How to replace a hard drive and reinstall an operating system (2023)

If your computer shows signs of hard drive failure, it's best to replace it before it wears out completely. This gives you the opportunity to save the data stored on it, including your operating system. While it's a more complicated repair than many consumers would like to do themselves, you can save money by doing it yourself.

In the following guide, we'll walk you through the basic steps of replacing a hard drive and the best way to get your operating system working again. This guide works just as well for replacing a bad hard drive as it does for swapping out an old one for something with more space and speed.

1. Back up your data

Before performing any of the steps associated with physically replacing the drive,Back up everything you want to keep, including:

  • Software
  • documents
  • photo and video files
  • music files and playlists
  • Games and downloadable content (DLC)

You can do this usingUsing the cloud to save disk spacethrough a backup service or with aexternal disk. Take the time to consider which programs you want to keep, and attach their original discs or data files to reinstall them on your new drive.

2. Create a recovery disc

To reinstall the Windows operating system on the new computer, create a recovery disc that allows the computer to boot from the new, empty drive after installation. You can create one by visiting theWindows website tuningfor the specific version of your operating system and download it on a CD-ROM or USB memory.

Before you begin, make sure your disk or storage drive has enough free space and is properly formatted according to Windows instructions.

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3. Remove the old drive

Make sure your computer is turned off and unplugged before you begin. We also recommend using an antistatic mat and a wrist strap. This tool grounds both your computer and yourself so you don't transfer built-up static electricity to the sensitive internal parts of the computer and possibly cause a short circuit. It also prevents you from getting Zap.

How to replace a hard drive and reinstall an operating system (1)

To start the process, open the door of the computer case. This will vary by manufacturer. It is usually held in place with small screws or there may be a sliding mechanism.

Once you and the computer are safely grounded, locate the hard drive and remove the power cables and data connectors from the drive.

Consult the documentation for installing the new hard drive, and work backwards to see how to specifically disconnect the old hard drive from the power and data connectors. If you're not sure, check your computer brand online.

There is usually a set of small screws that hold the drive to the case. Then pull it out and pull the hard drive out of the computer case or bay in a sliding motion. Although it is not necessary to physically remove the old disconnected drive, many prefer to move it out of the way.

This frees up space in the computer case for other future components, such as a second hard drive. It also creates more air movement around the new unit. If you leave the old drive in the computer case, make sure all connections remain disconnected.

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4. Place the new drive

To fit the new drive, simply reverse the steps already taken. Connect the power connectors according to the documentation that came with the new drive, and then connect the data connection cables.

Depending on how short the connectors are, you may need to slide the drive into the bay first. A small flashlight can be useful to see the small bay space while working. Replace the screws that secure the drive to the chassis, reinstall the computer chassis door, and now you're ready to set up a new drive.

5. Reinstall the operating system

After completing the physical part of replacing the hard drive and before using it for the first time, you mustFormat and partition hard drive. This is a simple process for Windows users, but it needs to be done before anything else.

Fortunately, these two steps will be done automatically when the operating system is reinstalled on the computer. Your operating system will determine the exact steps, but for Windows 10 or Windows 10 Pro, for exampleHP computermilaptops,The installation of the operating system consists of the following steps:

1.First, connect your PC and turn it on. On HP computers, repeatedly press the "Escape" key after startup.

2.The boot menu will appear with an option to access the boot menu. Use the boot menu to tell the computer where to start: the USB or installation disc you created and inserted earlier.

3.Follow the prompts to partition, format, and install Windows on your new hard drive. Most users can use the default settings and not customize anything at this point.

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4.You may be prompted to restart your computer. The computer may also reboot multiple times before completion. Depending on your hard drive and operating system, please allow a few hours for the process to complete.

5.After your computer restarts one last time and you see a Windows login screen, you're ready to use your new drive.

6. Reinstall your programs and files

Now that Windows is working on a new hard drive, you can start getting the things you want back on your computer. Your cloud backup or external drive should be accessed with recommended file restore software.

Just select the files you want to recover and you're done. You can also just learn the basics at this point and add more as you see fit over time.

Clone your hard drive

Another way to transfer your data to a new drive is to "clone" your existing drive. Assuming the hard drive failure was caused by a physical failure and not a software bug or file corruption, you can physically connect the old drive to the new one. Use cloning software to transfer an exact copy of your data, operating system, and files to the new drive.

This is only recommended if you want a duplicate of your old drive, including any unnecessary files that can accumulate on your drive over time. Research cloning software to find a reliable option that works best for your situation. Remember, if a hard drive fails for a digital reason, such as corrupted files, you have to start with a fresh new hard drive.

Risks when installing a new hard drive

Although many people succeed in this task,There are a few pitfalls you should be aware of before getting started:

  • First, if you're not sure how to research your specific hard drive or type of computer, and you've never done anything on your own before, it may take some time to figure out how your computer model is configured. Be patient with yourself.
  • Not knowing which connection goes where and properly protecting your new drive can harm the data it stores, as well as harm individual computer components. Find and follow the instructions. Don't improvise.
  • Remember to always work on an antistatic surface when the power is off, as grounding the computer can cause data loss and electrical damage.
  • If you can follow the instructions and can perform basic mechanical tasks like using a screwdriver and reading diagrams, upgrading your hard drive shouldn't be difficult at all.
  • The money you can save by doing this yourself can add up to hundreds of dollars in labor costs.
  • It's a good idea for anyone who wants to learn more about maintaining their computers at home to make this relatively easy DIY project.

Once you try this, it will probably give you the confidence to tackle more complicated projects likebuild your own gaming computer. It's definitely satisfying to know you've done a repair like this.

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Now you can think about adding anotherHDDon the road. Many computer users have more than one drive. They use the second as a backup, which they keep safely in their computer case when they need it. Let us begin!

About the Author

Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a writer, speaker, and ASJA member living in the Midwest. She is passionate about helping consumers and small business owners make better use of their resources through the latest technology solutions.

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