Replacing a Drive in a Desktop

Because my was acting up, I had to replace it. Since I have benefitted from Jeffrey’s videos about the insides of computers, I figured that turning this task into a post might help someone else out. Persons who’ve never looked inside a tend to think that they are much more mysterious than they actually are.

In the olden days, before I started messing with computers, replacing a component could mean a long struggle with soldering irons, needle nose pliers, and wiring diagrams. Now everything in desktop computers is standardized. (With laptops, a lot of the individual components are standardized, but the arrangement of components and many of the carriers and connections are not.)

The procedure below the fold will apply to changing any drive, not just CD drives.

If you want to be extra careful, take pictures of each step as you perform it; you can refer to the pictures to make sure you get stuff back correctly. I do that if I’m messing around with stuff that plugs directly into a motherboard.

Step One: Turn the computer off, unplug everything including the power cord, and let it sit for a few minutes so that any electricity stored in the capacitors dissipates. It’s also a good idea to ground yourself by touching something metal, such as the screw in a light switch cover, in case you have static electricity built up in your body. (Technicians often wear antistatic wrist straps to remain grounded.)

If necessary, move the computer, keyboard, and mouse to a place where there’s room to work.

Remove the case (often, figuring out how to get the case off is the most challenging part).

Open Computer

Step Two:

Assemble your tools and locate the drive.

Drive Location

For this job, we will need a precision screw driver and some compressed air.

The compressed air has nothing to do with the drive. Whenever you open a computer, it’s good to blow out the dust. Dust can block the air vents, interfere with the cooling fans, and cause performance problems. In extreme cases, it will cause unexpected shutdowns and mechanical damage. (All joking aside, I do have a set of precision screw drivers; I was too lazy to look for it.)

Step Three: Unplug the drive.

Drive Plugs

The white plug is power; the black one is communications.

The plugs inside almost all computers are keyed, either by shape or by pinout, so you cannot plug them in upside down.

Step Four: If your are long enough, test the new drive before installing it. (If your are not long enough, go to the next step, but do not replace the screws until you have tested the component.)

Since I was using a $5.00 recycled drive from the secondhand store, this was essential, but it’s a good idea even with a new component. My experience with electronic components is that, if they fail, they usually fail right out of the box. If they work, they usually work for years.

Drive Test

This will require plugging in the power cord, keyboard, and mouse, as well as the drive, before you turn on the box.

Step Five: Unscrew the screws that secure the drive in the carrier, slide out the old drive, slide in the new drive, and replace the screws. There are normally two screws on each side.

In some computers, you may have to unscrew the carrier that holds the drives and lift it out to get to the screws holding the drives.

It’s a good idea to put the screws in a cup. Even then, expect to lose at least one of them. The screws do not like you and will try to run away.

(Getting those little tiny screws back into those itty-bitty holes with my big fat fingers is the most frustrating aspect of the task for me.)

Drive Replacement

Test the the drive one more time before you replace the computer cover to make sure all the connections are secure.

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