Install a Second Hard Drive in Windows 10 (One-Stop Wizard)

You will learn the one-stop wizard for installing a second hard drive in Windows 10, whether it's external or internal, and migrating system or data afterward.


by Ivy Updated on October 17, 2022

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Why Do You Need to Install a Second Hard Drive

“I have a desktop computer running Windows 10 Home Edition, but it's running out of hard drive capacity. So I purchased a new 1TB solid-state drive to use as a second drive. Embarrassingly, I'm very hands-off and have very little knowledge of computers, so I don't know how to do it. Can anyone tell me how to install  Windows 10 on a second hard drive? Any help would be appreciated!”

Install a Second Hard Drive Windows 10

Like the user in the above case, many users want to install a second hard drive in Windows 10 because their computer run out space. Besides, you may want to do so in the following situations:

  • You want to replace HDD with SSD for better performance and then install a second hard drive for storage.
  • Your computer comes along with a smaller SSD disk and you don't want to store all the data on it. This way will slow down computer performance. Thus, installing a second hard drive is also imperative.

Which Kind of Hard Drive Is Right for Your Computer?

Whether you can install a second hard drive depends on the type of hard drive in your computer:

  • Internal Hard Drive: It mainly depends on the number of computer motherboard interfaces (SATA interface and M.2 interface) and power supply. But you don't need to worry about the power supply, it is fully capable of supporting two hard drives under normal circumstances. In other words, you can only check whether the motherboard has a spare interface.
  • External Hard Drive: It mainly depends on the number of USB ports and hard drive compatibility. An extra spare USB interface can help you to install the external hard drive. And most of the hard drives are currently only compatible with Windows 7 and above, so if you are in Windows XP, you can upgrade to Windows 10 or Windows 11.

And then, you need to choose the right hard drive based on the following information:

  • Hard disk interface: IDE, SATA and M.2. The IDE has been eliminated from the market and the mainstream interfaces now are SATA and M.2 interfaces.
  • Size: 2.5 inches and 3.5 inches. The former is mainly used for notebook computers, and the latter is mainly used for desktop computers.
  • Thickness: Early 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drive thickness reached 9.5mm, and now it is basically about 7mm. The hard drive thickness will directly determine whether you can put it into the hard drive bays.

SATA M2 Drive

How to Install a Second Hard Drive into Your Computer

After understanding how to pick the right hard drive, I will introduce you to the installation methods of external and internal hard drives. First of all, I will show you to how to install an external hard drive. In addition, I will focus on desktop computers since the methods for desktop computers and laptops are basically the same.

Install an External Hard Drive for Storage 

Installing an external hard drive is very easy, you just need to connect it through USB port and then store some photos or documents. 

Step 1. Locate the USB port, connect external hard drive via its original USB cable, and then the USB port on the computer host. Please note that there are three types: USB-A, USB-B and USB-C. 

USB Types

Step 2. Open This PC, right-click on your external hard drive and then select Format... from the drop-down menu.

Step 3. A small window pop up. Select NTFS file system and uncheck the Perform a quick format, then click OK to start the formatting process.


Despite the portability benefits of external hard drives, you need to accept the following drawbacks when using them. If you cannot, please install a second internal hard drive as instead.

  • The motherboard does not provide enough power for USB ports, and it will occupy your additional power outlets.
  • Installing an external hard drive will take up one USB port, thereby you may feel it is insufficient. 
  • The external hard drives have slower read and write speeds than internal hard drives, which may affect your experience.

Install a Second Internal Hard Drive for Larger Capacity

Compared to external hard drives, internal hard drives can compensate for the shortcomings I mentioned above except for being less portable. And the installation methods will vary depending on the types of internal hard drives (HDD or SSD). So I will introduce it to you separately.

For traditional hard drive, the best thing about HDD is that it is cheap and suitable for loading games, movies, and a lot of files. Please note that there will be a little different since every host has its own design.

For SSD disk (Solid State Disk or Solid State Drive), it has many advantages except relatively high price, such as fast read and write speeds, anti-shock, and anti-drop properties, low energy consumption. It also has no noise, large operating temperature range and lightweight compared to a traditional HDD. It is more suitable for installing systems to improve the speed of computers. And I'll introduce it in the next part.

Installing a Second Hard Disk Drive to a Windows 10 PC Host

Step 1. Using my case as an example and take it out, the hard drive bay is a pull-out design.

  • Turn off the computer and unplug it from power.
  • Then open the side panel to find the hard drive.
  • Finally, press the clips on both sides of the bracket to remove the hard drive bay (some cases may require screws).


Step 2. Confirm the hard drive connector.

