Advice on getting a second SATA drive.

The HDD in my two-year-old Dell Inspiron 530, Intel Pentium Dual Core processor, is acting a bit flaky. Before anything serious goes wrong, I’d like to put in another HDD and clone it, with Acronis.

The original drive is a Seagate Barracuda 7200. 250 GB SATA 3.0.

I only need a 250 GB drive. Searching for this Seagate, I find the reviews are not that great. There are a host of other drives of this size, with varying reviews, so it is difficult to decide what to get.

  1. Does a second drive necessarily have to have the same specs as the existing Seagate?

  2. If not, any recommendations for a good, reliable 250 GB drive?

I have not built any computers since the IDE days, so was surprised to see the data and power cables for a SATA drive are quite different, and are not included in the computer.

  1. When I buy a drive, are these two cables included? I see some listed as “bare drive,” so assume have to order cables separately if I get one of those.

The existing drive has a data cable going right to the mobo, but the power cable is weird. It is a connection with several wires, which come from the optical drive. Sticking out of that is an extra connector of the same type, different than the pics I’ve seen of SATA drive power cables.

  1. So, with the new drive, do I connect to that, or just ignore it and connect both the data and power cables directly to the mobo?

Any info will be appreciated.

  1. No, you can mix and match your hard drives any way you’d like.

  2. No suggestions, sorry.

  3. I’m not sure about the data cable. Some hard drives may come with them, but if you don’t see it specifically listed, I’d get one just in case. The power cable is going to be from your power supply. What you have may be a Molex (4 pin power, what you might be used to seeing from IDE drives) to Sata power adapter. If you don’t have an actual Sata power cable from your power supply, you’ll have to get a Molex to Sata adapter. (If you could get a picture of the cables, it might be easier to tell you).

  4. Unless you’ve got some weird motherboard design I haven’t seen before, you won’t be connecting power cables to the motherboard.

And now for some advice. You say you won’t need more than 250GB, but for a few dollars more you could at least double the hard drive size. Unless you’re on a tight budget, I’d recommend that. You might not need more space NOW, but maybe later on down the road. Just something to consider.

Seagate 1 TB for $40 shipped:

I’m not a fan of Seagates. Of the hard drives I’ve owned that have gone flaky or bad on me, all have been Seagates. They honor their warranties, but still, I wouldn’t use one as the main drive.

I’ve had good luck with Western Digital, Fujitsu and Samsung.

I can tell you I’ve bought lot of Hitachi hard drives and never had issues with them. I got some 1tb and 2tb and they run great.

My favourite place to order from is ZipZoomFly

Here’s the one I got from ZipZoomFly

If you get an OEM Drive, it’s not going to come with any cables or screws. These can be bought very cheap at your local computer store or best buy.

You can get the cables real cheap from Monoprice

You have to watch the reviews like that one says “cloning issues,” I didn’t have any issues. This drive doesn’t come with cables though.

Putting in a second SATA drive is easy. You open up your computer, find a place to stick the second drive. Usually there is a spot next to your first drive. Then you screw in the drive, plug the red SATA cable into the drive and the other end into the motherboard

Then you connect the power connecter to the SATA drive and the other end of the power cable to the power in the computer.

Then you follow your computers instructions to format the drive. It does take a bit to format a 2tb drive. And when you boot make sure you set up your BIOS so it boots to the original drive first.

You may find it better to purchase an external USB drive, especially if the problem is with your PC rather than the HDD.

Yeah, but SATA is 5x faster than USB 2.0, which is quite noticeable if you’re copying lots of data as it sounds like is happening.

I haven’t had problems with Seagate really, a bad drive a few years ago. I was choosing them over Western Digital because the warranty was much better, but now it seems like they’re the same.

Note this when you go to put the second drive in (from the CNet review of the desktop:

IMHO don’t even bother to try to mount the new drive during the ghosting process. Sometimes Dell cases can be intuitive, but sometimes they’re more complicated to maneuver around than anything else.

