How install an SSD in a desktop PC

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - November 20th, 2018
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This is a continuation from DIY PC Upgrades, adding more RAM at PB Tech, and today we'll be installing both the M.2 and 2.5" SSD into a system and showing how to activate the new drives once installed.

OK, so let's actually do an upgrade so you see exactly what's involved - we'll be using our own GGPC Hero for the examples below as it's the best value entry level Gaming PC available, and with so many people already owning one - it's a prime candidate for future upgrades.

I understand that many people don't have a workshop, so I'll be doing this on a plain kitchen bench with some white paper on top. You can generally upgrade quite safely by first touching a grounded object (I touched the jug in the kitchen) but if you're worried about static you can buy special anti-static bracelets here, these clip onto the PC case your working on and are quite handy if you have to leave and come back thanks to the little dome clip on the wrist.

For first timers, this can look a bit complicated, especially with the sata SSD requiring cables to be fitted from the power supply and motherboard but we've got some handy tips for new PC owners and we'll be covering all the steps from shutdown to startup in this one so have a good read through and you'll be just fine.

If you're moving from an HDD to SSD storage for your operating system you are in for a treat. This really is a night vs day experience, and the results are sure to bring a smile to your face :)

Regarding M.2 SSD there are two versions to consider based on your motherboard slot - named NVME and SATA. They both look the same but if you want the extra performance that comes from NVME you'll need to have a special slot that supports this (GGPC HERO uses SATA) - they do both work in either slot type though, so if you can get a great deal on an NVME version, this could be a great drive to use in your current SATA M.2 slot then continue using in future upgrades too :)

Storage upgrade - what you'll need to buy!

1x An SSD, in either the M.2 or 2.5" form factor
1x Maybe a SATA Data Cable (you won't need this if you have the GGPC Hero, the extra cable is already fitted to make the upgrade easy)

An SSD, in either the M.2 or 2.5" form factor
Screws that come with the SSD

What you'll need to have! (or buy if you don't have)

1x Screwdriver

1x Maybe a Windows 10 USB + the Software License Key (this could be a sticker on your PC, or in the box your windows 10 OS comes in) this is only needed if you are re-installing windows onto a new drive.

OK, so first things first - as we are going to be installing storage we should back up any files you want to keep. Photos, Videos and Documents - anything you don't want to lose. The programs/games themselves will have to be re-installed but do backup any game saves or project files you are working with.

For our first upgrade, we'll be adding an M.2 SSD.

Find the M.2 slot on your motherboard
Insert the M.2 SSD at a 45-degree angle

Find the M.2 slot on your motherboard, shown above on the left this is usually just below the CPU Cooler but could be lower on some models or even hidden behind your graphics card in some cases.

The M.2 SSD inserts on a 45-degree angle as shown in picture above on the right, once in you then push it down and use one of the included screws to attach it to the little silver standoff that raises a little from the motherboard.

These usually come pre-fitted in the slot, but as the M.2 SSD can be different sizes it can sometimes be pre-fitted in another slot just to left (you can see the little yellow holes in our image above), if doesn't align perfectly you'll have to move it to right one - but the most common is the size we are using, so I'm confident you won't have to do this.

Insert screw and tighten with a screwdriver
With the new M.2 SSD now installed we can turn the PC on

With the new M.2 SSD now installed we can turn the PC on and let it boot into windows as normal, there is another step we'll need to quickly do so we can access the new drive. Shown below on the left, the new drive won't be usable until we activate it. To do this press 'start' and type in 'partition' - this will make the 'create and format hard disk partitions' tool pop up, press enter or click this and a new window will appear - you'll see your new M.2 SSD in here but it will be coloured black to indicate it's not currently active.

Search for 'partition' and open the programme
Your new M.2 SSD will be coloured black

To activate it first right click on the black drive and select 'new simple volume' The toolwill then pop up, click next to begin!

Right click on the drive and select 'new simple volume'
Click 'next' to begin

The first thing it will ask us to do is to specify the volume size, the default number that appears here automatically is the max storage available (yep, 500GB becomes 476B when formatted..)so let's go with that - click next.

Click 'next' to continue
Choose a drive letter and click 'next'

Now choose a drive letter and push next, in the following step you can name your drive, I've gone with 'new ssd' but you could call this 'steam games' or 'photos' or whatever you would like and it can be changed easily, later on, should you change your mind.

And with that, the drive will quickly format itself - congratulations! You've done it! The aptly named 'new ssd' now appears as a selected drive on your computer :)

Enter a label name and click 'next'
Your new drive will appear under 'Devices and drives'

OK, now let's do the slightly more complicated installation of a regular 2.5" SSD. First we'll need to remove the other panel of our PC so we have access to the cables, in the case of GGPC Hero this is also where our original SSD in pre-installed.

Remove the back panel of your PC
Insert the 2.5" SSD

You can unplug the cables from this drive to see exactly what they look like, you'll be connecting the new drive with more of the same. Pictures below to show you what to look for - these same cables are used for HDD as well.

Locate your existing drive
This is what the drive cables look like

You'll find the larger connection of the two is daisy changed into the same cable that connects to the original SSD in the system, making it very easy to find. With the smaller cable (this is the SATA DATA Cable) if you plug this into your new SSD first, then follow the one that is plugged into your original storage through the little hole on the back of the PC and this will lead you to the SATA slots on your motherboard - as shown below in our image on the right.

Plug both cables into your new SSD
Plug the other cable end into the motherboard

All connected it will look like the images below, with two cables into the SSD and another into the motherboard.

SSD with both cables plugged into it
Motherboard with SSD cable plugged into it

Now we simply follow the same steps to activate the new drive like we did above with the M.2 SSD, activating our partition and naming our new drive - i've called this one 'new new ssd' :)

Activate the new drive the same way as the M.2 SSD
Install Windows OS onto any of our new drives

Now we can happily install Windows onto any of our new drives, and erase the original drive Windows was on when we're fully updated. This is a really good way to it as the original is still installed and can be accessed by simply booting from that drive (boot menu can be accessed by tapping F12 when you turn on your PC)

If you're installing windows I recommend downloading a couple of drivers first, specifically for wireless or wired internet access, as once we've got these components working we can happily download anything else we need. Be sure to do all the latest Windows 10 updates before you install things like Nvidia Drivers, these often don't work without the latest updates.

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Staff Writer

For the words, not the glory!

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