How to upgrade the Alienware Aurora R5 and R6

Alienware Aurora

The Alienware Aurora is a great desktop gaming PC, combining sheer power with a small-ish form factor and a striking design. There are many configurations to choose from when you buy one, but part of the fun of owning a gaming PC is adding new bits and upgrading existing ones.

Getting inside and putting your own stamp on your Aurora is really easy. Here's a look at everything you can do and how you do it.

See at Dell (opens in new tab)

What you can change

Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora

Most of the stock parts can be swapped out if you should so wish:

  • Graphics card
  • RAM (add to or replace completely)
  • m.2 SSD boot drive
  • Stock cooler

What you can add

Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora

There are some empty slots on the Aurora right out of the box for you to add more parts to:

  • Two x 2.5-inch SSD
  • A single HDD
  • A 'short' PCIe slot for SSD, Sound Card, Elgato HD60 Pro capture card (opens in new tab) etc
  • A full sized graphics card

How to open the Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora

Before you can do any work to the PC, you have to get inside. It's really easy, but there are some steps to follow:

  1. Remove the single screw from the black handle on the rear.
  2. Slide both latches up.
  3. Pull the black handle outwards.
  4. Pop off the side panel with the ventilation grilles in.
  5. Swing out the power supply to reveal the internals of the PC.

How to add SSD and HDD storage

Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora

If your Aurora came with just the single SSD for storage, at the base of the PC case you'll have a pair of empty 2.5-inch bays, and an empty 3.5-inch bay to the right of the power supply. Adding the HDD is easiest, so we'll tackle that first:

  1. Squeeze the blue handles together to release the drive caddy.
  2. Slot the 3.5-inch HDD into the caddy.
  3. Make sure the four retainers on each corner have locked into the corresponding holes on the drive.
  4. Push the drive caddy back in.

You'll find a spare power and data cable for the HDD located somewhere around the drive bay. Both look similar, with an 'L' shaped connector, but one is much larger and you'll find it coming from the power supply. The smaller one may be tucked out of the way, so you might have to hunt around, but you can't plug the wrong cable in.

Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora

To add one or two SSDs to the Aurora you'll need to provide a SATA 3 cable (opens in new tab) yourself for each drive. From there the process is mostly the same as above:

  1. Squeeze the blue handles together to release the drive caddy.
  2. Slot the 2.5-inch SSD into the caddy.
  3. Make sure the four retainers on each corner have locked into the corresponding holes on the drive.
  4. Push the drive caddy back in.
  5. Connect one of the spare power connectors that pulls closest to the drive.
  6. Connect one end of the SATA 3 cable to the SSD.
  7. Connect the other end to one of the spare SATA ports towards the base of the motherboard.

Once you've hooked up your drive(s) and booted the PC back up, you'll need to instruct Windows 10 to use them as volumes before storing anything on them. You do this in the Disk Management application on your PC, where you'll set up the partition and give the drives a letter and a name to help you identify them.

How to format a new hard drive in Windows 10

If you're looking for suggestions on what drives to use, for SSDs you can't go wrong with a Samsung 850 Evo (opens in new tab), while for HDDs give the Western Digital Blue (opens in new tab) a look for great value mass storage.

How to add more RAM and change the cooler

Alienware Aurora

RAM

If you just want to top up the existing RAM with some more, assuming it came with 8GB you could just buy another set of 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 RAM (opens in new tab) as two sticks of 4GB. With four slots available you can use four sticks, and as RAM works best when used in matching pairs, you should always keep it this way.

Dealing with the RAM is simple though:

  1. Open up the Aurora as detailed above.
  2. If removing old RAM, open the catches at the top and bottom of the existing sticks.
  3. Carefully remove the RAM sticks.
  4. Line up the new RAM over slots 1 and 3 or 2 and 4.
  5. Line up the notch on the RAM with the notch on the slot.
  6. Push the RAM stick in gently until the catches click back into place.

To verify it all went to plan, open up the Settings app in Windows 10, go to system and then about. The number shown under RAM should now match the amount you just installed.

While you're in this part of the PC you could also swap out the stock cooler if you got the air cooled version of the Aurora. It's by no means an essential since it's surprisingly quiet and keeps temperatures down better than you might think. Swapping it out is fairly simple though:

  1. Undo the screws in each of the four corners of the cooler.
  2. Carefully remove the cooler, disconnecting the power cable.
  3. You'll likely need to add some new thermal paste to your processor before putting the new one on.
  4. Line up the new cooler and screw it in.

If you're getting a liquid cooler, you'll need to remove the 120mm fan above the motherboard so you can fix the radiator to it. For this you'll also need to pull the top housing of the PC case off to give you maximum access.