I’m really in to Western Digital’s Black line right now. Not sure how they stack up price-wise, but I’m a fan of the performance.

So? For that sort of thing I’d leave it going over lunch or overnight anyway.

  1. Totally depends. Wouldn’t hurt to buy a cable to be safe, especially if you’re ordering online where it’s cheap.

  2. Your drive only needs one power connection. Some drives have both the old Molex kind and a newer SATA one. Some power supplies have both; others have adapters. Choose something that works with your current setup and roll with it.

If the OP is getting a hard drive as a replacement for a failing one, what’d be the point of getting a USB enclosure for it? Even if the initial transfer can occur overnight, you wouldn’t want to run your primary day-to-day hard drive through USB 2.0.

Oh, and make sure you clone the old drive completely, not just copy over files, or it won’t be bootable. Acronis is entirely capable of that as long as you choose the right settings (or maybe it defaults to this mode; it’s been a while since I’ve used it)

At this point, we don’t know what is failing. All we have is the OP’s comment that his computer’s HDD is acting a bit flakey. The problem may be the HDD; it may be something else. We do not know. Regardless, having an external backup is a good idea.

Perhaps I may be allowed to piggyback on this thread (seems better than starting a new one, and any answers I get may help KlondikeGeoff too).

In another recent thread, I asked about the advantages and disadvantages of an IEEE 1394 external hard drive, as compared with a USB 2 one. I got some very helpful replies, but, all in all, the answers led me to think that the best solution for my needs might not be an external drive at all, but a second internal SATA.

However, I am not very knowledgeable about a computer’s innards. I have successfully installed RAM before (though not in my current machine), but I have no hands-on experience with hard drives. I have been perusing what is on offer at Newegg, but I am puzzled on a few points, and would be glad if anyone can clarify them for me.

  1. Am I right in thinking that the correct “form factor” for drives for a desktop computer like mine (a Dell Dimension 8400, about 5 years old) will be 3.5". The only relevant information I can find in my machine’s documentation is that it has “two bays for 1” high hard drives."

  2. The advertised drives all seem to list a particular rpm and a particular amount of cache memory. Presumably faster and more is better (faster), but how important are these parameters? Do they affect reliability or price very much? (For my purposes, I care much more about reliability and price than about speed.)

  3. This point was mentioned further up the thread, but not much explained: What does it mean when something is described as a “bare drive”? Is it good, bad, indifferent?

  4. My computer’s manual does give some step-by-step instructions for installing a second drive, which is nice (although it would have been nicer if they had said something about the proper form factor!), but there is one aspect of these that I find puzzling. They explicitly say to first move the current hard drive to the empty bay, and then install the new one where the old one used to be. What is the point of this, and is it really necessary or advisable? My current drive is functioning fine (knock on wood) except for the fact that it is overfull, and I had assumed that it would be most sensible to keep it as my C: boot drive, and just use the new one for offloading some of the files that are now clogging up the current drive, and for backing up some of the more important ones. Will swapping the drives around around as the manual suggests (well, it does not so much suggest as command) make the new drive the C: drive, and is there some reason why this would be a good thing? Do the advantages of doing this (if any) outweigh what seems to me to be a quite serious disadvantage, namely that the more things I mess about with inside, the greater are my chances of seriously fucking something up?

But you can easily convert a Hard Drive to external. I buy external hard drives on the cheap and pop them into an external case. I can get an external case with eSATA and USB ports for $20.00. Just pop the hard drive into it and it’s an external drive now.

Of course this isn’t the same as a passport. These types of “case around an external drive” are not really meant to be carried around in a backpack with your laptop"

A bare drive means it doesn’t come with the cables, and screws. As I said, this isn’t really a big deal. I bought 20 screws for $1.60. My SATA cable cost $3.00 (From Monoprice) and my power connector was about the same price.

