Can I plug in SSD while the computer is on?

Can I plug in SSD while the computer is on?

A simple answer to the questions “Can I plug in SSD while the computer is on” and “Can I plug in hard drive while the computer is on” is YES, it is possible. You indeed can plug in the SSD and the hard drive while the computer is on using hot plugging, not hot-swapping.

It is mainly done if your computer supports hotplugging and a SATA controller hot-swaps along with the feature enabled in the bios. The term hot refers to the state that the machine or computer system is on or running. Whereas still hot means that the device is plugged in. Cold plugging is the opposite of hot-plugging which means connecting the device when the system is interrupted or powered off.

It is done for ports, not for cables, as it risks damaging and touching the wrong parts while the system is running. Plugging in a hard drive is not an issue and is expected while the computer is on but plugging in an SSD drive is not preferable by some experts.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It can surely be done. Here are some of the terms and information that will help you understand your computer and specifications betters.

SATA controller

A SATA controller stands for “Serial ATA controller.” It is a hardware interface the helps you connect the hard drive to the computer motherboard. It helps manage and direct the flow of data.

You can mainly use it to enable mass storage devices, including hard drives and optical drives. It further allows communication with the motherboard at high speed using a serial cable with over two conductors pairs. The SATA controller has three working modes defined below:

Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE)

The IDE stands for the “Integrated Drive Electronics” mode. It enables the hard drives to run as an IDE or PATA hard drive; Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment. It is observed that the hard drive works slowly on the IDE mode, whereas the old hardware provides more compatibility.

Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI)

The AHCI stands for “Advanced Host Controller Interface” mode. This mode is used for more advanced features, including hot-swapping for SATA drives. AHCI mode enables the hard drives to operate and work faster and at a higher speed than the IDE mode.

Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID)

RAID stands for “Redundant Array of Independent Disks.” This mode enables both the features of AHCI and RAID.  

If the SATA controller has all the right settings, all the drives will work as USB devices. However, it is always advised to disconnect the USB device manually from the USB device list using the “EJECT” command. It should be done before physically taking out the device from the computer port. It is done to prevent data corruption.

Hot plugging

Hot plugging is commonly referred to as hot-swapping. In reality, both these terms have a slight difference. Hot plugging is the ability of a computer system to add and remove detachable and other portable devices like USB storage and other hard drives while the computer is on or running.

It also enables the operating system to recognize the change and external devices, including LINUX, Windows, IOS, etc. Finally, it is used when the system component fails while enabling the new device without the system being down or off.

It requires the administrative tasks to complete the switch, which means mounting the hard drive but requires the new drive to be installed. On the other hand, it doesn’t require the computer system to reboot. It is usually used for systems and electronic devices that demand running, like servers, etc.

It can also connect different external devices to laptops and personal computers, including hard drives, SSD, or other storage devices. The devices further include USB devices for connecting different components like the mouse, keyboard, or even printer.

It is used to expand the system functionality without interrupting the system functions and operations. It is also used for expanding system operations, including data storage and for data synchronization.  

Hot Swapping

Hot swapping doesn’t require to install which is an additional task. For example, changing the power supply is hot-swapping and doesn’t demand the different administrative installation tasks.

It is not used for adding or removing external devices but for the replacements of a system component. The main reason for the confusion is the subtraction and addition of devices without impacting the operations.

Hot swapping is commonly used when any part breaks down or demands replacement for maintaining the working system. It is also used for altering a program’s running code without interrupting the execution of the program. For example, it is using VMware’sVMware’s VSphere hot plug function. This function is used so that the user can add memory or CPU to the VM. Where the CPU is hot-swappable in reality, and virtual addition is done through software.

For the answer to the question “Can I plug in SSD while the computer is on” or for the question “Can I plug in a hard drive while the computer is on,” hotplugging is used, not hot-swapping. For plugging in the hard drives, they are usually installed in the hotplug power edge carrier frame.

The frame helps the installed drives into the server drive bay and connects the hard drive data and power connectors to the server backplane. It then allows the server backplane to be connected to the RAID controller inside the server.

Process of hot plugging

Hot plugging requires administrative tasks to be done by the user to use that device. It includes the user taking some actions to install and mount the device to inject and use it.