  •  Find the power supply section of your computer and then confirm SATA interface.
  • Find the SATA data line. This line is usually included with the motherboard. 

Power Cable And Sata

Step 3. Install the hard drive into the hard drive bracket and plug the SATA data cable and power interface into the HDD. There is no need to worry about plugging it in backwards since the interface usually has a dummy-proof design (also known as error proofing). And it cannot be plugged in if is reversed.


Step 4. Push the HDD with the bracket installed into the drive bay and make sure the clips are tight.


Step 5. Connect the drive to the motherboard using the other end of the SATA cable. Now the HDD is successfully installed


Install a Second internal SSD to a Windows 10 PC Host

SD has different physical interfaces, the most common of which are the SATA and M.2 interfaces:

  • SATA interface. As this interface type of SSD is totally consistent with the HDD, the read and write speed is relatively slow. And an additional power supply is required. The data transfer mode is SSD→ memory → CPU → memory → SSD.
  • M.2 interface. This interface type of SSD is small and does not take up space. M.2 NVMe read and write speed is fast, which can meet the needs of most users. The data transfer way is SSD → CPU → SSD.

Since SATA interface SSDs are exactly the same as HDDs, which means their installation methods are also the same. So I will focus on M.2 interface SSDs in the following tutorials.

Step 1. Find M.2 slot location and fix the base screw.

  • Turn off the computer and unplug it from power.
  •  Then, open the computer case and find the motherboard.
  • Confirm the M.2 slot location and specifications (M.2 2280 is mainstream).
  • Take out the copper studs and small screws.
  • Finally, align the copper studs with the third hole and tighten it.


Step 2. Take out the M.2 SSD. Using the gold finger as a reference, insert it completely into the M.2 slot, then lightly put down the whole M.2 SSD.


Step 3. Tighten the screws and fix the other end of the SSD. The second M.2 SSD is installed, then you just need to plug in and reboot your computer.


If the second drive you install is a SATA interface SSD, please plug it into the smallest serial number socket. SATA sockets are arranged by serial number, such as SATA6G_1, SATA6G_2, SATA6G_3, etc. The smaller the number, the higher the priority.
If your system is stored in a SATA interface SSD, but the HDD is plugged into the SATA socket with the lowest number with higher priority, it may prevent you from the operating system correctly. To ensure proper system entry, please plug the system disk into the SATA socket with the lowest number or change the boot drive to SSD in BIOS.

how to Install a second  internal SSD in laptop: 

The method for laptops and PCs is mostly the same. You just remove the bottom cover of the laptop, and find the M.2 slot and insert it. Finally, tighten the screws to complete the installation.


How to Make My Windows 10 Recognize a Second Internal Hard Drive

After your second hard drive has been physically installed, you will also have to initialize the disk, set the correct partition format and create partitions. Otherwise Windows 10 does not recognize this drive.

Recommended partition format:

  • If your hard drive space is 2TB and below, you can choose MBR.
  • If your hard disk space is 2TB and above, choose GPT.

Initialize the Disk

Step 1. Open Disk management. Press  Windows + R key and type diskmgmt.msc in the Run window, then press Enter.

Step 2. If it is a newly installed drive, the system will automatically pop up the initialization prompt. Then, select MBR or GPT depending on the size of your drive.


Format the Disk

After initialization, you will go back to the Disk Management window. Then, continue to format and create a partition for your disk. 

Step 1.  Find the disk you install, right-click the black-marked unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.

Step 2. It will ask you for a specific size, file system, etc, just do as prompted. 


Step 3. Wait until the process is complete, you will see a new partition. Right-click it and select Format in the drop-down menu. Remember to uncheck Perform a quick format to run a full format. And it will check the hard disk and fix some common errors by itself.

How to Perform System or Data Migration After Installing a Second Hard Drive

Once you have initialized and formatted hard drive, it means that you can use the drive normally. Then, you can perform system migration to improve computer performance if it is an SSD disk. Or you can transfer files from hard drive to another if it is a traditional hard drive. In this case, you may need the best migration software - AOMEI Backupper Professional.

To migrate system from HDD to SSD, try Clone feature. It allows you to clone system or entire disk (MBR and GPT disks) with corresponding features. And it is able to boost SSD disk performance, edit partition size and convert disk type during the cloning process. 
To transfer files, try the Sync feature. It will keep the original structure of your files and helps you sync from the source directory to the destination directory, or perform two-way sync. And you can enable its schedule sync later and protect data continuously. 

To get started, please download AOMEI Backupper Professional at first. 

Download Free trialWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

(PS: The clone feature can only be demonstrated in the trial version, please upgrade pro trial version (10% discount) and then perform the cloning process.)