So you’re getting the same drive except sans the cables and screws needed to mount and install it. An OEM drive is the same, it comes without cables and mounting screws

Two things here. First of all I think they just mean to move the old drive physically to the empty bay. I don’t think they mean to reinstall your OS on the new drive. I wouldn’t do that, as you never know if the new drive is going to fail or not. Once in a while you just get a bad drive, like anything else in life.

Usually if you have two bays in the computer one is more accessable than the other. Perhaps they are thinking the old drive with the OS on it will be more accessible in the empty bay?

You don’t necessarily need a bay, though it’s a good idea. I have an H/P and I was gonna buy a bay for my 3rd hard drive when I noticed the H/P manual says, "the bay for the floppy disk can be used to mount an additonal hard drive. Since I dont’ have a floppy drive on my computer I put the hard drive there. It’s a bit noisier than the rest, but it works fine.

I don’t see any reason to move the first drive out of it’s current bay. I have put in many internal hard drives and I have never moved the original hard drive unless it failed.

For those people really nervous about a computer’s inner parts if you want just storage I recommend an eSATA port. A SATA to eSATA connector costs about $5.00. You plug the SATA end into the motherboard and then the eSATA part mounts on the back of your computer. You just buy an enclosure for your internal hard drive (with an eSATA port on it) and then plug it in. An eSATA port will run virtually as fast as internal hard drive.

If you lack a place to connect the eSATA cable to your motherboard you can buy an eSATA port for a PCI or PCI Express slot. But those run you about $25.00 and up compared to $5.00 for the cable alone.

For 1 & 2: You absolutely want 3.5". 2.5" is for laptops so unless you have some bizarro small case, get 3.5". You will probably want 7200 RPM. 5400 is for laptops (in 2.5") and is slower. 10,000 RPM is for gaming usually and will be more expensive. They are usually very small for the same price.

Thanks for all the information. It is always amusing to read the different opinions about technical matters, but also helpful.

I do have a 1 TB external drive that I use for Retrospect backups and to store the Acronis image backups. My computer froze a few weeks ago, and had a terrible time getting it up and going again. The Dell Windows install disk, two years old, was for Win XP, SP2. When I booted from a rescue CD, Retrospect backup would not work, as by then I had upgraded to SP3.

I finally got the basic Win XP desktop up. Went to Win Upgrade site and tried to upgrade to SP3, but found that was not easy. They did offer a manual download, but warned it was for computer professionals only. I said, “What the hell” as had nothing to lose by then, so downloaded it, and then installed it, and sure enough, it worked.

So, then back to Retrospect Restore, and it got me back to where the entire drive was, just as it was at the last backup of a week or so before.

Had to tweak a few things, but finally it was fine again. Several opinions by friends were that something must be wrong with the HDD, the power supply and about everything else in the computer. I did download Seagate’s program to check the drive, and it showed everything was OK. Still, now and then, the desktop Properties change by themselves and have to go back and change them back.

I personally think it is a software problem, but as I run Avast Pro and Counterspy automatically daily, and Superspyware and Ad-Aware manually daily, doubt have any malware, but who knows? I unloaded all the startup programs one by one, no difference. Maybe something weird was running in the background. Anyhoo, for the past week it has been working very well.

Anyway, I figured, no harm in getting another HDD and copying the Acronis full image (bootable, OS, files, everything) to it as a mirror image of my main drive… Then I can go to BIOS and change to boot from that to see if it works OK, then go back and restore the main drive. Then if it ever fails, I’m all set with the backup drive. I can just remove the old one and connect to the backup one. At least with SATA, don’t have to fool around with jumpers for master and slave.

I appreciate the info about drives and cables, and think I understand it all now. Easy enough to install the drive in an empty bay, only need two screws as it is right by the side of the case. Short distance to the SATA mobo socket, and also only a few inches to the power connector.

