Can You Plug in an HDD While the Computer is On? (Quick Answer!)

can you plug in a HDD while the computer is on

The process of plugging in and out a component from a running computer without interfering with the system operations is known as hot-plugging. Most people hot plug flash drives comfortably without shutting down their laptops. It is quite easy to insert the USB drive since you only require the eject button or remove the hard drive button on your windows to safely handle the hot plugging without corrupting your data. As for the internal hard drives, it can be a bit hard to decide on whether to insert them or not, especially when your pc is on.

Can you plug in an HDD while your computer is on? Yes, it is possible to plug in any drive while you are running your computer. However, you have to satisfy two conditions. One is to ensure you enable the BIOS and secondly make sure the SATA controller and the operating system support hot plugging. If you square these two factors, then your computer will detect the drive once plugged in without losing data or shutting down. 

How to facilitate the hot-plugging option in BIOS

Once you enable the hot-plugging option in BIOS, it is possible to add many drives to the system you are working on. However, before taking any action, ensure that the SATA ports are configured and able to support the hot plugging. Below is how to do it:

  • Begin by entering the computer BIOS then turn on your computer. Press F2 then delete many times to activate the BIOS. You can also opt for the manual to find data about enrolling in the BIOS.
  • After you have gained access, click on the advanced tab and then select SATA.
  • Activate SATA mode to AHCI in the setting box that will emerge on the screen.
  • Several options will be displayed for configuring the SATA ports. Enable hotplug under each port.
  • Despite enabling all the ports, make sure not to enable the OS drive port if at all you want to plug in SATA without interfering with the operation of the system.
  • Proceed to save the changes you have made by pressing F10 then restart your computer.

Advantages of hot plugging

  • Helps you deal with the need to access data from an external drive swiftly.
  • You can carry out video editing without shutting down your system.
  • It can be a great tool for RAID 5 or 6 arrays.
  • You will be able to plug in a surveillance drive from a digital video recorder.

Dangers of hot plugging

  • You can experience electrical issues which might end up damaging the drive and even you.
  • It can result in loss of data in an instance your drive malfunctions.

Can you remove a hard drive without using safely remove hardware?

Most often, you may find yourself in a position where you forgot to click safely remove hardware before ejecting your drive. It is normal for this to occur to many of us and on a regular occasion. You will realize that no alarm is raised so long as there is no program using it.

The reason why this happens is that most windows are optimized to safeguard your data by defaulting to disable write caching. This makes it safe to eject your flash drive without any effects. However, doing this ends up reducing your hard drive’s performance.

Write caching is the process where your computer stores data on your system before it gets transferred to the storage device. This makes the internal hard drive have more available space, making it function very fast and effectively. Therefore, when write caching is enabled, losing your data becomes very easy.

Related: How to access files from a broken laptop screen

Is it possible to plug in an internal hard drive while your pc is on?

If you are using SATA, then you should not plug in your internal hard drive while your computer is on. Any electrical device should be disconnected from power when it comes to removing the casing. You will be subjecting yourself to the risk of electrical shock if you are not cautious.

Related: Best laptops with 2 hard drive bays

To Sum up

Ensure the computer you are using allows plugging in drives without shutting down before attempting anything. If you are using a modern operating system or SDD, then you have the advantage of being successful with hot plugging. Plugging in your hard drive while the computer is on is possible in most cases but just analyze your situation first to be sure.

However, it will not cost you anything to just practice using the safely remove hardware feature for your windows or eject feature on Mac. It will guarantee safe and intact storage of data without corruption the next time you need to access it. As for internal hard drives, shut down your computer, to prevent data loss and getting electrocuted.


Tom is a network engineer and a tech consultant. He spends his time solving networking problems while keeping tabs with the latest in the technology field.

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