How to Install an SSD in a Gaming PC

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(Pocket-lint) – Games are getting bigger and bigger, so it’s no surprise that people are running out of space on their gaming rigs fast.

If your storage space is packed and you don’t want to sacrifice any performance by using an old-school hard drive, it’s time to add an extra SSD.

Don’t worry, though, it’s a very simple upgrade, and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the process.

What type of SSD should you buy?

The biggest decision to make when buying an SSD is whether to choose an NVMe, SATA, or external option. So, let’s look at what each of these options offers:

SATA

SATA SSDs are the oldest type of SSD and, therefore, the most common. They’re most commonly found in the 2.5-inch form factor, making them ideal for upgrading storage from an older system. They are better in every way compared to traditional spinning disk hard drives. However, the SATA connection maxes out at around 600MB/s, so those looking for maximum performance will want to read on.

Almost every computer built in the last two decades will support a SATA SSD, compatibility is by far the widest of all SSD options.

NVMe

NVMe drives are most commonly found in the M.2 form factor shown here. These drives forgo the SATA connection and instead mount directly to the motherboard to achieve blazing speeds. Most NVMe drives use the PCIe 3.0 standard which allows speeds of up to 3.9 Gbps, but the latest and greatest PCIe 4.0 drives can exceed this, up to a theoretical limit of 7.8 Gbps .

If you have a relatively modern system, chances are your motherboard supports PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSDs. PCIe 4.0 support is less common, requiring either an AMD Ryzen 3000/5000 series or an Intel 11th Gen or newer processor.

External

External SSDs are the easiest to install, as you simply plug them into a USB port. Plus, you can easily transfer your games and files between systems, if you have a desktop and a laptop, for example. Just like internal drives, external drives come in NVMe and SATA versions, there is no difference in how they work, one is much faster than the other.

As you’d expect from a USB device, compatibility is pretty much universal, but the performance you’ll be able to get will depend on the port it’s plugged into. If you decide to go with an external drive, check your computer’s specs carefully and reference them along with the SSD connection type to make sure you can get full speed.

How to Install a SATA SSD in a Desktop PC

Before you begin, here’s what you’ll need for the job:

  • An SSD (of course)
  • A screwdriver
  • A SATA cable

SATA cables aren’t always included with SSDs, but they’re most often found in the box with your motherboard. If you don’t have one, they are very easy to find on Amazon and won’t cost you at all.

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Turn off your power (if possible) and unplug the PC from the wall.

Remove the two side panels of your PC, usually by removing the screws on the back of the case and sliding the panels off.

You’ll want to place your SSD first, as this will let you know where the cables should reach. We tend to find the chosen mount point first, but don’t screw the SSD into place until it’s connected.

Next, locate your power supply and look for a cable with a long L-shaped connector, this will power your SSD. Route it to the mount point and connect it to your SSD.

Next we need to find a spare SATA port on the motherboard, these also use an L-shaped connector, but it is much shorter than the power cable connector.

Connect one end of the SATA cable to the motherboard and the other to the SSD.

Finally, mount your SSD using four screws on the base or the side of the drive, depending on your mounting point. If you have an unusual chassis without a 2.5 inch mount, double sided tape or velcro can also do, don’t ask us how we know.

Reassemble your PC, plug it back in, and boot it up. Then you can skip to the “How to set up your new SSD” section below.

How to Install an NVMe SSD in a Desktop PC

Installing an NVMe SSD is even easier, as there are no cables to worry about. You will only need a screwdriver to do the job.

As always, turn off your power supply (if possible) and unplug the PC from the wall before proceeding.

Locate your M.2 slot and unscrew the mounting screw.

Next, line up the SSD with the socket, you’ll notice it’s notched and can only go through one way. Usually, the SSD logo will face outward. Insert the SSD at about a 45 degree angle, don’t force anything, it should slide in fairly easily.

Push the SSD down so that it sits flat against the spacer and reinsert the securing screw to hold it in place.

As with the SATA drive, reassemble your PC, plug it back in, and boot it up before proceeding to the next step.

How to configure your new SSD

Some SSDs are ready to go out of the box, and if so, you’ll see the new volume appear in the “This PC” section of File Explorer.

However, if it’s not there, you’ll need to use the Windows Disk Management tool to initialize the drive and create a storage partition. It may sound daunting, but believe us, it’s fun and easy.

The Disk Management tool can be found under “Create and format hard disk partitions” in the Start menu or Control Panel. It will show you all your connected drives in a list, your latest addition will be the one listed with “unallocated space”. Just follow these simple steps to get it working properly:

  1. Right-click on the area that shows unallocated space, then select New simple volume and knock NOTjob after opening the wizard.
  2. Leave the volume size alone, it will default to the maximum available space, click Next.
  3. Choose a drive letter from the list, or just leave it on the default letter, click Next.
  4. On this screen, make sure the file system is set to NTFS and leave the allocation size on its default setting,
  5. If you want, you can give the drive a name or you can just leave it blank. Check the box next to Perform a quick format and click Next.
  6. Click on Finish then Format disk.

Once it’s over you’re all sorted, it’s time to fill it up with some massive games!


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Written by Luke Baker. Editing by Adrian Willings.


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