To remove the external device, the user is required to eject the desired device from the connected device list for safe removal. Most of the devices require to be directly plugged in. The user doesn’t even need to understand its working—for example, HDMI cable and USBs; high definition multimedia interface and universal serial port, respectively.

For other and unusual devices, it demands some connections and administrative work to be done manually. It is done for many large-scale devices and less ubiquitous technology devices.

The user must check the hotplugging compatibility first. The IDE storage interface is the most common example, as the IDE devices are not compatible with hotplugging. In contrast, most of these devices are now replaced by SATA devices compatible with hot plugging. Therefore, the user must check the type of device and its compatibility with hot plugging.  

Basic SATA device requirements to be compatible with hotplugging

Here are some of the requirements for the SATA devices like hard drive, USBs, SSD, etc. to be compatible with hotplugging:

  1. The device should be designed to be electric shock protected. An electric shock can be generated due to connecting two electrically charged devices.
  2. It should have a staggered pin design to have the right circuit connection.
  3. The computer system, which is the receiving device, should have some shield that prevents it from generating static upon touching and shorting out.
  4. The operating system and the device have the software or the mechanism that recognizes the connection and disconnection. It is commonly done using that device’s driver.

All these requirements ensure the protection of the computer system, the external connecting device, and even the user from any kind of shock.

Hotplug safe devices

Any device that can be connected to a running computer system and can be operated is compatible with hot plugging. It includes:

  1. USB connecting input and output devices
  2. Hard drive
  3. SSD
  4. Power supply
  5. HDMI
  6. FireWire
  7. SCSI devices (Small Computer Systems Interface)
  8. Modern servers and mainframe components
    1. PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express)
    2. SATA devices

How to enable hotplugging in BIOS

Enabling the hotplug option in the BIOS allows the user to add many different drives to the system. It helps the user by enabling the system to detect the device and instantly make it ready to use. It is done by enabling the SATA ports on the motherboard to support hot plugging. Following are the steps to enable it in BIOS:

  1. Enter into the computer’s BIOS. It is done by powering on the computer and then pressing F2, delete, or it can also be done by pressing F10 a few times. If these are not working for you, you can use the motherboard’s manual for guidance.
  2. After entering into the BIOS, click on the “Advanced” tab
  3. Then select the SATA/ Storage configuration
  4. Select the SATA mode to AHCI if it is on any other model in the settings
  5. By doing so, there will be several configuration options for configuring individual SATA ports. For these individual ports, options look for the “Hot-plug” option and check whether it is enabled or disabled.
  6. In case the “Hot-plug” option is disabled, you have to enable it.
  7. It is advised to enable all ports other than the main OS drive or system drive port.
  8. Lastly, save the changes using the Save changes and Reset option on the save and Exit screen. The changes can also be saved by pressing the F10 key, which is normally the shortcut for saving the changes in BIOS.
  9. Finally, restart the computer.

Uses of hot plugging

Here are some of the most prominent advantages of hotplugging:

  1. It is useful for machines that can’t be turned off.
  2. It allows the user to access the data that is saved on the external device not connected to the system like hard drives.
  3. You can commonly use it in video editing and security systems that need a camera, digital video recorder, network video recorder, and other devices.  

Issues of hot plugging

Numerous problems can arise during hot plugging, especially for devices that are not designed for hot plugging. Some of the common issues that the user can experience are as follows:

  1. Electric current and shot issues
  2. Damaging the device or component of the computer system either temporarily or permanently
  3. Users can also get injured
  4. Users can experience malfunction either of the externally connected device or the computer system after hot plugging a device
  5. It may cause hardware failure, which is extreme and rare

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Hot plugging is a very convenient option for users. Hot plugging and hot-swapping allow the users to connect to different external devices and components as per the user’s need. For example, hot plugging is the answer to the question “can I plug in SSD while the computer is on” as well as another common question, “Can I plug in a hard drive while the computer is on.”

Many devices that are developed now are hot-plug-in compatible. However, there have been some incidents where these advanced hot plug-in devices were connected to older technology which created issues for the users. Hence doesn’t eliminate the cons of hot plugging.

It is still preferred by experts to use cold swapping; it is the best option. Try to avoid hot plugging as much as possible.

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