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I have a hand-me-down computer that had its internal hard drive removed before it was given to me. I'd like to buy a new HDD and install some flavor of Linux onto it. Is there a diagnostic utility that I can, say, burn to a CD, that will tell me the specifications I'll need to know when buying the new HDD? Or, is there a way to get all of the required info from poking around in the machine's BIOS?

Put another way, what details do I have to know to find a HDD that will work when installed into the machine?

  • Make and model of hand me down? – Moab May 7 '16 at 15:48
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Just check whether the motherboard offers SATA connectors. If it does, any 3.5" SATA hard disk will do - barring any compatibility issues. Alternatively, you could also get a SSD (usually 2.5") and a mounting contraption.

A SSD will offer a vastly superior experience.

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The only thing that you should check is that the drive you're buying (whether an HDD or an SSD) is compatible with the motherboard you have. First check that if it has IDE or SATA:

IDE vs. SATA

If it has SATA, I would figure what SATA version it supports and buy a drive that supports this version, for maximum performance and minimum expense (You wouldn't want to buy a SATA3 drive if your board only supports SATA2, although I believe price differences are minor).

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