Installing a new SATA hard drive or solid state drive is a great way to add more storage space to your Windows 10 PC. SATA drives connect to your motherboard via a SATA cable and interface. This offers faster data transfer speeds than older IDE drives.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to install a new SATA drive in Windows 10. We’ll cover choosing a drive, connecting it physically to your PC, initializing and formatting the drive, and assigning a drive letter so you can access it. Let’s get started!
Choosing a SATA Drive
The first step is to choose a new SATA drive to install. Some key factors to consider:
- Storage capacity – Common SATA drives include 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB. Choose the capacity needed for your storage requirements.
- 2.5″ vs 3.5″ – 2.5″ drives are designed for laptops and small form factor PCs. 3.5″ drives are designed for desktops and offer larger storage capacities.
- Hard Disk Drive (HDD) vs Solid State Drive (SSD) – HDDs have spinning platters and are cheaper per GB. SSDs have no moving parts, are much faster, but cost more per GB.
- Interface – Most modern SATA drives use either SATA III or SATA 6Gb/s interfaces for fastest speeds.
- Cache – Larger cache sizes generally equate to better performance. An 8MB or higher cache is recommended for HDDs, while SATA SSDs often have 512MB or more.
- RPM (rotational speed) – For HDDs, higher RPMs mean better performance. 7200 RPM is standard for desktop HDDs, while 10,000-15,000 RPM options are faster.
Once you select a new SATA drive, it’s time to install it in your PC.
Installing the SATA Drive in Your PC
Follow these steps to physically install your new SATA drive:
- Open your computer case and locate an available SATA port on your motherboard. It will look like a small horizontal or vertical rectangle. Remove any 3.5″ drive bays if needed to fit your drive.
- Plug one end of a SATA data cable into the SATA port on the drive. These cables are often L-shaped. Plug the other end into an open SATA port on the motherboard.
- Connect a SATA power cable from your power supply unit (PSU) to the drive. Consult your PC or drive documentation to ensure you connect power properly, as connections can vary.
- Secure the hard drive into an open 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive bay using screws. Place 2.5″ SSDs into a 3.5″ bay adapter if needed.
- Close your computer case and boot your PC into Windows. Your new drive will now appear in Computer Management.
Be gentle when handling SATA cables and ports. Make sure connections are snug but not too tight. Double check that data and power cables are properly oriented to avoid damage.
Initializing the New SATA Drive
After you boot into Windows, your new drive must be initialized before it can be formatted and used. Here’s how to initialize a drive:
- Open the Computer Management tool. Type “computer management” into the Windows search bar and select the result.
- Click Disk Management on the left. Here you’ll see all connected drives.
- A new box prompting you to initialize the disk may automatically appear. If so, click OK.
- If not prompted, right-click on the disk space and select Initialize Disk.
- Select a partition style – MBR or GPT. GPT is newer and required for drives over 2TB.
- Click OK. Windows will now initialize the drive.
Your new disk should now show up as “Unallocated” space in the Disk Management window, ready to be partitioned and formatted.
Creating a New Partition
With your drive initialized, you now need to create a new partition on the disk. This allotted space can then be formatted and assigned a drive letter.
- Right-click the unallocated space on your new drive and select New Simple Volume.
- Click Next through the wizard prompts. Select the maximum disk space for the volume size.
- Assign a drive letter like E: or F: that is not in use. Or leave blank to assign next available letter.
- Select NTFS as the Format type. Leave allocation unit size at default.
- Give the new volume a memorable name like “Games” or “Backup”.
- Check Perform a quick format. Uncheck Enable file and folder compression.
- Click Next, then Finish to create the new partition with your settings.
The new partition will now be formatted and accessible in Windows Explorer with the drive letter and name you assigned.
For certain SATA drives, you may need to install additional drivers for the device to function properly in Windows. This includes many RAID drives and newer solid state drives.
Follow any driver installation instructions that came with your SATA drive. Often you can download the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website.
The process usually involves:
- Extract the driver files to a folder.
- Open Device Manager in Windows.
- Right-click the disk controller/drive and select Update driver.
- Browse to the folder containing the drivers.
- Restart your computer after installing drivers.
Updating drivers will ensure maximum compatibility and performance for more complex SATA drives.
Changing the Drive Letter
If needed, you can change the drive letter assigned to your newly installed SATA drive:
- Open Computer Management or Disk Management.
- Right-click the volume and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- Click Change to edit the drive letter or path.
- Choose an available letter from the drop-down.
- Click OK to save changes.
This will instantly change the drive letter in Windows Explorer.
Formatting the Drive
You may want to reformat the new drive if you wish to change the file system, create multiple partitions, or start with a blank slate:
- Open Disk Management, right-click the drive, and select Format.
- Choose a file system like NTFS or exFAT. Leave allocation unit size as default.
- Give the volume a name if desired, and check Perform a quick format.
- Click OK to format the volume.
Formatting will erase all data on the drive, so backup anything you want to keep first.
Benchmarking Drive Performance
To test the real-world read/write speeds of your newly added SATA drive:
- Download a drive benchmark utility like CrystalDiskMark.
- Run the benchmark with your target drive selected.
- Compare results against benchmarks of other drives.
This will give you an idea of the performance gain over your old drive.
Cloning Your Old Drive
For migrating your existing OS and files to a new SATA drive:
- Use free cloning software like Macrium Reflect.
- Select the old drive as the source and new drive as the target.
- Click clone and let the process complete.
- Swap the old and new drives, booting from the new cloned drive.
Cloning copies everything unlike a clean OS install. Ensure the used space on the old drive isn’t larger than the new drive’s capacity.
If you encounter issues after installing a new SATA drive, try the following:
- Check for loose connections of data and power cables.
- Update motherboard chipset/SATA controller drivers.
- Make sure drive is initialized, partitioned, and formatted properly.
- Check Disk Management to ensure the drive has a letter assigned.
- Try a different SATA port and SATA cable if possible.
This covers most common problems like disk not detected issues. Consult your motherboard or drive documentation for further troubleshooting tips.
Using Third-Party Tools
For advanced drive management, third-party tools provide added capabilities:
- MiniTool Partition Wizard: Resizes partitions, merges drives, recoveries data, backups drives.
- AOMEI Backupper: Clones drives, creates bootable media, schedules backups.
- Western Digital Dashboard: Monitors WD drive health, updates firmware, diagnoses issues.
- Samsung Magician: Optimizes and monitors Samsung SSDs, provides diagnostics.
These tools give you more control when optimizing, monitoring, or troubleshooting modern SATA storage drives.
Installing a new SATA hard drive or SSD is straightforward with the proper steps. Connect the physical drive, initialize in Disk Management, create a partition, assign a drive letter, and format the volume. Download any required drivers for your specific drive model. Test speeds using disk benchmarks. Consider drive cloning software for easy data migration. Additional tools can provide enhanced features and optimizations. With large capacity drives available at affordable prices, upgrading to a new SATA drive is one of the best ways to increase your PC’s storage, performance, and lifespan.