So, guess I’ll look at some of the recommended drives, get the cables, and put that sucker in. I really don’t have massive music or photo files, and am only using about 20 percent of the space. So, even if it is cheap, no sense in getting anything larger than a 250 GB drive. As I mentioned, I have a 1 TB Iomega external drive to store stuff if necessary, and even have an extra Maxtor 120 GB external drive.

Again, thanks for the info, I’ll post again when I get the drive in and have cloned the origional one to that.

Oddly, smaller drives can actually be more expensive that larger ones these days. There’s much less demand for drives smaller than 500 GB, aside from drives intended to go in servers, which tend to be beefier. 1 to 2 terabyte drives are available essentially in bulk, and are often cheaper than otherwise-identical 250 or 350 GB drives.

Don’t avoid the drive just because it has more space than you need; it may be cheaper.

The only possible reason to do so is in the case of (almost obsolete) IDE drives, if the drives are set up to “Cable Select.” That is, their order on the cable they share determines whether they are “Master” or “Slave” on that IDE channel. IDE drives have jumpers on them that can be arranged so that a drive is either Master, Slave, or Cable Select. I’ll try to explain.

Your IDE cable plugs into your motherboard. It has two connectors for drives, typically one at 24" and one at 36". For Ultra IDE Cable Select, the 36" connection is the Master, and is plugged into your current hard drive. The connectors have to be plugged in in the correct orientation, so that if you try to plug the 24" connection to a drive below the 36" connection, the cable will be all twisted up on itself, and probably won’t even reach.

If you do the obvious thing and pull the IDE cable out and rearrange it so that it’s straight, your new drive (at 36") is now the Master and your primary boot drive (at 24") the Slave. While it’s probably preferable to boot from the Master and not the Slave, I’m not sure if it makes much difference in practice. I’m not sure what happens if you set the jumper on the new hard drive to Slave if the existing hard drive is set to Cable Select.

It seems like you have a somewhat older computer that probably does not have a SATA controller on the motherboard. My recommendation is to verify an open PCI slot and buy a PCI SATA controller and SATA hard drive. It will probably be cheaper to buy both than buying an IDE hard drive. Make sure that either the SATA controller or hard drive include a SATA cable and Molex to SATA power adaptor, or buy them seperately.

Your entire response to question 4 is at best confusing, but I can assure you that unless you want a hard drive dangling inside your computer case, you absolutely need an open drive bay to install it in.

You can’t “buy a bay.” A drive bay is a receptacle in your computer case in which you mount either a 3.5" or 5.25" drive. You either have an open one or you don’t. An external bay has a removable face plate for devices such as optical drives or floppy drives which require external access. These can be used to hold a hard drive as well. An internal bay is 3.5" and used to hold hard drives.

I’m assuming you meant a hard drive cooler which holds a 3.5" hard drive and fits in a 5.25" drive bay, with fans that exhaust cool air over the hard drive. This is one way to install a 3.5" drive into a 5.25" bay. You can also buy a drive bay adaptor for $5 which consists of two 7/8" square tubes or U channels and some screws. How it’s at all relevant to what was being asked, I’m not sure.

I’m sure you were trying to be helpful, but you probably shouldn’t be giving advice regarding the architecture of computers. Your advice was way more confusing than helpful, and it didn’t address the question asked at all.

I did some checking, and this is mostly incorrect. There are still plenty of cheap IDE drives available in the low storage capacity range. If you decide to go this route, njtt, I would probably just move the drive. It’s only a few screws, the IDE cable (which, as noted, will need to be moved anyway) and the power cable. Set the new hard drive jumper to Cable Select and install it on the 24" connection.

Again, I’m not sure how much (if any) performance hit you will have by booting from a Slave drive, but I wouldn’t do it myself. It’s just not the right way to do things, and your computer manufacturer seems to agree with me.

I still think a SATA drive plus PCI SATA controller card is a better investment. Your next computer may not have an IDE controller, and moving a hard drive to a new computer is a fairly simple way to move the data you want to keep. Please verify the drive type before purchasing in either case, but I’d bet heavily that my assumptions are correct.