Because of the design of the Aurora, replacement air coolers will be tricky to find. If you're not using RAM with fancy heat spreaders on, something like the BeQuiet Shadow Rock LP (opens in new tab) low profile might work well.

How to change the graphics card (or add another)

Alienware Aurora

You can add a second graphics card right out of the gate to work in crossfire or SLI (AMD or NVIDIA respectively for terminology), or if you bought a lower priced model swap out the one that's already there. The first thing you need to do is completely open up the Aurora as detailed above.

  1. Remove the black retaining clip circled in the image above.
  2. If you're adding a second graphics card, remove the bottom two metal plates next to the PCIe slots.
  3. The existing graphics card will just pull out, carefully.
  4. Pop in the new card(s) to the long PCIe slots pushing them down carefully.
  5. Reinsert the black retaining clip.

Boot up the PC and the first order of business is making sure you've got the latest drivers. Head over to either the NVIDIA (opens in new tab) or AMD support sites to get the latest ones for your particular graphics card. If you're in search of a new GPU, we've put together a buyer's guide with the best graphics cards available now.

How to change the m.2 SSD

Samsung 960 Evo

Samsung 960 EVO (Image credit: Windows Central)

If you're wanting to swap out the m.2 SSD inside the Aurora, then you're going to have to clone the drive, since it's the one Windows 10 is installed on. You'll need to do this first before you replace the drive, otherwise you're going to be starting from scratch with a fresh Windows install.

There are different ways of doing such a thing, one of which is using a piece of software called Macrium Reflect. We've got a full guide on how to do that linked below.

How to clone your PC hard drive using Macrium Reflect

Once you're happy you've cloned the drive correctly, swapping it is fairly straightforward:

  1. Open the PC case as detailed above.
  2. Remove the black graphics card retaining clip.
  3. Remove the graphics card from the motherboard.
  4. The m.2 SSD is located towards the bottom right corner of the motherboard.
  5. Unscrew the single retaining screw and the drive will pop up.
  6. Carefully remove the drive.
  7. Line up the new drive and gently push it into the slot.
  8. Screw in the retaining screw.
  9. Put the graphics card and retaining clip back in and close up the PC case.

If all went to plan, when you turn on the Aurora it'll be booting up from the new drive. Dell uses a pretty good NVMe option in the Aurora, but if you want more space or even more speed, something like the Samsung 960 Evo (opens in new tab) or Samsung 960 Pro (opens in new tab) will be just the ticket. Pricey, but it's hard to do better.

That's all there is to it. It looks like a lot, but Dell has done a great job at making sure the Alienware Aurora is both accessible and easily upgraded. Something that should help prolong its life and keep the spec hungry out there happy!

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

10 Comments
  • This case is a terrible design.  You keep your CPU and your PSU as far away as possible.  Two of the lager heat generators should not be that close together and that tightly crammed in there.  Antec does it right with the P280, and the P180 with the complete separate design as well.  They are the best cases on the market if you want function over silly shapes and lights.  Quiet, efficient, and easy to manage.
  • Temperatures are just fine. PSU vents straight out of the side, GPU out of the back, CPU has a fan just above to help exhaust out of the top. It's quiet and cool so far with zero issues for me.
  • it works for you now because its new... but what will happend after 6 months? 1year? Dust will be everywhere, temperatures will rise. I like the case design but from the inside... its a big mess
  • I like Antec, used many in past builds. But this weekend I purchased and built up a Fractal Design Define R5 and that case is super nice to work with.
  • What about replacing the power unit? Adding a SLI card isn't possible with the stock. 450w unit.
  • Trying to get hold of one at the moment. With the latch arrangement on it I'm not 100% sure whether a third-party one would work. I had ordered one with the 850W and liquid cooler but they sent the wrong one. I took a partial refund over sending it back, but they don't seem to want to send me the upgraded PSU. Will update the post if/when I know for sure what I can do. That and this is actually my work PC so I can't spend all day taking it to bits, Dan would yell ;-)
  • Did you try ordering the bigger psu that Alienware puts in the 1080 SLI model? Not sure if you can even do that but it would be a perfect fit if you could.
  • In the past there have been Dell desktop models that didn't use standard power supplies/motherboards, pins were flipped on the PSU which made using a stardard PSU impossible unless you eitehr rewired it yourself or bough a special connector. Hopefully that isn't the case here.
  • "Hopefully that isn't the case here." Love the pun! :-)
  • Here's what you need to know: With all that money you spent on an Alienware branded product compounded with all that money you spent on "upgrading" the system you could have bought something way better for less. And not kill yourself in the process working inside that thing. What a horrid assembly design.