How to install an SSD in a gaming PC

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

If your storage is brimming and you don’t want to sacrifice performance by using an old-school hard drive, it’s time to add an additional SSD.

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

What Kind of SSD Should You Buy?

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


SATA SSDs are the oldest and therefore the most common type of SSD. They’re most commonly found in the 2.5-inch form factor, making them ideal for upgrading the memory of an older system. They are better than traditional spinning disk drives in every way. However, the SATA connection maxes out at around 600MB/s, so those looking for maximum performance should read on.

Almost every computer built over the last few decades supports a SATA SSD, and the compatibility is by far the broadest of any SSD option.


NVMe drives are most commonly found in the M.2 form factor pictured here. These drives forgo the SATA connector and instead mount directly to the motherboard for blazing speeds. Most NVMe drives use the PCIe 3.0 standard, which enables speeds of up to 3.9 Gb/s, but the latest and greatest PCIe 4.0 drives can push that to a theoretical limit of 7.8 Gb/s.

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 and requires either an AMD Ryzen 3000/5000 series or an 11th Gen Intel CPU or newer.


External SSDs are the easiest to install as you only need to plug them into a USB port. Also, you can easily transfer your games and files between systems if you have a desktop and a laptop, for example. Just like the internal drives, external ones come in both NVMe and SATA variants, there is no difference in the way they work, just one is much faster than the other.

As you would expect from a USB device, compatibility is fairly universal, but the performance you can achieve depends on the port it plugs into. If you choose an external drive, carefully review your computer’s specs and match them to the SSD’s connection type to ensure you can take full advantage of the speed.

How to install a SATA SSD in a desktop PC

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

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

SATA cables don’t always come with SSDs, but are usually found in your motherboard’s box. If you don’t have one, they’re super easy to find on Amazon and won’t set you back at all.


Turn off your power supply (if possible) and unplug the PC from the power outlet.

Remove both side panels of your PC, typically by removing the thumbscrews at the back of the case and peeling off the side panels.

You should place your SSD first as this will give you an idea of ​​where to put the cables. We tend to find our chosen mounting point first, but don’t screw the SSD in until it’s connected.

Next, locate your power supply and look for a cable with a long L-shaped connector that will power your SSD. Guide it to the mounting point and connect it to your SSD.

Then we need to find a free SATA connector on the motherboard, these also use an L-shaped connector, but it’s much shorter than the power cable connector.

Plug one end of the SATA cable into the motherboard and the other into the SSD.

Finally, mount your SSD to either the base or the side of the drive using four screws, depending on your mounting point. If you have an unusual case without a 2.5″ bracket, double-sided tape or velcro can also do the job, don’t ask us how we know.

Reassemble your PC, plug it back in and start it up. Then you can skip to the How to set up your new SSD section below.

How to install an NVMe SSD in a desktop PC

Installing an NVMe SSD is even easier since you don’t have to worry about cables. You only need a screwdriver to get the job done.

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

Locate your M.2 slot and unscrew the fixing screw.

Then align the SSD with the socket, you will find that it is notched and can only go in one direction. Normally the logo of the SSD faces outwards. Insert the SSD at about a 45 degree angle, do not force it, it should go in easily.

Press the SSD down so it lies flat against the standoff and replace the retaining screw to secure it.

As with the SATA drive, reassemble, reconnect, and boot your PC before proceeding to the next step.

How to set up your new SSD

Some SSDs work right out of the box, and when they do, the new volume will appear in the This PC section of File Explorer.

However, if it isn’t there, you need to use the Windows Disk Management tool to initialize the drive and create a storage partition. This might sound daunting, but trust us, it’s nice and easy.

The disk management tool can be found under “Create and format hard disk partitions” either in the start menu or in the control panel. It will show you all your connected drives in a list, your most recent addition will be the one listed with “unallocated space”. Just follow these simple steps to get it working properly:

  1. Right-click the area that shows unallocated space, and then select New simple volume and hit Nexternal after the wizard opens.
  2. Leave the volume size unchanged, it uses the maximum available space by default, click Next.
  3. Choose a drive letter from the list or just leave the default letter, click Next.
  4. On this screen, make sure the file system is set to NTFS and leave the allocation size at the default,
  5. If you want, you can give the drive a name or just leave it blank. Check the box next to Perform a quick format and click Next.
  6. click Finished then Format hard drive.

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

Written by Luke Baker. Edited by Adrian Willings.