How to Replace a Desktop Hard Drive

Upgrading your hard drive is one of the easiest techniques for improving a desktop’s performance. Whether you’re looking for storage with the speed SSD provides, the affordability of HDDs, or something more durable than SSD, you’d be happy to know that there are numerous options available for you. 

You can replace and upgrade your desktop hard drive by yourself as well. You just need a bit of guidance in choosing the right one, removing the old hard drive, or just upgrading your system with the old hard drive intact. 

Replace vs. Upgrade

Desktop hard drives are great because you can always add more storage space to the existing hard drive. Many people opt for this method since throwing away an old hard drive seems like a waste. But there are two instances where replacement is necessary: 

  • You’ve used it beyond its lifespan. Hard drives have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years (this is when warranties are usually still valid), but some brands have maximum 10 years guarantees. The best way to avoid losing files to hard drive damage is by being proactive and replacing the hard drive before the end of its life. 
  • The hard drive is already dead or damaged. You can’t upgrade a hard drive on your desktop PC if the existing one is already damaged or dead. You simply have to replace it with a new one. 

Steps to Replace a Desktop Hard Drive

  • Buy the hard drive – Aside from budget considerations, make sure to weigh your options, including: 
  • HDD vs SSD (solid-state drive) – HDD is always cheaper than SSD and has more storage size options, but SSD is faster and is more future-proofed than a traditional HDD. If you have the budget, you can buy both and combine both HDD and SSD (with the HDD as file storage and SSD to run your OS and essential programs). 
  • Hard drive size – You can find 2.5″ and 3.5″ hard drives on the market. All desktop PCs can accommodate at least one 3.5” hard drive, but others can only fit the smaller 2.5″ ones. This depends entirely on your desktop setup. 
  • Storage space – HDDs can go as high as 20TB, while SSDs are available in 100TB or bigger. But since the bigger the storage space, the more expensive it gets, not everyone can enjoy larger hard drive capacities. 
  • Install the New Hard Drive – It’s time to replace the old one with your new hard drive:
  • Check if your SATA cable is still viable. A SATA cable connects the hard drive to the motherboard and another cable to the power supply. Newer SSD hard drives are inserted into the motherboard directly, so no SATA cable would be needed, but both motherboard and hard drive must be compatible. 
  • Prepare your screwdriver (any standard Phillips-head)
  • Secure yourself with an anti-static bracelet, especially if you’re located in a place prone to static electricity
  • Turn off your PC, remove cables and open the PC case with your screwdriver. Most cases have 2-4 screws from the back or side. 

REMEMBER: If this is your first time opening your desktop, look around before taking apart anything. In most setups, the hard drive mount or storage drive is found near the front of the case. 

  • Remove your old hard drive – Since you’re not keeping the old hard drive, unmount it now, take it out of your computer, and put it aside. 
  • Install the new hard drive – If you reached this step, it means you were able to unlock and remove the old hard drive properly and there will now be a space for the new one. Just place the new hard drive into the caddie (if your desktop case has one), and slide it in place on the case. Some cases have a locking mechanism for the hard drive slot, so if yours do, secure the drive as tightly as you can. 
  • Plug the cables back – Usually, the SATA cables that connected your old hard drive to the motherboard and power supply can be used for your new hard drive. If the cables are no longer usable, then replace it with a new one as well before plugging the cables back in. Note that if your power supply has no more free SATA slots available, you’d have to invest in a splitter/adapter to connect your new drive. 

Your last step is to double-check your cables and ensure no cable is “bothering” other parts of your desktop computer such as fan blades or heatsinks. Rescrew your case, reattach cables of your components and try to fire the computer back up. 

Because you replaced the old hard drive with a new one, you’d have to reinstall your operating system on your new drive. This change includes reinstalling all your apps, games and other applications, restoring your files from backup, and making all settings needed after a clean OS installation. 


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