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(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 school HDD, it's time to add an extra SSD.

Don't worry, though, it's a very easy upgrade, and we'll take 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 with an NVMe, SATA or external option. So, let's take a look at what each of these options offers:

SATA

SATA SSDs are the oldest and, therefore, most common type of SSD. They're most often found in the 2.5-inch form factor, which makes them ideal for upgrading the storage of an older system. They're better in every regard when compared with 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.

Almost any computer built in the last couple of decades will support a SATA SSD, compatibility is by far the broadest of any of the SSD options.

NVMe

NVMe drives are most often 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 utilise the PCIe 3.0 standard which allows for speeds up to 3.9Gbps but the latest and greatest PCIe 4.0 drives can exceed that, up to a theoretical limit of 7.8Gbps.

If you have a relatively modern system, chances are that your motherboard will support PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSDs. PCIe 4.0 support is less common, requiring either an AMD Ryzen 3000 / 5000 series or Intel 11th Gen or newer 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. Plus, 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, externals are available in both NVMe and SATA flavours, there's no difference in the way that they operate, just one is much faster than the other.

As you'd expect from a USB device, compatibility is pretty much universal, but the performance that you're able to achieve will depend on the port that it gets plugged into. If you decide to go with an external drive, carefully check the specs of your computer and cross-reference it with the connection type of the SSD to ensure that you can benefit from the full speed.

How to install a SATA SSD in 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 arent always provided with SSDs, instead, they're most often found in the box with your motherboard. If you don't have one, they're very easy to find on Amazon and won't set you back much at all.

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

Remove both side panels of your PC, usually by removing thumbscrews at the rear of the case and sliding the panels off.

You'll want to get your SSD situated first, as this will let you know where the cables need to reach. We tend to find our chosen mounting point first, but not screw the SSD in place until it's connected up.

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

Then we need to find a spare SATA port on the motherboard, these also use an L shape 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 using either four screws on the base or the side of the drive, depending on your mounting point. If you've got an unusual chassis with no 2.5-inch mounting, 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 boot 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, as there are no cables to worry about. You'll only need a screwdriver to get the job done.

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

Locate your M.2 slot, and undo the mounting screw.

Then, align the SSD with the socket, you'll notice that it's notched and can only go in one way around. Usually, the SSD's logo will be facing outwards. Insert the SSD at an approximately 45-degree angle, don't force anything, it should go in quite easily.

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Push the SSD downward so that it lays flat against the standoff, and re-insert the retaining screw to keep it in place.

As with the SATA drive, reassemble your 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.

However, If it's not there, you'll need to use the Windows Disk Management tool to initialise the drive and create a storage partition. That may sound daunting, 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 Control Panel. It will show you all of your connected drives in a list, your latest 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, then select New Simple Volume and hit Next after the wizard opens.
  2. Leave the volume size alone, it will default to the maximum available space, click Next.
  3. Choose a drive letter from the list, or just leave it on the default letter, click Next.
  4. On this screen make sure the File system is set to NTFS and leave the allocation size on its default setting,
  5. If you like, you can give the drive a name, or you can just leave it blank. Check the box next to Perform a quick format and click Next.
  6. Click Finish then Format Disk.

Once that's complete you're all sorted, time to fill it up with massive games!

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Writing by Luke Baker. Editing by Adrian Willings.