Easily Migrate System From HDD to SSD in Windows 10

Step 1. Check the capacity of both disks and make sure that the target disk space is larger than or equal to the data size of the source disk. I mean the used space on both disk. Then, launch this software, click Clone and then System Clone in the right window.

  • For MBR disks: it will transfer the system partition and the system reserved partition.
  • For GPT disks: in addition to the system partition, the EFI system partition and the MSR partition will be transferred to the new hard drive at the same time.


Step 2. Select the target SSD for system migration and then click Next.


Step 3. Since you migrate OS from HDD to SSD, so it is suggested to check the SSD Alignment to improve reading and writting speed. Then preview the operation and click Start Clone to perform system migration.


Step 4. After the cloning is completed, you just need to reboot your computer. If your computer fails to boot correctly, change the startup sequence in the BIOS and reboot again.


If you want to migrate your system without loading Windows, you can choose to create a bootable USB and boot from it.
This version only supports Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista. If you would like to migrate your system to a server computer, such as Windows server 2022/2019/2016/2012 R2/2008 R2/2003, please use AOMEI Backupper Server.

Transfer files from one hard drive to another in Windows 10

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Professional again. Then, switch to Sync and Basic Sync.  

File Sync

You can also use other sync modes: 

Real-Time Sync: It will monitor and sync files and its changes in real-time
Mirror Sync: The biggest advantage of it is to avoid others from adding, modifying or deleting files arbitrarily while mirroring folder.
Two Way Sync: Any change in both the source and destination directory will be synced to the other side. 

Step 2. Click Add Folders to select files on the old disk. Then, select the second hard drive in This PC. 

Add Sync Destination

Step 3. Confirm the source and destination directory, click Start Sync to transfer files from one hard drive to another. In daily use or for long-term data protection, try the following features:

👍 Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Sync: You can select one of them depending on your frequency. In daily sync, you can run the backup task every hour. 

👍 Event Triggers: You can sync files at a specific event, including system shutdown, system startup, user logon, and user logoff.

👍 USB plug in: You can sync files to USB drive automatically without connecting it every time. 

👍 Wake up computers and reconfigure operation after sync: Both features do a big favor when you want to sync files during off-peak hours, without human intervention.

Schedule Sync Files

FAQs and Solutions for Installing a Second Internal Hard Drive

You may encounter some problems during installing a second internal hard drive, and you might urgently need solutions. In the following, I will list the common problems and provide some solutions.

How Do I Get the BIOS to Recognize My Hard Drive?

To check if the BIOS detects a newly installed hard drive, follow these steps.

Step 1. Power off the computer completely.

Step 2. Open the computer case and unplug the data cable from the hard drive and plug it in again.

Step 3. Turn on the computer and check that the hard drive is functioning properly.

Will a Second Internal Hard Drive Slow Down My Computer?

Of course not. The hard drive is connected to the motherboard via the SATA or M.2 interface and does not affect other computer components. So even if you install multiple internal hard drives it will not affect the speed of your computer.

How to Fix the Second Hard Drive Not Showing Up in Windows 10

In fact, it is not a rare problem and many users face it. If you are also unlucky to encounter this problem and you are at your wits' end, you may try the following two methods to solve the problem.

Method 1. Check for Driver Updates

Step 1. Click the Magnifying Glass in the bottom left corner of the Taskbar, and type Device Manager in the search box, and press Enter to open Device Manager.

Step 2. Click Disk drives in the list, and find the newly installed drive, then right-click it and select Update Driver Software in the drop-down menu.


Step 3. If there are any updates, please follow the instructions to update accordingly.

Method 2. Change Drive Letter and Paths

Step 1. Right-click the Start, select Disk Management and open this window. Find the newly installed drive in the list, and right-click on it then select Change Drive Letter and Paths.


Step 2. Click the Change in the window and select the appropriate drive next to the Assign the following drive letter.


Step 3. Click OK again to restart your computer.


Installing an external hard drive is relatively easy, but it's not as stable, has relatively low performance, and will take up a usb port. Thus, it's suggested to install a internal second hard drive in Windows 10 based on your needs.

For larger capacity, installing a hard drive, while for better performance, installing SSD. After installing, you need to make sure it's recognized and perform system or data migration with the best migration software - AOMEI Backupper. To perform migration on unlimited PC or servers, try AOMEI Backupper Techncian or TechPlus edition.

Ivy · Editor
Ivy is an editor of AOMEI Technology, she covers backup & restore,hard disk & partitions management and cloud files transfer and so on for AOMEI. She is an outgoing girl and enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. She loves traveling, eating, reading and so on. She usually hangs out with friends at her leisure time.