So you just bought a new hard drive and you’re ready to set it up—but you have no idea what to do. Don’t worry! We’ll get you going in no time at all.
Connecting Your New Hard Drive To Your Computer
Before you connect your new hard drive to your computer, see if the drive came with any software or drivers on CD. Most drives don’t need drivers, but the software on the CD can help walk you through some of the steps we’ll describe below. (Note: drives which offer hardware encryption may require the drivers).
After you install any required software from the CD, connect your new hard drive to your computer. Different types of drives have different types of connectors, so here are instructions for the three most common types of drives:
1. Large external USB or eSATA drives
These large drives require two cords—one for power and one for data. The really large drives have a power cord which plugs into your wall. Other drives have two USB cords, one which transfers data and one which doesn’t—plug both of them into a powered USB hub or into USB ports on your computer. If your computer and your drive support eSATA, connect the eSATA cord to your computer instead of one of the USB cords.
2. Smaller USB or eSATA drives
These only require one connection. Choose whether you want to use USB or eSATA (eSATA is usually faster) and connect that cord to your computer. USB cords don’t fit eSATA devices and vice versa, so don’t worry about making a bad connection.
3. Internal hard drives
Modern drives all use SATA connections and 15-pin power connectors. Make sure your computer is unplugged from the wall before you start. Open up your computer, find a bay for your new hard drive and use the screws which should’ve come with your drive to mount the drive. Then connect one of the power cords inside your computer to the hard drive and use the SATA cord which came with the hard drive to connect the drive to the motherboard. Again, the cords are designed so only a SATA cord fits in a SATA plug and only a power cord fits in a power plug. After connecting everything, plug your computer back in and turn on the power.
New Hard Drive Formatting
External hard drives don’t usually need to be reformatted unless you want to use them for a special purpose. Internal hard drives also don’t usually need to be reformatted—but you can often get a performance boost by reformatting them.
Most hard drives come formatted with the File Allocation Table (FAT) filesystem which works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. But none of these operating systems is optimized to use FAT, so if you switch to a native filesystem for your internal drive, you’ll get extra speed and additional features. The native filesystems for each operating system are:
• New Technology File System (NTFS) on Windows
• Hierarchical File System Plus (HFS+) on Mac OS X
• Extented Filesystem version 3 on Linux (Ext3)
In all three operating systems, you can reformat your drive by opening your file manager, finding the drive, right-clicking on it, and choosing “Format…” or “Format Drive”. A warning message will appear which informs you that all data on the drive will be lost—take a moment to ensure you’re formatting the correct drive before continuing.
In all three operating systems you’ll get to choose which filesystem you want to use. Choose the appropriate one from the list above or choose FAT if you want to use the same drive in multiple computers. Then wait for formatting to finish—as soon as it does, you can start to use your new hard drive.