How to Install a Primary Hard Drive

How to Install a Primary Hard DriveIn this tutorial we learn how to install a primary hard drive. The primary drive is your main drive, not a secondary drive. Installing a secondary drive is similar but you will have to configure your drive differently. Be sure to have your documentation handy at all times.

Learning how to install computer components like a hard drive is not hard, but proper preparation is the key to making it a smooth experience.

Before beginning you should completely shut down your computer. Also be sure to switch the power supply switch into the off position and pull the AC cord from the wall outlet.

1. Remove the Case and Set Your Drive Jumper

The first order of business is to open your computer case so that you can install the hard drive. The method of doing this varies, but most modern cases use a mini-tower design and have side panels that are screwed onto the chassis.

You will need to find the panel that sits above the motherboard and remove the screws in the back to slide the panel out. If you have an older computer design, you may have to remove all of the screws in the back and then slide the chassis out.

Next you must configure your hard drive. To install hard drive components properly you will need to set your drive jumpers. On the back of your drive you will notice pairs of metal pins pointing to various positions. There will be a jumper over the pins in one of these settings.

Consult your documentation. Basically, if you are installing the first and only drive you will set the jumper to “Cable Select.” (If you were installing more than one drive, you would choose “Master” for the main drive.)

2. Insert the Drive into Case

Once the drive is configured you are ready to insert it into the case. Examine the design of your case to see what your options are here.

Inside your case there is what is known as a drive bay. Some of the new-fangled case designs offer a removable version of this drive bay or cage. If you have that, consider yourself lucky. It’s much easier to know how to install computer components when you don’t have to poke around in the case the whole time.

If you have a removable bay, then remove it now. Align the mounting holes on the drive bay with the mounting holes on your hard drive, and then screw them together. When you are done, insert the drive bay back into the case and screw it back on.

If, however, you don’t have a removable bay, then all is not lost. Just insert the hard drive into the drive bay, align the mounting holes together, and screw it on. It’s not that difficult; it’s just a bit of hand and eye coordination.

3. Attach All Cables

Of course to install hard drive components, or any other components for that matter, you will need to attach cables somewhere. In the case of the hard drive you will need to attach an IDE cable from the motherboard to the motherboard, and then attach the power cable.

First, install the IDE cable to the motherboard. For your added convenience the IDE cable is color-coded for you. It is usually blue at the bottom and also has a red stripe on the side. This cable is to be inserted into the motherboard at the IDE0 (Primary) or IDE1 (Secondary) connector.

As an added check, make sure that the side of the cable with the red stripe lines up with the back of the motherboard labeled “Pin 1.” Once you’re done, connect the other end of this IDE cable to the hard drive. Connect the black controller and be sure that the red stripe is aligned with “Pin 1” on your hard drive.

Finally, plug the four-pin connector from your power supply into the back of your hard drive, and you’re done!

4. Close Up and Power Up

Now it’s time to close up and power up. Restore the case panel you removed earlier or slide the computer chassis back into the computer case.

Screw it back on, flip the power switch to the on position and attach the AC cord. Turn the computer back on.
At this point your system BIOS is going to detect that a new hard drive has been attached.

You may have to configure the BIOS to properly detect the hard drive or at least supply some specific settings. As we always say, consult your documentation and follow their instructions. Much of our tutorials on how to install computer components apply across the board, but you still need to tweak some settings depending on your manufacturer.


Learning to install hard drive units is not hard from a mechanical standpoint. It can be done very easily.

However, it’s more than an installation. The drive unit needs to be properly configured. Jumper settings need to be set properly, and then afterwards the BIOS must detect your new drive. Afterwards, you will then need to format your drive and install your operating system.