How to install an SSD in a gaming PC

How to install an SSD in a gaming PC

How to install an SSD in a gaming PC


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

If your storage is full to the brim and you don’t want to sacrifice any performance by using an old-fashioned HDD, it’s time to add an extra SSD.

But don’t worry, it’s a very easy upgrade and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the process.

What kind of SSD should you buy?

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


SATA

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

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Almost all computers built in the past few decades will support a SATA SSD, compatibility being by far the widest of any of the SSD options.


NVMe

NVMe drives are most commonly found in the M.2 form factor pictured here. These drives forego the SATA connection and are instead mounted directly on the motherboard to achieve staggering 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 that, 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 Intel 11th generation or later CPU.


External

External SSDs are the easiest of the bunch to install, as all you need to do is plug them into a USB port. In addition, you can easily transfer games and files between systems, for example if you have a desktop and a laptop. Just like the internal drives, external ones are available in both NVMe and SATA flavors, there is no difference in the way they work, just that one is much faster than the other.

As you’d expect from a USB device, compatibility is pretty universal, but the performance you can get will depend on the port it’s plugged into. If you decide to go with an external drive, carefully check the specifications of your computer and cross-reference it with the connection type of the SSD to ensure you can take advantage of full speed.

How to install a SATA SSD on a desktop PC

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

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

SATA cables are not always supplied with SSDs, instead they are 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 set you back much at all.

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Switch off the power supply (if possible) and unplug the PC from the wall.


Remove both side panels of the PC, usually by removing the thumbscrews on the back of the case and sliding the panels off.


You should place your SSD first as this will tell you where the cables need to go. We tend to find our chosen mounting 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. Bring it to the mounting point and connect it to your SSD.

Then we have to find an extra SATA port on the motherboard, these also use an L-shape 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 the SSD with either four screws to the base or side of the drive, depending on the mounting point. If you have an unusual chassis without a 2.5-inch mount, double-sided tape or velcro can also do the job, don’t ask us how we know.


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

How to install an NVMe SSD on a desktop PC

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

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


Locate the M.2 slot and loosen the mounting screw.


Then align the SSD with the connector, you will notice that it has notches and can only go one way. Usually the SSD logo will be facing outwards. Insert the SSD at about a 45 degree angle, don’t force anything, it should go in quite easily.


Slide the SSD down so that it lies flat against the spacer and reinsert the captive screw to hold it in place.


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

How to set up your new SSD

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

But 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 might sound scary, but trust us, it’s nice and easy.


The Disk Management tool can be found under “Create and format hard disk partitions” in either the Start menu or the Control Panel. It will show you all your connected drives in a list, your last 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 says unallocated space and then select New single volume and hits Next after the wizard opens.
  2. Leave the volume size alone, it will default to the maximum available space, click Next.
  3. Select a drive letter from the list, or leave it at the default letter, click Next.
  4. On this screen, verify that the file system is set to NTFS and leave the allocation size at the 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 it Perform a quick format and click Next.
  6. Click Finish thereafter Format disk.

Once that’s done, everything is in place, time to fill it up with massive games!

Written by Luke Baker. Editing by Adrian Willings.

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