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Saturday, August 18, 2007

5-Minute 500GB Hard Drive Upgrade for my Dell Dimension E520

Since I had upgraded to my Dell Dimension E520 a few months ago, I had been living in the world with a single hard 300GB SATA hard drive. This always concerns me given the number of hard drives I have had go bad on me in the past causing lost data. Usually what I prefer is a second, larger hard drive in my machine that can be used as a primary backup drive for both of our computers.

In Friday's ad for Fry's electronics, they had a $40 price break on a new Seagate SATA/300 500GB hard drive for $109. I have had really good luck with Seagate drives in the past (fingers) crossed and the majority of the losses were from either Western Digital or Maxtor driver. With that, I dropped by Fry's while out on errands and saved a few bucks on shipping.

I have replaced or installed at least 50 hard drives in my time ranging from some old 20MB ones to the current generation of 500GB drives. The process specifically with Dell in the past had somewhat painful, often needing to grab a mounting bracket or some other piece of hardware from someone on eBay. With this Dell Dimension E520, the upgrade takes 5 minutes from the time your machine is shut down until you have it turned back on and seeing the new drive. No joke!

All you need to do the installation is your bare hard drive and a SATA interface cable. No screwdriver, no additional power cord, or any other sort of mounting hardware! Dell's chassis design makes this almost as easy and quick as a hot-swappable SCSI or Fibre-Channel device!

Here is how the process went for me:

1. Unbox you new Seagate 500GB hard drive. The retail kit does come with a SATA interface cable, so you can use that without purchasing a new one.

2. Unplug your computer after it is safely shut down. Remove the cover from your Dell Dimension E520 (or similar). You can do this by sliding the black lever on the top of the computer back, releaseing the right side panel which the top will rotate down so you can lift it off.

3. Place your computer on its side and locate the drive carriers and installation bay in the lower left hand corner. On the bottom drive (empty bay) push the two side tabs in to release the drive carrier and remove from the computer.

4. Unwrap your hard drive from the anti-static bag and insert into the plastic carrier by carefully bending the carrier. The large blue plastic tab should be on the electronics side of the drive next to the SATA interface and power controller. The pins will insert themselves into the drive screw holes.

5. Snap the hard drive carrier back into the computer chassis and connect both the power cable (already there) and the new SATA interface cable to the hard drive. In my case, the included SATA interface cable was not as long as the other cables in my computer so I had to route it over the CPU fan cover into the clips there and then down onto the motherboard.

6. Insert the other end of the SATA interface cable into the open slot on the motherboard. Since I have a hard drive, DVD burner, and CD-ROM burner on my machine, there was just one SATA interface cable slot open in the main section of the board.

7. Place the cover back on the computer, plug it in, and power it up.

8. When the machine "posts" or shows the "Dell" logo, hit the F2 key to enter the BIOS setup to configure that SATA channel to the "On" position. In my case, the new drive was located on channel 5, where channels 3 & 4 were unavailable on this chassis. Save the configuration and exit.

9. The computer now recognizes the hard drive on boot, and you can either go to your computer management or disk management in Windows (Windows Vista in my case) or you can use the included Seagate Disk Utility software to setup the drive on the Operating System.

Congratulations, you are now done with the upgrade -- all in about 5 minutes of effort!


Remy Dobben said...

I've got a Dell Dimension 3100, quite a similar PC to the one you described here. I also wanted to install an extra hard drive, I went through all the steps you described, but there is one little problem: there is no drive carrier for a second hard drive...

There is physical room inside the PC, looking just like the pictures here, but with the difference that there is no second drive carrier.

Do you know what to do? I already tried to contact Dell Support, but that didn't really help; in fact I never got any reply on my message.

Ken Hanscom said...

Go ahead and check out eBay. I know that with my old Dell Dimension 2400, I bought a extra drive carrier / mount for $9.95 or so plus shipping. Sorry to hear that your 3100 does not have the extra carrier.

In fact, I just found this one for you on eBay:

Anonymous said...

I also have a Dell Dimension E520 and want to swap out my old hard drive with a 500BG hard drive (not as a back up). Does any one know if 500GB is too much for this computer. I bought the Seagate SATA/300 500 GB.

Ken Hanscom said...

A 500GB, 750GB, or even a 1TB drive will work in your E520 without issue.

Anonymous said...

an apt post, but before i purchase the Samsung spinpoint 1tb is there a certain SATA cable i need? particular on this site:


Ken Hanscom said...

Depending on your machine possible just the standard (usually red/pink) SATA cable should suffice. It never hurts to open up your computer and see if it already has one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this very useful post!
I just installed a seagate 1500 GB hard drive on my dimension e520 and it worked like a charm thanks to the info in this post!

johan said...

I am trying to install WD 1TB internal hard drie in dell e520, installed everyting. But in bios its not detecting.

what could be the problem. Pleae help me ...


johan said...

Looks like my motherboard two oter sata ports are disabled.

How do i enable them?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, that was easy

Ben1812 said...

Very useful and clear guide!

One question: If I want to use the new HDD as my main drive but my OS is an OEM type without CD, how could I make the new HDD "bootable"?