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Guide to Installing IDE/ATA devices

The vast majority of hard drives sold today for PC computers are IDE or sometimes referred to as ATA drives.  That is why we are going to discuss IDE drives.

Motherboard chipsets on today's motherboards support two channels or two connectors.   Yes, there is new technology arriving on the scene that provides for four channels, but that is outside the scope of this discussion.  So, the normal motherboard has two connectors, one for each channel that data moves through to the motherboard.  Each of these channels supports two IDE hard drives, set one as Master and the other as Slave.   I need to mention at this point that there exists other devices that will connect as IDE devices, such as Internal Zip drives and Internal CD Rom drives.  These IDE devices are all configured the same as a hard drive.  So for now we will concentrate on IDE hard drives.  This is a diagram of a Master and Slave configuration on an IDE channel:

IDE Master and Slave configuration

Master and Slave drives
Both drives share one ribbon data cable back to the controller, in this case the controller is part of the motherboard.  In order for the drives to reside together on a single ribbon cable using one channel, either the Primary channel or Secondary Channel, the drives must be configured, one as Master and the other as Slave.   This effects how they will be displayed and used by the computer.  The Primary Master drive is always "C", except possibly if a SCSI controller is involved, but that is outside of this discussion.  Then the Primary Slave drive is the "D" drive, as the Secondary Master is the "E" drive and the Secondary Slave is the "F" drive...  or like this:

  • C drive = Primary Master
  • D drive = Primary Slave
  • E drive = Secondary Master
  • F drive = Secondary Slave

Configuring an IDE drive to be either Master or Slave is done with the jumper pins on the drive, these pins are nearly always between the Power connector and the IDE ribbon cable connector.  Each manufacturer has different pin configurations for either Single drive in a computer, Master or Slave.  Most often Single drive and Master are the same setting.  You simply determine the jumper settings from the hard drive manufacturer's web site, from the installation manual or right on the drive label, such as this:

hd2.jpg (19182 bytes)

Then, using a pair of needle nose pliers, you can move the jumper to the proper location, remembering that nearly always the drive comes from the factory set as a Master drive:

Removing jumper pin with needle nose pliers
Hard drive with Jumper pin set to Master

Mounting the Drive
The drive is now ready to be installed into the computer case.  The drives are either 3.5" wide or 5.25" wide.  Inside the case are bays to hold both sizes of drives.  Simply slide the drive into the appropriate slot, then using the screws accompanying the drive, fasten the drive into place.  Be careful not to over tighten these screws, as they will easily strip out the threads in the drive and always use the appropriate screws to mount the drive.

hd4.jpg (14752 bytes)

If you do not have any available 3.5" bays available to mount the drive, there are kits available to hold the drive in the 5.25" bays.  This is a picture of just one type available.

Hard drive in 5.25" bracket

I should also mention some computer cases, such as Enlight, have special hard drive brackets inside the case that are not usable for floppy or zip drives due to their location.  I particularly like this arrangement, as the drives are totally separate and allows for better air movement around the drives.

Ribbon Data Cable
Now that the drive is seated in the case and fastened, it is time to attach the Ribbon Data cable.  The ribbon cable normally has three 40pin connectors, one for the controller and two for hard drives, master and slave.  Since all motherboards since the advent of PCI 486 motherboards have included onboard IDE controllers, we will consider that the controller is on the motherboard.

The controller connectors on the motherboard should be labeled as to the location of Pin#1.  If you cannot find the marking on the motherboard, refer to the motherboard manual or visit the motherboard manufacturer's web site for these locations.  Once you have determined pin#1 on the motherboard, attach the ribbon cable with the stripe side adjacent to pin#1 on the controller connector.  The strip is usually red, but can also have writing along the edge:

hd6.jpg (15089 bytes)

Now, we connect one of the other connectors on the ribbon cable to the hard drive into the 40pin slot.  We also need to be sure that the stripe side of the cable is adjacent to pin#1 on the drive.  If you are unsure, refer to your hard drive manual again.  Usually, pin#1 is the side toward the power connector.

hd12.jpg (33370 bytes)

Power Cable
The only remaining cable to connect is the power cable inside the case.  Find a power connector that matches the drive's connector and press it into place.  It will only go into the connector one direction, based on the design of the plug and connector.

hd7.jpg (15718 bytes)

CMOS Identifying the Drive
We have the hard drive installed and it is time to determine if we have done it right.    Making sure we have at least the monitor and keyboard connected to the computer, turn it on.  At the appropriate time, usually during the POST phase, (this is the first phase of starting the computer and usually when the memory test is displayed on the screen).  Press the appropriate key combination to open the CMOS settings in the BIOS.  Nearly all motherboards made in the last few years now use [DELETE] key to open the CMOS. 

In the CMOS, you will find a setting to AUTO Detect IDE hard drives.   Using this utility, the BIOS should detect the hard drive.  Now, all is left is to exit the CMOS, saving the new settings and your installation is complete.

If the CMOS does not detect the new drive, you will need to turn off the computer, (this is alright even if you are in the CMOS, as it will not save any changes).   You need to check that the ribbon cable is properly installed, with Pin#1 connected to the stripe side of the cable, you need to be sure the power connector is tightly in place and you need to verify you have set the jumpers on the drive for the appropriate Master/Slave configuration.  All of these issues must be addressed and verified.   One more thing you may try, if these all seem correct is to turn the IDE Ribbon Data cable connector around on the drive.

Okay, the CMOS still does not find the drive?   When you turn on the computer, does the hard drive spin up...  do you hear it spinning?  If so, power is not an issue.  Try replacing the IDE Ribbon Data cable.  Still no success?  Then the final though is you have a bad hard drive.  This is extremely rare, though I have seen it on a few occasions.  Time to return the drive for replacement.

But, for our discussion...  if you have done every step as listed, your system should now have the hard drive installed.  The next phase is to Boot the computer with a boot disk and partition, then format the drive.

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