Can You Plug in a Hard Drive When Computer is on?

Guide on hard drive connecting

One of the most common questions that we get in our forums is about connecting your hard drive to a computer while it’s running. Well, it depends upon the type of hard disk that you are trying to connect here. If it’s an external hard drive, then yes you can connect and disconnect it anytime while your computers’ running. However, in the case of internal hard drives, the answer would be a little bit technical.

Can You Plug in a Hard Drive on a running PC?

Connecting & Disconnecting a SATA drive on a running computer

If you are using older PATA drives, it wouldn’t be possible for you to attach your hard drive while the computer is on.

Let’s assume the SATA interface that is widely used in storage devices. If your SATA hard drive or your motherboard has the hot-pluggable or hot-swappable feature enabled in the BIOS. Some older versions of SATA hard drives won’t have these features. Only do this if you own the latest version of the SATA hard drive.

Hot-plugging is a feature or capability of a system that allows you to connect or disconnect any hardware from the system while it’s running. A simple example of hot-plugging is the USB device that you use to transfer data. You can attach or detach a USB anytime with your computer without losing your data.

In the case of SATA storage drives, you have to turn on the hot-plugging option in your BIOS. Keep in mind that in some older motherboards this option might not be available. So we advise you do not to attempt to plug in your hard drive directly if your motherboard does not have a hot-plugging feature.

Why You Need Hot-Plugging?

If you are running a home desktop, you really don’t need a feature like hot-plugging. However, if you have a server that cannot be turned off, that is when hot-plugging comes into play. Servers have to work 24/7 and turning them off can result in huge financial losses. With features like hot plugging and hot-swapping, you can attach multiple SATA hard drives with a running server computer.

Some Possible Risks to Keep in Mind

While hot-plugging lets you connect storage devices instantly without shutting your computer, there are some possibilities of damage to your hardware as well. If your hard drive supports an old Molex connector to power up, connecting your hard drive directly to a running computer could cause short circuits resulting in data loss.

Only attempt hot-plugging if your hard drive comes with SATA power connectors.

The Bottom Line

Finally, now you have enough knowledge under what conditions you should connect a hard drive to a running PC. We advise you to practice hot-plugging only if you have a modern SSD or HDD and your motherboard supports this feature.

Turning off your computer is the safest way to connect hard drives without losing any data.

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