How to Install a PATA Hard Drive

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At one time or another, every computer owner needs more data storage space. Whether you want the computer to hold more games, movies, pictures or music, a new hard drive is the answer. Installing a parallel ATA (PATA) hard drive, more commonly known as ATA or IDE hard drive, might initially appear to be complicated, but modern hard drives are more straightforward to install, so even computer users with little experience with computer hardware can install one.

Things You'll Need

  • PATA hard drive
  • 80-conductor ATA/IDE cable
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Shut down the computer and then unplug all cables connected to it.

  • Open the computer case, and then touch a metal object, such as the power supply, to ground yourself so you don't introduce static electricity, which could potentially damage the computer's internal parts.

  • Locate the ATA connectors inside the computer. Each ATA connector has two rows of 20 pins each. Most computers have two ATA connectors. Determine if you have an ATA connector without a cable connected to it.

  • Locate the jumper pins on the back of the hard drive you are installing. The hard drive should have six pins along with a label indicating which two pins are used for the "Master," "Slave," and "Cable Select" configurations, respectively. A plastic cap will be over two pins. If the computer's motherboard has an available ATA connector, use the plastic cap to cover the pins labeled "Master." If not, cover the pins labeled "Slave."

  • Connect a power cable to the PATA hard drive by first locating the computer's power supply. Look for a large metal box will have several cables coming out of it in the back of the computer. This is the power supply. Next, find a four-pin cable with a plastic cap that's one inch wide on the end, and then plug it into the back of the hard drive.

  • Connect a data cable to the PATA hard drive. If the computer's motherboard has an open ATA connector, use the ribbon cable included with the hard drive. Plug one end into the back of the hard drive and the other end into the motherboard.

    If both of the computer's ATA connectors are in use, one is most likely connected to the computer's existing hard drive and the other to the CD or DVD drive. Locate the hard drive already installed in the computer, and then follow its cable until you find find a free connector, often located somewhere around the middle of the cable. Plug it into the back of the new PATA hard drive so both hard drives are connected to the same cable.

  • Locate an open drive bay inside the computer. Most likely, the bay is close to the existing hard drive. If possible, leave an open space between the existing hard drive and the new one to ensure both hard drives receive adequate airflow. Slide the new hard drive into the bay, and then use the screws included with it to secure it to the bay. Use all four screws, tightening them as much as you can without stripping them.

  • Connect all the cables back into the computer that you disconnected in step 1, but leave the computer case open just in case you need to correct any problems.

  • Start up the computer. Watch for any messages indicating the new PATA hard drive was detected, or click the "My Computer" icon to check that two hard drives appear.

  • Close the computer case after you have confirmed the new hard drive operates correctly. If the new PATA hard drive does not function correctly, repeat these steps as necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • ATA hard drive cables are typically available with either 40 or 80 internal wires, called conductors. Although 40-conductor cables can be used with CD or DVD drives, do not use them with modern hard drives. These hard drives require 80-conductor cables to operate at maximum speed. A hard drive connected to a 40-conductor cable will operate in a reduced-performance mode. Count the wires visible on the outside of the cable to confirm it is an 80-conductor cable. Some computer enthusiast shops sell "rounded" ATA cables, in which the 80 internal wires are separated and put into a round plastic or rubber tube. Although rounded cables are easier to route through a crowded computer case, these cables are not recommended. Some of them fail to conform completely to the official specifications for ATA cables, and they may cause unreliable hard drive operation.

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