Can I buy a new hard drive for my computer?

Quick Answers

Yes, you can buy a new hard drive and install it in your computer to increase storage capacity or replace a failed drive. When choosing a new hard drive, you need to make sure it is compatible with your computer. Key factors are the drive’s interface (SATA, IDE, etc.), size (2.5″, 3.5″), and storage capacity. With the right tools, installing a new hard drive involves mounting it, connecting data and power cables, and initializing the drive so your operating system recognizes it.

What types of hard drives are available?

There are a few main types of hard drives to choose from:

HDD (Hard Disk Drive)

HDDs have spinning magnetic platters that store data. They are a mature, inexpensive storage technology that offers high capacity drives. HDDs are available in two sizes:

– 3.5″ drives are commonly used in desktop PCs and offer storage from 500GB to 10TB+.

– 2.5″ drives are used in laptops and max out around 2TB currently.

SSD (Solid State Drive)

SSDs store data on flash memory chips and have no moving parts. Compared to HDDs, SSDs are faster, quieter, and more resistant to physical shock. However, they are more expensive per gigabyte. Common capacities range from 120GB to 4TB.

Hybrid Drives

Hybrid drives combine HDD capacity with SSD speeds by including a small amount of high-speed flash memory. The flash memory acts as a cache for frequently accessed data.

Factors to consider when choosing a hard drive

Drive Interface

This specifies how the drive connects to your computer. Common interfaces include:

– SATA – Modern standard for HDDs and SSDs. SATA III offers 6 gb/s transfer speeds.

– IDE (PATA) – Older standard found on older computers. IDE drives max out at 133 mb/s transfers.

– mSATA – Compact SATA SSDs designed for laptops and small devices.

– M.2 – High speed SSD interface capable of up to 32 gb/s with PCIe and NVMe. Often used in laptops and compact devices.

– Make sure to get a drive with the right interface for your computer.

Drive Size

The physical size of the drive matters. HDDs and SSDs come in 2 main sizes:

– 3.5″ – Used in desktop PCs. Require bigger drive bays.

– 2.5″ – Designed for laptops. Will not fit 3.5″ drive bays.

Measure your computer’s drive bay before purchasing.

Storage Capacity

How much storage space do you need? Entry-level HDD capacities start around 500GB, with 10TB+ drives available. SSD capacities range from 120GB to 4TB typically. Choose based on your budget and storage requirements.

RPM (rotational speed)

This only applies to HDDs. Higher RPMs (5400, 7200, 10,000+) equal faster performance. For everyday use, 7200rpm is standard.

Cache Size

The cache on an HDD or SSD stores frequently accessed data for faster retrieval. Bigger cache (16MB, 32MB, 64MB) means better performance.

Drive Form Factor

This refers to the drive’s physical height. Half-height (0.5″) and third-height (0.37″) will fit more computers, while full-height (1″) may only work in desktops.

How to Install a New Hard Drive

Installing a new hard drive involves both hardware and software steps. Here is an overview of the process:

1. Physically install the drive

– Turn off and open your computer case to access the drive bays.

– Mount the new drive in an open bay with screws. Make sure it is secure.

– Attach the appropriate data cable (SATA or IDE) and the power cable to the drive.

2. Initialize and format the drive

For the operating system to use the new drive, it must be initialized and formatted:

– Boot into BIOS and verify the drive is detected. If not, check connections.

– In Windows, bring up the Disk Management utility. Initialize the new drive (MBR or GPT).

– Right-click the drive’s unallocated space and choose New Simple Volume. Go through the formatter wizard.

3. Assign a drive letter

To access the new volume, it needs a drive letter like C: or D:

– Right-click the volume and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths

– Click Add to assign the next available letter.

The new drive is now ready to use for storage! You can start migrating over data or installations.


Is installing a hard drive difficult?

Installing a hard drive is fairly straightforward with the right directions. The physical installation just involves screws and cable connections. The disk initialization process is easy to do through Windows utilities. Overall it is a very approachable DIY computer upgrade.

How do I clone my old drive?

To migrate everything from your old drive, you can use disk cloning software. Apps like Macrium Reflect create an exact copy of your old drive onto the new one. This approach saves you the hassle of reinstalling the OS and programs.

Should I get an HDD or SSD?

SSDs are a great choice for their speed and performance. But HDDs offer more affordable storage capacities. For everyday computing, an SSD for your operating system and apps, paired with an HDD for data storage, gives a good balance.

What tools do I need to install a drive?

At minimum you need a Phillips-head screwdriver to mount a new 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive in the computer case. You also need SATA data and power cables to connect the drive. Other than that, any required disk management and partitioning tools are built into Windows.

