave)
Make sure the power is plugged in and everything is connected securely.

The drive doesn't even power up:

Check to make sure the IDE cable is connected correctly. You will see some kind of stripe running down the side of the cable that will indicate pin 1. Pin 1 is almost always the closest to the power connector. If you have this backwards the drive will normally either be silent or fail to power up.

My Drive is slow:

Make sure you have your CD/DVD drives plugged into a different channel/cable. Most modern CD drives are ATA33 while the modern hard drives are ATA133. A drive can only transfer as fast as the slowest device on the channel.

My drive doesn't have the jumper settings on the label:

Find the model number and visit the manufacturers website. The should have some instructions posted. If not, email their support.

My 40GB drive only show up as 38.2Gb

The formatted space will always be a bit less than the advertised storage capacity. This is supposed to happen, don't worry. It is a difference in the way the OS and the manufacturers measure drive size. Hard drive manufacturers use round figures for sizing (1000MB = 1GB instead of 2^40 bytes = 1GB) whereas operating systems show the exact version

Changing partition sizes without losing data:

Partition Magic is the only app I've ever used for messing with my partitions.