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Installing Hard Disks on Computers

  • Installing a Hard Disk. General Scheme

    To install a new IDE hard disk you have to do the following (detailed explanations are given further below):
    • Configure the new hard disk as Slave by properly installing jumpers
    • Open your computer and insert the new hard disk into a 3.5'' or 5.25'' slot with special holders. Fasten the disk with screws
    • Plug power cable into the hard disk (4-threaded: two black, yellow, and red; there is only one way you can plug in this cable)
    • Plug the 40- or 80-thread flat data cable into sockets on the hard disk and on the motherboard (plugging rules are described below)
    • Turn your computer on and enter BIOS setup by pressing the keys that are displayed on the screen while the computer is booting
    • Configure the installed hard disk by setting the parameters Type, Cylinder, Heads, Sectors, and Mode (or Translation Mode; these parameters are written on the hard disk case) or by using the IDE Autodetection BIOS utility to configure the disk automatically

    Mounting Hard Disks in Cases
    In the standard most widespread mini-tower PC case hard disks are mounted in special slots and are fastened with screws.

    Size of slots (their width) is defined by the size of hard disks (and other drives that can be mounted). Physical sizes of hard disks are standardized only by the so-called form factor. There are only a few standard form factors. For example, hard disks with form factor 3.5'' are 41.6 x 101 x 146 mm large. Almost all desktop PCs are designed for hard disks with 3.5'' form factor.

    If there is no slot for a 3.5'' hard disk in the case, it can be installed in a 5.25'' slot with help of special holders.

    Hard disks are secured in the slot by screws. Usually hard disks are mounted horizontally so that the electronic board faces down, but sometimes there are slots where hard disks can be mounted vertically inside the PC.

    Motherboard Sockets. IDE Cable. Power Cable
    There are usually two slots on the motherboard the hard disks can be connected to: Primary IDE and Secondary IDE.

    Hard disks with IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) interface are connected to the motherboard via a 40- or 80-thread flat marked cable: one of the threads of the cable (first) is red.

    Two IDE hard disks can be connected to each of the sockets, i.e. there can be up to 4 hard disks of this type installed in the PC. (There are three plugs on each IDE cable: 2 for hard disks and 1 for the motherboard socket.)

    Nowadays IDE cable plugs are mostly designed so that there is only one way to connect them to the sockets.

    Sometimes one of the pinholes is filled on the cable plug, and one of the pins facing the filled hole is removed from the motherboard socket, so it becomes impossible to plug the cable in the wrong way.

    In other cases there is a jut on the plug on the cable, and an indentation in the socket of the hard disk and of the motherboard. This ensures that there is a single way to connect the hard disk and the motherboard.

    Some time ago this design of plugs did not exist, so there was an empiric rule: IDE cable is connected to the hard disk socket so that the marked thread was the closest to the power cable, i.e. the marked thread connected to pin #1 of the socket. Similar rule was used for connecting cables with the motherboard.

    Incorrect connection of the cable with either the hard disk or the motherboard does not necessarily damage the electronics of the disk or the motherboard. The hard disk is simply not detected or initialized by BIOS. However, it is better to connect the IDE cable according to the rules.

    • There existed some models of hard disks, especially the oldest ones, for which incorrect connection damaged the electronics of the drive.
    • Here we will not describe in details the existing types of hard disks, especially the out-of-date ones. Currently the most widespread hard disks are those with IDE or SCSI interfaces. Unlike IDE hard disks, there can be from 6 to 14 SCSI hard disks installed in your PC, however you need a special SCSI controller to connect them. SCSI hard disks are not usually used in personal computers (workstations), and are reserved mostly for servers.

    Aside from an IDE cable, a 4-thread power cable is to be connected to the hard disks. There is only one way to plug in this cable, so there cannot be any mistake.

    Installation Modes. Jumpers
    A hard disk can be installed in a computer as Master or as Slave. The mode of hard disk installation is defined by the position of special connectors (so-called jumpers) on the hard disk.

    The jumpers are either located on the electronic board of the hard disk or are taken out to a special socket that provides for connection of the hard disk and the motherboard.

    Jumpers are usually marked. On the case of the hard disk there usually is a sticker that explains the markings. Typical markings are DS, SP, CS, and PK.

    Each jumper position corresponds to one hard disk(s) installation mode, e.g.:
    • DS - Master/Factory default
    • SP - Slave (or No Jumper Required)
    • CS - Cable Select for Master/Slave: the purpose of the hard disk is determined by its physical position with respect to the motherboard
    • PK - Jumper Parking Position: the position where one can put the jumper if it is not necessary in the existing configuration

    The jumpers on hard disks that are connected to the same cable can be in the Cable Select for Master/Slave position. In this case BIOS will deem as «Master» the disk that is connected to the IDE cable closer to the motherboard than the other one.

    • Unfortunately, hard disk markings were never standardized. You can easily find out that markings on your hard disk differ from the ones described above. Moreover, for the old types of hard disks their purpose could be defined by two jumpers instead of one. You should study the markings carefully before installing your hard disk in the computer.

    It is not enough to physically connect the hard disk to the motherboard and set the jumpers properly for the hard disk to function, Hard disks have to be properly configured with the motherboard BIOS.