How do I choose the right drive interface?

Check your motherboard documentation or PC manual to determine which interfaces are supported. Most modern consumer PCs use SATA drives. Business desktops may support SAS drives. Older PCs likely have IDE support. Select a compatible drive interface for your computer when purchasing a new hard drive.

What are the drive size limits for my PC?

Desktops typically support up to 4 full-size 3.5″ drives. Small form factor desktops may only fit 1-2. Laptops generally max out at 1-2 2.5″ drive bays. Measure inside your computer case before buying to check clearance. Also check documentation for any size restrictions imposed by the motherboard or case.

How can I tell if a drive will fit my laptop?

For laptop drives, getting the right physical size is crucial. Standard 2.5″ drives come in various heights like 7mm, 9.5mm, 12.5mm, 15mm. Check the exact height supported by your laptop – this spec is often in the manual or on the manufacturer’s website. Then match it when shopping for a new 2.5″ drive.

What is hot swappable vs non hot swappable?

Hot swappable means you can plug in or unplug the drive while the computer is running. Non hot swappable drives must be installed with the system off. Most modern desktops and laptops support hot swapping SATA drives. But verify your PC’s capabilities.

How can I tell the RPM of a hard drive?

For HDDs, the rpm spec will be clearly listed in the drive’s specifications online or on its box if purchasing retail. Common values are 5400rpm, 7200rpm and 10,000rpm. SSDs do not have rotational speeds since they are flash-based.

What are some reputable hard drive brands?

Some leading hard drive manufacturers include Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, Samsung, Hitachi, and Crucial. Stick to major brands to ensure you get a quality drive with a decent warranty.

How do I securely erase my old hard drive?

When removing an old drive, you want to wipe it completely for security and privacy reasons. On Windows, use Diskpart’s CLEAN command. Or use drive eraser software like DBAN. Physically destroying the drive also works.

How long do hard drives last?

HDDs typically last 3-5 years, or up to 10 years with gentle use. SSDs tend to last 5-10 years due to less mechanical wear. Proper maintenance like keeping drives cool and dry extends the hardware lifespan. Backup your data regularly in case of failure.

Can I use a laptop hard drive in a desktop?

You can install a 2.5″ laptop hard drive in a desktop PC using a simple adapter bracket. The drive will function normally, but may run slightly slower than a 3.5″ desktop drive due to lower RPM.

What should I look for in an external hard drive?

Key features for external drives include fast transfer interfaces like USB 3.0/3.1 or Thunderbolt, sufficient storage capacity, portability if needed, and adequate drive speeds (5400rpm, 7200rpm). Check product reviews and warranties too.

What are the main hard drive manufacturers?

The major players in hard drive production include:

– Seagate – Top supplier of HDDs and popular for consumer NAS drives.

– Western Digital – Leading HDD brand along with WD Black high-performance drives.

– Toshiba – Produces both quality HDDs and SSDs.

– Samsung – Top maker of SSDs and also offers HDDs.

– Hitachi – Known for reliable enterprise HDDs but makes consumer models too.

How do I monitor the health of my hard drive?

To check hard drive health in Windows, use the integrated S.M.A.R.T. tool. Also look at Disk Management for info like volume status. Listen for unusual clicking noises. Monitor HDD temperatures. Run chkdsk periodically to scan for bad sectors. Consider using drive utilities from the manufacturer as well.

What is RAID and do I need it?

RAID allows using multiple drives in an array for redundancy or performance. Common types are:

– RAID 0 (striping) – spreads data across two drives for faster performance

– RAID 1 (mirroring) – duplicates data between two drives for fault tolerance

For home use, RAID is generally unnecessary. Just regularly back up data instead. RAID becomes important in business settings using many drives.

Should I get an internal or external hard drive?

Internal drives mount inside the PC case and connect directly to the motherboard. They provide higher speeds and are less prone to physical damage. Externals connect over USB and make it easy to move data between different PCs. Choose based on your specific needs and budget.

Can I turn an internal hard drive into an external?

Yes, with an external drive enclosure. This is a great way to reuse an old internal HDD. Look for an enclosure that supports the drive’s interface (SATA, IDE). Simply mount the drive and connect it via USB to any computer. Enclosures are quite affordable and sold at most electronics retailers.


Buying and installing a new hard drive gives you additional storage space and improved performance. Carefully select the right drive based on compatibility factors like interfaces, physical size, and capacity. Be prepared with tools and basic technical know-how before attempting installation. Overall, the process is very approachable for the average PC user. Just take things slow and follow all the steps carefully. With your shiny new terabytes of storage, you’ll be able to install applications, store important files, and completely back up your system.